A red barn offers a patch of color in an otherwise muted landscape after the heaviest snowfall of the winter.  Perched on a hilltop, the elevation lends Chesterhill a sense of space and light that distinguishes it from many other Appalachian towns.         

A red barn offers a patch of color in an otherwise muted landscape after the heaviest snowfall of the winter.

Perched on a hilltop, the elevation lends Chesterhill a sense of space and light that distinguishes it from many other Appalachian towns.

 

 

 

 Chesterhill's school was demolished years ago and is still a sad point for residents, who say its loss has torn the heart out of the community. When asked what's replaced it, people shake their heads.   Now children board buses in the morning and return in the afternoon. "We're basically a retirement home," is how one resident explains the demographics.   

Chesterhill's school was demolished years ago and is still a sad point for residents, who say its loss has torn the heart out of the community. When asked what's replaced it, people shake their heads. 

Now children board buses in the morning and return in the afternoon. "We're basically a retirement home," is how one resident explains the demographics.

 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   Amish children drive themselves to school along one of the hilly roads in Chesterhill.  The Amish community in Chesterhill was established following an influx of Amish farmers beginning in the 1980s.  The Amish run a separate school and hold worship each Sunday at different Amish houses in the area.  As a rule the Amish eschew modern technologies, as demonstrated in their use of horse and wagon for transport. But there’s a blurring of the lines, the Amish accepting rides in cars and borrowing neighbors’ telephones. 

Amish children drive themselves to school along one of the hilly roads in Chesterhill.

The Amish community in Chesterhill was established following an influx of Amish farmers beginning in the 1980s.

The Amish run a separate school and hold worship each Sunday at different Amish houses in the area.

As a rule the Amish eschew modern technologies, as demonstrated in their use of horse and wagon for transport. But there’s a blurring of the lines, the Amish accepting rides in cars and borrowing neighbors’ telephones. 

 Richard Wetzel has been the mayor of Chesterhill since 1983. A composer and a hymnologist with a PhD in musicology, he likes to host gatherings at his house where he is frequently found on the piano.  Richard is accompanied here by banjo player and fellow Chesterhill resident John Saunders.

Richard Wetzel has been the mayor of Chesterhill since 1983. A composer and a hymnologist with a PhD in musicology, he likes to host gatherings at his house where he is frequently found on the piano.

Richard is accompanied here by banjo player and fellow Chesterhill resident John Saunders.

 Bernard Triplet tours his junkyard in Chesterhill.  "I wouldn't be afraid to say I've got 600 vehicles down there."  92-year-old Bernard, who is somewhat of a local legend for his car racing days, says the collection began as a side project for spare parts.  These days he's torn between fear that the neighbors will steal things and fear the EPA will nab him for polluting the ground with rusted, leaking engines.   He doesn't like to think what will become of it when he's no longer around. 

Bernard Triplet tours his junkyard in Chesterhill.

"I wouldn't be afraid to say I've got 600 vehicles down there."

92-year-old Bernard, who is somewhat of a local legend for his car racing days, says the collection began as a side project for spare parts.

These days he's torn between fear that the neighbors will steal things and fear the EPA will nab him for polluting the ground with rusted, leaking engines. 

He doesn't like to think what will become of it when he's no longer around. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Aaron Hershberger tends to a sickly cow.  The heifer was inadvertently bred too young and developed an infection after a traumatic birth. On consultation with a vet, the Amish farmer administered antibiotic shots and is milking the cow to bottle feed the colostrum-rich milk to her calf.   Aaron is the head of one of 18 Amish families in the broader area, which has an Amish population of 107 people.

Aaron Hershberger tends to a sickly cow.

The heifer was inadvertently bred too young and developed an infection after a traumatic birth. On consultation with a vet, the Amish farmer administered antibiotic shots and is milking the cow to bottle feed the colostrum-rich milk to her calf. 

Aaron is the head of one of 18 Amish families in the broader area, which has an Amish population of 107 people.

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     The afternoon sunlight catches the worn backs of the seats in the Union Hall Theater on Chesterhill's main street on February 5, 2016.   Built in 1908, the oldest residents still remember when there were multiple shows a night here.   The theater closed entirely in the seventies. Though since restored, it is rarely used. With 325 seats, its capacity is now more than the town's population and organizers say only a tiny core of locals have shown interest in supporting the arts. 

The afternoon sunlight catches the worn backs of the seats in the Union Hall Theater on Chesterhill's main street on February 5, 2016. 

Built in 1908, the oldest residents still remember when there were multiple shows a night here. 

