Log Hollow Farms:
Permaculture and the
Connectivity of Everything
Oliver Mtukudzi’s “Kusekana Kwanakamba” plays softly over the radio as farmer Rohn Amegatcher drives through Chehalis, Washington towards Log Hollow Farms. Warm, early morning sunlight fills the truck. Rohn reaches down and adjusts the knob of the radio to turn up the volume.
“The song is about hard work,” Rohn explains of the Zimbabwean song, “it’s about the peacefulness and satisfaction that comes after working hard all day.”
He explains the meaning of hard work is different throughout most of Africa. That there isn’t this notion of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” that echoes through America, but rather, a gratefulness and pride in hard work day in and day out.
Log Hollow Farms is nestled in between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, in an area that is most known for logging.
Semis hauling freshly extracted logs whip past Rohn’s red pick up as he turns off Route 6 onto a dirt road.
Entering Log Hollow Farms is a transformative experience. The traffic off of route six fades away as you pull deeper on to the dirt road, becoming more and more submerged in tall trees that arch overhead.
“None of this was here when I moved here,” Rohn says pointing up to the trees.
When Rohn moved to the property, the land was barren from logging. Since then, Rohn has planted thousands of trees, fruits, and vegetables; he has introduced horses, cows, goats, ducks, chickens; he has rebuilt the soil and created an oasis of growth and life on land that was recently desolate.
Today, the permaculture farm acts as a retreat, learning opportunity, and food source to the surrounding communities. Rohn runs Log Hollow Farms with his wife Amy. The values of Log Hollow Farms reflect sustainable living and self sufficiency. Rohn’s mission is multilayered. Log Hollow Farms is a food source to those who are often forgotten about; it is a place of learning and exploration for those who are not often invited into safe spaces of creativity; it is a sanctuary for those who are not often afforded peace and quiet; and a foundation for the insurance and continuation of these principles. These values that echo throughout Log Hollow Farms reflect Rohn.
Rohn’s vision for making a living through giving back to the land was learned from his grandparents.
Rohn grew up in Ghana, in his paternal Grandfather’s compound. From an early age, he witnessed how his grandparents profited from extractive industries introduced by the British and then later, how his grandparents deeply regretted the impacts of the same industries they profited from. In their later years of life, Rohn’s grandparents dedicated their lives to restoring the habitats that were once there. They ran a wildlife sanctuary for decades. Rohn witnessed his grandparents’ understanding and deep appreciation for naturally occurring resources.
“I was completely inspired by my grandparents looking back at what they hadn't done during the early years of Ghana becoming independent, and looking at the missed opportunities, and then them trying to go back and fix some of those things,” Rohn says, “in my case, it's not a thing of missed opportunities, as much as I look at what isn't out there, done by people like me.”
Rohn often says, “everything connects with everything else,” a saying that illuminates some of the philosophy behind the farm’s practices.
Modern-day Ghana gained its independence from British rule in 1957. The fight for sovereignty was led by leader Kwame Nkrumah. Rohn’s parents were on opposing sides in the time of the country’s military conflict. At 11, Rohn’s father took him to California. It was there that Rohn’s notion of hard work was further instilled in him. Rohn recalls staying up late every night, staring in the bathroom mirror, practicing his “American accent” to better blend in.
“I knew if I could blend in I could have a real chance of succeeding,” Rohn says.
He recalls living with another family and working as their au pair as he attended high school. In addition to taking care of the family’s children, cleaning for the family and preparing meals, Rohn worked delivering newspapers in the few spare hours he had.
“There’s a different notion of hard work when you’re an immigrant,” Rohn says.
Rohn says there’s a popular saying in Ghana that “laziness is a crime.”
In his late teens and early 20s, Rohn worked his way up through construction jobs, teaching himself everything he could learn through research at the library, until he began managing his own construction management and land development company.
In October 2010, Rohn’s life took an unexpected turn. While on his property, in Tacoma, Washington, Rohn was attacked unprovoked by a neighbor screaming racial slurs. Rohn recalls the sheer confusion of getting tackled to the ground by who he thought was just a neighbor. He recalls wrestling around with his attacker trying to get the hunting knife and machete out of his hands. He remembers everything being slick with his own blood as he fought for his life. Rohn sustained puncture wounds to his liver, diaphragm, and hands by the hunting knife and machete. Rohn was in a coma for 60 days. He says his attacker received probation after serving a short stint in prison.
A few months after the attack, Rohn purchased raw land in Chehalis, Washington, as a way to remove himself from society. Yet Rohn’s desire for isolation didn’t last long. As he began to carve out a home in the logged forest, Rohn saw more opportunity for the land to serve others. He saw how the space could be utilized by those who needed a peaceful place or didn’t have access to one. He saw how he could regrow the land and sustain himself and the surrounding community naturally.
Log Hollow Farms as a Retreat
In 2011, Rohn had mapped out a plan for Log Hollow Farms. Rohn built his first offgrid cabin by hand that winter. Since then, he has constructed a dozen more sustainable cabins by hand. The cabins run on solar power and also utilize passive solar, facing south towards the sun. The cabins serve guests who stay at Log Hollow Farms for vacation and retreats. Rohn says if anyone shows up at the property needing a place to stay, Log Hollow Farms is open to them as they get back on their feet. Rohn also hosts a plethora of free events at Log Hollow Farms for inner city youth from Portland and Seattle who don’t always have access to getting outside. An amphitheater amongst the trees in the middle of the property serves as a designated place for concerts, talent shows and a gathering space for guests.
