A right turn off of Horn Road, through an open gate, and down the gravel driveway reveals a farmhouse to the left and rolling pastures punctuated by low rising barns on the right. A man-made pond stocked with koi, amur and trout lies between the house and the pasture. The Helts are grass farmers–they plant various types of grasses for their animals to thrive. The Boer goats and Texel sheep are rotated between the pastures, protected by individual guard llamas. Each flock has a separate barn for winter and birthing seasons. The Yankee barn clucks and crows, while a few elusive chickens roam the property.
Along with the livestock, Eric and Kate farm organic vegetables and herbs: just enough for themselves and friends. They also maintain beehives and harvest their own honey. By heating their house with a wood stove, harvesting solar energy, using natural gas and making biodiesel fuel, Dharma Farm is “off the grid.” Eric works the land, while Kate focuses on the animals. The Helts sold their meats, until this year, at the Village Market in Gambier. Now, they have embraced retirement.
For the Helts, farm life is an opportunity to balance work, relationships, and other interests. The 92-acre farm allows Eric and Kate to live more mindfully while participating in the local and global sustainability initiative. Through a fifteen-year partnership with Kenyon College, Dharma Farm has enabled students to study sustainability and agriculture. The couple exemplifies connection to place as they interact with both the natural landscape and the surrounding community. It is farms and people like these who contribute to the unique environment, rich culture and close-knit community of Knox County
I have a Ph.D and farming is the hardest and most complex thing that I’ve even done by far, nothing even comes close.
– Eric Helt
Photo: Kate and Eric Helt. Courtesy Kate Helt
Written by Caroline Gotwals (’18) and Pierce Kraft (’18)