Walnut Drive Gardens is a six generation family farm that was started by George Saal. In the mid 1800’s George moved from Germany to Ohio. In 1862 he purchased a parcel of land in Suffield and began farming what is now known as Walnut Drive Gardens. He married Eva and they had four children - Anna, Philip, Lena and Fred. The hard work on the farm took a toll on him. When he passed his son Fred farmed the land.
Fred married Emma Rothermel and they raised six children - Margaret, Sylvan, Richard, Gilbert, Mary and Mildred. He grew the farm business by selling produce at The Summit Growers’ Market (which he helped organize) on Beaver Street in Akron. Three days a week he would pick produce during the day and load it into his wagon. At nine in the evening he would take the horse drawn wagon to the market and sleep there until early morning. He would sell his fresh produce to the proprietors of neighborhood groceries and to people who bought in quantities to can. Emma also liked working on the farm in addition to making her children’s clothing and tending her flowers. She would sometimes start rotten tomato fights while picking tomatoes with her grandchildren. When Fred passed in 1937 Emma and her son Sylvan worked the farm. Sylvan married Mildred Neff and they had two children - Fred and Bill. Emma worked on the farm into her eighties. Sylvan was a hard worker but he was also known for two things - running out of gas in tractors and for being a prankster. Fred and Bill and many of their cousins worked together on the farm plowing, weeding and picking beans, peppers and tomatoes. There were water fights and rotten tomato fights when Sylvan wasn’t looking!
When Bill graduated from high school he and Sylvan went into partnership to farm. Bill married Patty Speight and they had four children - Michelle, Chris, Tim and Tammy. They all helped on the farm. Bill purchased more land so he could grow the farm. He started raising strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, beans and peppers for customers to pick their own. He also added hayrides and rides to the pumpkin patch as agritourism became popular.
Bill “retired” in 2004 and his son Chris is now running the farm. Chris married Joanne and they have six children - John, Colton, Collin, Raine, Zoie and Charlette. They along with their cousins are the sixth generation to help on the farm. Chris and Joanne have purchased more land to again grow the farm. Chris’s son Colton and his soon-to-be wife Meagan are increasing agritourism by adding The Barn at Walnut Drive Gardens for a wedding venue.
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