Geauga County Public Library: When was Harvest Bell Farm founded?
Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer: 2015
GCPL: What is the story behind Harvest Bell Farm?
TMM: I grew up on a horse farm with my family and always yearned to live a life like that again. My husband Neil and I began to explore the idea of living on a farm. We began to talk about it with my parents (Lillian & Terry) and sister (Heather) and it turned into a family farm idea. The idea was to purchase a farm that wasn’t in too bad of shape and be able to also build a second home on the property. We knew we wanted to have chickens for eggs, pigs, and grow some crops. It was a process to find the right piece of property, but when we did we jumped right in.
I have a great love for animals and I wanted to know how my food was being raised. The idea of animal husbandry is very important to me as well as how crops are grown for us and the community.
GCPL: How did it begin?
TMM: It took almost 8 months to find the perfect place, which was 20 acres off Bell Road In Newbury. It was once called the Fisher Family Farm, which raised cattle. My parents were first to move to the property and begin the work. Neil and I sold our house and we all lived together for a bit while Lillian and Terry built their home on the property.
GCPL: What challenges did you face in getting started & how did you overcome them?
TMM: I visited with numerous farmers before we started and all of them said, “You just have to jump in and get started,” so we did! Every day is an experience on the farm. With animals, you never know what will happen. Some days are easy and others are hard with 1,000 lb. Pigs getting loose and trying to get them back into their pastures. There is always excitement. There is a BIG learning curve in farming and we depend a lot on other farmers and their experiences. We are fortunate to have some friends in the farming industry who help to make our lives a bit easier.
GCPL: What challenges do you face in your day-to-day operations, and how do you overcome them?
TMM: We all work full-time as well, so juggling it all is the hardest part of farming. The most helpful part is that since there are 5 of us participating in the farm, we can take turns to make it all happen, so we can put as much focus on the farm as we do our day jobs. We are lucky to have each other and it is one of the reasons I wanted to farm with my family.
GCPL: What is your favorite part of owning a business?
TMM: I love the farm, but I know the whole family loves the farm. We all have our skills to make it all work, which makes it all function. I enjoy the farm life and all it brings to the community. I enjoy the animals and watching them enjoy their lives while they are with us as they should and sowing the land is an incredible part of the farm. Watching beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers, etc. grow daily teaches us all so much about this world. It amazes me. One of my favorite things on the farm is the community aspect of it. I love talking about the farm and showing the community who we are and what we do. I never thought about the educational component when we began this journey, but it is a gift that we love to share.
GCPL: Why did you decide to start Harvest Bell Farm? What inspired it?
TMM: To create a sustainable place for our family and do things the way they should be done, humanely and naturally. I was inspired by my love for the land, family, and animals.
GCPL: What kinds of training and education did starting your business require (College, trade shows, seminars/conferences, etc.)?
TMM: Farming is one of those things that you can just jump in and get started, but it is very helpful to have knowledge of animals, plants, equipment, etc. We all have degrees but not in farming, so we use the knowledge we have with our strengths.
GCPL: Have you ever used the library to help with this?
TMM: I have definitely used the library to gain knowledge on certain things. When we begin raising a new family, I head to the library to find information and see what would be best for us. Many of the books on farming are rich with knowledge and the library is a great source to find it all!
GCPL: What resources did/do you find most useful in helping you to start, grow, and maintain your business (Books, software, training materials, databases, etc.)?
TMM: The web is a big help to us, especially if we have something going on at the farm we have not seen before. Many sites have discussion groups for farmers to help each other. Books would be the second most helpful, since they are full of information.
GCPL: What advice do you have for people who want to start a business?
TMM: Go for it, you will be surprised how rewarding it is! That doesn’t mean it won’t be A LOT of work.
GCPL: Can you give us a book recommendation?
TMM: One of the books I read right before we purchased the farm was The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. She owns Essex Farm in New York. Neil and I even went to the farm to see it in person. Kristin is a wonderful writer who gives a realistic picture of what farming really is. There were scary parts to read about, but it didn’t scare me away. It’s a great read for anyone!