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Bellwether Farm focuses on stewardship, energy efficiency

Cary Ashby • Nov 20, 2017 at 10:00 AM

WAKEMAN TOWNSHIP — David Bock’s wife encouraged him to get EHOVE Career Center students involved at the Bellwether Farm construction site.

“The opportunity was so big, it made a lot of sense,” said Bock, the co-owner of Erie Custom Carpentry in Vermilion.

Bock is the site coordinator and carpenter for the $7 million project that will turn about 140 acres of a former family farm into a camp, retreat and education center. The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio purchased the property from the family in 2015. The diocese, which covers the northern half of the state, includes 86 churches and about 16,000 members.

“The mission of the place aligns with what they want the church to be (focusing on) — land stewardship,” Bock said.

Construction started about seven months ago.

Project director Katie Ong-Landini estimated the project is about 50 percent complete. She said the goal is to have the buildings roofed and enclosed by Christmas.

“We want to be finished by March,” Ong-Landini added.

Bellwether Farm includes a farm house, two maintenance buildings, 15 summer camp cabins, 40 overnight rooms, a worship barn and a main building. A full-time farm manager will live in the front of the farm house while interns will be in the back. The cabins have a capacity of 100 campers plus staff members.

“We just hired the farmer. He will start Dec. 1,” Ong-Landini said. “We want to have our own camp program.”

For the farm-focused program, she said campers will do “farm chores,” work in a “teaching kitchen” and be involved in making their own meals.

“It’s going to be open to other groups as well,” added the project director, who has been working closely with the bishop, the Right Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. 

The worship cabin is an 1863 barn, rebuilt from when it was first in Galion.

The focus of Bellwether Farm is stewardship and being “high-energy efficient.” That can be seen easiest in the farm house, which is being built out of insulated concrete forms (ICF), which resemble long, thin Lego blocks. Concrete is poured into the ICFs, making the parcels the foundation and insulation for the home. 

“This is really neat technology that we wouldn’t be able to do at school. (This experience) gets them ready for what the world is,” said Jim Carper, EHOVE construction tech instructor.

Twelve to 15 EHOVE students have been working weekly at the construction site for about six weeks.

“They usually work in the afternoon, twice a week,” Bock said.

Although he admittedly was “hesitant at first” about having EHOVE students assist with the construction, he has been impressed.

“I’ve been blown away. They learn quickly; they require minimal supervision,” Bock added.

The EHOVE students also have been working at the farm with Woodyard Concrete in Norwalk. Bock said the teenagers have been assisting with the foundation for all the buildings.

Ong-Landini shared more of the mission of Bellwether Farm. She said the diocese lately has been focusing on stewardship, something that church has ignored in some ways, but it has a scriptural foundation. 

“We really have a mandate as Christians to promote physical and spiritual wellness and fidelity to the environment,” Ong-Landini said.

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