Burton's Bamboo Garden: An unlikely farm flourishes in Warren County, passing from father to son

MORROW, Ohio - In the last hours of the worst winter in 20 years, a cardinal darted over the sleeping fields of Ghiels Carroll Road. Not far away, an elderly man slowly walked a path, in a coat the same shade as the redbird’s wing. All around him, life had gone brown. But in a few weeks, his land would shimmer velvety green in a new chapter of the man’s quixotic experiment of nearly 40 years: To nurture in southeastern Ohio the tropical wonder of bamboo.

The man is Jerry Burton. He is 72. In younger days, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps; then he sold insurance. But as he put it, he was a little too honest, and he got fired. By then, though, it didn’t matter. Jerry Burton had found his calling: bamboo. The books he read inspired him with bamboo’s versatility, beauty, and variety. When Burton got that pink slip, he was already on fire with a lush and verdant idea.

In the plant family, bamboo is classified as a grass. It needs no fertilizer or special growing medium. The U.S. Agriculture Department calls bamboo a specialty crop. About 1,000 farms and landscape nurseries in the county grow it for commercial sales. The American Bamboo Society has a membership of about 700 enterprises in the United States and 37 countries.

Become a WCPO Insider to read how Jerry Burton found and fostered his bamboo farm and how his youngest son is taking over the family business.


or Subscribe now so you can share your opinion! It’s only a penny for a month trial.