EDITOR’S NOTE: Executive Coach Joan Washburn and her father C.J. “Ki” Jadwisiak of Port Clinton, reflect on their Blueberry Hill farm and its evolution into a learning center for success.
BY SHERRI ROTH
On a recent chilly morning in her horse stable, with a coffee mug in one hand and a pitchfork in the other, Joan Washburn quietly reflected.
“You know, I have come to see that this farm is mine to share, in whatever ways that will most benefit others,” she thought.
An executive coach and trainer, Joan has spent years guiding individuals and groups toward the realization of their goals and dreams. After having lived and worked in other parts of the country for most of her adult life, her family’s farm, Blueberry Hill, is now home for her and her business, Washburn Endeavours.
The farm offers a peaceful, retreat-like setting with woods, a stocked pond, pastures, and yes—horses, where guests find clarity, direction and a path toward achievement.
In the following interview, Joan and her 94-year-old father Ki, chat with me about Blueberry Hill’s history, its new purpose, and its legacy.
Sherri – Can each of you talk about the history of Blueberry Hill and what the farm has come to mean to you personally?
Ki – We moved here in 1954. It started as a fruit farm. We raised fruit and vegetables. We sold them in front of the farm, at the end of the driveway, where we had a small fruit stand.
It was a very attractive little blue and white building, open to the front with good visibility from the road. We planted many trees — apple, but peach mostly. We also had grapes, tomatoes, blueberries and sweet corn.
The business grew fast. It was a good business. Most of all, it kept the family together. We worked together, the children learned how to work, and it was a family affair. The business grew very well. We put out hundreds and hundreds of peach trees. That was our main crop, but then of course, vegetables, as well.
I think I can credit the farm to my longevity, because I had a lot of exercise. Long, hard hours, working out in the fields, but I enjoyed it. I’m now 94 years old, and I credit my age and good health to a lot of exercise and outdoor work.
The farm consisted of about 50 acres. Around 1965, a terrible thing happened to us here. The big four-lane highway, Route 2, came through and cut the farm in half. It took away a lot of our privacy. The south side of the farm was sold for an awfully good price. That sale added to my retirement, which really helped.
Joan – I grew up on this farm. It was a fruit farm then, and it is where I learned to work. As a very young girl I picked strawberries and peaches. As soon as I could handle money and make change, I was working in the fruit stand.
After graduating from high school, I left the farm and lived in Texas, the Pacific Northwest and Tennessee. Yet, the farm was always “home.”
Several years ago, I returned to Ohio and, after my mother died in 2016, I moved back to Blueberry Hill. Now I run my coaching and training business out of The Washburn Center, formerly the fruit stand where I worked as a child.
Sherri – These days, in what direction is the farm moving? What aspects will remain and what aspects will be new?
Ki – As far as the farm itself, we don’t farm it anymore. I have 7 acres left with the house. Joan has purchased 21 acres of the surrounding land. I enjoy the woods an awful lot. As a result of Joan owning the woods across the road, we have worked out a livelihood for my son Joe, who is developmentally disabled.
We’ve gone into the firewood business. We’ll go out and cut a tree down or a couple of trees down, then take chainsaws and cut them up. I have a hydraulic splitter that splits the wood and we sell it to campers. It’s a good business. And that’s what keeps me very busy in my retirement.
Joan – These days, much has been re-purposed. What was once orchard is now pasture for the horses. What was once the fruit stand is now The Washburn Center, a meeting place for small groups and for my trainings. The once thick woods we couldn’t walk through has been transformed by Dad into a groomed park with trails.
What was once a working fruit farm is now a respite, a tranquil place for people to come and just enjoy being in the country, and get refocused on the things that matter most.
I really love my work. Recently, I took it to a whole new level by incorporating “Experiential Learning with Horses.” Horses are natural born leaders—trusting their senses, knowing their purpose and taking clear action without any pretense or overthinking things. My clients love spending part of their time here with the horses.
What will remain is the fact that we will continue to live here. Dad and Mom bought this farm in 1954. Even though the farmhouse itself has had many updates, it will always be “home.”
Sherri – As father and daughter, how do you support each other in the day-to-day and long-term operations at Blueberry Hill?
Ki – My wife, Helen, died in 2016. I was then here alone with my son Joe, who is handicapped. I couldn’t have stayed here if it weren’t for Joan moving in. She treats me like a king. She feeds us like every day is Christmas. And I really mean it that if it weren’t for Joe and Joan, I couldn’t stay here because I couldn’t take care of the outside work.
