The Kimberton Hills Gardeners On Why Growing in Community is Better
Erin, Eliza, and Jasper do not run a typical CSA. They co-manage a biodynamic garden that is truly supported by a community. Sankanac CSA(link is external) is nestled in an intentional community that is home to 120 people, including adults who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. Community members live together in the 18 houses that dot the hilltop landscape — 430 acres of orchards, pastures, woodlands, and gardens. And they work together on the land to foster agricultural renewal. Sankanac feeds the community and many beyond (they sold 250 shares this season); it’s a profitable, inclusive social enterprise that substantially supports the financial health of the community.
The community is Camphill Village Kimberton Hills(link is external), part of the international Camphill movement and one of the fifteen member communities of The Camphill Association of North America(link is external). Eight of these Camphill communities run large biodynamic farms and offer a wide range of opportunities for new and seasoned farmers alike.
Over the past several years, Erin, Eliza, and Jasper have come to know the gifts of life in community and have a lot to say about why they choose to practice biodynamics in Camphill.
Focus on Process Not Product
They say life is more joyful when you focus on the journey, not the destination. The same can apply to the garden. In Kimberton Hills, the gardeners go back to the basics and find more meaning this way.
“A lot of things we do manually, like seeding and planting. It’s a very intentional choice; it creates tasks for people with different abilities and the apprentices. People learn a lot more by doing it manually and, this way, everyone has work they can do.” — Eliza
It Never Gets Boring
“It’s an amazing, rich experience. It’s like living with a big extended family. You’re given a lot of responsibility and allowed to make mistakes and learn and grow. Being in community, living and working with folks who have different abilities — while running a business at the same time — it’s a pretty full plate. It’s exciting and never boring.” — Eliza
A Different Financial Relationship
Camphill communities strive to meet everyone’s basic living needs, adapting budgets as those needs change or grow. This makes it possible to focus our energy into the work we do for each other rather than worry about making ends meet at home. The community and the garden are part of the same organism. They are mutually supportive, which is what Camphill is all about: everyone working together, supporting and being supported by each others’ efforts, for ourselves and for each other and all in support of something larger than any of us. When we approach life this way, we are all healthier – socially, spiritually, and financially.
Put more simply, in Kimberton Hills, the garden feeds the community and the community feeds the garden and those who work in it, literally and metaphorically.
“This community doesn’t have to worry about taking out loans. We’ve been around long enough and are financially stable enough, that we don’t have debt. We don’t have to pay for the land that we work, we don’t have to worry about wages.” — Jasper
“Gardening within Camphill we have more financial freedom. The income from our CSA goes towards the community as a whole rather than individual wages for those who work in the garden. Reciprocally, the community offers land to work and financial support to grow our vegetables free from debt. This allows us to focus on other aspects of the work.” — Erin
“You learn a lot about time management and how much you can possibly do as a human being. Then you learn what your limits are and how to let things go. Camphill gives people the opportunity to really look at themselves in the mirror – to grow as individuals and learn more about themselves than they would in other situations.” — Erin
Helping Everyone Thrive
“In the home and in the garden, I have developed this sense of what it is to create this space where everybody can thrive. You’re always aware of what kind of situation you’re setting up for everyone — to be their best selves, be comfortable and successful, and have healthy social relationships.” — Erin
Responsibility and Trust
“I’ve learned how to speak up in meetings, delegate responsibilities, and run a business. I am entrusted with diverse responsibilities in the community, which has taught me how to view everything with a bigger picture mindset. I think it could take a lot longer to learn all of this somewhere else. The amount of responsibility that we are entrusted with is truly awesome. There are amazing people here to support us and help us out when we need them, but with the garden and the other things we do, we are given space to figure it out ourselves, to learn along the way.” — Jasper
A Loving and Diverse Place to Raise a Child
“I’m seeing it more as my son gets bigger — that he has this richness of experience. There are so many wonderful things Camphill has to offer him. He gets to encounter the diversity of life, to see that there are so many people who care about him. It’s amazing. People are just so interested in him and have a genuine love that I don’t think you can expect when you put your child in daycare. Because I’m in Camphill, every day is “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” There is real support here. As a parent, I appreciate that.” — Erin
It’s a beautiful life — where people are deeply connected to the land and to each other. It’s a busy life, where community members can learn many valuable skills beyond those needed to be successful farmers. And it’s a life that offers true security to all who live there — from the folks with special needs who call these communities home for their entire lives to the families living there who don’t have to worry about how they will pay for their mortgages or their children’s educations, to the children who grow up in Camphill. As they say, it takes a village – and you couldn’t ask for a better village to raise children in – hundreds of acres of biodynamically stewarded forests and fields to run and play through; nurtured and befriended by volunteers from every continent — volunteers whose presence teaches them how to be citizens of the world; and the folks with disabilities who shower them with love as they grow up and show them what it means to be beautiful and free human beings — this is village life in Camphill.