Mark and Joell Rested of Diamond Ridge Resources added peonies to their homestead in the hills above Homer in 2011 with the help of their 3 teenagers and oversight by their goats, chickens and horses. The high elevation of Diamond Ridge provides a late spring, cool nights, and maritime breeze.
Among the varieties they cultivate, the Duchess de Nemour and Sarah Bernhardts are their favorites because they are good survivors in the harsh and unpredictable Alaskan climate.
Mark is not just a hobby farmer, he studied agriculture at University of Alaska Fairbanks. However, his career trajectory didn't lead him from UAF directly into peony farming, but instead he worked as a firefighter and EMT after college. The EMT experience lead him to attend Physician Assistant school in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a kid growing up in Palmer, Mark used to dig up peonies for his neighbors who were researchers, so it seemed natural to go back to digging up peonies on his Diamond Ridge homestead.
In addition to peony farming, tending the goats, chickens, and horses, and everything else that comes with homesteading, Joell also runs the Art Shop Gallery in downtown Homer featuring Alaskan artists. She has roots in Hawaii having lived on the island of Kauai for several years before moving to Homer in 2012. For those who would think a change of scenery from Hawaii to Alaska would be difficult, Joell describes 2012 as "best year of my life."
Since 2019, the couple have been working on their underground peony cooler/root cellar. With repurposed metal from a Cook inlet oil rig given by a friend in the neighboring town of Ninilchik in exchange for snow plowing, and an archway designed by Mark himself, the cellar is a unique addition to their homestead.
Mark & Joell under the archway of their work-in-progress peony cooler/root cellar