Leaves crunched under John Christian Phifer's boots one evening in early October as he hiked on 155 acres of largely untouched land, pointing out natural markers and speaking in earnest about what its future could hold.
It's where Phifer plans to be buried, cradled by Mother Nature alongside the dogwood trees, ironweed and larkspurs.
"I want my body to be able to go toward creating something special that will live on long past me," he said. "I want to use my body as a tool to save land."
If all falls into place, the Sumner County property bordering Taylor Hollow State Natural Area will become Tennessee's first conservation cemetery, and the final resting place for anyone who wants a natural burial void of embalming chemicals, metal caskets and concrete vaults. Phifer, a Nashville-based home funeral guide and end-of-life doula, is leading the effort with the Rev. Becca Stevens, a Nashville Episcopal priest and founder of the social enterprise Thistle Farms.
A mutual desire to provide environmentally mindful and socially responsible burial options to the region brought them together. In 2013, they formed a nonprofit, Larkspur Conservation, to usher in their plans to conserve land through natural burial.