"The farm is the native habitat of the family." -Fr. Edwin O'Hara, 1935
Farming is central to Winthrop House common life and facilitates our agricultural programming. Pope Pius VII in 1802 proclaimed farming to be "the first and most important of all the arts," thus we give it pride of place in our community life.
Farming benefits us spiritually, culturally, and economically:
1. Spiritual: While many artisans work with the raw material of God's creation, the farmer also works hand-in-hand with natural processes that humans cannot completely control. Farming is thus one of the four classical "Ars Cooperativa" (along with Medicine, Teaching and Sailing), whereby the farmer cooperates daily with the Creator to continue the great miracle of creation. As the only "work" performed both before and after Man's Fall from grace, farmwork places the farmer in God's original temple, strengthening our relationship with the One who sustains us in all we do.
2. Cultural: This spiritual grace informs and strengthens our community culture in multiple ways. Since farming is a naturally cooperative art, it instills in us a culture of cooperation with each other, which is the glue that holds our community together. From business collaboration, to inter-family support, to strong marriages and personal friendships, this cooperative culture is what makes us distinct from modern individualistic society.
Farming is a work that all can participate in, even small children and the elderly. There is work for everyone on the farm, and through that work we discover and cultivate our dignity, as co-creators in the image and likeness of God. Pope Pius XII noted in 1946 that farmers have a "readiness to give mutual help, not only on the part of members of the same family, but also on the part of neighboring families and homes." He considered the farm a school of virtue for its members, and those virtues strengthen our culture.
In a world where success is seen in terms of money, and one's ability to consume, we cultivate a culture of productivity. Not merely the outsourced productivity of distant factories and mines, but a productivity embedded in a families, a households, and a village.
3. Economical: The farm produces the most basic commodities required for human life, in particular food, fiber and fuel. By knowing how to produce these things for ourselves, we reduce our dependency on the national food system, which grows increasingly inhuman by the day. In times of crisis (such as in 2020 with national lockdowns and supply shortages), we have a food source under our feet.
Although we produce first and foremost to feed ourselves, we also serve our local community by selling additional crops, and offering agricultural programming. These both serve as a source of income for our families and community at large.
As an inter-dependent community of families, Winthrop House does not fund and operate its own farm, but
facilitates cooperation between members, led by resident farmers. In Spring 2022, we welcome the Becher Family of "First Steps Farm" as our resident farmers. Up until this point we have focused primarily on pumpkins and gourds as our staple crops, with additional enterprises in blueberries and beekeeping.
First Steps Farm is a bio-intensive market garden, modelled in part on the farm of Jean-Martin Fortier in Montreal. The farm emphasizes biodiversity, small scale technology, and regenerative soil methods to build natural fertility. We do not use synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, since these products poison God's earth and our own bodies. We employ state-of-the-art tools and research to make our farm naturally fertile, resilient, and efficient in operation.
First Steps Farm began as a 1-acre market garden in California from 2014-2018, at which point the Bechers relocated to New England, and come to join Winthrop House in 2022.