Category: Learn

01 Apr 2022

Smoke on the Horizon

Smoke on the Horizon

Not Always a Sign of Trouble

Greenacres, The Village of Indian Hill and Madeira & Indian Hill Joint Fire District recently teamed up to do a series of controlled burns around the Village in an effort to promote new growth, reduce invasive plants and clear old plant debris. The locations selected for these burns were Grand Valley Preserve, Radio Range Park and a green area near the intersection of Shawnee Run Road and State Route 126. All three locations had been planted with native grasses or wildflowers, but the establishment rate had not been successful.

Village officials had noticed less and less species diversity over the last few years and were looking for a solution when they reached out to Greenacres for assistance. After reviewing the data, the Greenacres team prescribed a series of controlled burns. They felt this was the most natural approach and helped avoid the use of powerful herbicides or heavy tilling.

“The Village was thrilled to learn that the Greenacres Team was certified in controlled burns and interested in partnering with the Village to improve the native grasses and wildflowers. The Village is fortunate to have the Greenacres Foundation located within our community and the partnership that has been created to improve the natural environment.”  said.

-Jon West, Village of Indian Hill Assistant City Manager

“These native plant communities evolved in the presence of natural fires” says Daniel Wilds, Greenacres Interim General Manager of Greenacres Michaela Farm. “By utilizing burns, we can help manage land in a way that promotes growth and maintains a rich balance of native species. Not only do we remove dead material, creating space and light for new growth, we’re also building natural fertilizer by breaking down biomass so that it can be reabsorbed into the soil. It’s a very powerful management practice for farmers and land managers and can benefit an entire ecosystem when implemented properly. We can greatly improve soil health, plant and animal communities, and even weather patterns.” continued Wilds.

“By utilizing burns, we can help manage land in a way that promotes growth and maintains a rich balance of native species.

-Daniel Wilds, Interim General Manager of Greenacres Michaela Farm

After carefully planning the procedure and waiting for the necessary weather conditions, Wilds, who has a national certification to conduct these type of burns, and other members of Greenacres, put the plan into motion under the careful supervision of the firefighters from the Madeira & Indian Hill Joint Fire District. Three separate burns were conducted over the course of three days.

“The controlled burns were carefully planned, coordinated with the right personnel and executed without incident. This was a new experience for our personnel and we enjoyed working with our partners from Greenacres.

-Chief Stephen Oughterson, Madeira & Indian Hill Joint Fire District

All three burns went according to plan and Greenacres and the Village will be monitoring the sites over the coming years to gauge their effectiveness on the intended outcome. The hope is this old school method finds new life as organizations look for alternatives to the harsher land management practices employed in years past.

02 Sep 2021

Raising Turkeys at Greenacres

Raising Turkeys at Greenacres

Commercially produced turkeys are usually raised in huge indoor warehouses, a completely different life than turkeys raised at Greenacres. From August to November, our livestock crew cares for hundreds of turkeys that arrive as day-old poults. They spend their first few weeks in a brooder, a heated housing unit, until they’re old enough to regulate their own body temperature and live outside.

Turkeys Belong Outside

After 4-5 weeks, the young turkeys are big enough to move outdoors, but still too small to leave unprotected. They spend the next 3 weeks on pasture while housed in our poultry tractors, protected from predators while being moved to fresh grass daily. Their nitrogen- rich manure is a key component in building our soil fertility.

Once they are large enough to no longer be attractive to a hawk or owl, they are released from the tractors to large fenced paddocks where they are frequently rotated through the pasture. We keep our bulls nearby to discourage coyotes. Turkeys instinctively roost up off the ground to protect themselves from predators, so we provide roosting houses that were custom designed by our livestock manager and fabricated by our estate crew.

A Healthy Lifestyle

What do our turkeys eat? Birds are omnivores, needing a variety of plant and animal foods to stay healthy. In addition to the insects, grasses, clover, etc. they forage, we also provide a locally produced, non-GMO turkey feed. This well-rounded diet, in addition to all the exercise they get from roaming the pasture, results in a much more delicious turkey.

All livestock handling and housing arrangements on our farm meet or exceed Certified Humane guidelines. Our turkeys are carefully loaded into our trailer the Monday before Thanksgiving and driven by our staff to our poultry butcher; a small, family owned, USDA inspected facility only 80 miles from our farm. Here they are humanely processed and packaged for your Thanksgiving dinner.

