Volunteer Day – Restoring Ridgeview Farm at the Sanctuary

Join Ridgeview Farm’s “Biodiversity Brigade” Volunteer Crew

Work Leaders, Nancy Stranahan, Marilyn Welker, & Brent Charette

Saturday, April 4, 2020 – Rain date May 9

From 9:30 am to 1:30, followed by a HEARTY warm meal. Bring a few snacks.
Meet at Ridgeview Farm (directions below)
Free Lodging available at the Arc’s Volunteer Headquarters. Please inquire when you register.


Our Vision for Ridgeview Farm.

At Ridgeview Farm the Arc is demonstrating that bringing biodiversity back to an abandoned farm is indeed possible. The results of a decade of the redemptive work in Ridgeview’s fields and swamp forest have been ASTONISHING!.  Our goal is to keep our fields FIELDS for the wild turkeys, bobwhite, fox squirrels, and the rare Henslow’s sparrows. Henslow’s sparrows flourish at Ridgeview; providing habitat to over a dozen breeding pairs each year. There are more chimpanzees in the world than there are this rare sparrow, so we work hard to maintain the kind of meadow these sparrows need, as well as abundance of native insects to feed them. Our other goal is to restore our SWAMP FOREST with its beautiful colonies of wetlands plants, a forest that was previously used as a pig wallow when Ridgeview was a working farm, which created quite a disturbance as you can imagine!  These two goals are achieved by similar methods: removing the Autumn Olives from the fields, removing the Bush Honeysuckles and Multi-flora Roses from the swamp forest, and native plant re-introduction.

Our Task for the Upcoming Work Day. 

We reported last September that invasives in our fields last fall were at an all time low. With little effort and a pleasant fall afternoon as a backdrop, Nancy and Brent cruised those meadows and picked out any invasive plants they could find.  Those cleared fields are the visual testimony speaking to the hard work of our crews of dedicated volunteers who join us annually to tackle the ever-present uninvited invaders.  In November we continued to work on a stream corridor choked with autumn olive and bush honeysuckle. Before we began, participants looked at the area we were going to tackle with a mixture of dread and disbelief.  But, lo, those invasive plants have never dealt with the Ridgeview Farm Biodiversity Brigade. By days end the progress made was really quite astonishing. Before we began the autumn olive and bush honeysuckle were so dense that when removed there was literally very little ground cover remaining. As a result of those incredible efforts, this April we should finish clearing the creek corridor the rest of the way to the property line – AWESOME! Every autumn olive or bush honeysuckle removed means fewer berries will be produced and retaining the difficult progress made will be a viable possibility.

Leaders: Nancy Stranahan, Marilyn Welker, and Brent Charette

Nancy Stranahan has been the Director of the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System for 24 years. She has lived on the 130-acre Ridgeview Farm tract of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary for nearly a decade. She is deeply in love with the old farm and has become a dedicated servant to its recovery, along with her partner Brent Charette. They delight in recording the many new native species that appear on the property each year, as the forests and fields become increasingly complex. Ridgeview is an “ark” for birds and mammals. It has vultures and barn owls in the barn; turkeys, voles, coyotes, and jumping mice in its fields; ospreys, cooper hawks and bald eagles in the tree snags, and groundhogs and rabbits in the brush piles, just to name a few of its many denizens.

Photo by Bill Lackey, Springfield News Sun

Marilyn Welker is one of Ohio’s leading thinkers and leaders in the realms of sustainable lifestyles, wildlands protection, raising healthy food, education, and the farm to table movement. She was Director of the Columbus-based non-profit, Simply Living, for much of her life. Now retired from that position, she is, as you can imagine, busier than ever! The photo shows her with the Springfield Promise Neighborhood summer program in their tended garden at Lincoln Elementary School.

Brent Charette is the Arc of Appalachia’s, Appalachian Forest School Coordinator.  The school is a place where participants take part in multi-day advanced naturalist courses. Our intention is to develop a strong schedule of multi-disciplinary natural history topics and the richly diverse and centrally located Highlands Nature Sanctuary is the ideal place for the school to call home. In addition, Brent is a land steward at Ridgeview Farm and takes great pleasure in putting his “shoulder to the wagon,” so to speak, when it comes to the restoration of the farm. Maintaining the trails, planting trees and wildflowers, as well as seasonally fighting invasive plants, are just a few of the tasks he enjoys on the farm.

Lunch is on us!

Earlier in her career, Nancy ran a vegetarian cafe and bakery in Columbus, OH known as Benevolence. Nancy, Marilyn and Brent are pleased to nourish the Ridgeview Farm’s work crew, with a healthy and delicious lunch, followed by a delightfully “deadly” dessert from Nancy’s bakery days (no guaranteed health benefits there!). 

