Lake Metroparks Farmpark’s Plant Science Center gives visitors a look at how locally sourced crops make their way to your dinner table

Lk Metro Jun22
Photograph: Jen Soots

By Mimi Vanderhaven

With the growing prevalence of farm-to-table eating, Mimi decided it was time to explore the current fascination with where our food comes from by taking a field trip to the Plant Science Center at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland.

Nestled on 235 rolling acres of fields, gardens and farm buildings, each year the center draws more than 100,000 students from area schools.

Horticulture Manager Valerie Reinhardt was Mimi’s personal tour guide for the day.

Through an eclectic menagerie of agricultural exhibits and themed gardens, we covered subjects ranging from understanding global plant propagation to learning how to turn your backyard into a bountiful harvest and the role bees play in pollinating one-third of our food supply.

The adventure began with a trek through the Hydroponics Greenhouse. This field of horticulture involves growing plants in water—without soil. Seeing the gigantic tomato plants suspended from above and feeding into water receptacles was mind-blowing.

Within the kitchen garden, you’ll find everything growing from A to Z, from artichokes to zucchini. Local students had a ball getting their hands dirty by helping Valerie harvest potatoes.

Maps depict where crops are sourced both globally and at home. Do you know what the top crops are in Ohio? With so many wineries, people in Lake County often answer grapes, but those are actually further down the list at number 18. The list is dominated by corn at number 1, followed by soybeans, hay, wheat and tomatoes.

A highlight of the tour whisks you to where it all begins—the soil. You’ll descend into an underground viewing tunnel to witness a spellbinding diorama of roots and creepy-crawly living things that make soil so rich.

“It’s rewarding to see people getting closer to where their food comes from and appreciating the importance of conserving farmlands, which are dwindling,” says Valerie.

Explore the greenhouses and much more at the Farmfest on Saturday, July 9, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Farfest which features food and live music, self-guided tours of the gardens and live demonstrations.

Lake Metroparks Farmpark is located at 8800 Kirtland Chardon Road (Route 6) in Kirtland. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday thorugh Sunday. Farmpark admission is $6-$8. Admission to Farmfest, July 9, is free for everyone. Visit for more information.