My husband Eric and I have been living at Bethlehem Farm since May 2007. I went to college at Loyola University Chicago, then spent two years working at Nazareth Farm (Bethlehem Farm’s sister farm) as the Project Coordinator. Eric and I got married in 2005, moved to Morgantown, WV, and I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from West Virginia University. I love working with my hands, whether it’s working on the farm vehicles, framing walls, or creating unique quilts. Some of my favorite Farm activities are tending the honeybees, canning and preserving food, and learning about growing fruit on the Farm. In the meantime, I love raising our kids on the farm, trying to live authentically, and continuously growing from the experiences we have and the people we meet here.
Director, Garden Team, Capital Projects
I grew up in Wauwatosa, WI, and earned rank of Eagle Scout in 1992. I was introduced to this work and lifestyle through the Encounter and Search retreats, and a service-immersion trip with Loyola University Chicago to Nazareth Farm in 1997, followed by involvement with soup kitchen work in Chicago, as well as service-immersion trips to Guatemala in 1998-99. Graduated with BS in Biology from Loyola in 1999. Experienced in nonprofit home repair, service-retreat work, farming, and community living since 1999. After college, I volunteered and worked at Nazareth Farm in Doddridge County, WV, from 1999-2002, and worked as the mentor of the Mother Jones House Christian service community at Wheeling Jesuit University from 2003-2005, where I also studied theology. Colleen and I co-founded Bethlehem Farm with a small group including Tom Ruggaber, Julie Tracy, Russ Plywaczynski, and others in 2004-5. I married my lovely wife Colleen in 2005 and we both attended West Virginia University, where I earned a Master of Public Administration and Certificate in Nonprofit Management in 2007. I have served as a Caretaker and Director at Bethlehem Farm from 2007-present. Currently serving as soccer transportation manager for three children and Cubmaster of our local Cub Scout Pack. Interested in care for creation, stargazing, farming, backpacking, raising good kids, healing sciatic pain so I can run again, transformational experiences, creative ways to get kids outside and/or engaged in family chores, and being a good ancestor.
Hello, I’m Marcus. I live in White Sulphur Springs, WV. I have a well-rounded background in the construction field with an emphasis on concrete and foundations. Most of my work history has been in commercial and industrial settings, so working at the farm is a welcome change of pace. There is a deep sense of love and compassion at Bethlehem Farm that has drawn me here. I find comfort in knowing that my time here will draw me closer to God and make me a better servant. When I’m not working I spend most of my time with my family or serving at my church. There is never a dull moment in my life and I try to fill most of it with laughter and the best dad jokes I can get my hands on. I am a firm believer that gravy should be its own food group. Some of my favorite things are, but not limited to: Jesus, playing music (of most varieties), learning things on YouTube, anything Tolkien, spoiling mysteries because they are predictable, history, the study of maps, the occasional puzzle, and cooking. My dislikes are ketchup, talking during a movie, and being late.
Volunteer Coordinator, Community Outreach, Donkey Whisperer
I began as a full-time volunteer Caretaker on November 1, 2018. After a two-year period of discerning a life of service, I was led to Bethlehem Farm by the Holy Spirit, although still not clear on my mission or purpose at the Farm. How could 20+ years in corporate supply chain be useful at the Farm? From the first day at Bethlehem Farm, I felt welcomed and at peace, knowing that God’s purpose for me would be revealed, even if quite slowly. I am finding that my life experiences have enabled me to embrace the four cornerstones of community, prayer, simplicity, and service. The Farm continues to be a source of personal and spiritual growth, enhancing my health physically, mentally, and spiritually. Every day I receive much more than I give and continue to be excited about what each new day will provide and reveal. I have found good and holy spiritual soil at Bethlehem Farm, nourishing my relationship with God.
House Manager, Gardener, Beekeeper, Grants Team
On a Friday in June of 2015, as a high school volunteer concluding my week-long service retreat, I journaled that while leaving was an important part of my journey, I was reluctant because I felt that “the farm is my home.” I returned to my familial home in Narberth, Pennsylvania, to finish my senior year at Merion Mercy Academy, but I knew I’d return. I continued my education at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, studying Environmental Studies, Education, and Psychology. Each summer throughout college I spent time as a Summer Servant, finding joy while planting onions and dancing in the rain. As I prayed for post-grad guidance, I felt God whisper “go home.” I was not being called to move back to Pennsylvania, but to return to Bethlehem Farm as a Caretaker. I continue to meet God as I co-create in the garden, participate in community renewal, respond to Appalachia’s beauty through art, embrace community living, and welcome others home.
