Nestled above an overgrown ridge-top meadow in the Appalachian Mountains, farmer Susana Lein proudly runs Salamander Springs Farm, a permaculture farm, homestead and “food forest,” where living, healthy soil is considered the most important resource.
Working closely with her local farmers markets, town stores, and CSA members, Susana grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, mushrooms and numerous nut trees. All food is grown organically, in the traditional sense, using permaculture and biodynamic practices.
Her WWOOFers and apprentices, who often stay for an entire growing season, learn extensively about cycling local resources and energy, homesteading from the ground up, and practicing permaculture principles for sustainable housing, food production and local economic systems.
“From working with the soil, to building structures with straw or recycled wood, I know Susana wants to share every bit of knowledge she knows to make a better world,” explained WWOOFer Kayla Lee Preston, who spent two full seasons at Salamander Springs. “Working with Susana was the most life changing experience I have ever received. She truly is one with the earth.”
Salamander Springs Farm is completely off-grid: it is a rustic homestead where limited solar electricity exists and gravity-fed spring water, rain catchment systems, and ponds serve as the water resources. Susana has built a community where nightly meals are shared by candlelight under the stars and are centered on freshly picked food from the farm.
In 2001, Susana decided her land, which is surrounded by the hardwood Appalachian forest, needed rich topsoil. She began clearing a meadow, which now makes up her food forest, and built her kitchen from only recycled and salvaged materials. Over the next decade she built a solar house using locally harvested and milled wood. She dug clay from her farm and ponds to create a beautifully earthen floor and straw walls.
“This isn’t just farming – it’s a way of life,” said WWOOFer Jacob Mudd, an aspiring farmer from western Kentucky with a homestead of his own. “It would seem foreign if it didn’t come so natural. The experience is very holistic, very back to the land.”
Her farm has inspired people from around the world.
“This farm shows what can happen when dedication, hard work, and wisdom combine to create a real farm that can actually be sustained,” said WWOOFer Wade Archer, who traveled from Tennessee to stay at Salamander Springs. “I would put this farm on the Top Ten list of the most important farms to visit in the United Sates, and maybe the world.”
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA (WWOOF-USA) helps visitors from around the world link up with over 1,800 organic farms across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. WWOOF-USA is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farms, promote an educational exchange, and build a community conscious of ecological farming practices.
For more information, or to find organic host farms nearest you, please visit the WWOOF USA website.
Photos by Susana Lein