What’s brewing in the Pint Size Farm?

Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village.

The gardens at Hale Farm & Village are a beauty to see in the summer, but did you know that Hale Farm’s gardening extends beyond aesthetics to supporting specialty items such as Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale?

Yes, Hale Farm grows flowers and vegetables that are historically accurate to the periods in Ohio history the farm celebrates. But it also forged a partnership with Great Lakes Brewing Co. to help meet local demand for organically grown food that Great Lakes serves at its Brewpub restaurant in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.

This partnership began in 2007 and is embodied in the Pint Size Farm, a 16,000-square foot plot located behind the Goldsmith Garden.

Great Lakes financially supports WRHS in exchange for use of Hale Farm’s land, water, and greenhouse, while Pint Size Farm is maintained by Great Lakes’ farmer, Christine DeJesus.

Christine does all the labor in the Pint Size Farm and transports the vegetables to the Brewpub twice a week. Her annual harvest includes a small number of hops that are used in small-batch beers served at the restaurant.

From sustainable farming to foodies

When Great Lakes Brewing Co. needed local, organically grown pumpkins for its special release of Pumpkin Ale last fall, it relied on Christine and Hale Farm.

In September 2015, Christine supplied 1,000 pounds of Cinnamon Girl variety pumpkins for the Brewpub and a limited distribution of the ale in 22 ounce bottles. Sherri Wesner, Hale Farm’s farm and horticulture coordinator, also was gave Christine leftover pumpkins from Hale Farm’s harvest festival to take to Great Lakes’ restaurant.

At the Brewpub, the menu designates which meals have vegetables that come from Pint Size Farm. This year, the restaurant will incorporate Pint Size Farm produce into a meatless Monday menu option.

Christine works with Katie Simmons, Great Lakes’ sustainable foods coordinator, to plan which crops to grow each year, how best to showcase them, and how to preserve them for longer use at the Brewpub. For example, Katie has pickled peppers and onions and made horseradish sauce from Pint Size Farm’s produce.

In the past nine years, Christine has supplied Great Lakes Brewpub with over $100,000 worth of non-certified organic food, and she’s done it using the following sustainable farming practices:

  • Crop rotation;Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village
  • Homemade organic pest and fungus sprays;
  • Companion planting;
  • Predator insects;
  • Pollinator habitat construction; and
  • Row covers and solar mulch.

Besides using homemade pest sprays, Christine takes advantage of natural predators in the area. For example, she has constructed stick piles to house snakes, which then hunt field mice. Also, Pint Size Farm is surrounded by a tall, wired fence to keep out deer.

Great Lakes’ brewery ships 10 tons of spent grain to Hale Farm, which Christine uses as a ground nutrient.

And just as farming historically relied on hand tools, Christine does most of her work in the Pint Size Farm by hand. Her only power tools are a rototiller and weed wacker, and she eagerly demonstrates her organic farming techniques to Hale Farm’s visitors.

From greenhouse to gardens

Much of what’s planted at Hale Farm & Village begins as seed in trays and is housed in Hale Farm’s greenhouse in the spring, except for the crops that can be directly sown in the fields.

The greenhouse, located by the visitors’ parking lot, was built in 2005 and has state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems, according to Hale Farm’s Sherri Wesner.

The greenhouse is not open to the public but it is shared by Hale Farm and Great Lakes Brewing Co. Crown Point Ecology Center has also rented space in the greenhouse in the past but isn’t doing so this year.

Christine starts approximately 5,000 seedlings in the greenhouse. She prefers using the polyculture farming technique of multiple crops in the same space.

Her farming plan this year involves growing a variety of squash, peppers, onions, tomatoes, beets, melons, eggplants, herbs, and greens, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and leeks.

Christine does much of the sowing and transplanting and care herself, but she does receive some volunteer help from Great Lakes employees, about 6-8 times a year.

Sherri starts sowing seeds in the greenhouse of plants that were grown in the 1800s and transplants them into the gardens in May and June. Sowing times vary each year, and to date Sherri hasn’t started the seedlings for this season yet.

Flax, just one of the many herbs in Herb Garden by the Salt Box House, which is cultivated and maintained every year by the Bath Gamma Garden Club.

She uses heirloom varieties, whenever possible, of the following plants:

  1. Root vegetables for the First Settlement Garden.
  2. Plants used in dyeing wool, such as marigold and flax for the Dye Garden.
  3. Season veggies and herbs for the Kitchen garden.
  4. Perennials for the Goldsmith Garden.
  5. Culinary and medicinal herbs for the Herb Garden by the Salt Box House.

