Help with non-profit sustainability, permaculture, learning, and homestead projects at our Chestnut/Blueberry farm in , USA


United States

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  • Description


    My identical twin 4-year old boys, my 6-year old son, and I live together in a farmhouse on our farm. We are surrounded by orchards of chestnut trees and our blueberry patch. Every year we've been planting up acres of chestnut trees, mostly grown from the seeds of what we deem to be our best trees and the best trees in the world. It's very exciting! We live in a world where we are generally forced to accept that there are many mouths to feed and calories needed to be produced by a style of agriculture that is destructive to land, air, and ecosystems. However, chestnuts aren't like that. They build up the soil, and don't require a lot of fertilization, spraying, or tearing up the land. Furthermore, they take carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into firewood, oxygen, and of course hundreds of pounds of tasty nuts that are very good for you, being high in nutrients, low in fat, and rather like a grain.

    A little over a hundred years ago, there were 2 American chestnut trees for every person alive on the planet. Enough to fill Yellowstone nation park 8 times over. 1 in 4 trees on the Eastern seaboard was a chestnut. These were virtually all wiped out by a fungus. Now, most Americans don't know what one is, even though we live in what was once the heartland of the chestnut. They are great trees that produce a great food and forest ecosystem, home to birds, mushrooms, wildflowers, bees, etc. Chestnut production is in its infancy in America, and we are living in an exciting time when we're figuring out how to make it work and grow. It's an edifying and important vision, and we invite you to come and see it and experience living in the middle of it.

    Our goal here is to encourage people to come here and see the chestnuts and learn about practices that we believe would make the world a better place, and while workawayers are here, they can help us with the sustainability, permaculture, learning, and homestead projects that aren't part of the business.

    We also farm 5 acres of blueberries and some other stuff for fun, like chickens, a garden, a fence-row of pole beans, paw paws, grapes, hops, pecans, hazelnuts, butternuts, bee hives, elderberries, mushrooms, flowers, and a magnificent apple tree.

    We are doing ever more science on our farm, including a vast tree breeding project guided by the data that we collect on each individual tree. I’d like to do some science using microbiology to treat the trees to make the chestnut trees healthier and disease resistant and increase our knowledge on these subjects. We have an excellent microscope on the farm now. The microscope teaches one that nature is an artistic genius. We would like to do some more permaculture projects and get closer to living off of the grid. We’d like to brew more wine, kombucha, can, pickle, make jams, and experiment culinarily with chestnuts. Up the road, easily within biking distance, there are monastery grounds with ten acres of chestnuts that we planted in 2020, which are part of the genetic program. We will be making occasional trips up there.

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Art Projects
    Language practice
    Help with Eco Projects
    DIY and building projects
    Animal Care
    Farmstay help
    Creating/ Cooking family meals
    Help around the house
    General Maintenance

  • UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN goals
    No poverty
    Zero hunger
    Good health and well-being
    Quality education
    Gender equality
    Clean water and sanitation
    Affordable and clean energy
    Decent work and economic growth
    Industries, innovation and infrastructure
    Reduce inequality
    Sustainable cities and communities
    Responsible consumption and production
    Climate action
    Life below water
    Life on land
    Peace, justice and strong institutions
    Partnerships for the goals
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    There's no question that growing things makes you a stronger, smarter, and more well-rounded person. There are many tasks where you can have peaceful time to think or meditate as you help, or to go through a lot of portable media. It can be like staring into the infinite. You are a cog that keeps many wheels turning…

    On the more social side, our farm has always been blessed with wonderful and diverse people coming to work and visit. There are a lot of laid-back and honest, yet intelligent folks who find their way here, and befriending and talking to them surely adds to the richness and experience of life. Ashland county Ohio is a beautiful area, and home to the nicest folks. There are highly varied and lively Amish communities around here, and it's common to meet them on our farm during blueberry and chestnut seasons. They range from the stoic, dark-haired Swartzentroubers, who speak a thick Pennsylvania Dutch and work hard, to the elegant Hostetlers, with their booming mill and log home businesses. I can show you the etiquette to use among the different sects. Especially during the harvest seasons on our farm, you really meet all kinds of people from many walks of life, open your mind to their joys and plights, and to make friends that you never could have anticipated.

    We’re eager to meet people through Workaway who are interested in taking part in the quest for knowledge that is such an integral part of our farm. I’d like to find people who are interested in the science, the engineering, improving management practices, and learning together with us how to farm better and more sustainably.

