TORONTO — Amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s tempting to daydream about what it’s like on a farm. The farm is a tranquil environment filled with honest work and delicious food straight from the earth.
For those who want to make that fantasy a reality, there is Healing Land, a Jefferson County-based nonprofit founded in 2021. Healing Land’s goal is to educate individuals about homesteading and regenerative farming techniques through mentorship, workshops, and conferences.
Healing Land’s current initiative is a monthly talk series. “Real food and real community” It will last until April. The next lecture will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in the third-floor ballroom of Leonardo’s Coffee House on Fourth Avenue in Steubenville. Meg Krivoniak of Wild Sycamore Farm will be speaking. “A Nourishing Kitchen: Scratch Cooking with Local Ingredients”
The January series kicked off with a talk by Dr. Brian Burke, one of the founders of Healing Land. “Real food as medicine” Burke, a family physician at Trinity Health System, backed by experience from his own practice and advocated consuming locally grown, non-industrialized foods for their health benefits.
Among other topics, Burke proposed the benefits of unpasteurized raw milk from pasture-raised cows, and said that pasteurization, a standard of sterilization practice in the milk industry, is included in milk taken directly from cows. Said to destroy many of the essential minerals.
Burke runs a five-acre farm on County Road 56 in Toronto with his wife, Joanna Burke, and their six children, five of whom are boys. The Birks family divides up responsibilities among each member of the family, with some taking on more responsibility than others considering the youngest is only one year old. The Barks family cares for 10 laying hens, two pigs, and a dairy cow that gives birth to one calf and another.
The rolling, peaceful nature of the land might lead one to believe that the Burkes have been farmers all their lives. But the family’s farming history is a little more complicated.
Originally from eastern Pennsylvania, Johanna Burke moved to eastern Ohio with her family when she was 10 years old, and she recalled having two very different childhoods. Home-schooled and living on five acres, she began gardening and tending chickens. Her environment taught her responsibility and gave her the freedom to pursue her own interests.
“When I had kids, I knew that was what I wanted for them.” Joanna Burke said.
Brian Burke, on the other hand, “Public elementary school student” I live in Seattle and have no farming experience whatsoever. The two met while attending Franciscan University in Steubenville, and when Joanna Burke told her future husband that she wanted to raise her family on her farm, he was open to the idea. .
Brian Burke said: “We wanted to be a connected family focused on supporting each other and growing in holiness, but we also wanted to do that in the countryside and give our kids opportunities to play, run, and work. and gave him space.”
That vision had to wait, as Brian Burke began serving in the Navy to complete his education. Despite limited financial potential, the Birks family managed to improve their situation by acquiring and practicing skills such as canning food, repairing objects, making cleaning supplies, and gardening. I made ends meet.
After Brian Burke was in the Navy, the family was ready to get serious about making their vision a reality. They found and purchased a property in Toronto in late 2019, complete with much of the perimeter fencing and the empty shell of a barn. Then I started raising animals, starting with chickens and growing from there.
For guidance, the Birks turned to local farming sages Sean and Beth Dougherty, who have been farming in eastern Ohio for the past 20 years, starting in the 1980s.
Through practice, Brian Burke also became acquainted with varying degrees of neighboring farmers, most of whom did not seem to know each other. So the Birks family compiled a list of local Catholic farmers and created a directory.
Members of the group began to meet regularly for farm walks and to visit each other’s farms, providing each other with guidance, support, and community. It was from this group that the Birks family, the Dougherty family, and two others of his decided to expand the group’s reach regionally through Healing Land. Brian Burke said the nonprofit has since attracted hundreds of participants from across the country to learn about Jefferson County farming techniques.
The Burke family itself hosts demolition classes at Healing Land, and another class is scheduled for March 1 and 2 on the Burke family property.
It’s important to the Barks family to know where their food comes from and how their animals are treated. Eating real food is so important to families, and Brian Burke swears by the health benefits he’s seen in his patients and in Joanna Burke herself through dietary changes centered around proper nutrition.
Burke specializes in restorative reproductive medicine, helping women overcome fertility issues naturally. Brian Burke said nutritional supplements, along with targeted hormonal support, are an important part of helping women restore their natural reproductive cycles.
“The most cost-effective way to obtain nutritious food is to grow it yourself.” He said.
Brian Burke added that the entire family works on the farm and that responsibility teaches the children important skills. Brian Burke said some of the Burke children help milk the cow once a day, which gives the family fresh raw milk. “It hits the spot every time.”
Despite the amount of work that goes into growing the food, Brian Burke said the product is for the family and not for sale.
“You can’t put a price tag on something that is commensurate with its true value.” He said. “It’s a gift of love.”
The Burkes are an example of how just about anyone can start farming or homesteading to some degree, regardless of experience.Brian Burke has always said that the key to success is “Read and see” I’m turning to various resources such as Healing Land and slowly working on new projects.
Also invaluable to that success formula is a community, a surrounding group of individuals with unique expertise who can show the way and provide support. Joanna Burke said that no one can be completely self-sufficient because there is always something that cannot be done.
Brian Burke, on the other hand, argues that the goal is not individual self-sufficiency; “Self-sufficiency as a community.”