The Countryside Initiative is an ambitious effort, begun in 1999, to rehabilitate and revitalize 20 or so of the picturesque old farms which operated in the Cuyahoga Valley from the 19th century to the mid 20th — thereby restoring for public use and enjoyment many of the historic, scenic, natural and recreational values for which Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was created, particularly the Valley's "rural landscape and rural character".
Farms in the Cuyahoga Valley — Then and Now
During the 19th century small farms spread up and down the Cuyahoga Valley, eventually numbering more than 700. By the mid 20th century most had disappeared. When the Countryside Initiative was begun in 1999, the remains of 85 old farms were inventoried and evaluated for possible rehabilitation. More than a decade later, a dozen have been reestablished — real farmers, on real farms, doing real farming.
Like their historic predecessors, these modern farms are relatively small in scale (5 acres or less to 50 or more), and highly diverse (fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, poultry, pigs, sheep, goats and cattle). But, they are growing for 21st century tastes and markets. Arguably, they provide as much a glimpse of the future of farming in America as its past.
Countryside Initiative Partners
The Countryside Initiative involves a creative three-way partnership between Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), the Countryside Conservancy, and private sector farmers. CVNP rehabilitates the old farms, and retains "ownership control" of their operation and management. The Countryside provides technical information and guidance on sustainable agriculture practices to CVNP as well as potential and actual farm lessees. Rehabilitated farms are offered for long-term lease (up to 60 years) through a competitive process called a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Request for Proposals
RFPs have been offered in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011. The RFP offers a detailed description of how the Countryside Initiative actually works. The most recent RFP is available here.