The theater closed entirely in the seventies. Though since restored, it is rarely used. With 325 seats, its capacity is now more than the town's population and organizers say only a tiny core of locals have shown interest in supporting the arts. 

 Becky Singree releases one of her horses into the field on February 20, 2016. 

Becky Singree releases one of her horses into the field on February 20, 2016. 

 An old family photograph speaks to Chesterhill’s history and its multicultural makeup.  "The population down here is like a rainbow," says one resident. "People gonna get together, and then you have a multiculture."   Some in Chesterhill identify as having a unique ancestry with intermingled black, white and Native American bloodlines. Others — after decades of “passing for white” to avoid discrimination — don’t readily acknowledge their cultural heritage. 

An old family photograph speaks to Chesterhill’s history and its multicultural makeup.

"The population down here is like a rainbow," says one resident. "People gonna get together, and then you have a multiculture." 

Some in Chesterhill identify as having a unique ancestry with intermingled black, white and Native American bloodlines. Others — after decades of “passing for white” to avoid discrimination — don’t readily acknowledge their cultural heritage. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Mom Ashley Stevens oversees the morning chaos as her three daughters crowd into the bathroom on Wednesday February 24, 2016.  Due to a lack of economic opportunities in town, Ashley’s husband works elsewhere. Which means she operates much of the time as a single parent to 5-year-old Areiyah, 2-year-old Erabella and 1-year-old Sedrah. 

Mom Ashley Stevens oversees the morning chaos as her three daughters crowd into the bathroom on Wednesday February 24, 2016.

Due to a lack of economic opportunities in town, Ashley’s husband works elsewhere. Which means she operates much of the time as a single parent to 5-year-old Areiyah, 2-year-old Erabella and 1-year-old Sedrah. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Volunteer firefighters gather at the old Union Hall Theater for a training drill on a snowy evening in February 2016.   All but one were born and have lived all their lives in Chesterhill, which is the case for many of the town’s residents.   Mostly the volunteers attend to car accidents on the many miles of winding roads that lace through Morgan County.   The fire station offers a chance to bond while providing an essential service. A core of about 10 men reliably respond to emergencies and turn up for meetings.  Pictured from left to right: Jacob Mayle, Justin Edwards, Dylan Shaw and Charlie Mayle.

Volunteer firefighters gather at the old Union Hall Theater for a training drill on a snowy evening in February 2016. 

All but one were born and have lived all their lives in Chesterhill, which is the case for many of the town’s residents. 

Mostly the volunteers attend to car accidents on the many miles of winding roads that lace through Morgan County. 

The fire station offers a chance to bond while providing an essential service. A core of about 10 men reliably respond to emergencies and turn up for meetings.

Pictured from left to right: Jacob Mayle, Justin Edwards, Dylan Shaw and Charlie Mayle.

    
 
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    Family photos and keepsakes in a lovingly tended but spartan Chesterhill trailer home.   Some of those who’ve lived here long term tend to accumulate few things of monetary value, saying they would be stolen if they did.   “Your own kids will rob you blind around here,” says one lifelong resident. “It’s the drugs.” 

Family photos and keepsakes in a lovingly tended but spartan Chesterhill trailer home. 

Some of those who’ve lived here long term tend to accumulate few things of monetary value, saying they would be stolen if they did. 

“Your own kids will rob you blind around here,” says one lifelong resident. “It’s the drugs.” 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   Three Amish siblings peek playfully over a windowsill on Wednesday March 23, 2016.   The eldest children speak an accented English, but Pennsylvania German is used in Amish homes and the youngest understand only that.    

Three Amish siblings peek playfully over a windowsill on Wednesday March 23, 2016. 

The eldest children speak an accented English, but Pennsylvania German is used in Amish homes and the youngest understand only that. 

 

 In 1834 Chesterhill’s Quaker founders purchased 100 acres of land from the Ohio Company in Marietta, paying $1 per acre.  Chesterhill has known boom times — pig iron, coal and oil have all been found here.   The forest around Chesterhill was once felled to make charcoal for all the furnaces in the area; locals say to this day the trees have never recovered.

In 1834 Chesterhill’s Quaker founders purchased 100 acres of land from the Ohio Company in Marietta, paying $1 per acre.

Chesterhill has known boom times — pig iron, coal and oil have all been found here. 

The forest around Chesterhill was once felled to make charcoal for all the furnaces in the area; locals say to this day the trees have never recovered.

 Nelson Myers sits for a portrait in the living room of the house he shares with his wife Gloria.  Nelson recalls being asked by a stranger whether he was Indian.  "I got some Indian blood but I don't know what it is. I'm like Tonto X."  While Chesterhill was on the Underground Railroad and its residents hid people seeking freedom from the bounty hunters sent to retrieve slaves, it doesn’t mean the town has been immune to racial tension.  When the Myers bought this house, Nelson recalls it was a time when buyers typically didn’t want to sell to “colored” folks.

