• Photo of the Beaver Marsh by Jeffrey Gibson.

    Cuyahoga Valley

    National Park Ohio

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  • Valley Picnic Area Park Lot CLosed - Plateau Trail Loop Affected

    Valley Picnic Area Parking Lot is closed for the replacement of the damaged culvert on the Plateau Trail, from dusk on Monday, September 22 to 5 p.m., Thursday, October 2, 2014. Access to Plateau Trail is via the Oak Hill Trailhead. Loop unavailable.

  • Other Closures

    Valley Bridle Trail south of SR 303, across from golf course, is collapsed by river. Hard closure. Plateau Trail Bridge, north of Valley Picnic Area is closed. No detours. Plateau & Oak Hill trails are open. More »

Brown-Bender Farm

Brown-Bender barn with farmhouse in background.
Bender barn with farmhouse in background.
NPS/Ted Toth
 

The Brown-Bender Farm, once one of the most productive local farms, still commands a panoramic view of the Cuyahoga Valley. Up a steep winding drive, Jim Brown's large 1840s farmhouse sits beside a spectacular barn. Today, you can see the barn roof peeking above dense trees and overgrowth along Akron Peninsula Road, just south of Ira Road.

In 1907, dairy farmer Andrew J. Bender purchased the property as an investment in additional land to support his wife and twelve children. Andrew's son Earva, who lived there his entire life, managed the farm after his father's death in 1930. Weighing the costs and benefits of his father's dairy business, Earva chose another direction.

 
Brown-Bender barn rehabilitation.

Brown-Bender barn rehabilitation.

NPS/Ted Toth

Through his perseverance and innovative spirit, Earva Bender developed a thriving vegetable farm that rivaled the neighboring Szalay Farm. Without children of their own to share the labor, Earva and his wife hired families to live and work on their property. As each new season arrived, Earva and his hired workers planted, harvested, and sold crops at a roadside stand and a farmers' market. Always thinking of new ways to improve his operation, Earva built a greenhouse that allowed him to bring ripe tomatoes to the farmers' markets earlier in the season than his competitors. Earva planted 100 acres of sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons, and pumpkins on bottomland beside the Cuyahoga River. By the 1940s, the Benders' vegetable stand on Akron Peninsula Road had become a local landmark.

Click to read more about the history of Brown-Bender Farm.

Work on the farm never ceased, and every day brought new successes or failures to overcome. Listen below as Earva Bender's former workers share their experiences on the farm.

 
Oral history audio.

In Their Own Words
Click to hear stories about Cuyahoga Valley life.

Click here to read the text file.
Spring and Summer Activities (1 minute 1 second)
Tomato Fights (29 seconds)
Robert Grether describes his experiences working on the Bender Farm during the 1940s.

Click here to read the text file.
Planting Tomatoes for Earva Bender (1 minute 17 seconds)
Selling Vegetables from a Hay Wagon (27 seconds)
Sweet Corn Competition (52 seconds)
Painting the Bender Barn (1 minute 38 seconds)
David Darst and his daughter Lee, describe daily life on Earva Bender's farm. David, his wife Marty, and their children lived and worked there for 30 years, from the 1950s through the 1970s.




Did You Know?

Monarch Butterfly - US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo

Early September is the time to watch monarchs feed in Cuyahoga Valley fields rich with goldenrod and New England aster. These places serve as important re-fueling sites for these long distance travelers on their way to oyamel forests near Mexico City more than 2,000 miles away.