The Bluestem Conservation Cemetery Story
In 2015, Jeff Masten and Heidi Hannapel crafted a vision for Bluestem and set about researching and planning for the Piedmont’s first conservation cemetery. They visited over 35 natural and conservation cemeteries around the country and helped found the Conservation Burial Alliance, a national group dedicated to supporting the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of conservation land that incorporates natural burial cemeteries.
In 2019, they were joined by Allen Brimer, Ben Johnston-Krase and Brandon Wert, of Farm Church, a congregation that meets on a farm in Durham, NC. They introduced Bluestem to friends in the community, and continue to evolve their vision by listening to leaders in the region who specialize in community care, land conservation, green burial advocacy, hospice, death care and law.
With the arrival of Covid-19 in early 2020, Bluestem's listening sessions and outreach efforts moved online. As green burial advocates focused on protecting the natural features of our beloved Piedmont while connecting people to the outdoors, we are creating a cemetery that reveres the sacred in nature and allows for the least harmful way of disposing of our human remains.
A place where:
Jeff Masten is a conservation burial consultant with Landmatters, located in Durham, NC. Jeff works with private partners and land trusts on site assessment, land and risk analyses, project development, financing models and funding opportunities for conservation acquisitions and conservation burial projects. With over 20 years in the field, Jeff’s expertise is in building partnerships, and creating and leading cutting-edge conservation programs. Introduced to conservation burial in 2006, Jeff has supported the development of conservation burial projects in North Carolina and throughout the country. He is a founding member of the Conservation Burial Alliance. Jeff is a co-founder of Bluestem.
Heidi Hannapel is a conservation burial consultant with Landmatters located in Durham, NC. Heidi is a compassionate facilitator who values collaborative projects. She has designed workshops and resources for growing stronger nonprofit organizations focused on best practices, community engagement, and standards for long-term sustainability. Heidi works with conservation burial partners and land trusts on burial site assessment, community relations and partnerships, project planning and development. She is a founding member of the Conservation Burial Alliance. Heidi is a co-founder of Bluestem.
Allen Brimer is the Co-founder and Pastor of Farm Church, a congregation that meets on a farm and leverages the resources of the farm to address food insecurity in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to Farm Church, Allen served congregations for twelve years in Kentucky and Indiana. He has degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Prior to seminary, Allen was an organic farmer and worked on farms in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Indiana. Allen is also an Adjunct Professor in Comparative Religion and the past founder and owner of Rev Home Inspections. Allen farms, barbecues, is a rabid baseball fan and loves to mix drinks and make (and share) pie. Allen lives with his partner, Kerry, their younger son, Eli, and many other mammals and fowl on a small farm in Durham. Their older son, Benjamin, is studying architecture in New Orleans. Allen is a co-founder of Bluestem.
Beth Tillman has practiced estate planning and probate law for twenty-five years in Chapel Hill with the firm of Tillman, Whichard & Cagle, PLLC. She has talked with her clients for thirteen years about the option of green burial and is excited to be part of Bluestem so that this option can become a reality. Originally from Natchez, Mississippi, she was raised by parents who loved the natural world and who imparted that love to her. Beth is a co-founder of Bluestem.