Thursday, February 18, 2010

Muskingum Couple Utilizes Trash as Treasure

by Jennifer Kessler

To Annie and Jay Warmke, the sizeable Muskingum County farm they’ve built and currently dwell in with their granddaughter is more than just a home.

Rather, Blue Rock Station is the product of a carefully tended collection of sustainable sensibilities, nurtured by the Warmkes for years and meant to be shared among all who venture through the front gates. From yearlong workshops to tours of various buildings constructed with recycled materials, the Warmkes spend day after day teaching people to live sustainably.

Though Annie and Jay had already purchased the 38 acres and started construction on what would become their farm–which was purchased the week their granddaughter was born, in fact–Blue Rock Station as it stands today was but a glint in the Warmkes’ eyes when they decided to move to Europe for a few years in 2001. It was there, flitting between France and England and experiencing a vastly family-centric, consumption-conscious way of life that the couple really began to hatch a plan for the Station.

“It was a great learning time, and it really laid the foundation for this place,” Annie says. “We had the opportunity to eat really fabulous, locally grown food. We always lived in market towns, where you could walk and buy fresh food two or three times a week.”

Annie also cites a deep-seated European appreciation for family and community as having been very influential in the business plan. “In France, everything is structured around the family, including how people work,” she says. “They don’t live to work, they work to live.”

When Annie and Jay returned in 2004, they decided to move to Blue Rock and begin to implement their ideas concerning community and sustainability. Construction on the main house had begun years ago in the late ‘90s after Annie heard architect Michael Reynolds on the radio. Reynolds was talking about a new kind of home, called an Earthship, constructed entirely from old tires and reclaimed wood. The Warmkes decided to go for it, eager to take on such an exciting project to occupy their summers.

Once they made it back stateside, the Warmkes first priority was finishing up the Earthship so that it could become the center of the farm. Other sustainable buildings, like the straw bale chicken chalet that houses rare breed chickens, have since popped up around it.

Soon, people began to trickle into Muskingum to see the Earthship. It wasn’t long before the trickle turned into a full-fledged flood, and Annie and Jay really began catering to the community. Now, visitors have the opportunity to tour the farm, trek through the woods with the Warmkes’ llamas, eat fabulous homegrown, homemade meals or attend workshops on topics that range from “Marketing Your Green Business” to “Goat Keeping and Cheese Making.”

According to Annie, choosing which topics to cover in workshops is a simple enough task – if the topic interests the Warmkes, they’ll speak on it.

“We decided that our walk in life was going to be the personal one, and if people wanted to walk with us, well, that was great,” says Annie. The idea is to foster a sense of community among those folks who show up and to focus on what they have in common: the desire to learn to “rethink” and to live sustainably.

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