When the first monks came, what they found was a marginal hillside that can best be described as “Poverty Hill”. It was nothing compared to the lush, river bottom soil 600 ft. below. There
you could grow all kinds of crops; here animal husbandry seemed to be the only enterprise to
consider. Here you had a very shallow depth of soil, with shale and hardpan.
When the monastery came into being in 1951 there were the remnants of three farms on the tract
of land that the monks bought. Prior to the monastery purchasing the land, one of the settlers had
sheep on the property, and following him were cattle. The founders felt they wanted to be in
touch with the land and to have something akin to what the neighborhood had. In the 1950s the
land was dotted with small farms - both on the nearby hills as well as in the valley below - as
many as sixty farms were in this area. Today that has dwindled to a handful. Besides a farm, the
monastery also inherited an old orchard, and an extensive woodland.
Just as the community grew, so also the dairy grew from a half dozen cows to around sixty by the
late 50s. The orchard grew from as many trees to the thirty or forty trees that it has maintained since the 50s. The woodland provided firewood or lumber. Honey bees were also added in the ‘50s to pollinate especially in the orchard, as well as providing honey and in the ‘60s the community planted trees around the property for both Christmas trees as well as habitats for wildlife. (Christmas tree plantation)
In the ‘80s the community dropped to about half of what it used to be and the average age ticked
up from what it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This made us reconsider the whole layout. The dairy is an intensive life style that seemed to always limit what the community could do. So we decided to get into sheep. They are not exactly what you would call a behemoth, therefore, they were gentler on the shepherd as well as the land, and one would have to say on the life style as well. The sheep enterprise was less a drain on the monastery’s resources; yet like most farms it was not like hitting it big on Wall St.
Along with the sheep, and the orchard, a garden was started in the 80s, and expanded in the ‘90s. Honey bees too were resumed and expanded. Recently we have been composting the farm waste, which now supports our vegetable garden, farm, and the people from outside the monastery. Today we have a garden to put food on the table, an orchard producing various fruits. Other ventures being explored is to look at alternative energy, from biomass for fuel to windmills, etc. for electricity.
Click on images to enlarge