Bethlehem Farm on the Web
11 Days Without Electricity
Introducing the Newest Caretaker
Joe and Julie Got Married!
Breaking Ground

August 29 - September 3

Come join us for a Labor Day All-Comers Week. This group week experience will run from Wednesday to Monday. The cost is $250 per person. (Discounts apply for folks under the age of 15). The deadline to register is July 31st!

 dunsmore roof




September 28 - 30  


Join us at the Farm for a refreshing weekend of prayer and reflection, hiking, games, delicious homegrown food, hammocks, and friends! Suggested donation is $50. Reserve your spot today!

 Parking Lot Prayer Family Week 




December 8, 2012


Join us for a celebratory evening of drinks, hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and a silent auction at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago! Invitations will be sent out in the fall.


If you would like to donate a silent auction item, please contact Mariana at  




The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God's mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to 'fill the earth' and to 'have dominion over' it as 'stewards' of God himself. the true meaning of God's original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility. Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it.                                                                     -Pope Benedict XVI


It's not enough to ask, "Where does this food come from?" And then answer piously, "Oh, it comes from God." We have to ask,"Who got it after God gave it, and how much money did they make on it, and what did they do to the earthly source and to other people in the process of putting it on your table?"                                                       -Wendell Berry

misty sunrise 
A letter we received recently from John Hannagan, a volunteer from Adult Week 2011:

I have a story to share with you. Keep in mind, as you read the story, how much I struggled at the Farm last summer and how crazy I thought you all were for washing aluminum foil and practicing "if it's yellow, let it mellow"!


I'll start with sharing my experience last evening with some friends at my house. We had a lovely dinner of salad, baked chicken, zucchini and onion stir-fry, and quinoa. Dessert was strawberries and yogurt. My friends raved about how tasty it all was, and asked how I had cooked everything. Once I explained, they looked a bit surprised, as there was no magic to anything I'd made. You see, I told them, the lettuce was picked from my garden 5 minutes before they arrived, as were the radishes and green onions. The chicken was cage-free and naturally fed, raised about an hour from where we live. The strawberries, purchased this morning, were grown in the next town over. I made the yogurt yesterday with milk from grass-fed cows. I made the bread in the afternoon, and yes, it was a Bethlehem Farm recipe! I think my friends were a little shell-shocked when I went on to explain the significant issues that we have with the food chain in this country and how I unscientifically believe that it is the major cause of the medical issues that we face in the U.S. 

As we were cleaning up and doing dishes, someone went to throw away some foil - until I stopped them and explained that we could wash that and reuse it. I chuckled to myself just a bit!


I have my own organic garden that I started last year with a bunch of leaves and manure from a horse farm. I've made friends with a local organic farmer and purchased all of my plants from her. Right now I have onions, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, lettuce and radishes growing. I try to buy locally and eat only organic foods. It's amazing how much better I feel when I'm sticking to that simple lifestyle. 


All this is to say that the next time you're wondering if the Farm is making a difference, think of my story and know that it truly is.

See you soon, can't wait to get there and see all of you! 

This article is sponsored by a grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. 
Although they can't access the Internet during their time at the Farm, volunteers sometimes write about us when they get home and plugged in! Most recently, student volunteers from the University of Dayton and Creighton University have blogged about their Service Learning Week experiences, which are a little different from a typical group week at Bethlehem Farm. Click on the links to read their thoughts!
by Mariana
The wind was even strong enough to lift up part of the Farmhouse roof!
On the evening of Friday, June 29th, a "land hurricane" (also known as a derecho) swept through West Virginia from the north. Winds reaching 75 mph caused widespread destruction and power outages throughout the region. Trees and utility poles alike were snapped like twigs, and even transmission towers built of steel were crumpled by the force of the wind. Local towns were hit hard, and Bethlehem Farm went without electricity and running water for 11 days. The telephone was out of commission for a week as well.

Fortunately, we were well-equipped with composting toilets, a gasoline-powered generator, 4500 gallons of rainwater in our cistern, 2000 gallons of drinking water in our basement, bucket showers, headlamps, and plenty of help from friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, we had to take the unprecedented step of rescheduling our July 1 - 7 high school group week, due to serious concerns about the local scarcity of gasoline and drinking water. The July 8 - 14 group week began while the power was still out, but volunteers gamely embraced the challenge, and the lights flickered on just as we were gathered in the kitchen to say grace before dinner on Tuesday. 