Worksite Leader, Project Manager
Hello, I’m Anna! I was born and raised in central Minnesota (a.k.a. Minne-snow-ta). I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in May 2021 with a degree in sociology, and I’m looking forward to trading in my backpack for some power tools! As I was searching for post-graduation work, I told everyone, and assured my parents, that I would stay close to home and find work in Minnesota. However, after searching for a while, and attending several interviews for jobs that were seemingly good fits, I was reluctant to commit and was passed over for several job offers. Frustrated, I turned myself over to prayer as I was searching for Catholic volunteer opportunities. Immediately after telling the Lord what I wanted, I found Bethlehem Farm. I was (am) searching for the chance to have an adventurous life of service, and to integrate my daily work with my Catholic values while caring for the land around me. After staying at the Farm for a week, I felt more at peace than I had in a long time as I saw the work of the community at the Farm in action. I’m beyond excited to be a part of the community at Bethlehem Farm and immerse myself in prayer, explore the beautiful landscape, and serve the people that I live with as well as those that I will welcome home.
Worksite Leader, House Manager, Catechetical Coordinator, Hiring Coordinator
One of my favorite middle school memories was writing a book called Farmer Marvin’s Garden. Construction paper vegetables (smiling, of course) depicted a farm “filled with vegetables galore, who are always very caring and always sharing more.”
Little did I know that soon I’d find a community that embodies the wisdom of these happy veggies…practically in my backyard! Bethlehem Farm is only two hours away from where I grew up in Roanoke, VA, and part of the Appalachian Mountains (an exciting spatial relationship for someone who studied geography in college and continues to make place-based art). My creativity flourished when I first came to the farm as a summer servant in 2021. Whether preparing fresh asparagus for dinner, repurposing old windows from one of our homeowners, or planning prayers about the nativity story, I found ways to welcome the creative spirit in the context of the cornerstones. The daily rhythm of contemplation and action grounded me so much that I extended my stay multiple times before heading to Minnesota for the St. Joseph Worker Program. Now I’ve followed the star back to Bethlehem Farm, ready to welcome this next stage of the pilgrimage. I bring the Sister of St. Joseph’s charism of loving God and neighbor without distinction, a trusty sketchbook, snail mail supplies, and memories of compassionate vegetables.
Worksite Leader, Sustainability Coordinator, Animals Team
Hello! I’m Jenna from Lemont, a suburb outside of Chicago. While pursuing my BS in Biology at Loyola University Chicago, I signed up for a spring break service trip and discovered Bethlehem Farm as a volunteer in March of 2018. Like so many others, encountering the Farm had an impact on me that lasted well beyond the week. I was inspired to prioritize community, simplicity, service, and prayer as the foundation for the life I wanted to build. Learning about sustainable agriculture and mountaintop removal coal mining sparked a passion for learning environmental science, which I picked up as a minor after my first farm trip. After graduating, I stayed on at Loyola to finish a Master’s program in environmental science and sustainability. Over the course of two years, I researched the effects of microplastics on freshwater algae in a laboratory. This experience solidified my desire for my life’s work to involve caring for the earth and those impacted by its destruction. In looking forward to my next step, I felt a strong pull to get my hands in some dirt and see what there was to learn outside the lab. I feel called to cultivate simplicity and a closeness to the earth, to join an intentional community, to serve the community I find myself in, and to grow closer to God. Name a better place than Bethlehem Farm for that!