    At least during the chestnut season and soon afterward, there will be a lot of chestnuts around to experiment with culinary. They can be ground into flour and from there used to make all sorts of things, like bread, pasta, pancakes, pies, and even burgers. We're definitely still learning here what all you can do with them. It is my believe that tree crops, particularly chestnuts and hazelnuts, can largely replace commodity crops such as corn and soybeans that have a heavy environmental impact. It is my hope that through coming here and seeing what we're doing with the trees, learning to live in a more self-sufficient and community-sufficient manner with a smaller carbon footprint, we all may benefit.

  • Help


    On our farm, we grow chestnuts and blueberries commercially, but there are a lot of other things that we'd like to do for fun, sustenance, and learning that aren't part of the business around the home and the garden, and it is with these that we are asking for help on this site.

    Some of these projects involve getting off the grid and providing our own power, heat, materials, and food. Such help includes gardening, tending to chickens, bees, mushrooms, compost, etc. This year, I'd like to start making biochar out of some of the prunings. We could really use some help around the house too, as well as chances to practice foreign languages. I'd also like to host more field trips, particularly from schools, homeschool groups, and scouts, and it would be cool to set up some extra things for them to enjoy, like little learning centers and farm-themed jungle gyms.

    This year, I'd like someone coming here to be the Master Gardener and take the reins with the garden. I'll provide the supplies, and everybody will help. Just provide the vision and organization and communicate it. That's what we did in 2020, and it worked great.

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    German: Intermediate
    Spanish: Intermediate
    Italian: Intermediate
    Russian: Intermediate

    This host offers a language exchange
    This host has indicated that they are interested in sharing their own language or learning a new language.
    You can contact them directly for more information.

  • Accommodation


    We have plenty of room to camp on the farm, as well as 3 campers in the barn and a teepee-like tent outside that you're welcome to stay in. First come, first serve. There is electricity, and excellent water from the well. Our blueberry stand is also like a little insulated cabin with a woodstove and an upright piano and cot, and people stay there, as long as it isn't blueberry season. Just let us know what you need, and we'll see if we can accommodate.

    We cover your food expenses while you are here. The milkhouse in the barn has been converted into a camp kitchen. Meal plans are pretty flexible. Those staying here can prepare and eat meals individually, in groups, or collectively. Occasionally we all have dinner together, and it's fun to rotate who cooks. We believe that this enhances the cultural exchange aspect of our arrangement and exposes us to new cuisine and styles, as well as adds to the fun. We happily accommodate anyone's special dietary needs or choices. We try to eat healthily with a lot of fruits and veggies, and meat, if present, is from conscientious and environmentally-friendly sources. We plan on having a large garden again, and there's nothing like some fresh picked salad, tomatoes, or corn to balance out a meal. Our farm generally produces much of what we eat.

    There is a washer and dryer (though you are encouraged to hang clothes out to dry) at the farmhouse, and a wood-fired outdoor shower (which is capable of producing more scalding hot water than anyone could possibly need for a shower). Bathrooms are generally the outhouses, though there are a couple at the farmhouse as well. Wifi is at or near the farmhouse.

    This is not the lap of luxury. You would be living at or around the barn and spending most of your time outside and away from heaters and air-conditioning. It's rustic. Many people who've stayed here love it. If you like camping, then you'll probably do great. If you are a person who needs a shower every day, ironed linens, or a bidet, then this place probably isn't a good fit for you.

    Since firewood is a byproduct of a chestnut orchard, there are campfires almost every night here during the growing season. I also have a canoe and tackle that you may take out on the river or lakes if you wish, and some bikes that can be borrowed.

    Having some help from travelers and interns really goes a long way towards enabling us to make our various visions possible, keep our homestead running smoothly, allow us to delve into more permaculture, off-grid stuff, and research. We would like people to come here with the goals of learning and helping. We ask that anyone coming here volunteer for at least 21 hours/week, or an average of 3/day.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    We live pretty close to Mohican State Park, as well as some rivers and lakes. Our area hosts a lot of canoeing, hiking, bike trails, and an outdoor adventure place with ziplines and climbing walls and that sort of thing. We have a couple cars, so you shouldn't have too much trouble arranging trips into town, nights out, grocery runs, etc.

    In my opinion, you can find the best that the Midwest has to offer on and around our farm. The stars are really something too, as well as the views afforded by our elevation. Same goes for sunrises and sets.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    This host can provide space for campervans.

  • Can possibly accept pets

    Can possibly accept pets

    No cats.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    21 hours/week, or 3/day

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Accuracy of profile: (4.8)

Cultural exchange: (4.7)

Communication: (4.8)

Host ref number: 584179171285