I grew up on a farm in southern Missouri and earned degrees in Graphic Design and Interactive Digital Media at Northwest Missouri State University. I offer many thanks to my parents for raising me in such a way that I love service work. I have been volunteering and doing community service since elementary school. After much discernment, God showed me that a long-term volunteer position was what I most desired.

Hard at work!


I love volunteer work, and using my gifts and skills for the benefit of others sounded immensely more fulfilling than searching for a job in order to earn money for myself and pay bills. Though I wasn't sure how I would make use of the skills that I learned in college, God has provided by allowing for me to manage Bethlehem Farm's website and also to use all of the power tools that I could imagine in low-income home repair projects. I hope to learn a lot about the people of Appalachia, sustainable living, and how my actions affect every other person on this Earth. From the first time I drove up the steep and very long driveway of Bethlehem Farm, I fell in love with the beauty of this place and the mission of the organization, and am now thoroughly enjoying the lifestyle!


Editor's note: Katherine joined us in April to serve as Bethlehem Farm's auto mechanic, website manager, and facilities co-manager. She has since run a lawnmower over every part of the grounds that can be mowed. Welcome home, Katherine! 

by Colleen


Bethlehem Farm celebrated Memorial Day weekend with a bang as we hosted the wedding reception of former Caretakers Joe and Julie. We did a little extra tidying of the grounds that week in order to make the Farm shine for this special day. Joe and Julie worked hard to procure local foods, like chicken from our friend Don and pork from our friends Anne and Mark, which the caterer made into a delicious dinner. Anne also provided handmade beeswax candles and local wildflowers to adorn the tables. Many friends and family members came together to make the event happen, and our Creighton University service-learning students went above and beyond the call of duty to help things run smoothly. The Farm seemed enchanted that evening, with Christmas lights, candles, dancing, and a big community enjoying each other's company. Congratulations, Joe and Julie! The world will be made better through your union, and we were honored to celebrate with you.


Make a Donation

Anyone who has been to Bethlehem Farm and seen our mission in action knows the great impact that we can all have together as we transform lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices. Equally apparent is the essential role of the Caretaker community in modeling the Gospel cornerstones of prayer, community, service and simplicity to young and old alike as that mission is lived out.


The Caretakers' current living situation involves tight quarters and sharing bathrooms and living space with over 400 other people throughout the year. At times, it has been challenging to the physical and emotional health of the community. We believe that the construction of the Caretaker Residence will allow for the healthy formation, development and support of the Caretaker Community, which can then more effectively support the Bethlehem Farm mission.

Graphical rendition of the Caretaker Residence  
On June 11th, we turned to the Bethlehem Farm community and laid down a challenge to raise the $128,000 in donations, pledges, and loans we needed to break ground on the Caretaker Residence this fall. Within 16 days, we had reached our goal! Wow! To date, we have surpassed the June goal with $22,300 in donations, $272,000 in loan promises (with support from 21 individuals as well as the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque, IA), and $21,050 in pledges. When the executive committee met, they voted to begin the project this year! We initially were planning on only finishing the rooms we need right away, but with all of the loan support, we'll be able to take advantage of the current low material and labor prices and the presence of skilled craftsmen to finish the entire building as originally planned. We have also chosen an experienced construction manager for the project, Mark Solak of St. Charles Borromeo parish in White Sulphur Springs, WV. He will integrate Caretaker labor alongside skilled tradesmen as much as possible to defray costs. Of course, there will be a good distance to go to fully fund the project and pay back the loans, but at least construction can begin. We will keep you posted.


The Caretaker Residence is a huge project in the history of Bethlehem Farm, and we are encouraged and humbled by everyone's support. Thank you.


If you have not pitched in yet, plenty more support is needed, especially to realize the sustainable goals of the project (super insulation, solar heating, rainwater collection, etc.), so please consider making a donation, pledge, or loan. More information about the project can be found here.

--Eric Fitts, Director                   

Sisters of the Presentation (Dubuque, IA)
Scott and JoAnn Haner
Bob and Pauline Hanich
Jeffrey and Annemarie Kallenbach
Family and Friends of Katherine Byers
Deacon Don and Patti Battista
Jessie and Jordan Schiele
St. Pius X Church (Grandville, MI)
St. Mary's Church (Alexandria, VA)
Amaturo Family Foundation

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If you have questions about this newsletter, or would like to submit an article for a future publication, please contact Mariana at

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Bethlehem Farm | P.O. Box 415 | Talcott | WV | 24981