By DOUG GRAVES
LUCAS, Ohio — Ohio’s only state park that is also a working farm will get a huge facelift this summer. Malabar Farms, a 933-acre state park that boasts a multitude of crops and farm animals, is set for a series of capital improvements totaling $500,000.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director James Zehringer is set to steer the farm-park in a new direction.
“Louis Bromfield showed farmers firsthand how we could improve our farmland and protect our drinking water,” he said. “Our new vision for Malabar Farm involves an approach to agriculture that emphasizes sound environmental conservation practices that will create healthier soil and water, two things that Bromfield always strived to maintain on his farm.”
DNR’s initial capital improvement project at Malabar Farm includes updating the exterior of the Big House. Rotting boards and more than 14 layers of paint cover this historic home. DNR will replace the boards and repaint the Big House to return it to the beautiful farmhouse that Bromfield built.
The agency has pledged up to $500,000 in capital funds for updates and improvements at Malabar Farm.
“The Big House has needed this improvement for many years,” said Zehringer. “The Malabar Farm Foundation recently raised money to replace the windows in the greenhouse, and we want to ensure we do our part to restore the grandeur and excitement to Malabar Farm.”
In addition, restoring an emphasis on conservation farming practices at Malabar Farm is a top priority, according to Andy Ware, deputy director of the ODNR. “People of Ohio will go there next year at this time and have a different feel about Malabar Farm than what they have today,” he said. “We’re going to return the energy and excitement to the place.”
In addition to capital funds, the department is committing the support of conservation experts from other divisions of DNR, such as the divisions of Wildlife, Forestry and Soil and Water, to further support the farm operation, he said.
“We want to make sure we’re connecting with farmers and do everything we can to connect with farmers like Louis Bromfield did,” Ware added. “We want to make sure we are providing the best information we can to farmers on the best conservation practices.”
In order to achieve this new agricultural vision for Malabar Farm State Park, Zehringer announced Korre Boyer of Lucas will be serving as the park’s new full-time manager. As a farmer and local resident, he said Boyer understands both the historic importance of Bromfield’s agricultural accomplishments and the unique place Malabar Farm occupies in the local community.
Additionally, his work as a farmer, a teacher and his role with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation make Boyer the pivotal person to implement the farming techniques DNR intends to apply at Malabar Farm State Park. In order to achieve this new vision, Boyer stressed he will collaborate closely with the divisions of Wildlife, Forestry and Soil and Water. Boyer started his new position Dec. 3, 2012.
Malabar Farm was established by Mansfield native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bromfield in 1939. During his time at Malabar, he penned a number of best-selling books and entertained countless Hollywood legends. In 1945, the Big House at Malabar Farm played host to the wedding of film idols Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
In the late 1930s, he created his dream, Malabar Farm. Inspired by his love of the land, Bromfield restored the rich fertility of the farmlands and preserved the beauty of the woodlands. He built the 32-room country home where family, friends and neighbors could share the pleasure of life on the farm.
Since taking ownership of Malabar Farm in 1972, DNR stated it has been dedicated to preserving the Big House and its many artifacts just as Bromfield left them.