Nourishing the Land and People: Growing at Plowshare Farm

At Plowshare Farm in Greenfield, each one of the residents strives to ask themselves, “Who am I, and who am I striving to be?”

With that central question, every single person there not only seeks to propel their own growth, but to likewise see how they can assist their fellow residents in becoming who they want to be. In this way, everyone moves forward with value and dignity. “I like to think that what we do is to keep alive what it is to be human,” said Kimberly Dorn, executive director at Plowshare Farm. “We work out of relationships and common sense. Every person here is a human being, not a commodity, and everyone has value and is able to contribute.”

The almost 50 individuals who live, learn and work at Plowshare Farm are a diverse group. The farm is associated with the worldwide Camphill movement, which was founded by a group of Jewish refugee doctors from Austria who relocated to Scotland and were looking for a way to do good.

They decided to work with children with special needs and integrate them into the daily life of the farm. Today, there are more than 100 such communities worldwide, including Plowshare Farm. “The big thing that makes us different is that we are not a service provider,” Dorn explained. “We are humans who live together. Relationships drive things and we aren’t only interested in the right policy or procedure. ”

Fewer than half of the residents at Plowshare Farm have a special need, but less important than a diagnosis is finding meaningful work for all so everyone contributes and realizes their potential. “We are families with children, single people and seniors. We are all people seeking to live with intentionality toward both the earth and toward our fellow humans,” Dorn said. “We have six weeks’ vacation time, medical benefits, generous retirement packages, children receive scholarships to go to the Waldorf school and young adults can be Camphill fellows and earn college credits. “We recognize that the well-being of the family is so important. We are not getting rich, but our needs are met.”

Home and family is so central that life at Plowshare Farm embraces the family model. Residents live on-site in one of seven homes where the members of that household start the day by sharing breakfast before heading off to work.

There are a variety of trades and jobs at the farm, but some community members work in town and travel off-site for the day. At lunch, everyone gathers together for a meal, prepared on-site and often with ingredients direct from the farm, before returning to work for the afternoon. In the evening, residents return home for a meal together and time to relax and unwind. The emphasis on home life is so strong that dedicated homemakers devote the majority of their time to creating a warm and inviting refuge for their housemates to return to. Among other roles are cooks, bakers, fiber artists, positions in animal husbandry, gardeners, orchardists, blacksmiths, woodworkers, candlemakers, carpenters and in building and maintenance or the administrative office.

“These are activities that all community members can engage in, to the level that we can. There are various skill levels for all trades,” Dorn said. “Work [for everyone] should be fulfilling and meaningful. “Our daily life lies with the rhythms of nature. The tasks change with the seasons. In spring and summer, it is more bustling with the gardens, while in the fall we put food up for the winter, and in winter there is more crafting,” Dorn continued.

A secondary emphasis at Plowshare Farm focuses on the relationship of the people to the land and leaving the earth in a better place. As their website reads: “nourishing the land in turn nourishes the individual who is tending that land, and animal care creates the potential for people who are usually the care receivers to become the caregivers.”

Expanding upon that, many aspects of Plowshare Farm are self-sustaining. For example, they use high-efficiency wood boilers for heating, and solar to generate almost all their own electricity. Food is raised on the farm and even the crafts, such as the fiber arts, use materials from the farm or something recyclable. “Everyone is here by choice and must make it evident that this is where they want to be,” Dorn said. “I think for families this is an ideal environment. It’s a supportive environment. I am still as convinced as I was the very first day I came here that if people knew what life was like living here, there would be lines out the door.”

The original article was written for by Paula Sienna