After visitors travel the gravel pathway leading to Grailville, they enter a cultural oasis made up of rich farmland, peaceful nature trails, organic gardens and a group of women dedicated to sustainable living and a holistic approach to life.
The 315-acre environmental, education and retreat center tucked away in Loveland serves as a portal for personal reflection, renewal and growth. Grailville is home to diversified workshops, programs and special events with simplistic yet enchanting guesthouses and meeting spaces to accommodate their program participants and community members. This year they celebrate seven decades of nurturing spirituality, female empowerment, ecological efforts and global solidarity.
“We’re a rural community with a window to the world,” says Terrie Puckett, Grailville operations manager. “It’s a welcoming and sacred place with open arms and open doors to those who are in search of a safe space.”
Grailville is the United States headquarters of the Grail, an international women’s movement found in 20 countries. Grail members have a global commitment to social justice, the celebration of religion and spirituality and value in the care and protection of Earth.
Grailville has served as a model for sustainable living since its inception in 1944, when U.S. Grail members moved onto the Loveland farmland and lived off of the acreage. Over the course of their history, Grail members have strived for self-sufficiency. They transformed old barns into living quarters, ate organically grown food from their garden and webbed their agricultural and eco-friendly practices into their spiritual lives. They embodied a “green” lifestyle well before it became a trend.
“This is the way we’ve always lived,” says Terry Marshall, Grailville store manager and Grail member. “It’s been our lifestyle before ‘sustainability’ was even a word.”
Grailville is no longer the live-in community it once was during its early years. After committing to a program and retreat format, only a few women currently reside on the land today. But whether guests — men and women — experience Grailville for a weekend or an afternoon, it serves as a temporary home that inspires others to take its foundational sustainable lifestyle beyond the center’s perimeters.
Through their own land and local organizational partnerships, they work hard to build a healthy, balanced community food system.
As a member of The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and with 162 organically certified acres, the land houses an herb and kitchen garden, orchard, bee hives, gourmet garlic and fruit and nut trees that provide food to guests and staff members. Leftover produce is sold to the public through an on-site stand as well as at the Loveland Farmers Market.
Over the decades, Grailville has adapted its efforts to meet modern-day living needs while continuing to be as green as possible. They achieve this through water conservation, recycling and maintaining their repurposed buildings, fields, ponds, woods and creeks without sacrificing the resources of future generations. The members practice these efforts and advertise these models through educational programs.
In response to a failure of septic systems serving multiple Grailville facilities, members constructed a wetland project for sewage treatment (one of the first of its kind in Ohio) using local and native plant species to help stabilize and restore soil that absorbs excess nutrients from runoff and wastewater. They then created Grailville Renewing Our Water, a series of programs around water and environmental issues related to the wetlands to educate the public on this natural filtration system.
Sustainability isn’t the only focus at Grailville. Grail members are adamant in voicing that no one particular effort takes priority over another. They support local artists and see spirituality, creativity and the expression of art, poetry, music and craft as fundamental to the intrinsic whole of Grailville. They believe a balanced lifestyle is key to their holistic approach, and encourage those who may only know Grailville in one dimension to explore and learn about its other integral parts.
“Grailville’s purpose, no matter what the iteration, has been to educate and inspire, with the understanding that by transforming as an individual, we transform the greater community in which we live,” says Rebecca Bugos, Grailville communications associate. “Grailville’s legacy is written in the hearts of the thousands of men and women who have taken their Grailville experience in ways great and small out into the world.”
anniversary celebration takes place Saturday at 932 O’Bannonville Road, Loveland. Reservations and details: grailville.org.