Category: News

28 Sep 2021

Summer 2021 Update

Summer 2021 Update

Pasture Monitoring

Monitoring plays a large role in the research department.  In addition to monitoring the woodlands, we also monitor the pastures.  Collecting data on soil health and vegetation can inform management decisions made by the livestock team.  Data collected include comprehensive soil tests (encompassing the physical, chemical and biological components of soil), water infiltration and compaction.   Plant species diversity is measured along with an overall assessment of ecosystem health.  Finally, photos document the visual features of the pasture.  Continuous improvement in soil health and desired pasture species is the goal. The photo below visually shows the improvement in vegetative cover, species richness and desired species over 3 years.  This land was a former soybean field in Brown County and is now a native warm season pasture.  We recently developed a comprehensive monitoring schedule for all of our pastures.

Use the image slider to see the 3 year change.

Before Image After Image

Preserving a Piece of History

Built in mid to late 1920’s as part of the original architecture of the stable facilities, the grain silos at our equine center are an iconic piece of scenery for visitors to the Greenacres Arts Center and Riding Facility. During an annual inspection by our Buildings & Grounds team in June, a number of age related issues affecting the safety of the structures were discovered. “These buildings are in remarkably good shape given their age, however, we did find that certain components were starting to show their age which is nearly 100 years of service. The design, craftsmanship and method of construction was lightyears ahead of their time” says Alex Saurber, Director of Buildings and Grounds. “Our goal is to make sure these buildings continue to withstand the test of time while preserving their historic look. By making these improvements they will remain a unique site for our visitors”.

After careful review and planning, work began in August to restore and replace these critical components. These repairs are expected to be completed before the end of November 2021.

Expanding Flower Production

Flower production on our farm started small in 2019, as a pilot project by Sam Dunbar, Aesthetic Garden Coordinator, when she was a farm intern. Now in her second full season of production, our flower program has grown by leaps and bounds. At Greenacres, we seek to encourage biodiversity, grow organically, and provide quality experiences for our guests – flowers bring together these fundamental tenants of our farm in the most beautiful way. “Most of our vegetable crops rely on pollinators to produce fruit, and interplanting flowers among the vegetables is one of the best ways to encourage pollinators to visit.” says Dunbar, “We plant more flowers than we will harvest, ensuring there’s plenty left for our pollinators to enjoy. Honeybees from our onsite hives are a common sight, busily working away.”

We also plant flowers of different shapes – round, trumpet, umbel shape, etc., encouraging many different kinds of pollinators to visit and build biodiversity. Each species of insect searching for nectar or pollen is seeking a flower shape that suits its specific anatomy and preferences. Hummingbirds like trumpet shapes, bees like round shapes, and wasps prefer umbel shapes. These specific preferences are something our education staff can share with students who visit our gardens.

As with everything in our gardens, our flowers are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or non-organic fertilizers. Flowers from a florist or grocery store may be grown using a wide array of chemical inputs, most of which are detrimental to our environment and pollinators. They’re also typically grown on farms far away and transported thousands of miles to their final destination. Seeking out local flowers can sometimes require a bit more effort, but are well worth the benefits. Customers take home gorgeous flower bouquets while our pollinators and gardens benefit from the increased plant diversity. We’re looking forward to refining and expanding flower production as we enter our third growing season!

“Most of our vegetable crops rely on pollinators to produce fruit, and interplanting flowers among the vegetables is one of the best ways to encourage pollinators to visit.

-Sam Dunbar, Aesthetic Garden Coordinator

The Magic of Summer Camps

Our 2021 summer season revealed the true magic that camp brings. It seemed even nature itself cheered when little boots, water bottles and tie dye shirts arrived in June! Once Upon a Camp, Fun on the Farm, Nurture Nature, Arts in the Natural World, Gone Fishin’… all camps sold quickly and the waiting lists filled up.

Education Administrative Coordinator, Katie Brown explained, “After the 2020 pause, the heightened interest in Greenacres Summer Camps became clear. Even so, we did commit to maintaining small groups with an average of one Greenacres Educator to five children, putting the safety of our families first.”

With camps returning, it was a great opportunity for local high schoolers to once again build their leadership skills over the summer. 31 local high-school student volunteers for the Greenacres Leaders-in-Training (LIT) Program. Under the guidance of the same Greenacres Educators that host thousands of children for field trips each school year, our LITs learned valuable skills on how to safely run a camps, helping ensure that over 290 children enjoyed a safe and magical summer.

