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  • Writer's pictureRachel F

Fall Harvest: A Gathering of Graces

Dear Beloved,

Moving through our fourth growing season on the land, we’ve been grounded and centered enough in our hillside community of creatures to feel that we can welcome others to engage more deeply along with us. After our tentative offering of a Winter Solstice retreat was received with overwhelming eagerness, we leaned in to the invitation from the human and the more-than-human community for expanded connection. Since that retreat, we have welcomed dozens of people into the Hollow, co-created a stone labyrinth in collaboration with two Episcopal youth groups, constructed a zip line over the pond, and watched true transformation happen both in individuals and in our communities.

Three years ago our hillside was covered with tiny strawberries, mosses, and a few wispy grasses. Now, under the care of our grazing animals (Tom, Rasta, Mocha, and Ccino) and with the addition of some lime, we are finding robust growth of prairie grasses. This is carbon sequestration happening in front of our eyes, and part of how we are contributing to reversing the effects of climate change. We’ve watched visitors make connections with our grazers that light up parts of themselves they maybe hadn’t met yet. One of our youth group participants made such a connection with our milk cow Mocha, that she has a printed picture of her on her college wall. I listened to her explain to other youth group members about the vulnerability and presence that Mocha embodies so deeply. This is transformation and it is humbling and exquisite to witness. We’ve had a dozen or so high school aged women visit the Hollow this year and each one in their own language has named the experience as “life-changing.” To be a part of whatever it is that the Spirit is bringing to life with these young people is a true honor.

Along with the signs of life from the hillside, our gardens, our farm animals, we have settled into a flowering of community events. In 2021 we hosted one long weekend for an Episcopal Youth Group and a handful of farm tours. In 2022 our community relationships blossomed. We offered: two youth group trips, one clergy retreat, an “earth healing” series of meditation, solstice gatherings, more than 15 farm tours, community classes for canning and ethical slaughter, a garden tour for the town of Roxbury, and a neighborhood open house. Our garden has been featured in the Dioceses of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Good News Gardens program, and we have donated 20 pounds of seed potatoes to our community along with teaching around growing and storing potatoes. In addition, we have received grants, through our partnership with the Retreat House at Hillsboro, for more than $11,000 of collaborative programming.

And…the growth of this year has not stopped there! We entered into a collaborative relationship with the Retreat House at Hillsboro (MD) to listen together for the voice of the Spirit in how we are being called to walk with people and the more-than-human community on their journeys with the Divine. As a result of this partnership, we have shepherded conversations with the spiritual-but-not-religious communities, with support from the Try Tank initiative within the Episcopal Church. We have also formed and supported a group of part time clergy who are both recently ordained and under the age of 40. This group is offering mutual support in ministry as well as sharing their experiences with Episcopal Dioceses as they continue to shape and discern how to structure parish ministry in a changing world. This initiative was funded by Province One of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. The outpouring of communal support for our ministry here at Heartberry Hollow Farm & Forest has been humbling and overwhelming. We are more grateful than we can say. Your support through prayer, presence, conversation, and financial offerings has encouraged us to continue holding space for deep transformation and regenerative agriculture.

If you would like to join with us for another growing season in the work of healing the earth and learning how to be human beings fully alive, we would welcome your continued support.

Even the smallest gift supports the farm and our spiritual programming.

For example:

$5 could support a bale of hay for Tom our equine partner who offer therapeutic healing to guests

$25 could send Rachel out to the woodpile to stack our sustainably harvested wood for our EPA certified low emission wood stove or it could support Jonathan as he flips our compost piles to build soil and fertilize the community garden

$100 could feed Mocha, our beloved milk cow and bovine therapy partner, for one month

$250 could provide a scholarship for one youth group attendee to be present on the farm for a long weekend

$500 could support a community class such as: chicken harvesting, canning basics, earth healing practice, goat yoga, spiritual companion gardening, tree identification walk

$1000 could support all four of our large grazers for one month, sinking carbon from the atmosphere, building topsoil, fertilizing the community garden and orchards, and providing access to calming and grounding equine therapy for young adults and children

If you are so moved to offer a donation please do so through our partner organization, The Retreat House at Hillsboro here and label your donation for Heartberry Hollow. The Retreat House is a 501c3 non-profit and all donations through them are tax-deductible. Donations to the Retreat House directly, without being earmarked for Heartberry Hollow, are also highly encouraged!

Above all we welcome relationships. If you would like to come visit the Hollow and spend some time working in the gardens, caring for our animals, or supporting our vision in some other way, please reach out to us. Know that in the maple and hemlock forests of Vermont there is a small Hollow of creatures waiting to welcome you, and holding you in prayer wherever you are in your journey.

With love, and in the peace of wild things,

Rachel and Jonathan

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