The Greenacres Difference

So what’s the difference? Why go through all this trouble to raise our turkeys? Because all these choices make a difference. Our efforts result in healthier birds who live happier lives, healthier conditions for our staff, healthier soils, and a healthier, more delicious turkey to grace your holiday table. A note about feathers… The turkey you typically buy at the grocery store has been bred to have white feathers, a genetic trait selected so feathers aren’t as visible, at the expense of overall turkey health and flavor. Our turkeys have bronze feathers, which may occasionally be visible on the turkey you bring home – simply remove before cooking.

08 Mar 2021

Ohio’s New Invader: The Spotted Lanternfly

Ohio’s New Invader: The Spotted Lanternfly

Traveling this summer?  Beware of unwanted hitchhikers.  The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) has officially entered Ohio with a confirmed population in Jefferson County. This insect was first reported in Pennsylvania in 2014 and now resides in several eastern states.  Lanternflies are poor fliers but can hitchhike.  Large egg masses are formed and these masses are laid on trees, wood or rusty metal (e.g. old train cars). It is these egg masses that are often moved by human assisted spread.

The spotted lanternfly can congregate in large numbers and preferred hosts are Tree of Heaven and grapes but spotted lanternflies have been documented on a variety of species. These phloem feeders concern fruit producers as their large numbers can cause a nuisance.  They squirt honeydew from their abdomen (which can rain down on people) and this substance promotes the growth of black sooty mold.

U.S. Department of Agriculture - Lance Cheung/Multimedia PhotoJournalist/USDA Photo by Lance Cheung, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are traveling east, do not pack up the lanterfly when you return home.  Check yourself and your belongings for any tag-alongs.  Adults are the easiest to spot and are most abundant late summer through fall.

The spotted lanternfly can congregate in large numbers.
The lanternfly with its wings open.
05 Feb 2021

The Magic of Maple

The Magic of Maple

Have you ever wondered about the origin of maple syrup? Before it was that sweet, sticky, delicious flavor puddled on your favorite breakfast dish—before it was bottled on a shelf in the store—before it was boiled down into a more sugary liquid—before it was dripping into a bucket—back when it was just a watery sap, flowing in a maple tree in the forest. You may have heard of some stories of how people discovered and came to use maple sugar: a sap surprise from a tomahawk into a tree; observing animals licking sap from holes in trees. There are many versions of stories and myths, but they all revolve around the relationship between humans and trees.

The first part of this relationship is getting to know your trees, specifically the sugar maple. At a glance, the tall, drab-colored trees all look the same during the leafless, winter months. Many maple trees have a somewhat pinkish hue, but the bark and color change depending on age. If you’re new to maple tapping, we recommend planning ahead and identifying your trees when they have their leaves or buds-it’s much easier! Once you have found your sugar maple trees on your land, it’s important to keep the trees healthy, because healthy trees are happy, sap-flowing trees. A few key tips to keep your trees healthy are: a tappable tree must have at least a 10 inch diameter (the size of a basketball); sanitize your equipment; mark your drill with tape at 2 inches to make sure your hole is the right depth; spread out tap holes so the old ones can heal.

Maple season relies on optimal sap flow, which happens when there are freezing temperatures at night and above freezing during the day. We all know Ohio weather keeps us guessing, so this temperature pattern can occur anywhere from January to March. Our animal friends like ants, flying squirrels, or woodpeckers will lap up sap straight from the tree. You may find yourself doing the same after you encounter sap dripping out of the spile of your first tapped maple tree. However, it’s actually only 2% sugar and 98% water! The key to making syrup is concentrating the sugar, and this is done by removing water through evaporation. Humans have used a number of tools over the centuries to boil down the sap- from hot stones in a carved out log, to metal pots over an open fire, to our modern day evaporators.

At Greenacres, we use a small-scale evaporator in our ‘sugar shack.’ The evaporator is fueled by a wood-burning stove, kept as full and hot as we can get it. We haul our buckets of sap from the maple trees and pour them into the evaporator. As you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of sap for the water to evaporate and turn from 2% sugar to approximately 66% sugar. In fact, it takes 40 gallons of sap to create 1 gallon of maple syrup! It also takes a lot of time and effort for the whole process, but luckily it involves the sugar shack. 

The Sugar Shack

Can’t you just smell the heavenly scent wafting around the sugar shack? It is one of the best wintertime experiences that we can think of. The cozy warmth of the fire, steamy room, and sugar molecules dancing under your nose simultaneously trigger your brain into daydreams of maple cookies, pancakes, and drizzled maple popcorn.

What a special relationship and process, straight from the trees. If you don’t want to dabble in your own maple tapping, come to the Greenacres Farm Store and try the syrup we make from our trees. It is available each year typically between late February to early March. Thank a maple tree the next time you see one!