One of the gardens listed, the Herb Garden by the Salt Box House, is cultivated and maintained every year by the Bath Gamma Garden Club.

The other gardens are cared for by just Sherri, and she said there is always a need for more volunteers to help with gardening needs throughout the year.

Anyone interesting in helping with the gardens at Hale Farm can email Sherri swesner@wrhs.org.

Citizens of Hale bring spirit of volunteering at Hale Farm & Village

Citizens of HaleHistory and education naturally intersect at Hale Farm & Village. In June, that intersection will comprise a garden symposium and the Sow and Grow Festival, which is a family experience of the past and present farming lifestyle.

And at both events, visitors will see the presence and influence of the Citizens of Hale.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the Citizens of Hale. And that’s OK, because they’re a fairly new group committed to volunteering around Hale Farm & Village and its events. In fact, they are often the helping hands that make things happen at Hale Farm.

The Citizens of Hale’s handiwork is visible everywhere at the farm: in new coats of paint on the historical buildings; in neatly cultivated gardens with perennials; and in the overall landscaping.

Although a recent volunteer concept, the Citizens of Hale’s roots come from a women’s committee that met at the farm years ago to discuss and implement needed gardening and building improvement projects.

Today, anyone who chooses to become a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society can designate a rider from their dues to go toward the Citizens of Hale as a classification of membership. That rider supports many projects at Hale Farm & Village, and Citizen members meet once a month at Hale Farm to discuss various projects.

A passion for preservation

Kathie VanDevere, co-chair of the Citizens of Hale, is spearheading Hale Farm’s “Fields & Forests, Farms & Gardens – A Midwestern Garden History & Design Symposium” from 9 am to 4:30 pm on June 9. Cost is $50 per person and includes the lectures, lunch, and tours.

The symposium is open to everyone and its purpose is to teach how to beautify our green spaces here in Northeast Ohio. But in order to do that we need to understand which trees and plants are native here, and therefore will grow very well on our properties.

Enter William Hahn, retired arborist for the city of Akron. He will kick off the series of presentations at the symposium by describing the types of forests that were in Ohio when the first settlers arrived and how we can plant those types of trees in our yards.

Kathie and the Citizens of Hale are also bringing in Dr. Casey Hoy from Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, to discuss how to best restore nutrients to farmland. Kathie noted that anyone who has a home built on former farmland, such as along Route 18 for example, would benefit from Dr. Hoy’s advice on restoring the soil for gardening.

Landscaper Amy Frietag will be another presenter who will bring her experiences and lessons from restoring New York City’s parks.

And S. Victor Fletcher, head archivist the University of Akron’s archival services, will conclude the lectures with documents showing what previous generations did to the gardens and landscapes around what are now historical homes.

As I spoke with Kathie about these various presenters, she was passionate about the historical significance Mr. Fletcher will bring to the symposium. Many townships in Summit County have homes that are or nearly 200 years old, and as people attempt to restore them, having old photographs or letters documenting how they used to look like will go a long way in their preservation.

“People with historical properties need to write it down and save it somewhere because it increases the resale value of the home,” Kathie explained.

Celebrating gardening with the Sow and Grow FestivalHale Farm & Village Sow and Grow Farm Festival

Hale Farm & Village’s Sow and Grow Festival will occur immediately after the symposium on June 11-12. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children, while members are free.

Similar to last year, the festival will include all early American craft and trade demonstrations, including; glassblowing, blacksmithing, broom making, spinning and weaving. History of the buildings and horticulture will also be presented.

Pam Reitz, also co-chair of the Citizens of Hale, will be on-site with the Citizens and other volunteers selling older varieties of plants that grew abundantly in the Western Reserve area: shrubs, perennials such as older hydrangeas, annuals such as begonias, herbs such as Astoria and hyssops; day lilies, and snowberry bushes, among others.

“We’ll have a little of everything,” Pam said, noting that the plant sale is a fundraiser that will enable the Citizens of Hale to continue to do projects around Hale Farm.

The plant sale will be behind the Welcome Center at the carriage shed. Pam plans to recruit volunteers from the local garden centers to help with the plant sale throughout the Sow and Grow Festival weekend. Like Kathie, she believes that raising awareness of volunteer needs for gardening and preservation will help Hale Farm and our local communities.