Facilities Guy, Retreats & Spirituality Coordinator, Bucket Wrangler, Assistant Knower of Things
Hey there. The name’s Jack, but I guess you already knew that. If not, everything you need to know is in the heading up above, so make sure you take some time to read that. My time at Bethlehem Farm technically began in the late 90s as part of a government initiative to rehabilitate top-secret Cold War-era experiments. While the end results of the project are classified, what I can tell you is [redacted], and that in the course of my time there I fell in love with the farm and would continue to return as a summer servant in subsequent years with the intention of one day fulfilling my dream of becoming a Caretaker. This would have gone off without a hitch, but as is something of an ongoing theme in my life, God had other plans. Thus, upon graduation from the Catholic University of America in 2019, I spent two years in formation with the Capuchin Franciscans of the Province of Saint Augustine, followed by a year teaching religion, finally reapplying to the farm and making my triumphal return in 2023, where I now serve in various capacities (see above). Six fun facts about me: 1. I do not sleep. 2. I do not sweat. 3. I once punted a kickball into orbit and to this day live in constant fear of its return 4. Saint John of the Cross is my favorite spiritual writer. 4. My heart beats approximately once every 317 minutes. 5. In 2019 I took first place in the Alderson 4th of July Canoe Race (my proudest accomplishment). 6. Everything good and noteworthy that I have ever done (the previous included) is a result of profound and undeserved grace.
Homeschool Teacher, Events Planner, Animals Team
Hello! My name is Angela, and I hail from the great state of New Jersey. My first encounter with Bethlehem Farm was in the summer of 2021, when I applied to be a Summer Servant. I had never been to the farm before, but with the encouragement of some friends, I decided to take the leap and see what it was all about. After what felt like a too-short, two-week visit, I was heartbroken to have to leave. I was initially drawn to the farm for its mission of sustainability and service, but I left with a wealth of knowledge, lingering curiosities, new friendships, and a reignited awe of creation and of God.
I had numerous moving conversations while at the farm, but one in particular that I had with a Caretaker stuck with me as I journeyed through my senior year at Loyola University Maryland. I was studying Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and had a minor in Catholic Studies, and the closer it got to graduation, the more I realized I wanted something more for my post-grad life. I soon realized my desire to be involved with a service program following graduation, so I applied to become a Caretaker. However, things did not go as planned, and I was unable to commit right away. After returning to the farm in March 2023, I realized that the call was still deep in my heart, and I reapplied. Although my journey took a few different turns, I am grateful that it was rerouted back home to Alderson. I look forward to the challenges and joys I will experience at the farm, and to be part of such a worthy organization.
Clare Fitts Farm Comedian
I was born at the Farm during community night (but at my own house), on October 18, 2016. I love to move and explore and make people laugh.
Isaiah Fitts Great Soccer Player
I arrived at the Bethlehem Farm community on September 22, 2013, and have been charming everyone since. I love playing with legos and trucks. I help at worksites and am the goalie when we play soccer. My parents, Eric and Colleen, think I’m pretty great. (written by Isaiah)
Miriam Fitts Junior Chef, Farm Helper
Hi, I’m Miriam. I have lived at Bethlehem Farm my whole life. I love reading, exploring, and biking. I sometimes draw in my free time. I love making new friends on group weeks and when people visit. (written by Miriam)
Project Manager, Worksite Leader
I first came to Bethlehem Farm in August 2021 as the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning (ETHOS) intern through the University of Dayton for the fall semester. My main project as the ETHOS intern was designing and ordering materials for the Danny Keith Maintenance Garage loft. While this project was an important part of my semester, the relationships, community engagement, and growth in my faith were some of the most enriching takeaways from my experience.
I fell in love with Bethlehem Farm’s mindset of prioritizing people, relationships, and the needs of the community first and felt the Farm’s values deeply resonated with mine. As I prepared to graduate from UD, I began searching for my next step. I felt drawn to the Farm because I wanted to combine my background in corporate construction with my passion for service. In May 2022, I graduated from UD with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a minor in Sustainability and joined the Bethlehem Farm Caretaker Team. When I’m not gardening barefoot or on a worksite, I can be found exploring the country in my yellow campervan named Peace Blossom. I love exploring the hiking trails of Appalachia, playing guitar, journaling, reading, and dreaming of my next big road trip.
With over 15 years in the field, Will brings a variety of construction site experience. As Project Director, he trains Caretakers and coordinates our low-income home repair program. He has experience in all nearly aspects of the construction field and served in the U.S. Army in power generation. Will also works on the farm cars and has extensive mechanic knowledge. Will is a patient teacher, sports enthusiast, and Cornhole champion.