We have five acres of grass to mow. Joe takes care of all that. He helps with the horses. He does a lot of the work in the house. I’m really grateful to both of them. They’re the ones who make it possible for me to remain here at the farm.
Joan – Seems like one of us always has an idea of some project we want to do to enhance the property, and it takes both of us to make it happen. For example, recently I decided I needed a space in the middle of our woods to have bonfires as part of my trainings. There was a space that would work, so Dad cleared it, planted grass and made it into a perfect space for this aspect of my business.
I could not ask for someone who supports my work more than Dad.
Sherri – What farm tools or implements would each of you say are indispensable and why?
Ki – Well, the farm tractor. You can’t have a farm without a tractor.
Then, because we’re in the wood business, we have a hydraulic wood splitter and a buzzsaw. It’s a huge circular saw, 30 inches, that mounts on the back of the tractor. We cut the small wood with that. The larger pieces, like trunks of trees, we cut with a chainsaw.
And then of course, the hydraulic wood splitter, which splits all the wood into the perfect size. Right now, those are the most important pieces of equipment that we have.
Joan – My vintage bill hook knife, and the manure spreader. The knife is the one thing that I use every day, at least once. Nothing else works as well for cutting open hay bales and bags of bedding for the horses. As for the manure spreader . . . enough said!
Sherri – What do each of you love the most about farm life? What would each of you say is the biggest challenge?
Ki – What I like most about it is the fact that I don’t have a neighbor, north or south, within miles of me. We also have a beautiful pond surrounded by weeping willow trees, and it is stocked with bass.
I have a nice porch on the front of the house. When the weather is nice, the highlight of the day is a happy hour at five o’clock on the front porch with Joan and Joe.
About three or four times during the summer, I enjoy a $10 cigar, along with a Manhattan, which I have every night. Often, friends drop in, as they know they’re all invited to join us. So, I really look forward to that happy hour!
The biggest challenge for me is still, I guess, my age. At 94, I have to be careful. I don’t want to be a burden on somebody, so I’m very careful not to fall or get hurt. And that’s it.
Joan – What I love the most is that no two days are ever the same. One day I might be doing a leadership or teamwork training, and the next day I might be working in the garden or with the horses. Whatever each day brings, I almost always have a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment at the end of it.
The biggest challenge is maintenance. Seems like there is always something that needs to be fixed around here!
Sherri – Joan, you are in the business of helping others live their best lives. How does the unique venue of the Washburn Center at Blueberry Hill enhance your clients’ coaching sessions and trainings?
I think my clients would tell you that they love coming here because they can really relax. I try to help them leave their daily stresses at the door. When that happens, they are able to see the opportunities, possibilities and resources that are all around them.
Plus, there’s something about sitting around a fire in the woods and also spending time with horses that brings out the creativity and the very best in people.
Sherri — At day’s end, with a glass of wine or Manhattan in hand, what feelings and emotions surface as you reflect on your life here on Blueberry Hill and the farm’s legacy?
Ki – All I know is that I’m very content. In my old age I’m very grateful to be able to relax and enjoy my later years. I’m well taken care of. I have no worries about where I’m going to sleep or what I’m going to eat and that means a lot.
I’m very comfortable and I’m grateful for that.
I think my part of the legacy of the farm would be the more than a hundred trees I have planted here. My days as a young Boy Scout always involved Arbor Day, which was a big day for a Scout. On that day we gathered seedlings along the highway and re-planted them somewhere where they would be safe.
When I bought Blueberry Hill in 1954, I began to plant seedlings all over the farm. Every spring, I noticed that maple seedlings had blown around the foundation of the house. So, I dug them out and began to plant maple trees all along the driveway. Today they are mammoth, especially the two at the end of the drive.
I think that would be my legacy for here … all of the trees.
Joan – Gratitude. To be able to live here, as well as run my business at this wonderful place, is more than I ever could have asked for. When I think of what Blueberry Hill’s legacy might be, I think of the storytelling at our family reunions. My cousins, who grew up in the city, all tell stories of their favorite memories of coming to the farm to visit.
Even now, people seem to have a story to tell about their time spent — no matter how short — at Blueberry Hill. It is a place where special memories are made. I want to make sure that continues.
*Blueberry Hill is located on the northeastern side of Port Clinton, just west of the Marblehead Peninsula. For more information on Joan Washburn’s executive coaching sessions and trainings for individuals or groups, visit: washburnendeavours.com or Washburn Endeavours LLC on Facebook.
Contact Sherri Roth: “Writing With Heart” at firstname.lastname@example.org.