Retreat Farm Transforms into Free Family Park and Accelerates Plans to Grow Food for the Community
Instead of the familiar farm education program and large community gatherings that Retreat Farm has become known for, the Farm will tackle two essential challenges of the moment — feeding families and connecting them to the land.
“This summer, we will use our lands, buildings, and animals to grow food for the community and provide opportunities to relax in nature, enjoy the peaceful presence of animals, and learn something new,” shared Advancement Director, Wendy Ferris.
“The historic farmstead and beloved farm animals of Retreat Farm will be more important than ever for restoring and refreshing our community’s spirits. Our farmstead will be transformed into a self-guided public park to provide contemplative, educational, and invigorating experiences for people at a time when they need an outdoor place to relax and recharge. The park will be open, free, and enjoyable for folks of all ages, especially young families.”
Viewable from many angles, Carlos the Ox along with the farm’s entertaining cast of goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens will take center stage in the park as they rotationally graze on pastures around the property.
The Woodlands Interpretive Trail, along with the Retreat Trails network will be updated with new wayfinding signage so the community can easily and safely enjoy the wooded area. Young families can enjoy the Storybook Walk on Little Lamb Loop with a new story every few weeks.
In Farmhouse Square, new interpretive signs will highlight the history of the Farm, along with an arts pathway inside the hall of the North Barn, and outdoor sculpture. “Safety is our top concern, and we hope that we can welcome people to the new park by Memorial Day, our traditional opening weekend,” said Ferris.
Throughout the summer, a new poetry trail and labyrinth with native wildflowers are planned to be installed to help set your soul at ease.
Farmland across the road from the Farmstead and on Upper Dummerston Road will be the home of the Community Food Project.
“We will be using Retreat Farm’s agricultural lands to grow over 6,000 pounds of field crops and raise 2,000 pounds of pastured poultry and pork to share with people in need,” remarked Program Director, Lu Neuse. “While this is an immensely challenging time, its circumstances present Retreat Farm and each of us who care about our community the opportunity and responsibility to stand up and help our neighbors. We’re excited to shift gears and accelerate our long-term plan to increase regenerative food production capacity, serve families in need, and strengthen the local food system.”
In collaboration with Wild Carrot Farm and other local farms, Retreat Farm plans to distribute food through their Emergency Food Pantry, ‘Pay What You Can’ Farmstand, and through food donations to the Vermont Foodbank and Foodworks.
“This crisis vividly illuminates the fragility of the human, natural, civic and economic systems, and resources that serve our communities. Retreat Farm’s long-term role is to strengthen these systems and build these resources. At this critical juncture, we are taking action to utilize our natural and human capital to ensure the safety and welfare of our community,” commented Buzz Schmidt, Executive Director of Retreat Farm.
“Retreat Farm aspires to be a place where people feel a sense of connection — to the land that feeds us, to our shared history, and to the remarkable community we inhabit. In these challenging times when we need to remain distanced in order to protect ourselves and our community, I hope that you remember that thanks to you, these connections remain strong at Retreat Farm.”
While this is a challenging time for everyone, Retreat Farm is ensuring that the lands, historic barns, animals, trails and waters of the Farm are accessible when the community needs them most.
The Family Park will open based on guidance from the State of Vermont. Existing Retreat Farm members will automatically have their membership extended by one year. To learn about additions to the Park as they are installed, be sure to sign up for Retreat Farm’s e-newsletter at retreatfarm.org
Everyone who accesses the park, Retreat Farm, or the Retreat Trails network is asked to maintain strict social distancing guidelines and wear a mask when in the presence of others. Guidance for the park will change along with the State’s recommendations. Facilities including bathrooms and picnic tables will not be available at this time.
To learn more about the Family Park and Community Food Project, visit retreatfarm.org or call 802.490.2270.