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The Many Hands Peace Farm, Eleven Years & Still Growing

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

The Many Hands Peace Farm was established at The Mountain in 2010 with Brian Gifford having the vision of how a farm could be instrumental in helping achieve the mission of The Mountain.

The land where Many Hands Peace Farm (MHPF) is today has had a history as an open field, horse pasture, and most recently a cabbage farm. Brian tilled the land to start a garden, and he quickly received donations to purchase a hoop house, which continues to be an essential part of the farm and extends our growing season.

After Brian, Bill Hagemann took over as the first farm manager. Continuing to build upon Brian’s work, he added to the original plots and worked to establish better soils. Bill helped grow the farm’s poultry operation, offered wild edibles workshops to MountainCampers and started taking farm produce to the Highlands farmers market. Bill also managed the challenge course, and facilitated team building workshops for guests at The Mountain. In 2016, Bill moved back to his home state of Alabama. Joey Kyle, who was first involved as a Senior High MountainCamper and later a farm apprentice in 2016, was invited to be farm manager in 2017. Joey invited his college colleague, Ben Galindo, to be farm co-manager. Helping to grow the farm from 2017-2019.

Joey Kyle (left) with Ben Galindo (right)
The birth of an idea in 2017.

Through the collaboration of Joey and Ben, the farm has flourished. With grant and donation support, the pollinator program was extended in the Mountain Meadow (Started through support from Nancy Nichols). Additional financial support from Faithify, (a UU crowdfunding platform) helped launch the Food Forest at The Mountain. Twenty years ago that land was part of the cabbage patch, and we’re slowly planting it with a mix of fruit and nut trees, bushes, and vines in addition to pollinator-friendly plants and medicinal herbs. We are now starting to see some of our first harvest of berries and fruits from these young trees and plants including the pears, wineberries, thornless blackberries, thimbleberries, rose hips, aronia berries, and gooseberries.

The farm has received grants from The Laurel Garden Club, Azalea Mountain Garden Club, and Bayer’s Feed-A-Bee program to purchase plants, kiosks, a large event tent, and various supplies for running events.

The Food Forest entry in 2021

In July 2021, we received a grant from a local organization, Mountain Findings, to purchase equipment and conduct a variety of learning opportunities for adults and youth in our wider community. This is culminating as our first annual Fall Farm Festival, an educational family event partnering with several local environmental groups.

Beginning in 2018, the farm expanded offerings of farm dinners and tours, workshops, hosting school groups, and providing frequent Mountain and MountainCamp programs. This includes a program called Farm Camp where middle school-aged kids do a summer camp focused on farm activities including taking care of chickens plus harvesting farm produce and wild mushrooms then selling them at local farmers markets. We are getting requests for an adult Farm Camp, so stay tuned!

The apiary of three bee hives was established in 2019. The solar-powered electric fence was soon established to discourage our local bears from partaking in the honey and protein-packed baby bees. The first Mountain honey was processed in the Fall of 2020.

A shiitake mushroom log patch of about 100 logs has been building for years, complementing the extensive wild mushroom harvesting and education done by our farm crew. Farm Manager, Joey, is a certified mushroom harvester. Mountain guests often enjoy wild mushroom gourmet delights in our dining hall and for farm dinners.

Although the garden plots were tilled in 2010, the garden was not fully planted until 2021. There are plans for further development of the farm. As of now, the farm is 100% people-powered and is a no-till, chemical-free space. The design of the farm is rooted in permaculture practices which is a type of ecological farm design.

The farm tours and events are a significant contribution to living our values and working toward a goal of The Mountain being a learning center. We look forward to offering more learning opportunities for Mountain guests and our extended community.

If you are at The Mountain for a planned program or a personal retreat, please consider participating in a farm tour to learn more about the poultry, hoop house, shiitake patch, food forest, garden, apiary, and mountain meadow.

Produce at Many Hands Peace Farm

In addition to selling a wide variety of fresh produce and farm-related products at two weekly Farmer’s Markets, many products are available for purchase in the Mountain store or online. Chicken or duck eggs or fresh produce may be available for sale while you are at The Mountain.

