Building Community | ‘Deep connections’ at Forest Village Farm
- Published: June 16, 2023
This is the fifth in a series examining the meaning of community through the eyes of residents working to build and shape it in Yellow Springs.
Whether it be educating residents on the signs of a water leak, delivering eggs or showing people the difference between invasive and native plants on her farm, Rose Pelzl has spent the last few years working for and in her community.
Pelzl, who has worked as a Village meter reader for the past five years, received approval last year to begin a farm on her family’s South High Street property with the aims of creating a working farm and a community education space.
“I see the farm as a space that people will want to spend time on and a space that is open and accessible to the community and someplace that people feel invested in,” Pelzl said. “I’m thinking about it as an extension of Gaunt Park.”
With that in mind, Pelzl has been clearing the wooded portions of her property of invasive species, such as honeysuckle and multiflora rose. That task requires cutting down the invasives and painting their trunks with an herbicide, such as Round Up, to prevent them from growing back. Painting the trunks of each plant also limits the spread of the herbicide, Pelzl said.
To support those efforts, Pelzl was awarded a grant through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, or EQIP, that is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA. This year, her goal was to clear two acres; next year, an additional 1.7 acres will need to be cleared in order for Pelzl to receive the full grant. Pelzl said she has appreciated a group of volunteers who have helped clear some of the invasives and shown interest in seeing the farm’s development.
“Spending time on the farm gives people the opportunity to peek through a keyhole into what’s going to happen,” Pelzl said. “That’s really exciting to me. That, and the incredible transformation that has happened in the woods.”
Pelzl has been clearing space on her property with the intention of creating a silvopasture, which the USDA defines as the integration of grazing pasture with wooded areas. Pelzl said her flock of chickens — just under 180 birds — will help with the removal of invasive species as the chickens move and graze.
“That will allow me to establish a native ground cover and native understory,” Pelzl said. “What’s growing back now is spicebush and native viburnum, native dogwood, and blue ash trees.”
Speaking of chickens, after receiving permission from the Yellow Springs Planning Commission, Pelzl has been increasing her flock, culling roosters and determining best practices for her laying hens.
“Something that I want to offer to the community is meat from older, retired laying hens,” Pelzl said. “There’s old recipes that use old hens as stock because they have older bones with deeper flavor.”
Doing so, Pelzl said, will offer an alternative to the Cornish cross, the breed of chicken typically found in stores. Pelzl said she is focused on raising heritage breeds such as Buckeyes and Americanas, which are breeds that can be used for laying or meat birds.
“One of the things I’m excited to do this summer is collaborate with my friends Jordan and Dustin [Mapel] of Biddy Bobby Farm to breed chickens in a sustainable way,” Pelzl said.
Because of a conditional use agreement made with the Village, Pelzl is unable to keep roosters on her property — a condition that does not apply to any other villagers. By breeding their own hens, Pelzl said she could ensure all of her laying hens are treated humanely from birth.
“That means we won’t clip their beaks and pure birds will be good foragers,” Pelzl said.
In addition to breeding chickens, Pelzl is collaborating with the Mapels and Dan Dixon, of Last Adventure Farm, on a farm stand that will be housed at Forest Village Farm. At the stand, Pelzl, the Mapels and Dixon will sell eggs and honey and other items produced on their properties.
“We’re renovating Dan’s Airstream,” Pelzl said. “This will allow us to be open all year and create an alternative to a farmers market.”
Pelzl said she was inspired by Kent’s Feed Barn, a Cedarville farm supply business that offers self service.
“Following their model will allow us to collaborate with other farmers and reduce some of the labor involved,” Pelzl said.
While Pelzl said she will continue to sell products from the farm to cover costs, her dream is to have people enjoying the property as a learning space and food forest.
“There are costs associated with running a farm, and I want those costs to be covered in exchange for goods that are valuable to the community,” Pelzl said. “I would really love to be running the farm outside of the capitalistic structure as much as possible.”
To that end, Pelzl said her vision of clearing the land of invasive species, cultivating mushrooms and growing fruit trees would create a recreational space, a space for learning and a space that inspires people to learn more about their own backyard.
“I feel really fulfilled teaching people about plants,” Pelzl said. “I’ve had the experience where people learn what honeysuckle is, and now they want to cut it down everywhere. I believe we could eradicate honeysuckle in Yellow Springs and plant native plants.”
A belief in community is at the center of all Pelzl does, from working for the Village to tending and teaching about the land. Pelzl and her family have lived in Yellow Springs for generations, but Pelzl said her community mindset came from her experience at Nonstop Antioch between 2008 and 2009, and her work for the Village. As a Village employee, Pelzl said she enjoys getting to know people and having the opportunity to build deep connections.
“I think that’s why people want to live here and fight so hard to stay,” Pelzl said.
Asked how she believes Forest Village Farm fits into her sense of community, Pelzl said she has seen how carefully people tend their properties and that she wants to do her part in that, on a bigger scale.
“I’m not looking for the farm to become a tourist attraction,” Pelzl said. “I want it to be more like a badly kept secret for the community, a place where you can pick fruit, build a fairy house and give the chickens some scraps — a place for all beings.”