Nelson Myers sits for a portrait in the living room of the house he shares with his wife Gloria.

Nelson recalls being asked by a stranger whether he was Indian.

"I got some Indian blood but I don't know what it is. I'm like Tonto X."

While Chesterhill was on the Underground Railroad and its residents hid people seeking freedom from the bounty hunters sent to retrieve slaves, it doesn’t mean the town has been immune to racial tension.

When the Myers bought this house, Nelson recalls it was a time when buyers typically didn’t want to sell to “colored” folks.

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Children shuffle in the pews during an after-school bible class at the Church of Christ on Wednesday February 17, 2016.   Since the local school closed, the church-run afternoons are one of the few occasions children get the chance to be together in Chesterhill.    The next generation is inculcated with Christian values through lessons that contain a dose of fire and brimstone. On this afternoon the children are told they are “sponges”, and warned of the consequences of hanging out with “bad people”.    The Church of Christ is the largest and best attended church in town and can attract 50 people to a service.   Pictured: Chloe Snyder, Ja'lyn Simmons, Kennedy Mayle, Waylan Mayle (turned backwards), Rachel Shook, Madeline Campbell and Carter Chevalier (in corner).

Children shuffle in the pews during an after-school bible class at the Church of Christ on Wednesday February 17, 2016. 

Since the local school closed, the church-run afternoons are one of the few occasions children get the chance to be together in Chesterhill.  

The next generation is inculcated with Christian values through lessons that contain a dose of fire and brimstone. On this afternoon the children are told they are “sponges”, and warned of the consequences of hanging out with “bad people”.  

The Church of Christ is the largest and best attended church in town and can attract 50 people to a service. 

Pictured: Chloe Snyder, Ja'lyn Simmons, Kennedy Mayle, Waylan Mayle (turned backwards), Rachel Shook, Madeline Campbell and Carter Chevalier (in corner).

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   As the first rays of sunlight slant through the barn, father and son prepare their horses for the day.  Working with practiced efficiency that mirrors his father’s, Levi Hershberger takes responsibility for grooming his own mini horse.  Aaron Hershberger learned animal husbandry from his father, and now the cycle repeats.         

As the first rays of sunlight slant through the barn, father and son prepare their horses for the day.

Working with practiced efficiency that mirrors his father’s, Levi Hershberger takes responsibility for grooming his own mini horse.

Aaron Hershberger learned animal husbandry from his father, and now the cycle repeats.

 

 

 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     A fragmented view of Chesterhill as seen through the front doors of a house on the main street on Saturday January 30, 2016.   Like many communities, there are pockets of intense connection here but between social groups often little interaction. Which Chesterhill a person inhabits can depend on socio-economic status and family ties. 

A fragmented view of Chesterhill as seen through the front doors of a house on the main street on Saturday January 30, 2016. 

Like many communities, there are pockets of intense connection here but between social groups often little interaction. Which Chesterhill a person inhabits can depend on socio-economic status and family ties. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Joe Lowers neatens up before heading to town.  "I used to put on the fancy clothes when I was younger. Now I don't own a suit. I got a couple of pairs of nice jeans, that's it."   Approaching pension age, he has his life pretty much how he likes it — simple. No credit cards, no debt, money in the bank and peace and quiet. The one thing missing? A woman to share it with.   He once had “the most beautiful woman on earth”. But he cheated on her, then confessed, and she left him.

Joe Lowers neatens up before heading to town.

"I used to put on the fancy clothes when I was younger. Now I don't own a suit. I got a couple of pairs of nice jeans, that's it." 

Approaching pension age, he has his life pretty much how he likes it — simple. No credit cards, no debt, money in the bank and peace and quiet. The one thing missing? A woman to share it with. 

He once had “the most beautiful woman on earth”. But he cheated on her, then confessed, and she left him.

 Kris Troyer on his morning walk on Sunday March 20, 2016. He walks the perimeter of his sister's property twice daily — once in the morning and once at night.  

Kris Troyer on his morning walk on Sunday March 20, 2016. He walks the perimeter of his sister's property twice daily — once in the morning and once at night.  

     
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}      Becky Singree holds a note that she keeps in her pocket as inspiration. She found the quote in a Harlequin romance novel, where it originally read 'man' instead of 'woman'.   In her later years, she says she's finally figuring life out.   Religion and faith in God plays a significant part in life in Chesterhill and there is a proliferation of churches associated with the town, from Methodist to Pentecostal and Quaker.  But there is also a self-styled belief system at play, with new age influences. Becky frequently discusses the bible and tries to live its teachings, while also drawing on yogic philosophy and self help psychology.  

