Kalmia Garden at the Gastler Farm
For more than a century, the Gastler Farm has been an important part of Durham’s fine reputation as a cultured farming community. Farming can take many forms, but basically it is an enterprise where land is used in productive manner in order to sustain the owner.
The first generation of the Durham family was headed by Albert and Elsie Gastler, grandparents of the current owner of the property, Timothy Gastler. They used the land as a small dairy farm, producing and selling milk to neighbors in the north end of town.
The second generation, headed by Charles and Virginia, chose to cultivate and sell unique varieties of pansies that became well known throughout the region. Some of the varieties produced in Durham are still available today from farms as far away as Maine.
Tim Gastler, third-generation owner, used the land as a tree nursery to support his landscaping business, growing and selling high-quality specimen trees, an enterprise that employed a number of people through the years. Now retired, Tim and his daughter Leah, have a new plan for the farm, one that combines the fine arts with the art of horticulture.
Today the Farm is comprised of 35 acres, a twenty acre tree nursery, currently leased and operated as Orlando’s Nursery & Landscaping Services, a four-acre home lot, and an eleven acre nature preserve. The home lot and nature preserve are now operated as Kalmia Gardens Music & Arts Foundation.
Kalmia Garden Music & Arts Foundation
The Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, was created by fourth-generation Durham native Leah Gastler Mabbun to provide a relaxing retreat and performance venue for some of the nation’s best young musicians, and to provide a community resource for the music and arts.
Leah is a gifted violist holding degrees from Bard Conservatory, The Julliard School, and Rice University. Since early childhood, she has performed solo recitals and chamber music concerts in her home, at Durham’s United Churches, and the Durham Public Library. Currently a free-lance musician in Houston, Texas, she has performed throughout China, Thailand, Canada and the United States as both an orchestral and chamber musician.