Walden Heights, Vermont is so named because it was the highest point of the Lamoille Valley Railroad, now the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. At just above 1,700 feet elevation we have a high perch in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. What does this mean? It means long winters with snow, strong winds, cold…and more snow. We have seen -38 F on the thermometer (not wind chill), and the old timers talk of some significantly colder nights of the past.
Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard (WHNO) is a certified organic farm specializing in cold-hardy growing that supplies fruit to consumers, plants for those who want to grow their own fruit, help and advice on organic growing methods and a place to see how it is done. Our trees and plants have to be able to tolerate our harsh growing conditions or they are soon relegated to the compost pile.
When we first landed at Walden Heights, we were sure it was not the best of choices of land for a farming endeavor, being heavily wooded and even more heavily sloped. But after reading about the indigenous peoples of South America growing potatoes on Andean cliffsides (serious cliffs…the kind that in a distracted moment of hoeing you could fall to your violent and unexpected death), we were inspired to experiment on our own steep slopes. With careful management and solid intent the land has been transformed, mostly by hand, to feature terracing and an unusual arrangement of orchard trees to utilize the land’s assets.
Our orchard is comprised of 1,500 trees, more than 500 of berry plants and other bush fruits, nursery beds for rootstock production and a preservation orchard that serves as a repository of great genetic variety and is an important reservoir of agricultural biodiversity. The management techniques we employ include organic standards, permaculture principles, regenerative agriculture, and no- till processes.
We have been awarded two SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) grants to Evaluate Apple and Pear Varieties for Cold Humid Climates under Certified Organic Management. These grant opportunities and our 20+ years of experience have given us a wealth of information that we are pleased to share with those who wish to grow fruit for their own family.
Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard (WHNO) was created in 1997 by Todd Parlo and Lori Augustyniak, as a sustainably managed and certified organic fruit orchard and nursery.
I grew up in the Finger Lakes fruit growing region of New York State and spent every available minute outdoors, so it is not surprising that I landed in northern Vermont running a nursery and orchard. My interests in wild foraging, homesteading and primitive skills emerged when I discovered the writing of Scott and Helen Nearing.
I manage business and orchard operations of Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard and have more than 20 years of experience growing fruit.
I hold a degree in education and have taught workshops in horticulture, organic management, sustainable practices, permaculture, fruit growing and propagation.
My experience in agriculture along with my training in education led me to offer consultant/mentoring services to growers of all levels and for all aspects of orchard planning, business planning and orchard production.
At WHNO I am responsible for orchard management, marketing & sales, infrastructure development, systems management value-added product development/processing and horticultural research.
Here are examples of research I have conducted.
On a personal note, I am a dad, husband, artist, musician, and humorist (although my wife and son might disagree with that). My heroes are Wendell Berry, David Attenborough, E.O. Wilson, Gene Logsdon, Greg Brown and Dave Brubeck.
I hail from Western New York and my journey to sustainable agriculture and homesteading started on one of my first dates with Todd, when we went apple picking. Nearly thirty years later, I find myself co-owning a family farm and orchard business.
While Todd launched the farming enterprise, I homeschooled our son and worked off the farm coordinating several not-for-profit organizations in the fields of community development, substance use prevention and the arts. My career provided me the opportunity to develop skills in the areas of budget and sustainability planning, grant writing and management, organizational development, administration, community building, public relations and marketing. My experience as a homeschool mom and providing care to Todd’s elderly mom have taught me humility, patience and how to quietly (most of the time) lead.
My contributions to WHNO include public relations, customer relations, marketing, planning, orchard maintenance and correcting Todd’s grammar.
I eke out some free time to volunteer with several local theater arts organizations, read and watch musicals.
My heroes? I am incredibly impressed by the heroic deeds I read about daily – especially in the past year –but today my heroes are Mr. Rogers, Greta Thunberg and anyone who works with or on behalf of young people.