Farming in the Park

How to make Sustainable Agriculture Work on Conservation Lands

Tuesday, May 17, 2010
Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto
$50 (includes lunch)
Hosted by FarmStart, FarmLINK and the Ontario Farmland Trust.

Sponsored by the National Capital Commission and Toronto and Region Conservation

Within the next ten years over half of Ontario’s farmers will near retirement – and three-quarters of these farmers have no established successors.  We need to come up with creative solutions to ensure that our productive farmlands will be cared for by a new generation of farmers.  These farmers hold the potential to rejuvenate the social fabric of our rural communities and ensure the long-term stewardship of our farmlands. 

Fortunately, we have begun to witness a strong resurgence of interest in healthy food and farming.  Increasing numbers of young people from farm and non-farm backgrounds, new immigrants and second-career farmers are interested in building entrepreneurial, economically viable and ecologically sustainable farm enterprises.  There are many challenges facing these new entrants, yet there are also new opportunities. They bring skills, connections and passion that can lead to innovation and renewal.

A great deal of farmland is within the stewardship of Parks, Conservation Authorities, and Public ownership.  Much of this land is located within urbanizing and near urban areas, close to growing markets.  Many of the landholders in these areas are looking for compatible and beneficial relationships between their conservation goals and agricultural use.

Join FarmStart, FarmLINK and the Ontario Farmland Trust for a day as we explore how these farmers and farmland owners can turn their challenges into opportunities by working together. 

We will learn from two leaders how a successful initiative between the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), and Countryside Conservancy in Ohio has brought a vibrant diversified farming culture back to the park.

We will also explore the FarmStart and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s partnership to bring sustainable agriculture to the McVean Farm in Brampton, as well as the many opportunities that may exist in the communities that you live and work in.

The Countryside Initiative:  

Darwin Kelsey, the Executive Director of the Countryside Conservancy and Darlene Kelbach, the Program Manager for theCountryside Initiative at the US National Parks Service will spend the day with us, exploring the ins and outs of how they made sustainable agriculture work on conservation lands. 

“The Countryside Initiative is an ambitious effort, begun in 1999, to rehabilitate and revitalize 20 or so of thepicturesque 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.”

The Countryside Initiative involves a creative three-way partnership between Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP),the Conservancy and private sector farmers.  CVNP rehabilitates the old farms, and retains “ownership control” of their operation and management. The Conservancy 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).”

Darwin Kelsey, Executive Director
Darwin Kelsey is the Incorporator and Executive Director of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy.  Prior to this position, he developed and managed Lake Farmpark, an innovative science and cultural center devoted to agricultural and environmental education.  Kelsey served as Director of the National Museum of the Boy Scouts of America, and was Vice President and Senior Vice President of Old Sturbridge Village, the third largest outdoor museum in the United States.

Mr. Kelsey is a graduate of Seattle Pacific College (history) and holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York, Cooperstown (American Folk Culture).  He completed two years of course work toward a doctorate in historical cultural geography, specializing in rural settlement and agricultural field systems.  Kelsey grew up on a dairy farm in New York and owned his own small livestock farm in Connecticut.  He was a founder, board member, and officer of both the Association of Living Historical Farms and Agricultural Museums and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  He has served in many community organizations and has authored numerous articles and papers on agriculture and living history.  His interests include reading, agriculture, horticulture, science and religion, athletic sports, hunting, fishing, and camping.  Darwin lives in Boston Heights with his wife Chris.  He has five children and seven grandchildren.


Darlene L. Kelbach
Darlene is the Historical Landscape Architect for Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and a member of the Resource Management Division.  She specializes in managing the park’s historical and cultural landscape resources in order to preserve and protect these resource’s significant physical attributes, biotic systems and uses.

Darlene’s primary responsibility is to oversee the Countryside Initiative Program which was established in 1999 to preserve, protect and revitalize the historically and culturally significant rural landscape resources of CVNP.   Currently, there are 11 farms with 2 more expected to enter the program in summer 2011.  The Countryside Conservancy, a park partner agency, works with Darlene to help facilitate this program.

Darlene also provides professional landscape architecture and historical landscape architecture consultation to other units of the National Park Service in Ohio including the James A. Garfield National Historic Site and First Ladies National Historic Site.

Darlene joined the National Park Service in 1994 as a student Landscape Architect Technician for Hopewell Culture National Historic Park and Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Site.  Upon graduation from The Ohio State University with a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture, Darlene began her career at CVNP in June 1995.  Prior to Ohio State, Darlene graduated from Wittenberg University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science.  From 1989 thru 1991 she worked for Progressive Insurance Companies in Cleveland, Ohio.


FarmStart Presentation: Supporting a New Generation of Farmers

Ontario FarmLand Trust Presentation: Protecting Farmland for Farmers


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