“After the 2020 season pause, the heightened interest in Greenacres Summer Camp became clear. Even so, we did commit to maintaining small groups with an average of one Greenacres Educator to five children, putting the safety of our families first.”

-Katie Brown, Education Administrative Coordinator

Camp magic continues with the release of the 2022 guide before the end of the year and registration to open in early 2022 on our website, https://www.green-acres.org/camps/ .

A Roost for Turkeys

Our livestock team is always looking for ways to increase the quality of life for the animals we raise at Greenacres. Whether it’s shade structures for our cattle or improved chicken tractors for our broilers, no detail large or small is over looked in the process. Even though turkeys are only on our farm for a short period of time, we treat them with the same care and respect that we give to all of our animals.

Every year after Thanksgiving, our team sits down and reviews what they can do to improve our ability to raise turkeys. “Our turkeys have always had access to clean water, fresh pastures, and the safety of our poultry tractors, but we were overlooking their natural instinct to want to roost” says our Livestock Manager, Leevi Stump.  “We looked at our options and decided we could come up with a solution to this challenge before we brought turkeys back onto the farm”. Working with the some of the master welders on our estate crew, a roosting system was designed and construction began in (June?). The build went smoothly and the roosts went out into the field in August waiting for our turkeys to get big enough to use them over the fall.  “We think these will go a long ways to making our turkeys more comfortable” says Stump, “it helps protect them from ground predators and lets them exercise that natural instinct to be in trees”.

“Our turkeys have always had access to clean water, fresh pastures, and the safety of our poultry tractors, but we were overlooking their natural instinct to want to roost.

-Livestock person, Livestock person

A Pollinator Garden for the Farm Store

We’ve enjoyed seeing all of you in the Farm Store this summer. The most noticeable change is our new pollinator garden. In late winter, spring, and early summer of this year, a thick, black tarp was covering the landscaping in front of the store. This tarp prevented the growth of the plants underneath, which had become overgrown. The heat and moisture trapped by the tarp also acts to supercharge the biological activity in the soil, helping the microbes break down the decaying plant material underneath, in a process known as ‘solarization’.

When we removed the tarp in early summer, the soil was beautiful and much improved. A layer of our own compost was added, and a thick layer of natural wood chip mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds. We’ve intermixed native and ornamental perennials and annuals, to provide year-long flowers for the visiting pollinators. Some of the species we’ve planted are also host plants for caterpillars, such as butterfly weed, a type of milkweed that serves as a host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Over the next few years we will be adding additional perennial species, and mixing in different annuals to see what produces the most beautiful results. We are very grateful to our garden crew for providing such a beautiful and beneficial garden to enjoy.

Summertime Music

Our friends from the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra returned this summer for another great series of “Music Under the Stars” events.. The sellout crowds enjoyed beautiful evenings in July and August listening to members of the Pops play summertime favorites in the gardens at the Arts Center. Late in the summer the entire Cincinnati Pops, and members from the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati May Festival, and Cincinnati Ballet, returned for our annual Celebration Concert in the Grand Tent. It was an amazing performance and a perfect cap to end summer.

Between our concerts, we hosted nine weddings from June through September. “We were thrilled to host a full slate of weddings this season after so many couples had to postpone their 2020 wedding dates. We know that was a really tough decision for them, so it was nice to finally see them get to have the event of their dreams.” says Diana Wheeler, Private Events Manager.

“We were thrilled to host a full slate of weddings this season after so many couples had to postpone their 2020 wedding dates.

-Diana Wheeler, Private Events Manager

Ohio Native Warm Season Grass Trials

This past summer our Lewis Township site became one of four test sites in Ohio for establishing native warm season grasses under various management regimes. This three year experiment is being coordinated through the Ohio State University under the direction of Dr. Marília Chiavegato. Three different establishment protocols were used representing both conventional and non-chemical management strategies. Big bluestem, Indian grass, eastern gamma grass and switchgrass were planted and their growth and development will be documented. Increased pasture diversity in Ohio is important for ecosystem resilience under a changing climate. “Doing collaborative research with external institutions is extremely important as it allows Greenacres to develop relationships with scientists and experts in fields that support our mission. At the same time it allows Greenacres to share their expertise and promote research and knowledge to a much larger community,” says Research Director Chad Bitler.

