Old Trail School, Countryside launch ‘Farm Project’ to educate, create sustainable food system

October 8, 2018

Old Trail School, Countryside launch ‘Farm Project’ to educate, create sustainable food system

BATH, Ohio - Old Trail School and Countryside, formerly Countryside Conservancy, have launched the “Farm Project,” designed to teach and inspire students while supporting a sustainable local food system.

The project will use Old Trail Farm, an 11-acre organic farming area on Old Trail property that was once farmed in partnership with Hattie Larlham, which has served Summit County adults and kids with developmental disabilities for more than 50 years.

In the Farm Project, a Countryside Farm Educator and Countryside farming interns will grow produce to meet the needs of the Old Trail School kitchen, said Annie Preston, Countryside’s sustainability and special programs coordinator.

Students, in grades two through eight, will learn things like companion farming, in which certain vegetables grow better when planted together. The interns will come from Countryside’s Beginning Farmer Intern program launched last year for people interested in farming as a career.

Crops at the Old Trail Farm will benefit from an aquaponics system, which relies on fish and aquatic life to create nutrient-rich water that’s then used to water the crops. The crops will also be featured in Old Trail’s edible education program, which enables kids to taste vegetables they aren’t familiar with. Students will also work with a composting system as a sustainable farming practice.

“We are so excited to partner with Countryside on the Farm Project,” said Old Trail School’s Head of School Sarah Johnston in a news release. “We are looking forward to deepening our relationship with Countryside that has existed for several years. We are happy to have such a committed partner to help us take our agriculture and entrepreneur curriculum programs to the next level.”

As for livestock, animals won’t be grown for consumption, Preston said. Students will grow only what’s known as heritage breeds, which are breeds that are threatened and no longer commonly grown, Preston said.

The program will start out with students breeding heritage sheep at the historic Hammond-Cranz Farm on Ira Road, which is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park system.

The program will help students learn how breeding livestock works, while increasing the population of endangered livestock breeds, Preston said.

Laying hens will also be farmed to produce eggs, but not for meat.

Old Trail School’s facility and equipment combined with Countryside’s skills and resources bring benefits to both organizations, said Countryside CEO Tracy Emrick.

“This is a great partnership,” she said in the release. “Not only do we get to share our mission with the students, connecting them to where their food comes from, it’s a win-win for everyone. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

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