Volunteers help keep historic OH site working farm

11/25/2012 10:15 AM
By Associated Press

EVENDALE, Ohio (AP) — Late in her life, Dorothy Gorman began receiving baskets of flowers.

They weren't gifts from relatives or friends, though. Instead, real estate developers were trying to sweet-talk Dorothy into selling her farm.

Those flowers could have been sent to Siberia for all the good they did.

While other farmers sold their land and saw it subdivided, Dorothy and her brother, Jim, were adamant about preserving their family heritage and their farm.

If the Gormans were still around — Dorothy died in 2006, Jim in 2001 — they would no doubt be pleased that in August their farm, which dates to the first half of the 19th century, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

They'd also like hearing that a couple of days earlier, Chris Schaefer of Evendale ran a disc through one of the fields in preparation of winter wheat planting. The Gormans also wanted it to remain a working farm.

Schaefer, a friend of the Gormans, tells this story as he treks along the farm's hillside on a cool autumn day. He's one of about 150 volunteers who pitch in to keep Gorman Heritage Farm going.

Schaefer has also helped clear honeysuckle from the hillside to make walkable trails. "A pain in the neck," he says of the invasive plant. Other volunteers feed animals, tend gardens, help with harvest, make repairs.

One might wonder why they put in the time here. After all, surrounded by suburbia on one side and commercial and industrial development on the other, the 120-acre farm can seem out of place.

In fact, it's right where it needs to be.

"You come up here," Schaefer says, reaching the meadow at the top of the hill, "and it's like you're in a different world. It's kind of an island of solitude."

The Gormans donated the farm to the Cincinnati Nature Center in 1995. Eight years later, the nature center turned it over to the village of Evendale, which established the Gorman Heritage Farm Foundation to operate it as a nonprofit working farm and outdoor education center.

"I drove by so many times and never knew what was here," says Traci Cook of Reading.

She and her home-schooled children — Caitlin, 8, Natalie, 9, and Allan, 11 — toured the farm last summer. Since then they've been coming every Thursday, which is volunteer day.

Roosters crow as the children go about their chores, which include feeding the pigs and chickens and donkey.

"Growing up in the city, we haven't had a whole lot of exposure to farm life," Cook says. Here, they "gain an appreciation of where we come from, how we survive, the basic necessities of life that are found on a farm."

The children learned, for example, that the farm's turkeys would end up on dinner tables. That sheep might look soft and fluffy, but their wool is coarse to the touch. And that, as Natalie says, "the animals need a lot of care."

She collects two eggs laid by the Pekin ducks. "Let's see how much they weigh," she says, setting them on a scale that tells her they are "extra large." She places them in an egg carton in a refrigerator.

Later, the family hikes to the top of the hill to eat lunch.

"We've fallen in love with this place," Cook says.

Another volunteer, Kathy Aerni, hears that a lot, and not just from young people.

Older folks "are so happy to be here. If they didn't live on a farm, their parents probably did. They're so happy to see animals or some of the tools or just to be in a place where things grow."

Aerni, from Oakley, does her part to keep things growing. "I adopt all these beds," she says, kneeling in a garden, "and keep them planted."

The Egyptian walking onions, planted this fall, will stay in the ground until spring. The Swiss chard is still growing.

And the volunteers keep coming, year-round. Aerni finds something to appreciate about every season at the farm, even winter, when "it's just so quiet and peaceful."


Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com

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