When visitors turn into Solid Ground Farm, 13262 Liars Corner Rd., they are immediately met with a sustainable, environmentally-friendly haven dedicated to learning, growing and – most importantly – having fun.
The small-scale diversified, 17-acre farm is home to many sites for curious minds to explore and enjoy including a barn with a mini rock wall and obstacle course, a pond home to frogs and fish to catch, wood-fired ovens for cooking homemade pizzas or roasting chestnuts and even a small house made entirely of the Earth’s natural materials.
Weston Lombard is the owner and operator of Solid Ground and began the process of creating the farm back in 2010. A graduate from Ohio University with a degree in management and strategic leadership, Lombard said he was motivated to start the farm after researching ways to go about being more sustainable.
“I had been reading about sustainable agriculture and permaculture, and I started just wanting to see if I could figure out a way to grow food and provide for my needs that benefits the environment,” he said.
According to the Permaculture Research Institute, permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is essentially the integration of landscape and people where they provide food, energy, shelter and other material needs in a sustainable way.
Solid Ground embodies that as nothing goes to waste and everything is repurposed if it can be. Everything from rainwater to chicken waste is turned around to benefit another sector of the farm.
Not only is the site a sustainable farm, it is also home to a functioning pre-K and elementary school. Solid Ground School is a 501c3 non-profit governed by a Board of Directors. The school is entirely funded through tuition payments and fundraising. Tuition is dependent on the total family income and varies accordingly, and the school is open to children between the ages of four and 12.
Lombard said his motivation for starting the school was thanks to his own family since he wanted a place for his children to be able to learn about the Earth and all it has to offer in a fun and educational way.
“Mostly my children were coming of school age and I just wanted to provide them with the most exciting opportunity I could think of,” he said.
He added the school has been relatively successful thus far and said one of his favorite interactions from the school was watching the kids experience the toads in the small pond.
“It's sort of like exactly what I envisioned,” Lombard said. “It's kids having these meaningful connections with nature, and really getting to experience the rhythms of the season and just come to know and appreciate a place.”
Christin Butler is one of the co-founders of the school as well as the executive director. Lombard said Butler had similar goals when it came to providing an environment centered around nature and learning. The pair collaborated on the project four years ago.
“I partnered with another parent, Christin Butler, who had been running a forest preschool, and she had kids of a similar age and was trying to build something for them,” Lombard said.
Lombard is not running the school anymore, but still is on staff to teach an ecology class.
“The curriculum is largely project-based learning and experiential or hands-on,” he said.
Regarding future goals for Solid Ground, Lombard said there are many, including having a fully-functioning cafe on location that is sustained by the farm.
“We're doing a little farm stand from the farm now, but we want to expand to have a little on-site cafe supplied from the farm,” he said.
For those interested, Solid Ground is hosting an event May 7 to welcome inquiring parties to come and check out the farm and school. For more information regarding the school, click here.