The research team collecting data in treatments sown in cover crop.

“Doing collaborative research with external institutions is extremely important as it allows Greenacres to develop relationships with scientists and experts in fields that support our mission. At the same time it allows Greenacres to share their expertise and promote research and knowledge to a much larger community

-Chad Bitler, Research Director

14 Jul 2021

Greenacres Acquires Michaela Farm in Oldenburg

Greenacres Acquires Michaela Farm in Oldenburg

Greenacres has officially acquired Michaela Farm from the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg. Conversations and visits between the Sisters and Greenacres began in 2019 and it quickly became apparent that the missions of both parties were very much aligned, eventually leading to formal contract negotiations beginning in 2020 and the closing being finalized this past week.

“We’re excited for what’s next,” says Carter Randolph, Greenacres president. “When working on a project with so much history in the community you want to make sure things are done the right way. For us, that meant taking our time working with the Sisters, learning the values of the organization, and the things that make it so special. As we work to incorporate our mission in Oldenburg, we want to make sure that we preserve those ideals too.” says Randolph.

Now that the sale is official, Greenacres will begin the process of evaluating the property and what it will need in order to begin field trips for local school children potentially as early as spring of 2022. This means looking at things like improved school bus access and accessible trails for all visiting children. Currently, Greenacres serves about 30,000 students in Cincinnati and hopes this acquisition will help expand their ability to educate surrounding communities.

In addition to the education enhancements, Greenacres will maintain the traditions of the farm using generative practices to produce healthy, sustainable products to offer in the Farm Store. “Knowing that the farm will continue to thrive with an agriculture system that we believe in is everything we could have asked for,” says Daniel Wilds, Greenacres Michaela Farm Manager. “We hope our customers stick with us through the transition, as we will still have the products they have come to love and we are thrilled to be able to expand those offerings in coming years,” says Wilds.

Being good neighbors is a key component of the Greenacres mission, so community engagement will also be a top priority. As part of this process, Greenacres will continue to work with the Sisters of St. Francis to learn about the relationships that built Oldenburg and Batesville. “We feel blessed to pass on these sacred acres to a non-profit organization that will honor our farm’s 167-year history and enhances our vision and hopes for its use. The influence of Michaela Farm will expand as its treasures will be shared by a growing number of people, both students and adults, who visit there.” says Sister Delouise Menges, OSF.

Greenacres Foundation was founded in 1988 and was Louis and Louise Nippert’s gift to the community. Combining their love of the land and farming with their appreciation of Cincinnati’s classical arts, Greenacres provides educational programming to over 30,000 local students annually while preserving and generatively farming over 1,200 acres in the Greater Cincinnati area.

The Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana are the modern legacies of the 800-year-old Franciscan traditions. They are part of a worldwide community of over one million vowed and secular Franciscan men and women who live and pray with us and around us. In 1851, they began an educational endeavor—the foundational seed of the Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception, and later Marian College—as a way to fulfill the mission and requirement to provide education to the community.

For more information please send inquiries to: mail@green-acres.org.

06 May 2021

Spring 2021 Update

Spring 2021 Update

Pastures Reborn

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. 

Greenhouse Expansion

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.           

State-of-the-Art Composting

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 kbrown@green-acres.org or Joe Phelps at jphelps@green-acres.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.

Spring Vegetation

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.

Ley Field

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

15 Jan 2021

January 2021 – COVID Update

January 2021 – COVID Update

January 15 – 2021

With Hamilton County entering purple status, we would like to remind you that Greenacres is operating on an essential employees only status and will be suspending any programming until further notice.

What does this mean for patrons of Greenacres: 

  • Our farm store will remain open and continue to operate on a curbside pickup model. Please use our product availability page to see what we have available and for instructions on how to place an order. 
  • Farm production will remain consistent in order to provide as many fresh vegetables and meat products to our farm store and community. 
  • All location, besides the Farm Store, are currently closed to visitors in order to keep everyone safe as well as our livestock.
  • Education, equine, and volunteer programs are on hold and will return as soon as local and state health guidelines determine it to be safe. If you have a specific question about a program please reach out to your contact person in that department.
  • Our venue will be closed for meetings and tours until further notice. 

 

We look forward to serving you this year and will continue to monitor the situation in order to keep our guests, employees and animals safe.