Becky Singree holds a note that she keeps in her pocket as inspiration. She found the quote in a Harlequin romance novel, where it originally read 'man' instead of 'woman'. 

In her later years, she says she's finally figuring life out. 

Religion and faith in God plays a significant part in life in Chesterhill and there is a proliferation of churches associated with the town, from Methodist to Pentecostal and Quaker.

But there is also a self-styled belief system at play, with new age influences. Becky frequently discusses the bible and tries to live its teachings, while also drawing on yogic philosophy and self help psychology.  


    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     "If you develop a reputation around here, people don't mess with you," says Wendell Gage, who's lived in the area most of his life. He says he didn't survive Vietnam to have people threaten him at home.   With no police station in town and a minimal police presence, he says people in Chesterhill are used to looking after themselves. Wendell remembers when a female relative, home alone, spotted a car with its lights off, backing up her driveway in the middle of the night. He says she put a round into its bumper to drive them off.

"If you develop a reputation around here, people don't mess with you," says Wendell Gage, who's lived in the area most of his life. He says he didn't survive Vietnam to have people threaten him at home. 

With no police station in town and a minimal police presence, he says people in Chesterhill are used to looking after themselves. Wendell remembers when a female relative, home alone, spotted a car with its lights off, backing up her driveway in the middle of the night. He says she put a round into its bumper to drive them off.

 On February 5, 2016, a worker's shadow falls on the wall of what is to become Chesterhill's only restaurant.  The building's previous incarnations include a meat locker and a drive-thru.  The nearest eatery is several towns away, but lapses in and out of business. Locals hope this one survives. 

On February 5, 2016, a worker's shadow falls on the wall of what is to become Chesterhill's only restaurant.

The building's previous incarnations include a meat locker and a drive-thru.

The nearest eatery is several towns away, but lapses in and out of business. Locals hope this one survives. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Chesterhill has no bar but drinking is a major way to pass the time for some residents, particularly those without jobs and drawing social security or disability payments.  Tim Jenkins' house, on the main street of the village, serves as a de facto watering hole. A steady stream of neighbors and relatives amble past to stoop sit in the evenings, often bringing slabs of beer. When it’s warm there’s grilling on the sidewalk and Tim’s grandchildren come and go, mingling with an older crowd.         

Chesterhill has no bar but drinking is a major way to pass the time for some residents, particularly those without jobs and drawing social security or disability payments.

Tim Jenkins' house, on the main street of the village, serves as a de facto watering hole. A steady stream of neighbors and relatives amble past to stoop sit in the evenings, often bringing slabs of beer. When it’s warm there’s grilling on the sidewalk and Tim’s grandchildren come and go, mingling with an older crowd.

 

 

 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Chesterhill residents share a laugh and a chin-wag over breakfast at the Lions Club on Saturday February 6, 2016.    The meal, cooked once a month, is a popular way many older residents stay in touch. The interconnectedness of the community is on display here, whole tables often filled by people who're related by blood or marriage.   Pictured in the foreground: Jim and Don Strode (left and right respectively, in plaid shirts) with Jan Ellison and Barney Howard. In conversation in the rear (from left to right) are Helen Seyfried, Roy Brewer, Stan Starling, Tret Norris, Joni Tate and Ed Otte. 

Chesterhill residents share a laugh and a chin-wag over breakfast at the Lions Club on Saturday February 6, 2016.  

The meal, cooked once a month, is a popular way many older residents stay in touch. The interconnectedness of the community is on display here, whole tables often filled by people who're related by blood or marriage. 

Pictured in the foreground: Jim and Don Strode (left and right respectively, in plaid shirts) with Jan Ellison and Barney Howard. In conversation in the rear (from left to right) are Helen Seyfried, Roy Brewer, Stan Starling, Tret Norris, Joni Tate and Ed Otte. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Sherry Triplet sings ballads on her karaoke machine in her living room, surrounded by pictures of a large family she rarely sees.  She has lived here all her life but says Chesterhill has become a lonely place.  "Most everyone I knew has died or moved away," she says. "I'm looking for love, but I don't know how I'll find it here." 

Sherry Triplet sings ballads on her karaoke machine in her living room, surrounded by pictures of a large family she rarely sees.

She has lived here all her life but says Chesterhill has become a lonely place.

