A Slice of Heaven in Southern Ohio, The Fur Peace Ranch


fur peace ranchInterview by Scott Preston

Conceived in 1989 by Jorma & Vanessa Kaukonen, The Fur Peace Ranch is nestled in the rolling foothills of southeast Ohio.

It was not much at the outset. The hills and trees were pretty and serene, but it took a lively imagination to envision what might be created there, what might be taught and learned, and how hearts could open along with guitar cases.

But in 1989, Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen looked at a piece of land in Meigs and conceived what Jorma calls “a ranch that grows guitar players.” Not a fantasy camp, but this would be a place where both budding and seasoned musicians could immerse themselves for several days, and emerge with renewed inspiration and tangible progress in their music.

Fur Peace Ranch did not spring from the ground full-grown. It evolved gradually into an idyllic landscape of neatly arrayed cabins, workshop space, library, store, dining hall, plus a theater that hosts concerts performed by world-class musicians — many of whom also serve as instructors.

Vanessa Kaukonen was kind enough to chat with me about the Fur Peace Ranch:

Cincy Groove: So how did the whole concept behind the Fur Peace Ranch come about?

Vanessa Kaukonen: Jorma had a vision about southeast Ohio, a vision about the land. In the beginning I did not share this vision with him. I was living and working in upstate New York. I was working in the city, taking the train to work everyday. I was comfortable in that space. Jorma found this land through an old friend of his. He just bought it and I thought he was nuts. Everything great that has happened to me in my life has happened to me here in Ohio. Even though I came kicking and screaming, Jorma had this great vision about the land.

We came up with this idea, my sister and I, that we would open up a guitar camp. It was kind of a joke at first. What the ranch is today didn’t become a reality for another 6 years after we thought of it. There is a lot of planning involved. If we were still living in upstate New York, 10 years later I would still be waiting for permits.

When we first got here, there was nothing here except an old farm building which we later ended up renovating and using. One hundred years ago this land used to be a cattle farm and we came in green as green can be. I hired an artist to do a rendering and took it to an architect and little by little started to put it all together. We pounded the first nail on August 31, 1997 and opened our doors in April of 1998. We have this amazing reputation for one of the top schools of this kind anywhere. We have 22 buildings on 119 acre parcel. There is a 200 seat theater with a NPR radio show thats been going strong. We have a 97 percent return rate for students. We also have some of the best instructors in all the land. David Bromberg, Oteil Burbridge, Buddy Cage, Jack Casady, John Cowan, Fareed Haque, Warren Haynes, G.E.Smith, Pete Sears are just some of the instructors who are teaching or have teached at the camp. (list of past/present instructors)

There are no egos here with our instructors. The students take their direction from them. With Jorma, who is a normal guy, who happens to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he is just a regular guy, a man of the people. The staff I have working for me are wonderful people. I kiss myself everyday that we get to do this out in the middle of nowhere.

One thing we don’t allow at the camp is alcohol, for the simple fact we want it to be about the music, great food, friendships. After hours you are more than welcome to go out for a few cocktails , sometimes the instructors will take the students out. But while you are here it should be about the music.

Jorma and I also formed another company BreakDownWay.com Its really an online version of what we do here at the camp. The students use it as follow up. Sometimes I will guide the students there so they can concentrate on how the instructor’s teach before they get here.

Cincy Groove: You also are taking the guitar camp on the road correct?

Vanessa Kaukonen: We did some sessions out in Desert Hot Springs, CA last year. We are going to do some in upstate New York. We are still looking for facilities. Because the place has to have what we have plus a little bit more. We do 3 or 4 in the United States in different regional areas. We do it that way because we might get students who might not be able to make it to Ohio.

Also be sure to check out the current schedule of workshops for 2008


Upcoming Shows at The Fur Peace Ranch:
For complete show details visit furpeacestore.com
April 12th-Hot Tuna w/ Toby Walker Opening
May 3rd-Will Kimbrough Trio with Pete Huttlinger opening
SOLD OUT-Saturday, May 17th– Tommy Emmanuel
June 14th– G.E Smith’s Heroes of Electric Guitar..featuring Jorma Kaukonen, Larry Coryell, and Bob Margolin
August 9th-6th Annual Tribute to the Reverend Gary Davis featuring Jorma, Ernie, Roy and William Lee Ellis
August 23rd-Acoustic Hot Tuna Duo with Chris Smither Opening
September 12th– Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
SOLD OUT September 20th– Warren Haynes
October 4th– Acoustic Blues Festival featuring Rory Block, John Cephas, Roy Book Binder, and Kenny Sultan
October 11th– Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen
October 25th-David Bromberg and Jorma Kaukonen”Alone and Together”
November 9th-Riders in the Sky “America’s Favorite Cowboys”
November 15th-Electric Hot Tuna’s All Star Jam

Fur Peace Ranch
39495 St Clair Rd
Pomeroy, OH 45769