Ridgeview Farm’s Natural History

Ridgeview Farm’s fields are not only home to the rare Henslow’s Sparrow, Hooded Warbler, Tree Swallow, and Eastern Bluebird, but its wetland forest shelters Swamp White oaks, Marsh Marigolds, and Skunk Cabbages, as well as wetland plants as Marsh Fern, Queen of the Prairie, Meadow Phlox, Michigan Lily, and Drooping Trillium. The preserve’s fields and forests boast one of the most beautiful firefly displays in the Arc system. The farm is also home to an educational Chestnut Orchard with three species of native chestnuts, including the blight-resistant F-3 hybrids. Ridgeview is especially beautiful in mid September when the goldenrod meadows blaze like glowing embers, and again at the end of September/early October when five species of field asters burst into bloom, including large populations of the vibrant New England Aster. 

Physical Requirements

No invasive removal experience is necessary for this work day. Flexibility is needed more than raw strength, so long as you are okay doing  repetitive tasks. The work usually requires some squatting or bending over, and we often use light saws on small diameter bushes (saws supplied, and they are good ones!). We will be applying herbicide in small quantities to the cut stems of the woody invasives, Volunteers will be trained in safe application and we will provide rubber gloves and eye protection if you don’t have your own..

What to Bring

Bring a bottle of drinking water, and, if you are coming to remove woody plants and do not have prescription glasses, bring a pair of sunglasses for eye protection. We also recommend wearing footwear with a good tread, and a brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face. In the fall, our meadows are filled with various “stick-tight” seeds, so be sure not to wear fleece or other fuzzy fabrics. The smoother the fabric the better. If you have your own clippers, garden gloves with rubber coated protection, and light handsaws, bring them along. If you don’t have them or what we have is better, we will equip you with all the tools you need. Poison ivy will not be a major problem in the fall or early spring since the leaves are not out  However, if you are extra sensitive to this allergen, it’s best to stay out of the meadows any time of the year, and we recommend that you choose projects that work primarily in the forest and stay out of the meadows. Bugs will not be a problem, and we haven’t seen ticks this year for some reason! So that’s more good news.

Why We Do What We Do

The Arc of Appalachia is truly an “ark,” a refuge, a gathering place and a healing place for nature and people alike. The magic of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary is due in large part to the selfless dedication of the Arc’s volunteers. Their offerings of time, talent, and treasure are the foundation that supports the Arc of Appalachia’s vision of “Beauty, Balance, and Biodiversity.”  A key to perpetuating the biodiversity that sustains healthy ecosystems is the Arc’s work at controlling the onslaught of invasive plants that choke areas on many of our properties. Why does diversity matter? In his book, “Bringing Nature Home,” professor and author Doug Tallamy makes the simple comparison of an oak tree, which supports over 500 species of insects, and bush honeysuckle – an invasive, alien plant – which is host to less than 10. Insects are a critical food source for the entire pyramid of life on earth. No native plants, no insects…no insects, no plant pollinators (on which 85% of plants depend upon), no birds, no amphibians, or reptiles, and so it goes right up the food chain …a cascading collapse of life on earth. And thus we labor on behalf of Life and ourselves to keep our ecosystems intact.


Please contact Kayla Rankin with any questions at services@arcofappalachia.org or 937-365-1935. If you have questions concerning content, write Nancy at nancyoftheforest@gmail.com, or if needing help while en route, call Nancy at 937-365-1489


Ridgeview Farm, 6636 State Route 753, Hillsboro Ohio 45133

Ridgeview Farm is on the west side of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, lying 1.8 miles south of HIghway 50, 7 miles from the Appalachian Forest Museum, 10.5 miles west of Bainbridge, and 12.5 miles east of Hillsboro. Directions:  From Rainsboro, OH on Highway 50, travel one mile west on 50 to a flashing yellow light, and turn south at the light onto SR 753. Set your odometer and drive exactly 1.8 miles south on State Route 753. Watch on your left for a green road sign marking a gravel lane that says “Beaver Cemetery.” Turn left on this lane. It will almost immediately split. The left lane will take you back to the cemetery, and the right lane will take you to Ridgeview. Bear right and you will soon see Ridgeview’s big red barn and two story gray wood sided house.  If you miss the turn at Beaver Cemetery, you will soon see an old brick one room schoolhouse on your right. Then turn around and watch again for the Beaver Cemetery road sign –  this time on your right. Turn right onto the gravel lane by the sign, and then bear right into Ridgeview Farm. QUESTIONS OR LOST?  Call Nancy’s cell phone at 937-365-1489.

Nancy Stranahan making a restoration planting of swamp milkweed at the Sanctuary’s Taloden Pond. The plants were raised from hand-collected seed. 

Henslow Sparrow with babies, Photo by John Watts
Hiking the Glen at Ridgeview Farm by Artemis Eyster