"Most everyone I knew has died or moved away," she says. "I'm looking for love, but I don't know how I'll find it here." 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Rick Seiter on January 29, 2016 on the property he and his wife Vickie bought in Chesterhill as a place to rehabilitate horses rescued from mistreatment or slaughter. The dream is also to run equine-assisted therapy sessions.  Rick, who has travelled internationally tuning musical instruments for a living, says he'll be spending the rest of his life here. 

Rick Seiter on January 29, 2016 on the property he and his wife Vickie bought in Chesterhill as a place to rehabilitate horses rescued from mistreatment or slaughter. The dream is also to run equine-assisted therapy sessions.

Rick, who has travelled internationally tuning musical instruments for a living, says he'll be spending the rest of his life here. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     A portrait of the international Lions Club president adorns the wall of the clubhouse in Chesterhill on Saturday, February 6, 2016.   Though housed in a basic building, the place is lovingly kept by its members. 

A portrait of the international Lions Club president adorns the wall of the clubhouse in Chesterhill on Saturday, February 6, 2016. 

Though housed in a basic building, the place is lovingly kept by its members. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     A chair sits in a pool of light in a barn in Chesterhill.  There is an unapologetically unvarnished quality to the town and its people.    "We don't change nothing, for nobody," says one local. 

A chair sits in a pool of light in a barn in Chesterhill.

There is an unapologetically unvarnished quality to the town and its people.  

"We don't change nothing, for nobody," says one local. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   Beginning in the 1980s, Chesterhill experienced an influx of Amish farmers who have built many of the farmhouses and barns that dot the landscape. The Amish do much of the farming in the area, supplying a produce auction that runs May to October. 

Beginning in the 1980s, Chesterhill experienced an influx of Amish farmers who have built many of the farmhouses and barns that dot the landscape. The Amish do much of the farming in the area, supplying a produce auction that runs May to October. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Lynna Hreha walks her deaf Dalmation, Bane, as the sun rises over the property she and her partner John Bosner bought in Chesterhill.   In their twenties, the couple are an exception to the typical Chesterhill demographic.  Neither one is from here, but grew up in nearby towns. Lynna is studying respiratory therapy in Marietta and John works shifts at a metal plant in Beverly. They could see raising a family here and commuting for work.   They don't have much to do with anyone else in town, but love where they live, on a hilltop reachable only by a dirt lane. They chose Chesterhill for its rural lifestyle and its isolation.       

Lynna Hreha walks her deaf Dalmation, Bane, as the sun rises over the property she and her partner John Bosner bought in Chesterhill. 

In their twenties, the couple are an exception to the typical Chesterhill demographic.

Neither one is from here, but grew up in nearby towns. Lynna is studying respiratory therapy in Marietta and John works shifts at a metal plant in Beverly. They could see raising a family here and commuting for work. 

They don't have much to do with anyone else in town, but love where they live, on a hilltop reachable only by a dirt lane. They chose Chesterhill for its rural lifestyle and its isolation. 

 

 Eating an after-school snack, 9-year-old Taysia Hanning pauses for a portrait at the Church of Christ on Wednesday February 17, 2016.   The building used to be a skating rink, but is now a church and community space. 

Eating an after-school snack, 9-year-old Taysia Hanning pauses for a portrait at the Church of Christ on Wednesday February 17, 2016. 

The building used to be a skating rink, but is now a church and community space. 

 Antlers on the wall of Tim Jenkins' living room. He took over the house from his mother when she passed away. 

Antlers on the wall of Tim Jenkins' living room. He took over the house from his mother when she passed away. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     A singer concentrates on the lyrics as he sings karaoke at a small party in Chesterhill in late February.  Karaoke is a popular pastime. The songs are mostly country ballads, sung more or less in tune but always with a ton of heart.  

A singer concentrates on the lyrics as he sings karaoke at a small party in Chesterhill in late February.

Karaoke is a popular pastime. The songs are mostly country ballads, sung more or less in tune but always with a ton of heart.  

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Claude Janes and his son Colin rise before dawn to bottle feed calves born during a snowstorm in Chesterhill on January 27, 2016.   Claude farms the land that his father before him did. He breeds cattle with buffalo to produce beefalo, while also working a career in construction and explosives. 

Claude Janes and his son Colin rise before dawn to bottle feed calves born during a snowstorm in Chesterhill on January 27, 2016. 

Claude farms the land that his father before him did. He breeds cattle with buffalo to produce beefalo, while also working a career in construction and explosives. 

    
 
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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Aaron Hershberger prepares to leave the house to begin his work day.  At 33, the Amish farmer is a father of six and runs a metal roofing business as well as growing oats and running cattle on several plots of land around Chesterhill.