Mary Haldeman rarely visits the grocery. She doesn’t have to.
She and her husband Mark live on a 60-acre self-sufficient, solar powered farm located just north of Piqua, and they grow everything from asparagus, cabbage and apples to kumquats, lemons and figs. Anything they can’t grow or raise, such as eggs, they barter for with neighbors. They have no utility bills, use geothermal heating, and any wood burned in their fireplace comes from fallen trees and limbs on the property.
“We have a lifestyle choice we’ve made,” Mary says from her kitchen.
Next to her sit about a dozen containers of fermenting wine. The smell of homemade soup cooking on the stove fills the air. “We incorporate everything from the farm into our lives. All of our fruits, vegetables and meats come from here. And one of our values is that we eat what we have.”
In 1999, Mary and Mark established WoodsWalk Farm, located at 9111 W. Miami-Shelby Road. Mark designed and established the gardens, prepared the beds for the vegetable garden, and designed and planted the entire orchard.
Each year – by appointment - the couple welcomes the public to pick apples, blackberries, blueberries and other seasonal items at the farm. They sell bushels of apples for $30 (that’s 95 apples total) and blueberries are offered on a first-come-first-served basis.
Beyond this, half of the food grown on the farm is donated to the Greene Street Food Pantry in Piqua and the Salvation Army; providing these organizations with much-needed fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Feeding the masses is very important to us,” Mary says of this effort.
Mary is a retired minister from the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, and she and Mark volunteer and worship at Greene Street Church in Piqua.
While Mark’s day job is being a doctor, he also has a passion for horticulture. He enjoys growing fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers, and he propagates his own breeds; many of which can be seen around the property.
In mid-April, the farm is filled with 5,000 of Mark’s daffodil plants. In the summer, a garden pond near the farm’s orchard blooms with lotus flowers – a rare sight for these parts. To add to all of this, 40 acres of native Ohio woods on the property brim over with fall colors each October and provide a canopy for local wildlife year-round.
It is these touches of natural and landscaped beauty that Mary and Mark want to share with the public through the opening of a bed and breakfast at their farm.
“If you’re looking for a place to put down your phone and sit and think, this is the place,” Mary says. “Or, if you’re just stressed, it’s a great local place to get away.”
There are three rooms available at the bed and breakfast – Pond View, Woods View and Serenity.
“We want this experience to be affordable and open to everybody,” Mary says.
During a visit, guests can use the house and grounds, sit by the fire, stargaze, fish, have a bonfire, enjoy the farm’s Kahtahdin sheep, or hike in the woods.
“We can shape a day or evening for a couple, family or group,” Mary says.
Along with the experience of the farm, house guests can sample the flavors of the season with a home-cooked breakfast, which might include anything from fresh berries and melons grown on the farm to pancakes topped with Mary’s own maple syrup. Guests can enjoy breakfast on one of two patios or a veranda.
Currently, Mary and Mark are adding an exercise room and a greenhouse to the farm, and they’re always adding new foods to share with the community.