The first animals that a visitor to Harvest Bell Farm in Newbury Township will likely notice are the chickens. Filling the entrance of the farm owned by Tiffany Mushrush Mentzer are striped barred rocks and solid black Australorps chickens leisurely strolling around the lot, their bright red combs jiggling with each step.
Some people might find the constant movement distracting, but Mrs. Mentzer said the noise is worth it to produce Harvest Bell’s eggs. Mrs. Mentzer, 40, walked through the property explaining the history and layout of the farm, dodging chickens and raising her voice over the clucks of the birds.
“The birds are completely free range and we think that that makes the best egg,” she said. “You’ll have almost an orange yolk.” Mrs. Mentzer said that the birds’ roaming patterns, combined with their diet of GMO-free grains, make for a perfect egg that can be enjoyed at restaurants like Aurelia and Heartwood Coffee Rosters in Chagrin Falls.
In fact, Mrs. Mentzer looks perfectly at home with all the animals and plants on her 20-acre property, which is home to 250 chickens, 180 turkeys, three young pigs and two older and larger “baby-making” pigs, as she put it. There’s also a miniature horse, named Sam, and his companion, a donkey named Pippin.
“Once you pet her once, she’s going to think that you’re best friends,” she explained. And she was certainly correct. Anyone who visits with Pippin can expect the waist-high donkey to follow him or her around.
“We purchased the farm back in 2015. It was kind of a dream of mine to own a farm and know where my food was coming from and how it was raised,” Mrs. Mentzer explained. “I was raised on a farm but much different than this, my parents had racehorses. I just remember that very fondly, and that’s how this all started.”
The family owned bell, from which the farm derives its name, is another one of the notable landmarks. A plaque explains that the bell was installed at Deepwood Drive in 1968 and then in 1978 the Double LL Farm, the former horse farm of Mrs. Mentzer’s parents.
Immediately to the right of the house is a large red barn, the lower section of which will eventually be home to a storefront where Mrs. Mentzer plans to sell eggs and other items at some point in the future.
“My parents are builders by trade, so thankfully they always have a good vision,” she said, walking through the space and gesturing to various corners. “They’ll have a closet here with the freezers and a cooler for our flowers. It’ll be closed off so these lovely little girls can’t come in all the time.” She gestured to the chickens, then headed to the pen with the turkey poults.
“They look like little dinosaurs,” she said, laughing.
“So this is our garden,” she said as she stepped over the fence that separates the crops from the chickens, continuing that it’s home to both produce and flowers.
“They’re kind of mixed in,” she continued. “They all kind of help each other, because when you have the flowers, more pollinators come. We do have beehives right now.”
There are also a number of perennials, zinnias and some vibrant orange cosmos growing in the field, which Mrs. Mentzer said, are for sale through the Community Supported Agriculture program.
Different types of squash, melons and, this year, pink celery, are grown on the farm. The pink celery tastes just like regular celery but the color is pink.
“I really like it,” Mrs. Mentzer said when asked about daily life on the farm. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of labor. Most people, they’re used to just sitting at a desk all day. But the flip side is I’m working with the earth, I’m working with making things grow every day. For me, it’s definitely a little slice of heaven.”
Though Mrs. Mentzer and her family own the farm together, she is the only full-time employee, devoting as least 60 hours of week to the job.
Her father, Terry Mentzer, does the gardening and they occasionally hire some seasonal help, while her husband, Neil Mentzer, 40, works full-time for Artisanal Beverage Group.
Nothing really sums up Harvest Bell’s wholesomeness visit better than meeting the two birthing pigs who have been with the farm since Mrs. Mentzer started it about five years ago.
“These are our two big girls,” she said, opening the gate to a shady pen. Inside, they were resting in a yin-yang symbol formation.
Even when approached, the pigs barely move. Stick your hand out, and Ms. Rosie and Daisy might rumple their snouts as they identify your scent, but do not expect them to crack their eyes open just for you.
“This is what big pigs do,” she explained, “sleep and wallow in the mud. It’s more work to open their eyes. See, we’re not feeding so we’re not getting up for anything.”
Mrs. Mentzer’s reverence and respect for the pigs is also indicative of the compassion that makes Harvest Bell so special.
“Everybody thinks pigs are dirty because they like to wallow. The reason they go in the mud is because they can’t sweat like we can sweat. They go to the bathroom in one place, horses will go anywhere. It’s funny, sometimes you’ll come out here and there’ll be chickens sleeping on them.
“Some people think pigs are so mean. It’s just all how you raise them,” she concluded.
Mrs. Mentzer sells her products at the Geauga Fresh Farmers Market, which takes place at 5205 Chillicothe Road in South Russell Village every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon through Oct. 17.