“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & Village

“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageWhile DIY, or “do it yourself”, projects have become a trendy way of life in recent years, recycling and repurposing has always been a part of farm living – especially at Hale Farm & Village. Preserving the story of the Western Reserve is the backbone to the InHale initiative, and we could not do it without the help of community members who volunteer their versatile skills and talents.

When making new developments and improvements, we encourage repurposing materials recovered on our 90+ acres of land. But, what exactly is repurposing? Repurposing can be done by modifying material to fit a new use, or by using the material in a new way. Ultimately, instead of throwing away used or worn material, that material can be reworked to create something that appears brand new.


“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageSo how does this work at a living history museum? “Back in 2015, all twenty-two sets of shutters on the three-story brick Hale House were restored and repainted,” offers Joe Tokarsky, Preservation Lead at Hale Farm. “Also, our sheep were given new feeders and our crafters were given new looms from repurposed wood.” All of these projects directly support the mission of the museum and our ability to provide quality programs for our visitors and the community.

The latest repurposing project at Hale Farm is a multipurpose, saltbox shaped wood shed, built entirely out of repurposed wood from old fencing in the Hale Farm south pasture. The man behind the scenes of these various projects is Bill Dunick. Dunick has been volunteering at Hale Farm & Village for two and a half years, offering us his expertise in carpentry and repurposing. Dunick resides in Kent, Ohio and is a Kent State graduate in Industrial Arts. He worked in engineering and manufacturing management for forty years and has built three homes in his lifetime. A friend of Dunick’s was a volunteer at Hale Farm and suggested he join the team as well. Although Dunick’s superb and efficient work has been in high demand on the farm, he is free to work at his leisure. Dunick volunteers at Hale Farm not only for his enjoyment of carpentry, but because of the importance of repurposing. “As a society, we need to repurpose. Today we throw things away; I see a pile of what you would think is trash as a new creation that can be repurposed.”

As a volunteer, Dunick chooses his hours and is provided with tools, space, and materials to work with. There are plenty of projects to go around at Hale Farm & Village, so if you are interested in creating and preserving, please click here for more information about volunteer opportunities.

Citizens of Hale bring spirit of volunteering at Hale Farm & Village

Citizens of HaleHistory and education naturally intersect at Hale Farm & Village. In June, that intersection will comprise a garden symposium and the Sow and Grow Festival, which is a family experience of the past and present farming lifestyle.

And at both events, visitors will see the presence and influence of the Citizens of Hale.

I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the Citizens of Hale. And that’s OK, because they’re a fairly new group committed to volunteering around Hale Farm & Village and its events. In fact, they are often the helping hands that make things happen at Hale Farm.

The Citizens of Hale’s handiwork is visible everywhere at the farm: in new coats of paint on the historical buildings; in neatly cultivated gardens with perennials; and in the overall landscaping.

Although a recent volunteer concept, the Citizens of Hale’s roots come from a women’s committee that met at the farm years ago to discuss and implement needed gardening and building improvement projects.

Today, anyone who chooses to become a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society can designate a rider from their dues to go toward the Citizens of Hale as a classification of membership. That rider supports many projects at Hale Farm & Village, and Citizen members meet once a month at Hale Farm to discuss various projects.

A passion for preservation

Kathie VanDevere, co-chair of the Citizens of Hale, is spearheading Hale Farm’s “Fields & Forests, Farms & Gardens – A Midwestern Garden History & Design Symposium” from 9 am to 4:30 pm on June 9. Cost is $50 per person and includes the lectures, lunch, and tours.

The symposium is open to everyone and its purpose is to teach how to beautify our green spaces here in Northeast Ohio. But in order to do that we need to understand which trees and plants are native here, and therefore will grow very well on our properties.

Enter William Hahn, retired arborist for the city of Akron. He will kick off the series of presentations at the symposium by describing the types of forests that were in Ohio when the first settlers arrived and how we can plant those types of trees in our yards.

Kathie and the Citizens of Hale are also bringing in Dr. Casey Hoy from Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, to discuss how to best restore nutrients to farmland. Kathie noted that anyone who has a home built on former farmland, such as along Route 18 for example, would benefit from Dr. Hoy’s advice on restoring the soil for gardening.

Landscaper Amy Frietag will be another presenter who will bring her experiences and lessons from restoring New York City’s parks.

And S. Victor Fletcher, head archivist the University of Akron’s archival services, will conclude the lectures with documents showing what previous generations did to the gardens and landscapes around what are now historical homes.

As I spoke with Kathie about these various presenters, she was passionate about the historical significance Mr. Fletcher will bring to the symposium. Many townships in Summit County have homes that are or nearly 200 years old, and as people attempt to restore them, having old photographs or letters documenting how they used to look like will go a long way in their preservation.

“People with historical properties need to write it down and save it somewhere because it increases the resale value of the home,” Kathie explained.

Celebrating gardening with the Sow and Grow FestivalHale Farm & Village Sow and Grow Farm Festival

Hale Farm & Village’s Sow and Grow Festival will occur immediately after the symposium on June 11-12. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children, while members are free.

Similar to last year, the festival will include all early American craft and trade demonstrations, including; glassblowing, blacksmithing, broom making, spinning and weaving. History of the buildings and horticulture will also be presented.

Pam Reitz, also co-chair of the Citizens of Hale, will be on-site with the Citizens and other volunteers selling older varieties of plants that grew abundantly in the Western Reserve area: shrubs, perennials such as older hydrangeas, annuals such as begonias, herbs such as Astoria and hyssops; day lilies, and snowberry bushes, among others.

“We’ll have a little of everything,” Pam said, noting that the plant sale is a fundraiser that will enable the Citizens of Hale to continue to do projects around Hale Farm.

The plant sale will be behind the Welcome Center at the carriage shed. Pam plans to recruit volunteers from the local garden centers to help with the plant sale throughout the Sow and Grow Festival weekend. Like Kathie, she believes that raising awareness of volunteer needs for gardening and preservation will help Hale Farm and our local communities.