01 Jul Meet: Burnt Toast Farms
What I cherish most in life are the take away lessons from beautiful moments. And, at Burnt Toast Farms & Eieio Alpacas I had many of those moments. I had moments of learning, moments of watching, moments of listening, and moments of laughter.
What I learned was that people are meant to meet in life. Like, Jason, Donna, and BJ. When they met it was fate, and now today, they run Burnt Toast Farms & Eieio Alpacas together. Hmm, I think I know another example of people meant to meet in life…Elizabeth and I (duh)! But, seriously, I learned a lot about Alpacas and organic farming, too. The property operates several farms in one: Burnt Toast Farms (cut flowers, herbs and speciality heirloom crops), Eieio Alpaca farm (alpaca fiber/fleece), and Eieio Fertilizer & Compost, unadulterated and perfectly balanced fertilizer, but much, much more.
Jason is founder of Burnt Toast Farms, farm manager, and “grower” on the farm where (you guessed it) he grows plants, flowers, food, and pretty much anything you want to and can grow. He came to Ohio all the way from L.A. where he was a Master Gardener and food policy advocate converting vacant lots, rooftops and landscapes into edible oasis’. Naturally, a gardener turned to master farmer. “Grasses and poo is what farming comes down to,” Jason says. “It’s just as simple as that.” He is originally from Cleveland, and that’s why he migrated back here from the West Coast. Right now, Jason is growing several acres of Sunflowers, dahlias, anemones, wildflowers, cosmos, okra, kale, tomatoes (heirloom and rare varieties), winter luxury squash, watermelon, a variety of herbs, and many other things. When he met Donna and BJ, he was volunteering at Franklinton Gardens–and what he really needed was fertilizer (Alpaca manure).
For Donna and BJ, their adventure started with a rare moment of insanity that got them in the business of farming. They were on a plane and saw alpacas in a magazine. Again, fate. So, they drove from Alabama to Nashville to purchase their first Alpaca. BJ is from Alabama and Donna is originally from Dayton. They came to Ohio in 2004.
The Alpacas—and what you need to know:
-Their fleece is very valuable, extremely warm, and on par with cashmere.
-Their life expectancy is 20-25 years
-They’re timid, herd animals.
-Don’t touch their necks or heads (they don’t like it.) Body rubs welcomed.
-They are curiously fun. At least, they were curious about us and fun to be around.
Donna crochets, knits, spins their fleece, and is even working on making yarn. She sells Batts of alpacas fleece (raw fibers that are sorted, washed, and carted) on her Etsy shop, “Alpaca fiber blends.” She also enjoys mixing and playing with the fibers with wool, silk, cashmere, and even bamboo! I was blown away that you could mix Alpaca fleece with bamboo, but you can!
BJ’s specialty (he has an engineering background) is the fertilizer/compost and hay (he knows the most about the hay Alpacas eat and what comes after). BJ told me that Alpacas go through 3-4 bales of hay a day and even more bales during the winter season. So, the hay (and the poo) is a big big deal.
On Jason’s manure hunt, he came across Donna and BJ and gave them a call. That phone call changed all of their lives, because now, they’re family over at Burnt Toast Farms & Eieio Alpacas. And soon, Jason’s partner Charles will be joining them out on the farm. (Yet another relationship bound by fate). The name, “Burnt Toast” came from Jason’s endless love for eating toast in every single way possible, including burnt! Ha!
The farm is stunning and true to its nature – chemical free since Donna and BJ purchased the land 10 years ago. This is also an important factor in keeping with the principles of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture, which basically means they mimic nature and work in those parameters. I love that. And it’s another take away for me, because when you’re there you can witness the raw beauty. Which to me, you don’t come by all the time. For example, they have fields of free growing, wild pineapple chamomile that makes for a delicious home brewed tea, and queen ann’s lace that covers an entire pasture. But they didn’t plant it. It grows freely as part of their pasture management. AND! They have created a bio-reserve and meadow that is a habitat for wildlife and pollinators.
Their customers are a few local restaurants (but quickly growing), and individual people who purchase plots for Jason to grow specialty items (brides, florists). They also do custom CSA (community supported agriculture), Weddings and special events venue rental, and other retreats and educational events. Currently they are expanding the Alpaca pastures and acquiring 10 more acres of woodland which abuts the property. In the very near future they have plans to build “tiny homes” on the grounds for both for public and personal use. Jason is encouraging lots of events out at the farm. So be on the look out for things like… yoga on the farm (July 9th), or their first annual 4th of July picnic being held on July 2nd.
I love the feeling I get when I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery and interesting people. I was flooded at the farm. The feeling I got when I saw McKinley’s excitement to ring the big bell, or petting a 6 day old baby Alpaca. Elizabeth’s joy in taking pictures. Her husband Cliff’s genuine interest in Alpaca fur and hay. Baby June smiling under a shaded tree. Delaney running free in the field. Graham handing Elizabeth a handful of fresh picked daisy’s. The kids feeding the chickens. My mother, Martha’s, wonder in Alpaca fur. It all makes my heart pitter-patter.
I can imagine it would do the same for anyone that lands foot on Burnt Toast Farms & Eieio Alpacas. They are one of a kind, not only because of what they do, but who they are. Jason, Donna, and BJ… made me feel like family.