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New Sustainable Farmers Join Countryside Initiative Program in CVNP

Mike and Melissa Keleman on Keleman Point Farm
Mike and Melissa Keleman stand in front of the barn on the Keleman Point Farm property.

New sustainable farmers have taken over one of the long-term leases in Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of its Countryside Initiative. The change is a rare occurrence for the program.                                      

Mike and Melissa Keleman have taken over Goatfeathers Point Farm from Terry and Cindy Smith. The Smiths wanted to retire and decided to transfer their lease to a new family. They started the vetting process themselves, but the CVNP ultimately approved the Kelemans. 

CVNP Deputy Superintendent Lisa Petit said this is only the second time this process has occurred.  

“This was a transfer to a younger family who could now pick up for the remainder of the lease term, which is a little over 40 years,” she said.

The transfer allows the Kelemans to continue to farm the land but with their own touches. Countryside CEO Tracy Emrick said they will continue to raise goats and heritage breed turkeys on the farm that is now known as Keleman Point Farm.

“They’ve got some great plans. They want to do a pick-your-own sunflower field and pumpkins, which is really unique,” she said. The Kelemans plan to have sunflowers and pumpkins next fall.

Emrick is excited for the future of the farm and a new generation of sustainable farmers. She said Countryside's lease agreements allow younger families to get into farming.

Countryside CEO Tracy Emrick discusses the problem of getting young people into farming.

“One of the big obstacles for the future of farming is the aging farmer. It’s very important that we cultivate and steward the next generation of farmers,” she said.

Abigail Bottar is a junior at Kent State University. She is pursuing a major in political science with a concentration in American politics and minors in history and women's studies. Additionally, Abigail is starting her second semester copy editing for The Burr.