The Bluestem Story
In 2015, Jeff Masten and Heidi Hannapel crafted a vision for Bluestem and set about researching and planning for central North Carolina's first conservation cemetery. They visited over 35 natural and conservation cemeteries around the country and helped found the Conservation Burial Alliance, a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of conservation land that incorporates natural burial cemeteries.
In 2018, they were joined by Allen Brimer, Ben Johnston-Krase and Brandon Wert, of Farm Church, a service oriented congregation that meets on a farm in Durham, NC. These colleagues introduced the vision for Bluestem to faith leaders and community members in the region, and continued to evolve their concept with listening sessions among groups that specialized in community care, hospice and death care, funeral consumer interest, green burial advocacy, land conservation and law.
With the arrival of Covid-19 in early 2020, Bluestem's listening sessions and outreach efforts moved online. Death, loss and grief surrounded us throughout 2020 and into 2021. We discovered through our Bluestem Conversations online that people were eager to share their experiences with family members' end of life choice. Most everyone we listened to wanted "something different" for their own disposition; a burial option that was more personal, meaningful, and less impactful on the earth.
As individuals who turn to nature for respite and refuge, and as conservationists equally committed to protecting the natural beauty and resources of our beloved Piedmont, we shared our vision for establishing Bluestem as a place of worship, a nature preserve and central North Carolina's first conservation cemetery.
Bluestem continues to be shaped by the people we meet -- passionate individuals seeking restorative spaces in nature and a burial option that:
In February 2021, we formed the nonprofit Bluestem Community NC with a Council of Stewards that oversees the management and operations of Bluestem. The nine individuals currently serving on the Council bring experience and skills in community building, spiritual journeying, land conservation, nonprofit governance, public administration, caregiving, management, and law. Bluestem Community is a 508(c)(1)(a) faith- based organization.
In January 2022, Bluestem Community acquired 87 acres of beautiful open land and Piedmont forest in Cedar Grove, North Carolina. The open fields were well cared for and planted in corn by the former landowner. Neighboring properties, both in agriculture and timber, are owned by longstanding Orange County farming families.
Bluestem recognizes the region’s rich agricultural and cultural history and is honored to exist alongside rolling landscapes dotted with livestock and productive farmland. These compatible attributes fit with Bluestem’s goals for designing a place of reverence in nature that preserves a region’s rural character, ensures healthy wildlife corridors, protects important stream corridors, and ultimately provides our community with an enduring place of rest and regeneration.
Bluestem Community Council of Stewards
Carl Baumann Heidi Hannapel
Allen Brimer Jeff Masten
Sidney Cruze Shenae McPherson
Jennifer Evans Franziska Rokoske
Learn more about Bluestem's Council of Stewards