Natural cemetery will double as nature preserve in Sumner County

(Photo: WKRN)

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee’s first conservation burial ground has been approved in Sumner County.

Conservation burials use natural or green burials to save land, excluding anything that could pollute the environment. No metal caskets, no concrete vaults, no embalming chemicals are allowed.

On Monday, the Sumner County Commission unanimously approved the rezoning of 155 privately-owned acres for a cemetery.

The cemetery will then double as a nature preserve.

“School children will be able to come learn about the different leaves on the trees and about the different flowers that grow here in our native state,” said John Christian Phifer, Executive Director of the Larkspur Conservation.

John Christian Phifer (Photo: WKRN)

“It’s truly going to be a place where people can come experience a living memorial,” he continued.

Phifer is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. After 15 years in the traditional funeral industry, he left to pursue environmentally-conscious burial practices.

He saw a need for a natural burial. Coupled with the need to preserve green space in and around Nashville, the Larkspur Conservation was born.

“But there’s nothing new about this,” Phifer told News 2. “It’s something our ancestors practiced; our great-grandparents used these practices.”

The Larkspur Conservation is about to close on the land, which belongs to Karen Knox, a teacher who inherited the land sandwiched between Gallatin and Westmoreland from her father.

(Photo: WKRN)

“My father would’ve been delighted to know about this sort of thing,” Knox told News 2. “This is the best thing you can do for the earth and everyone on it.”

People will be able to use the space to walk their dogs, take a hike or visit deceased loved ones.

“We will place a body in a wooden casket made by family members or wrapped in a quilt that’s been made by grandmothers or the body is laid to rest simply in the ground,” said Phifer.

Natural burials are also cheaper than traditional funerals. A traditional funeral can cost upwards of $15,000 while a natural burial will cost around $4,000.

The Larkspur Conservation says they already have interest from people who want to be buried at the land.

They hope to start holding funerals in Spring 2018.