Some farm products will be familiar to you, others provide opportunities to try something new. These products (some seasonal) include books: Intro to Wild Mushrooms of Western North Carolina and Earthly Oddities -- both written by Joey Kyle, Farm Manager; herbal teas; herbal salve; fire cider (immune system booster); medicinal mushroom tincture; dried apples; and dried mushrooms.

Dining Hall Connection

Kitchen Manager, Jenn Tuft, and staff enthusiastically create nourishing culinary experiences for Mountain guests. Meals reflect a commitment to ethically sourced food and local produce, especially from our farm. The regular menus include vegetarian and vegan options, as well as providing for other dietary needs. The kitchen staff looks forward to sharing workshops, classes, and recipes for a nourishing culinary experience.

Connecting with Mountain People

All of this of course would not be possible without the support of so many like yourself dear reader! It is through your care we are able to grow and flourish. If you are looking for more ways to get involved or lend support, consider either Coming to an Event, Becoming a Mountain Member, Donating to The Mountain's annual fund, reviewing our general and Farm Wish List, Taking a Class, or getting involved by Volunteering or Becoming a Farm Apprentice.

Bethany Gail Morton

"My first experience on The Mountain was as a camper the very first year of Mountain Camp in the summer of 1979. I was 7 years old. I attended every summer thereafter through 1986. I set foot again on top of The Mountain this July for "Intergenerational Camp".

Rene Cline (left) with Bethany Gail Morton (right)

My Mountain memories run deep. I can honestly say that my summer's there as a girl truly helped me develop into a compassionate, curious, caring, adventurous, and independent woman. The Mountain Youth Camp programming, led by Pam Phelps, helped me develop mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The blend of physical activity (hiking, rock climbing, white water rafting), mental activity (team building, arts and crafts, learning about the ecosystem), spiritual activity (self reflection, group discussions, vespers on Meditation Rock), and FUN activity (Punk-Rock Dance Night, Square Dancing, Talent Night, all truly contributed to helping me create the life I have today.

My experience at Intergenerational Camp this summer was absolutely magical. I have to thank Rene Cline, Andy Harris and the entire crew of Mountain Staff and volunteers for that! I went as a single person, I am not married and I never had children. What I know is that the Mountain is an inclusive place and I would soon make new friends and share the experience as a member of "The Mountain Family". I did. It was absolutely amazing to be in a group of beautiful people ages 3-80! It truly was Intergenerational.

It was wonderful to "relive" some of my past camp experiences: Morning Circle (I still know all the words to the song "Sneaky Snake"), Arts and Crafts, climbing the tower, sitting on Meditation Rock, 80's Dance Night, and Talent Night. It was more wonderful to have new experiences: Watching the sunrise from the deck of the Lodge with new friends, making new friends young and old, and learning all about the "Many Hands Peace Farm" now at the base of The Mountain.

My very first morning activity at Intergenerational Camp was to go on an interactive tour of the Farm led by Farm Manager, Joey Kyle. The farm was not there when I was a camper, so it was wonderful to see the evolution of the old horse stables and adjacent cabbage farm into an incredible farm with chickens, bees, greenhouse, fruits, veggies, flowers, mushrooms and herbs! The farm is a beautiful example of the continued development of The Mountain as a place of conservation and education. It was also wonderful to have the delicious eggs from the chickens at breakfast!

I left Intergenerational Camp with a completely renewed and refreshed spirit. I am already looking forward to next year to continue making "Mountain Memories""

Mountain Endowment

Bill Hagemann and Alex Willocks

"When we were Mountain employees, we donated towards the Endowment Fund because we wanted our donation to have a longer lasting effect on The Mountain. Our donation was what we could afford and that was less than what The Mountain means to us. After discussing the impact of our years at The Mountain, both on our lives and on our relationship, our hope was to be able to visit in the future. We realized what we really wanted was for The Mountain to be around for the next generations. We knew that the Endowment Fund was the best option for our donation as it could grow our donation and be combined with larger ones so that The Mountain can continue to change lives for many years to come."

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