Assistant to the Farm Dog, Vehicles, Social Resource Coordinator
Hi, I’m Pat. My sister Goose (current farm dog) started working here in March whilst I was finishing up school for the semester. I judiciously finished my online classes, stayed on as a summer servant, and looked forward to returning to college for my junior year. God threw me a tinse of a curveball, I know, sounds a lot unlike him (just kidding, see: Book of Job, story of Abraham, entire development of Israel) and started to plant seeds of a more lifegiving year away from college. Through a long process of discernment this past summer, I found that the Holy Spirit was calling me to become a caretaker and take a year off school. That means Goose and I will be staying! I continue to feel God’s guidance and affirmation of this path as I involve myself more heavily with the community through home repair and flood relief. I am more than excited to serve as a home repair site leader and social resource coordinator this year and build on the skills and interests the farm has already helped to curate.
Home Repair Project Assistant, Sustainability Team, Asst. Office Manager
Hello! My name is Gemma and I originally come from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but spent the past four years in South Bend, Indiana studying Civil Engineering, Resiliency and Sustainability, and Catholic Social Tradition. I participated in several service-learning programs throughout college, including a volunteer week at Nazareth Farm, which taught me about the two feet of love in action: charity and justice. A passion for social and environmental justice paired with a desire to encounter others in community inspired me to align my spiritual beliefs with my everyday work. I am excited to engage this inspiration at Bethlehem Farm by helping out as a home repair site leader, project assistant and sustainability coordinator, and embracing whatever other adventures come my way. I also love learning about local Appalachian culture through the natural beauty and folk music. In my free time, I like to run, eat, hike, talk about concrete and bridges, and play fiddle and ukulele.
House Manager, Beekeeper, Local Food Liaison
I was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin…goah Pack. During the last ten years of my life I have worked as a custom goldsmith, a professional cook and gained my bachelor’s at UW-Stout. Simply put, I applied to be a Caretaker because I was in search of my vocation and I had nothing to lose. My search thus far has led me to the desire to serve. I have been looking for adventure, a simple lifestyle, learning from great people, a better understanding and deepening of my faith, sustainable practices, cooking, and gardening. Bethlehem Farm encompasses all of these desires and so much more.
In May of 2018 it was a whirlwind jumping into the middle of the busiest group week season but sometimes that’s the best way to learn. As the main cook I’m in heaven with all the beautiful vegetables, fruits, and herbs available from our garden and from our local community. As the co-beeper with Colleen, the complex bee colony continues to blow my mind. As the Local Food Liaison, I am enjoying conversing with the farmers and learning where our food is coming from. As a worksite leader it is a joy working with the local community and improving my construction skills. As a member of the church choir at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Ronceverte, I have gained a deeper sense of belonging. When I have free time, I enjoy the intensity of biking in these beautiful mountains and playing piano. I’m relieved that this first whirlwind has passed but I am also grateful for the experience because my life has been enriched by it.
Garden Team, Social Media and Website Manager
Hi there! My name is Tori Llorens, and I come to the Farm all the way from Los Angeles, CA. In the Summer of 2019 I graduated from Notre Dame where I was a Great Books major in the Program of Liberal Studies and completed a minor in Sustainability. If I have learned anything in my 23 years of life, it is that building relationships with others, God, and the community of species we share Earth with is the only way to be truly human. I look forward to the flood of information from the minds of those around me and the from the numerous books on the shelves. I am stoked to work in this community and experience the beauty which only this part of Appalachia provides. I am blessed to dedicate this step in my life to serving others and living intentionally through my actions, thoughts, and conversations. My goal is that my time at the Farm provides me with lifelong friendships, skills, and values which carry into the rest of my life.
Hello Everybody! I’ve been excited to learn with my hands instead of a pencil in my new life as a professional volunteer now that I’ve retired from a 17-year stint as a professional learner. Bethlehem Farm has been picking away at the back of my brain since 2010 when I first heard of its existence from my youth minister. A series of conflictual events precluded my arrival until early summer 2015 on a college week with my home parish. I distinctly remember rounding the corner of the old garden tool shed and experiencing the simplicity and the beauty of Our Lady of the Bathtub for the first time. At that moment everything about the Farm clicked for me. I may not have known all the details about the place, but I knew I would have to be spending more than just a week here. After a week of memorable conversations, worksites, chores, and reviews of the day, I found myself disappointed that I could not experience the entirety of the Farm that summer. But I knew I would be back. As a Summer Servant in 2017, I learned more about community living and was reminded of the beauty and joy I had found here two years prior. I also learned that the Farm wasn’t yet done with me. I began the Caretaker application process that October and accepted the offer to join the community in April, 2018. The wild ride has only gotten better since then.