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By Oklahoma Tourism Staff
For Ann McFerron and Pat Hoerth, preserving their family farm in Billings comes from a deeper emotion than just nostalgia. While they did grow up on the land under the watchful eye of their father, former Oklahoma governor Henry Bellmon, their vision for Turtle Rock Farm Retreat comes from a deep passion for inspiring sustainability and peace in the lives of their visitors.
From the moment I stepped onto the sod of Turtle Rock Farm Retreat, I immediately felt the calm that is cultivated intentionally by McFerron and Hoerth. The century-old farm retains the spirit of the Oklahoma plains. Bellmon’s daughters have honored his memory while creating a legacy of their own.
Even on my short tour of the farm, I got a full taste of the benefits visitors could receive from a few days with McFerron and Heorth. Visitors can get involved in the daily duties of running the farm, or they can enjoy nature’s symphony from the porch of the farm house. Either way, those who visit Turtle Rock will leave changed for the better.
Through a series of weekend workshops and seminars, visitors engage in sustainability on both a practical and theoretical level. From describing why sustainability matters to learning the benefits of meditation, Hoerth uses her spiritual training as an ordained deaconess in the United Methodist Church to join conservation and spirituality into the same worldview.
The workshops detail more practical ways to turn to sustainability, and McFerron constantly experiments in sustainable practices to pass on to her friends. One weekend class provides the resources and tools needed to build a raised bed for gardening or a composting bin. McFerron is unafraid to tackle new projects, like learning the secrets of beekeeping and the particulars of cooking in a solar oven. Anyone who visits the farm will gather a wealth of knowledge that is passed down through the community.
Perhaps the greatest example of Turtle Rock’s commitment to simple living is through their most recent building project: the straw bale hermitage. Constructed from clay and straw from their own farm, this sustainable sanctuary started during a workshop on how to engineer buildings without wasting precious resources.
After consulting with experts in the field of green construction, Hoerth and McFerron decided to tackle the involved project and see it through to completion. The result is a peaceful hideaway that joins simplicity with comfort. With 18 inch walls of straw covered in clay, the interior of the hermitage insulates the interior from the wind and the noise of the prairie. The tasteful interior provides the perfect setting to read, meditate and relax.
Hoerth and McFerron consider the straw bale hermitage project their biggest sustainable accomplishment to date, but they are planning on tackling more sustainable challenges in the future. When it comes to sustainability, you can count on Turtle Rock Farm Retreat to continue to lead by example.
Guests to Turtle Rock Farm Retreat can stay in the hermitage or the farmhouses while enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape. Meals and therapeutic massage sessions are available for an additional fee. Visit www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com to make reservations.
For more local and sustainable options, visit TravelOK.com and search “ECO” for a complete listing of hotels, restaurants, and events.
Kaylee McDaniel is the Sustainable Initiatives and Travel Communications Assistant with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.