The Monocacy Farm Project

The Monocacy Farm Project utilizes land and resources at Monocacy Manor in Bethlehem, Pa., in the Franciscan tradition to model stewardship and care of the earth, foster community involvement, provide educational opportunities and serve the needs of the poor. The project includes the following initiatives:

  • Educational workshops for adults, children and families on organic gardening, nutrition and sustainable lifestyle
  • Organic vegetables made available to area residents through Community Supported Agriculture programs
  • Organic produce provided to low-income families through Agriculture Supported Community programs
  • Community gardens available for lease to those who wish to grow their vegetables
  • Increased community involvement through farm programs and activities
     

New Tractor and Attachments
Monocacy Farm recently received grant funding to purchase a new mid-sized tractor and a specialized spading attachment for tilling our vegetable beds. As an alternative to roto-tilling or traditional plowing, the spader better conserves soil structure and minimizes disruption of the soil's natural biology. The new equipment will allow us to till all of our planting beds each spring prior to vegetable planting, and again each fall prior to seeding cover crops. This process will facilitate progressive improvement in soil quality and will assist in reducing erosion. A front-loader attachment on the tractor will enable us to initiate full-fledged organic compost production for restoring nutrients and fertilizing all planting beds. 

Natural Water Irrigation System
Funding is anticipated in the coming months to cover the cost of drilling a ground well and installing underground water lines and hydrants in each section of the farm prior to the start of this year's growing season. Consistent with organic farming standards, this system will provide a natural, chemical-free water source for irrigating all of our vegetable, herb and flower beds.

Community Service Production Farm
Preparations are under way to initiate a Community Service Production Farm this spring to provide direct service to the materially poor. As the centerpiece of our farm ministry, the new production farm will provide weekly supplies of organic vegetables to low-income families, area shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens. Community service organizations to be supported include the Lehigh Valley Youth Shelter, Victory House, Westside Food Bank, the Ecumenical Kitchen, Trinity Soup Kitchen and the Jewish Family Services Food Bank. Grants for the purchase of the new tractor, tilling implements, and a high-tunnel greenhouse made the launch of this project possible. Ongoing operation of the program will be dependent on foundation and corporate grants, as well as donations from area churches, synagogues and individual sponsors.

Market-Style Farm Share Program
The farm’s new tractor and spader will enable Bethlehem’s Bounty to increase to 35 available memberships in its Community Supported Agriculture/Farm Share Program this coming growing season. Members will receive weekly shares of naturally grown, chemical-free vegetables and herbs as they become ready for harvest. Share options and pricing details are posted on the Bethlehem's Bounty website www.bethlehemsbountycsa.com.

Those interested in contracting for half or full shares may contact Chris West via e-mail at bethlehemsbounty@gmail.com or by phone at 484-894-5568.

Community Garden Program
Community garden plots are available to families wishing to plant and care for their own organic gardens on site. The plots are 6 feet x 25 feet and are pre-tilled and made ready for planting around April 15 each year. The farm provides free organic compost, mulch and a limited supply of vegetable, herb, and fruit seeds. All plots will be tilled again in the fall and cover-cropped to enrich and fertilize the soil during the off season. A new well system scheduled for installation in early April will provide gardeners a natural water source for watering their beds, and will eliminate the necessity of walking outside the fenced garden area to turn the water on and off.

Installation of Demonstration Gardens
We are currently submitting applications to various foundations for funding to install demonstration gardens in the northwest section of the farm. The gardens will include vegetable, herb and flower beds, and a mix of native trees and shrubs along meandering walking paths. In addition to beautifying the farm, the gardens will provide a nature-filled “laboratory” for introducing children and adults to organic gardening, permaculture, basic conservation and ecology, bee keeping and related areas of interest. 

Children's Pizza Garden
This summer, the School Sisters of St. Francis plan to add a children's pizza garden to provide area children hands-on experience in planting, caring for and harvesting organic garden vegetables. Shaped in the form of a sliced pizza, the garden will include basic pizza ingredients and toppings that the children will use in making actual pizzas at the end of the season. Nutrition workshops geared specifically for youth will be presented in conjunction with the Children's Pizza Garden. 

Educational Programs
In January 2014, we presented the first in a series of workshops addressing health, wellness and spirituality at St. Francis Center for Renewal in conjunction with the project’s community education initiative. Educational workshops in organic gardening, diet and nutrition, and herbal medicine preparation will be added when funding for curriculum development and presenters is obtained. Meetings with area public health professionals, nutritionists and clinical herbalists have been initiated to explore opportunities for partnerships and joint educational programs on various health-related topics. 

Sustainability Modeling
Monocacy Farm employs and models energy-efficient and sustainable operating practices. This applies to its soil conservation and irrigation systems as well as to its operation of equipment. We are currently applying for grants to install a solar powered/solar heated geodesic greenhouse as an example of this practice. Its insulated design offers the advantage of not requiring fossil fuel heating even during winter months. The greenhouse will serve as a resource for the project’s educational program and will provide a practical demonstration of sustainable engineering and energy use to workshop participants and visitors.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
Monocacy Farm provides opportunities for volunteers and interns to gain hands-on farming and gardening experience throughout each growing season. Flexible hours can be scheduled Monday through Saturday each week beginning April 15 and extending through October 31. Every effort will be made to provide each volunteer and intern exposure to as many facets of organic farming and gardening as their time permits. Following general orientation and completion of introductory-level projects, work assignments will, wherever possible, be tailored to each individual's areas of interest. On-site workshops and demonstrations will be provided periodically to augment technical learning. Individuals interested in finding out more about volunteer opportunities and unpaid internships may contact Bob Drake via e-mail at bdrake@schoolsistersosf.org or by phone at 610-867-8494.

Join the Mission
Sponsorships and contributions are needed to cover the cost of vegetable donations to low-income families, shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens. A donation of any size will assist tremendously in providing services and assistance to under-served communities. Contributions may be forwarded to:

The Monocacy Farm Project
Attention: Sister Bonnie Kleinschuster

395 Bridle Path Road

Bethlehem, PA 18017
 

Please make checks payable to School Sisters of St. Francis. School Sisters of Saint Francis is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation. All donations are tax-deductible.

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