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Monastery Farm holds cultivation sacred
November 23, 2010

If you wanted to talk turkey with Richard Ims, the sales manager of Monastery Farm, you needed to do it months ago.

Better yet, if you actually want a bird for next Thanksgiving, you might consider joining the mailing list now. Turkeys are a hot commodity for the farm, which is a bit ironic since commodification isn't the goal.
In fact, it is quite the opposite. The Monastery Farm is literally monastic.
"We got into farming, mostly chickens and some turkeys, to sustain ourselves and allow ourselves to be self-sustaining," Ims says. "It is all organic, no pesticides, herbicides or any of that."
They are members of the Catholic Brothers and Sisters of Charity and the Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Ark. Celibate brothers and sisters, as well as families and singles, are drawn to the monastic life.
For the members working the farm, the very act of farming is a religious practice.
They choose to do it in a way that shows a respect for the balance of nature as created by God.
"It's us entering into harmony with the perfection of nature," Ims says. "These days, it is a trait that has to be learned. We are so far removed from it in society that we have to learn some things and unlearn other things."
Aside from contemplative lives, the primary output of the farm is chicken. The birds bring in the income to keep the monastery going.
"We grow chicken year-round and deliver to commercial accounts and buyers clubs every two weeks," Ims says. "We also grow pastured hogs, turkeys and goats."
Food is a profound thing. Regardless of faith, food is a direct connection to interaction with the world. The Monastery Farm is another projection of that trend toward ethical eating.
They produce anywhere from 450 to 900 USDA-processed birds. Their pasture-raised chickens use no antibiotics, steroids or animal byproducts.
"We use Joel Salatin-type pasture pens, which are our own design," Ims says. "They are tweaked for our challenging terrain."
Kimberling City Harter House has carried them in the past, but demand wasn't enough to keep it there. If you are interested in obtaining their birds, you should contact the farm directly.
As part of their mission, the brothers and sisters at the farm work with schools and the public to show just where their food is raised.
As more people want an answer to just that question, the Monastery Farm is well-positioned to supply both needs of knowledge and sustenance. Ims says at one school a child remarked, "Wow! Look, chicken with bones!"
"That blew my mind," Ims says. "They haven't seen that. That's how far removed we are allowing our society to get from where our food does come from."
Ims sees a backlash coming against that sort of disconnect. It is a trend that may be centered on the schools as well. "Parents are going to start demanding their kids are fed better in their schools," Ims says. "That is a huge wave coming."
Sandy Clark is The Ozark Locavore. You'll find local food, recipes and information at www.facebook.com /ozarklocavore. Got a great resource? E-mail sandy@ozarklocavore.com.

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Comment by daniel krotz on December 4, 2010 at 11:29am
Wonderful story...Wonderful Farm! we are SO grateful to have Little Portion as a neighbor. Thank you, Richard Ims, and thank you Sandy Clark for a terrific story.

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