We cannot do it alone. If a group of nine caretakers tried to run Bethlehem Farm in the spring and summer months we’d be dead by Cinco de Mayo. This summer we have been saved by an enormous crew of Summer Servants. We will continue to eat because of them and there will be a completed Caretaker Residence because of them: Danielle Dubois, Sam Leuschner, Connie Reda, Jessica Gardner, Taylor Fulkerson, Veronica Bustoz, Emma Baird, Rachel Byers, Emily Mansfield, Hannah Wroblewski, Ana Wright, Elisabeth Muehlemann, Lauren O’Brien, Marc Slain, Tim Shovlin, Lauren LaCoy, Jake Badger, Maria Bednar, Zach Haselhorst, Ben Breuer, Rachelle Simon, Mary Catherine McDonald, Lilly Rizzo, Richard Storey, Jay Michonski, and Michael Zang. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!
But why are they here? That was the question I posed.
These are the stories of some of the Farm’s Mightiest Heroes
Taylor Fulkerson is a rising junior are Xavier University and is spending his entire 13 week summer break with us. Taylor had never been to Bethlehem Farm before he rolled up just in time for a May college group week. What would possess a young man to make such a commitment? Taylor has been active with social justice circles at Xavier and spent a semester in Nicaragua. Struggling to figure out what “justice” meant in his own life Taylor was directed to the Farm by former Summer Servants Anna Robertson and Katie Wiggins. “I have found roots of justice in the short time I’ve been here. That pretentious sounding part of the Mission about transforming lives…it’s the real deal.”
Noblesville, Indiana native Zach Haselhorst was also originally introduced to the Farm by friends who had been here. Zach admits that he isn’t a trailblazer; he just surrounds himself with people that he trusts and who lead him to great places. “The best moments of my life have come from word of mouth recommendations.” Having been here for a few group weeks Zach decided to try his hand at living the Farm life for weeks in a row. “I think I’m here because I’m at my truest form when I’m here. No masks….I trust me feelings and thoughts and prayers when I’m at the Farm away from the rest of the clutter. When you live a simpler life there’s not stuff to get in the way of clarity.”
Recent Villanova University grad Lauren O’Brien did not have plans for the summer between graduation and leaving for a year of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Boise, Idaho. She recently became interested in agriculture and food production and heard about the Farm from former Summer Servant Jenna Cucco. Lauren dreams of creating a center for victims of domestic violence on a farm, believing in the life giving and peaceful qualities of producing one’s own food. “I don’t know squat about where to start with a farm.” She is also drawn by the spiritual aspect of the Farm that allows her the opportunity to pursue faith as an adult outside of the comfortable community of college.
Jake Badger doesn’t know why he is here. In his sophomore year at Holy Cross College he took a Service Learning class in which he had to choose one of thirteen service opportunities and write an essay about why he chose that track. Jake’s essay about Bethlehem Farm read, “I’m not good at helping people and I don’t know how to do it.” He was hesitant as he heard more things about the Farm. “I was told to get ready for a lot of hugs, no meat, working on a farm and helping people. I’m not a big hugger. However my hesitancy was squeezed out of me when I first arrived here. I just really liked being here. It’s a great place to become a better person.” He remembers that the best part of his group week was Home Crew with Colleen. After going home he missed the Farm and needed an excuse to come back so he applied to be a Summer Servant.
Pope John Paul II high school alum Maria Bednar does know why she is here. She first came to the Farm after her sophomore year of high school and after the first hug she knew that this place was home and these people were family. “That’s why I’m here. Because this place is home. What was I going to do after freshman year of college? I wanted to come home. So I applied.” Her experience of community at the Farm has changed the course of her life. Having been introduced to it here she began searching for it in every area of her life. “I chose a college that has an intentional community of service and learning.”
Tim Shovlin a rising junior at Dayton University is on his second summer as a Servant at the Farm. He describes himself at Dayton as unsure. He had trouble finding his niche at school. He played football for Dayton for a year and a half and yet never felt like he fit in on the football team. After blowing out his knee and leaving the team he realized he had no community at school. Looking back at his high school group week at the Farm he remembered that friendships were generated so naturally. He returned to the Farm last summer and was very shy but soon had built the same friendships as before with the Summer Servants and Caretakers. “I think I’m here because…this is where I’m the happiest and where I feel a part of a group. I’m accepted.”
St. Louisan Hannah Wroblewski came to Bethlehem Farm for the first time in March of this year as a volunteer with the University of Missouri-St. Louis Newman Center. Leaving the Farm she confessed to the UMSL Campus Minister that she had felt a great peace at the Farm. When asked what it was about the experience that she enjoyed she couldn’t answer. She did not know what it was. So she quickly signed up for two weeks as a Summer Servant to return to the community. The work and the life at the Farm again brought her peace. She left still unsure as to definitely what brought her such deep joy at the Farm. She has since visited the community at Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City, MO and found the same feeling. Undeterred by the lack of answers and spurred by the deep joy felt in the communities she says she will continue searching.
Indiana University violinist Emily Mansfield also came to the Farm for the first time in March with her college group. She immediately felt comfortable enough with such an inviting community to open up and be herself. She felt called to come back and explore more deeply the alternative lifestyle offered at the Farm and has since taken it back home with her. “Since I’ve been home I have found a farm in my town that has a program that provides produce for families and children on government assistance and have started volunteering there.”
University of Michigan Quidditch player Danielle Dubois had been to the Farm on a group week and thought a lot about why she came back. Ultimately, her answer is that simultaneously, everything AND nothing made her come back. She did not really think about coming back, “I just did it. Why not? I don’t really have anything else going on during the month of May, let’s hit up WV!” She needed to get away from the stress and routine of school, needed a change of pace, of environment, of priorities; to be reminded again of what she wants to value as important in her life. At the Farm she realized that the goal that propelled her to work hard in high school and college: to get a good job in order to “be comfortable” in life was no longer her goal. She learned to embrace discomfort, to live simply and to be supported by the amazing community that is BFarm. She needed to remember that prayer is whatever it is that helps her to see God and that it comes in all forms, to remember that she loves the Catholic Church because of what it was in the beginning of its existence, and to remember those elements in her daily life. Most of all, at the Farm Danielle is reminded that at the basis of everything, God is love.