“We're fortunate to be in this beautiful place, and I think, underserved people all over deserve a place like this that doesn't cost them,” Rohn says.
Standing under a gazebo overlooking the Chehalis river, Rohn explains the significance of the structure.
“I built this as a tribute to those who have died at the hands of police violence,” Rohn says gazing up at the carefully laticed wood.
The details in Rohn’s work are appreciated by those who visit the property. Rohn recalls sitting under the gazebo with a 65 year old woman who could not get over the peacefulness of the area. Rohn recalls she shared that she had lost someone to police brutality, and was thankful to have the space to grieve in peace.
Although Rohn’s humbleness sometimes clouds his ability to accept compliments on this special space he has created, he is happy that people enjoy his hard work.
Log Hollow Farms as a Classroom
In addition to retreat space, Log Hollow Farms serves as an educational experience. Rohn has donated his land and his time to supervise a group of young people, who recently transitioned from correctional facilities, in building a new structure on his property that will serve as a small classroom and schoolhouse for visiting groups.
The livestock he tends to daily are mainly for the purpose of teaching adults and kids alike how to interact with animals. Rohn teaches visitors how to feed and water the animals, how their feeding patterns can impact the grass and soil and how you should treat animals with respect.
There’s a type of learning at Log Hollow Farms that is unique to the environment.
“People’s living environments in the city are all measured and designed for them,” says Rohn, “Things here aren’t scripted, and it creates a situation where people have to problem solve at the most rudimentary level.” Rohn says there’s growth at that level.
Rohn recalls witnessing a group of kids discover “grass-stains” for the first time.
He tells the story of a young boy, who was visiting with a school group, and as classmates were skipping rocks for the first time in the river, the boy decided to throw a glass bottle against a rock, shattering glass debris in the rushing river. Rohn used that incident to explain to the group how things are connected and our actions affect other living organisms.
While drawing up plans to utilize Log Hollow Farms as an educational experience, Rohn started to jot down ideas on how to make the learning experience more digestible to young children visiting the farm. What started as a few notes on the interconnectedness of all life in the forest, blossomed into a storybook for children that he often shares with visiting groups.
Log Hollow Farms as a Sustainable Food Source
Rohn’s permaculture work is a food source for Amy and himself, many of the guests that stay at Log Hollow Farms and for a local retirement home.
Rohn utilizes permaculture growing methods. Permaculture is the design principle centered around the values of ecosystems as a whole and directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features that naturally occur in a space. Rohn grows everything from blackberries to zucchini throughout the property. Once Rohn’s crops produced consistently, he began researching where he should market his products. During his research, Rohn started noticing a trend. Local farmers and growers in his area and nearby tended to provide food to farmers markets, high end and hip restaurants, some co-ops and grocery stores, but that was about it.
“I saw this gap in coverage and overlooked opportunity to provide good, wholesome, real food to people locally,” Rohn says. “Everyone deserves access to good food.”
Rohn reached out to a local retirement home asking about their food needs. Rohn and the supplier realized that Log Hollow Farms was a good fit for the facility. Since supplying the home with food, residents have been enjoying meals more. Rohn consistently gets positive feedback about his products.
Rohn is passionate about supporting small, local farmers. One project Rohn often dreams about is creating a food hub for the area.
“If we found a facility somewhere that was ideal for cold storage and a commercial kitchen small farmers could further their products,” Rohn says. “The food hub idea is not an original idea or anything, but a string of food hubs that support small farmers would further their reach as producers...I am passionate about that.”
Rohn says access to a food hub extends the shelf life of products small farmers can sell. For example, instead of rushing to sell apples that will perish in a week or two, utilizing a food hub to make applesauce or dried apples with leftover or unsold apples can significantly increases the potential income small farmers can make.
Rohn also sees a string of food hubs as an opportunity to get more wholesome food to underserved communities by small producers.
“It is so important that small farmers everywhere, especially in underserved communities, have a marketplace.”
Creating food hubs expands opportunities for producers and consumers.
The Future and Vision of Log Hollow Farms
Rohn is currently putting Log Hollow Farms into a trust. His plan is to give the trust to a nonprofit he is creating to eventually run and manage the farm.
“The idea is to have a board of people from all different backgrounds with all different skillsets overseeing Log Hollow Farms,” Rohn says.
Rohn sees Log Hollow Farms becoming a skills academy, a makerspace, sustainable food source, and farm.
“I want this place to bring people together,” Rohn says, “where urban and rural people, people from all backgrounds and all pasts can come together in a beautiful place and learn from one another and enjoy good food.”
Rohn’s one rule is that representation from different groups must be illustrated throughout the board, and that the board is never bigger than seven people. The foundational aspect of Log Hollow Farms is Rohn’s way to ensure the principles of the farm continue to serve the surrounding communities even after Rohn is gone.