Spring 2021 Update
Spring at Greenacres is an exciting time. Not only are we welcoming new animals to the farm, but our pastures are being “reborn” as well. Grasses that have sat dormant through the cold of winter have started to green up and burst forth with new and vigorous growth. How this early growth is managed will set the stage for the rest of the growing season. It might seem counter-intuitive as it appears the grass is just being established, but the key to maintaining healthy nutritious stands of forage is to move the herds quickly over the land allowing them to take the “first bite”. “Because grass has a single purpose, which is to reproduce, when it reaches maturity it will start to lose nutritional value and begin to die back. Moving quickly and keeping animals in a tight group, every square foot of pasture is impacted, while maximizing the nutritional quality for our animals.” says Jonathan Gabis, Manager of Livestock Operations. Hooves help return decaying material back to the earth where it can be utilized by insects and soil microbes while grazing encourages regrowth, root development, and lengthens time in a vegetative state, allowing the grasses to capture as much solar energy as possible leading to improved soil and animal health.
The Greenhouse is “growing” a new wing. We expect this expansion to be completed this summer. The extra capacity will allow us to increase vegetable production, provide additional space for research projects, and allow more visiting schools the opportunity to experience how a commercial greenhouse works.
Equipped with top-of-the-line grow lights, cooling equipment, and high ceilings, this new addition should be able to handle any of the weather challenges that Cincinnati offers. “Fresh, local, organically grown, soil based tomatoes ALL season long is an exciting prospect, and one that we hope to be able to bring to our customers in 2021”, says Ian Zeglin, Manager of Garden Operations. We look forward to this project being finished and online soon.
Two years ago our Compost Manager, Nate Bundy, began to explore ways Greenacres could be more self-sufficient with our onsite garden needs, while reducing the amount of waste we produce. His research led him to a compost system developed by Green Mountain Technologies, which can process up to 1000 tons of waste products a year. Not only does this technology speed up the time in which great compost can be made because of its ability to maintain temperatures around 145° F, it also allows materials like meat and dairy products to be used as compost material which are typically hard to break down. This high heat system has another benefit in that it will destroy any weed seeds and plant pathogens that might be present.
After years of planning and research, Nate’s vision became a reality earlier this year as our first batch of compost was processed in our new Green Mountain facility. “This system provides us an amazing educational asset that will hopefully inspire students to learn more about how their food is grown and what happens to waste when they toss it in the trash” says Bundy. His projects the system will divert more than 2500lbs of employee food waste from local landfills in the first year alone. This number will increase as children return for field trips and we have a full season of events and weddings. This is a great step towards our commitment towards making sure we live up to the “Green” in Greenacres.
“This system provides us an amazing educational asset that will hopefully inspire students to learn more about how their food is grown and what happens to waste when they toss it in the trash”
-Nate Bundy, Greenhouse Coordinator and Compost Manager
A Year of New Education Support
Last spring, as COVID-19 began to impact education systems everywhere, including Greenacres, we quickly realized that we would need to shift our talents to meet this challenge. With the busloads of students visiting Greenacres on pause, we started to translate our lesson concepts into scripts for video production and exploring other ways we could continue to educate.
A year later we are proud to look back on all that we have accomplished in this time frame. We have created and shared over 50 unique resource videos for school teachers whose classes missed their annual Greenacres experience. Each was scripted, filmed and edited by the Greenacres Education Team in a timeless fashion for future use as a field trip preview or to “revisit” an experience back in the classroom. New “Ask an Educator” Q&A sessions followed, to further support video content, as curious students asked questions and interacted with educators, virtually. We were even able to offer an in-person education series we called Greenacres Children’s Discovery Days. We were thrilled to be able to provide this outlet to children so they could continue hands-on learning experiences in a safe environment. These efforts combined allowed Greenacres educators to continue to do what they love most, educating children!
“Our goals for this school year were to get kids outside, support teachers and keep our educators educating. Feedback received from teachers and parents have shown us we successfully met all three.”
-Donna Griffen, Director of Education
Over a year of shifting gears to offer new education support, in-person field trips are now returning and field trip lesson plans are being reinstated. Only now, those lessons have new resource videos to reinforce concepts back in the classroom after a (possibly more appreciated) field trip to Greenacres.
Preparing for Fall Field Trips in Brown County
In 2020, construction began on our new education center located in Lewis Township in Brown County. The facility will feature 4 classrooms, plus offices for our staff. With this building coming online soon, we are looking forward to hosting schools for field trips from surrounding areas in the fall of 2021. “Because of the generosity of our founders, we are able to offer FREE field trips at our Lewis Township location on State Route 505. This is an expansion of our mission that we have been carrying out for over 30 years in Cincinnati.” said Joe Phelps, Environment Educator and Lewis Township Site Supervisor. These classes will be some of the first to experience a Greenacres environment education program at our new property during the 2021-2022 school year. Students will explore forests, pastures, creeks, and ponds correlating with classroom topics like “Plants and Insects” and “Fossils”.
