After conversations with my friend, Lizette, we decided to venture out about 5 hours from New York City and put our free time to use. We found St. Francis Farm from searching through numerous WWOOF listings and once we read the mission of “a community providing practical assistance, prayerful presence and a place for reflection to help others simplify their lives,” we knew we had found the right place.
We arrived on a Monday and were welcomed by Lorraine, Joanna and Zachary. I came into St. Francis understanding the mission but completely unaware of the happenings that would occur in the next few days. I was pleasantly surprised. The days we spent were full of experiences and education. The walks of the 180 acre land cured our detachment from nature and showed us new plants and wildlife throughout our stay. Our understanding and appreciation as we became more aware of our surroundings intensified as the days progressed.
During the week, Lizette and I spent time learning some Quaker history, attending to the garden, milking and feeding their beloved goats (Shasta and Poppy), making goat cheese, berry picking and watching the friendly relationship between our hosts and nearby Amish neighbors develop. Working in the garden with Joanna I learned more about gardening, weeding and growing than I could have imagined. It’s all a meticulous, therapeutic and beautiful process of watching empty land turn into a display of strawberries, garlic, dill, onions, etc. Throughout our garden talks I also recognized their mission was correct but they hadn’t done themselves justice. Their 10th anniversary at St. Francis Farm was approaching and when I heard of the obstacles and usual learning curves of starting any new venture, it was obvious Lorraine, Joanna and Zachary did not shy away from the unpredictable future. Instead, they put all their dedication and faith into continuing their work and service. They donated fruits and vegetables to the local pantry, involved themselves with the local school district, hosted migrant workers and led educational camp/volunteer opportunities for students of all ages. Informally they each filled multiple roles of social workers, teachers, managers and community leaders to inspire others. We should all be so lucky to find a calling that always feels true to who we are.
The work was harder than I had estimated, but a sense of accomplishment came from learning new tasks and eating meals that had been directly handpicked from the garden and surrounding farm acres. Every meal highlighted the seasonal crops and was a variety of fresh meats, eggs, bread and cheese. It was also a welcoming change to consider afternoon breaks and meals as a time to actually rest and connect. Lunch and dinner conversations of current events, stories and intimate memories of the past 10 years made Lizette and me feel like true members of the family.
Thank you Lorraine, Joanna and Zachary for introducing me to a world where people aren’t connected just as family who work and live together but as a group of people who genuinely enjoy the company of one another. It has inspired me to look ahead and work diligently to find satisfying work that will influence others in the same positive way. Much appreciation is given for your kindness, perspective and teachings.
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