Historical Stringed Instrument Business, Environmental Education Programs and American Agricultural Conservation Gardens

In this edition of the magazine's regular "Profiles" feature examines a historical stringed instrument business, an environmental education program in schools and the establishment of the American Agricultural Conservation Gardens.

| July/August 1982

  • 076-140-01
    The artisans work with spruce and maple that has air-dried for seven years, and put in painstaking hours shaping each part to perfection.

  • 076-140-01

In celebration of little-known MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type folks from all over, including a historical stringed instrument business, environmental education program for schools and establishing the American Agricultural Conservation Gardens. 


Working out of an old farmhouse in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Paula and Jerry Womacks have been making a living—for the past five years—by creating and repairing, historical stringed instruments. The Womacks, who are both skillful musicians (Paula plays the banjo and Jerry the fiddle), first became aware of the need for instrument-makers during the mid-1970's . . . and they determined to learn the trade themselves.

The couple studied under George Kelischek, a master violin-maker from Germany, until they were confident enough to set up a workshop of their own. Their business opened with the introduction of a variety of made-to-order leg viols (violas da gamba), fashioned according to the craft traditions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the Womacks are now gearing up to include handmade violins in their inventory, as well). In addition, they decided to take in stringed instruments for repair . . . and, instead of limiting sales to custom-built viols, began creating about half of their stock in advance.

Jerry and Paula have always been careful to use only the finest materials in their craft, and to spend whatever time is necessary to do every job right. The artisans work with spruce and maple that has air-dried for seven years, and put in painstaking hours shaping each part to perfection.

A single instrument can take from one to three months to build ... therefore, it should come as no surprise that the seven different types of viols the Womacks make range in price from $1,300 to $3,000 apiece. (Their violins will sell for about $1,200 each.) "Financially," says Paula, "we squeak by in the winter—after Christ mas and before taxes—and do pretty well in the summer." But the Womacks feel good about what they're doing (in fat times and lean ones) and that satisfaction, they attest, is worth a lot!—Doug Walker. 


When Connecticut attorney Samuel H. Coxe passed away on March 8, 1981, his family—wife Ruth and sons Samuel and Stanislaus—pooled their efforts to realize a dream that he had originally conceived in 1964. In the summer of 1981 the Coxes established the American Agricultural Conservation Gardens (AACG), a nonprofit educational service dedicated to recovering and preserving what have come to be called the four health freedoms: freedom to buy fresh foods devoid of pesticide poisons . . . freedom to buy prepared foods without artificial preservatives . . . freedom for babies to receive mother's milk instead of substitutes and supplements . . . and freedom from irresponsible government endorsement of the indiscriminate use of drugs.

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