Do you remember the old saying “you are what you eat?” It’s literally true! Our food provides the building blocks that replenish our cells. Good food is vital for a healthy life. But in the 21st century, much of our food is grown using harmful chemicals that hurt the soil and find their way into our bodies. We must find a better way. In the words of Pope Francis, we are called to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and the environment.”
This is why Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, N.Y., is such an important ministry, and one that is central to our Sisters’ mission of “responding to the signs of the times.” It is here that we honor God’s creation while providing nourishment to our friends in need.
Sr. Mary Ann Garisto, SC, has been a pioneer in this ministry. In the late 1990s, she envisioned a new use of farmland left to our Congregation that had been lying fallow. Inspired by the ecospiritual perspective of Passionist priest Fr. Thomas Berry, Sr. Mary Ann established Sisters Hill as an ecologically sound farm to feed the community.
Since then, Sisters Hill Farm has used earth-friendly, chemical-free methods to produce over one million pounds of fresh vegetables. Much of the produce is distributed through the Farm’s CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture), with over 300 member households picking up their vegetables weekly at the Farm or in the Bronx.
The Sisters Hill CSA gives people a sense of communion with one another, with the Sisters, and with the land. “I look forward to our share pick-up day,” wrote Maureen, a 14-year member and volunteer. “Not only do we receive lots of great food, but also seeing all the children in the fields picking herbs, flowers, and veggies is such a delight!”
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Sisters Hill Farm is in great hands with farmer David Hambleton at the helm. David has worked at the Farm since 1999 and became Director last year when Sr. Mary Ann retired. “I feel a deep and tangible sense of connection with the Sisters,” he says. “Service to others is an essential part of my being and something I’m trying to instill in my own children’s hearts.”
A top priority for Sisters Hill Farm is giving people in poverty access to proper nutrition. Many low-income families live in areas considered “food deserts,” where there aren’t any markets offering fresh food. Highly processed junk food is often all that’s available. Children growing up in these communities deserve a better start in life, and their parents deserve healthy food too. That’s why the Farm donates a large portion of each week’s harvest to families in need, and to food pantries and soup kitchens in the New York area.
Every year, thousands of pounds of fresh, organically grown food from Sisters Hill Farm goes into the mouths of those who would otherwise hunger.
If you’ve ever known a farmer, then you know what hard work this is. As former Assistant Manager Devon Gingrich put it, “Farming can be a glorious job, but the day can be equally grueling. The need for tools, equipment, and infrastructure is a constant.”
Right now, Sisters Hill Farm needs major structural improvements. Please help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 in celebration of the Farm’s 20th Anniversary! This amount will fund a roof for the produce wash and pack area, which will make a huge difference now that climate change is bringing more rain than ever before. “As someone who has worked through all kinds of crazy weather,” Devon said, “I know a covered wash pack area would do wonders for Sisters Hill Farm.”
We will sincerely appreciate any gift, large or small, to keep Sisters Hill Farm thriving. Sharing wholesome food with others is truly a form of love. Your support will give people in need the building blocks of a healthy life while protecting the earth for generations.
The next time you enjoy a healthful meal, give thanks to God and remember those whose plates are full through your generosity. And if you’re ever in the Stanfordville area on a Saturday morning, be sure to stop by and say hello to David and the crew at Sisters Hill Farm — you’ll be uplifted in body and in spirit!
Sister Jane Iannucelli, SC