If you know a teacher or school in the area who would be interested in a field trip at this location, please have them contact our education coordinator Katie Brown at email@example.com or Joe Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is open at all Greenacres education sites for school-aged children, Kindergarten-12th grades. Use our field trip programming tool to browse popular topics by grade and academic subject. Choose a field trip program that supports your classroom curriculum as well as aligns with grade-level academic learning standards. As always, we are here to customize your needs to co-create the best Greenacres experience possible for your students.
“Because of the generosity of our founders, we are able to offer FREE field trips at our Lewis Township location on State Route 505.”
-Joe Phelps, Environment Educator and Site Supervisor
Summer Event Dates Set
Our Grand Tent was installed in early April and we’re busy planning our summer events. “Despite the challenges presented to us by COVID, we remain committed to providing a quality experience for all that attend an event at Greenacres. Safety is always a top priority and we continue to follow all current COVID guidelines given by the State of Ohio.” says Kyle Conlon, Greenacres Events Director.
Dates have been set for our Music Under the Stars series on July 9th and August 13th. We look forward to hosting performers from the Cincinnati Pops again for these unique concerts. These events sell out quickly so make sure to follow us on social media or subscribe to our email newsletter to be the first to know when tickets go on sale.
Farm Store is Open for In-Person Shopping
Our Farm Store reopened for in-person shopping again in April! We’re excited to welcome you back, and appreciate your grace and kindness as we continue to navigate keeping our staff and guests healthy. Our livestock team’s increased production has led to great inventory of eggs, 100% grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and woodland raised pork at the store! We have our first batch of new hickory smoked pork andouille sausage available now. It’s very flavorful, with just a hint of heat – excellent with eggs for breakfast, or grilled in a bun with grainy mustard, or in a jambalaya. Spring vegetables, especially tender greens, are in abundance, as well as radishes, turnips, beets, and microgreens. Beautiful flower bouquets and arrangements, which we will continue to offer throughout the year, have been filling the store with brilliant color. Ranunculus, anemones, tulips and lilies are with us until the summertime zinnias and sunflowers come along. For the first time ever, we held a plant sale on Mother’s Day weekend, where we offered vegetable, flower and herb starts to plant in your home gardens! We had great weather and a great turnout – we look forward to holding that event again next year. As we ramp up into the summer season, keep an eye on our email newsletter and the website to know when your favorite summer veggies come into the Farm Store!
Spring Equine Lessons
Spring Session is quickly coming to a close, but we are looking forward to Summer and increasing the number of students in our riding programs after scaling back for Covid precautions. Our riders are looking forward to testing out our new HDR saddles as well as meeting our new school horses. We know many families still have children on our waitlist and we hope to continue to increase the number of students in our upcoming sessions so that all of our riders can get back to doing what they love.
“I am very excited to welcome back our riders after slowly reopening for over a year! We have had several new horses in the barn, that I am sure will be barn favorites.”
-Becca North, Equine Manager
Next Phase of Native Warm Season Grass Research
We continue to collaborate with the University of Tennessee, researching the best ways to establish native warm season grasses in local pastures and ecosystems. “We believe that native warm season grasses provide incredible ecological benefits, including the improvement of wildlife habitat and ecosystem services all while adding resiliency to our production systems in the face of climate change” says Chad Bitler, Greenacres Research Director.
A greenhouse study is currently underway looking at the germination and growth of big bluestem under different pH and phosphorus regimes. This research will provide insights into the general physiology and response of big bluestem under relatively poor soil conditions and results will help develop best practices for establishing native warm season stands.
Greenacres researchers have been back in the woods monitoring our research transects for spring vegetation and animal life. They recently added our Water Quality Education Center in Milford to this project in addition to our Indian Hill and Lewis Township locations. By regularly monitoring these plots, they get a snapshot of how each ecosystem is responding to natural and manmade changes. This spring they have continued to see an increase in invasive species like Lesser Celandine. The team was excited find an abundance of spring ephemerals and salamanders present at the Water Quality Education Center.
Working with our livestock and garden teams, we started a 4 year research project in March collecting data on Ley Field Farming. Ley Farming is a method which incorporates livestock into the crop production system. The Ley Field is divided into 4 sections and in a given year two sections are grazed and two sections are used for vegetable production. The sections are then rotated annually, giving each 2 years of livestock impact. Our goal is to develop more accurate information about which inputs have the greatest positive impact on the soil health while maximizing crop yield. The crop production team is in charge of cover crops and vegetable production, while the livestock team grazes the plots not in production. The research team collects cover crop and soil health data.
“We believe that native warm season grasses provide incredible ecological benefits, including the improvement of wildlife habitat and ecosystem services all while adding resiliency to our production systems in the face of climate change.”
-Chad Bitler, Research Director