Butternut Farms spreads seeds of learning

Written by Anna Sudar, Zanesville Times Recorder
Patricia West-Volland owns and operates a sustainable and organic farm called Butternut Farms in Bowling Green Township.  Her farm is being included in the Women's Farm Tour organized by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
Patricia West-Volland owns and operates a sustainable and organic farm called Butternut Farms in Bowling Green Township. Her farm is being included in the Women’s Farm Tour organized by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
Michael Lehmkuhle The Advocate

Thirty-four years ago, Patricia West-Volland’s husband, Robert Volland, came home and announced they were going to live on a farm.”He had seen a for sale sign; I thought he was crazy,” said West-Volland, a Zanesville native. “But the next thing I knew, we had bought 5 acres and moved to the country.”

The couple named their new home Butternut Farms, for the butternut trees that grew on the property. From the very beginning, they knew their farm would be sustainable and organic.

“It was always my husband’s dream to be a farmer; that was his goal in life,” West-Volland said. “And he wanted to be a good, organic farmer.”

Throughout the years, Volland and West-Volland transformed their land from a small family plot to Butternut Farms Retreat and Education Center, a 20-acre farm dedicated to teaching people about organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Although Volland died about a year ago, West-Volland still is running the farm, organizing programs and teaching classes.

Her work will be on display Saturday during a farm tour sponsored by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. Visitors to the farm will be able to see her animals and tour her garden and orchard.

“I hope they get an appreciation for the work people put into the food they get at local farmers markets,” West-Volland said.

West-Volland grew up on a farm. A graduate of Ohio University with several degrees, including anthropology, history, journalism and photojournalism, she worked at a roller skating rink, ran her own travel agency and worked as a freelance writer and photographer.

Now, West-Volland spends most of her time on the farm, caring for both plants and animals.

Her pasture is home to a horse, three llamas and about 14 Nubian goats that provide her with milk, which she makes into cheese. She also collects eggs from her coop full of chickens.

Throughout the years, the animals have become part of the family, she said,

“When you are a farmer, you are also sort of a vet and zookeeper,” she said. “It’s a lot of jobs combined into one. But I can’t imagine them not being here.”

West-Volland grows hay for her animals as well as fruits and vegetables, from apples and pears to potatoes and eggplant. Everything is grown with natural fertilizers and no chemicals.

“I grow enough that I buy very little from the grocery store,” she said.

In 2004, West-Volland and her husband joined the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program. The program gives people interested in organic farming the opportunity to volunteer on farms all over the world.

In the past seven years, Butternut Farms has hosted people from Germany, Australia, South Korea and England.

“My husband really, truly felt it was important we teach young people how to grow their own food,” West-Volland said. “They come to learn to work the soil, do composting and garden smarter.”

When she isn’t working on the farm, West-Volland runs a bed and breakfast on her property and teaches classes.

She also hosts tea parties, a writers’ retreat, a photography group and a children’s day camp that focuses on crafts, recycling and creative writing.

Although things can get busy, especially in the spring and fall, West-Volland said she enjoys teaching about farming and sustainability.

“You try to find work you love that people will pay you to do. That’s what this is,” she said. “You get to the point where you don’t want to be anywhere else.”

West-Volland is proud to be continuing her husband’s dream, teaching the next generation of organic farmers and raising quality animals and food.

“It’s sharing the knowledge with other people so they can continue to share it with their children,” she said. “We should be able to feed ourselves.”