Park District, Partners Building Recovery Farm Like None Other

Last month, Medina County Park District (MCPD) entered into a 10-year lease with Cathy’s House, a Medina-based nonprofit that provides recovery housing for men with substance use disorder. The document’s execution was 11 months in the making, but it signified the unofficial start of the Brown-Trump Homestead—a unique collaborative partnership with both Cathy’s House and Hope Recovery Community—that will establish a first-of-its-kind recovery farm unlike anything else in the Midwest, perhaps even the country.

“We are grateful for this amazing partnership and collaboration with Hope Recovery Community and the Medina County Park District,” said Jon Robinson, executive director of Cathy’s House. “Hope Recovery Community had a vision for workforce development and farming early last year, and to be a part of this is incredible.”

In May 2022, MCPD and its nonprofit partner, Friends of Medina County Parks, Inc. (FOTP), were chosen by executors of the Brown-Trump estate to become the stewards of a well-known but, perhaps, misunderstood ‘farm in the city’ on State Route 18. The property, which includes three houses—most notable of which is a Victorian-era home—plus several outbuildings, was owned by Mr. Edson J. Brown and Mr. Ross M. Trump, both prominent antique dealers. Located at 4092 Medina Road, next to Medina Hospital, the land is protected by a restrictive conservation easement, a legal document held by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. Most of the property has to remain open space or be farmed. It cannot host walking trails, nor can it be used for any commercial purposes.

Those limitations did not dissuade MCPD and FOTP from developing a proposal last February for the executors’ consideration. Included in the proposal was the idea that the newest home on the property, built in 2001, would be leased to Cathy House to house men in recovery. In place of rent, Cathy’s House will be responsible for maintaining the house, which will immediately increase the organization’s housing program by nearly 43%. Hope Recovery Community will lead the agricultural programing on the grounds and will also develop several workforce tracts for the residents of the house and local recovery community. Eventually, food that is produced on the property will benefit the recovery community as well as Feeding Medina County, a local non-profit combating food insecurity in Medina County. 

“This collaboration is profound,” said Stefanie Robinson, executive director of Hope Recovery Community. “Seeing the park district, Cathy’s House, Hope Recovery Community, and Feeding Medina County working together to bring this farm back to life, support people impacted by addiction, increase housing and workforce opportunities, and combat food insecurities . . . it’s beyond anything we have seen anywhere.”

It was Brown and Trump’s wishes that their Medina Township property be preserved as a working farm for cultural, educational, and aesthetic purposes; as a green gateway to the city of Medina and a way to balance encroaching commercial development; as a museum and historical site; and as a community space that inspires future generations. Nathan Eppink, director of MCPD, said the Brown-Trump Homestead achieves each of those goals.

“This won’t be a typical park district site, but our impact on the community here will be immeasurable,” Eppink said. “I got to see that in real time last October, when Hope Recovery Community and residents of the Cathy’s House program helped establish a small orchard on the property. One of the participants said he was grateful to be there, to feel the sunshine that morning, because several months ago, he couldn’t feel anything. It was powerful.”

Although the Brown-Trump Homestead will not be open daily to the general public, there will be opportunities for special events and tours in the future, but Eppink said that is likely at least two years away. With funds from the estate, FOTP and MCPD will begin restoring the Victorian, which was built in 1874. Once restored, the historic brick home will include display space for the Medina County Historical Society as well as offices for FOTP and a meeting space for local nonprofits.

“Ultimately, this is about preservation and quality of life in Medina County,” Eppink said. “Our board and our employees are honored and excited to be involved.”

Cathy’s House provides affordable, recovery-focused housing to individuals with substance use disorder and/or alcoholism. This mission's call is far greater than having a group of people living in a "sober" environment. Residents are involved in a program that is all encompassing and allows them to build a life of long-term recovery.

Hope Recovery Community is a Medina County Recovery Community Organization. It organizes recovery-focused advocacy activities, carries out recovery-focused community education and outreach programs, and/or provides peer-based recovery support services.  Hope Recovery Community is dedicated to increasing sustained recovery by providing hope, support, advocacy, and resources to those impacted by addiction.

Medina County Park District is a local and regional leader in conservation, education, and the protection of natural resources. Employees take pride in the parks, trails, programs, and community; ensure quality outdoor experiences; protect public investments; plant the forests and prairies of tomorrow; and develop the next generation of stewards. Established in 1965, the district manages 8,300 acres and over 50 different trails.

Friends of Medina County Parks, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting the mission of the Medina County Park District. Funds raised by the Friends through membership and other activities assist the park district in many ways including sponsorship for park programs, funds for land acquisition, and financial assistance for projects. The Friends group was established in 1972 and has over 600 members.