2016-17 Happy Farm Volunteering for Women in the Lower Hamlet

What is The Happy Farm – Lower Hamlet?

The Happy Farm Lower Hamlet is a small organic vegetable farm located on the sister’s ground in Plum village. It brings together farming and the mindfulness practice of Plum Village.

LH happy farm 1

In 2012 the first Happy Farm was founded in Upper Hamlet. Now 4 years later, based on the concept and experience of our Happy Farm brothers, the Happy Farm in Lower Hamlet has started. It is the realisation of a long-held wish to establish a Happy Farm for the Nuns and female layfriends.

In March of this year we started to cultivate 14 beds and a small herb garden. The beds are 35m long and 1,2 m wide. For next year, 2017, we will expand the farm to a total of 24 beds. We grow vegetables like zucchini, pumpkin, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and many more. The food we grow is all offered to the Lower Hamlet Sangha.

LH happy farm 2

As the farm is in its infancy it is an exciting project to be part of. It is wonderful to see how our joy in learning about farming and mindfulness practice bloom together. Small steps are taken and the Happy Farm unfolds in miraculous ways. This year we have mainly been working on setting up the infrastructure (e.g. planing, bed preparation, installing the irrigation system, putting up a perimeter fence, and creating a meeting space). The Happy Farmers from Upper Hamlet supported us with their knowledge and by raising the seedlings.

This year we had two farm co-ordinators who stayed the whole year to plan and lead the further developments. The project was supported by several short-term volunteers. For the next year we would like to set up a team of 5 female long-term volunteers to help the Happy Farm to develop further.

At the farm we grow based on the Happy Farm methods in Upper Hamlet using classical organic methods.

The main aims of the farm are:

  1. To grow healthy organic vegetables to offer to the monastery.
  2. To be a training ground in applying the principles of mindfulness into a working environment.
  3. To bring organic growing, sustainability and mindfulness practice together
LH Happy Farm 3
LH Happy farm 4

This year we are offering 3 volunteering opportunitites to female lay practitioners.

The two farm co-ordinators will stay on for the upcoming year. With three new volunteers our team will be 5 people in total.

What does the volunteering programme look like?

The programme is 1 year long and starts at the beginning of the three months Winter Retreat (around the 18th of November 2016). During the first three months Plum Village will be in its yearly Winter Retreat. During this time there will be no farm work and so it will be a chance for us to deepen our practice and to settle into the community.

The bulk of the volunteer work will begin in March when we begin seeding. In general we will offer around 25 hours per week on the farm doing a wide variety of tasks. The main duties of the farm include seeding, bed preparation, transplanting, weeding and harvesting.

A standard day on the Happy Farm

5.30 am Wake Up

6.00 am Sitting Meditation

7.00 am Breakfast

9.00 am Mindful farming

12.30 pm Lunch

3.00 pm Mindful farming

6.00 pm Dinner

7.45 pm Sitting Meditation

Together we will do our best to apply the principles of mindfulness and working meditation on the farm. This includes, amongst other things, working in a silence for a certain period during the day, using the breath to anchor ourselves in the present moment, stopping to listen to the bell at times throughout the day and having regular team sharings. We like to establish a good way in that we can be in the practice as well as get the farm work done.

Happy Farmers enjoy usually three days off per week. One is lazy day, typically Monday, where the whole community enjoys a day of rest. The other two are Days of Mindfulness where we listen to a Dharma talk and have a day of practice together. In the peak times of the Farm we might only go to one Day of Mindfulness per week.

As the above schedule shows we also have the opportunity to join in with many of the Lower Hamlet activities such as morning and evening sitting meditation, community meals, as well as some of the activities during the big retreats.

LH Happy Farm 6
LH Happy farm5

Accommodation will be in shared rooms where we get to

practice with the joys and difficulties of community life. Our experience is that living communally in this way leads to great friendships and accelerated spiritual growth. During the summer months we all camp to make space for the many short term guests who come for the big retreats.

Our work and practice is supported by living and working within a monastery setting. We have regular contact with monastics and lay practitioners and benefit from the practice energy present here. We are invited to support this practice energy by living in accordance with the 5 mindfulness trainings and by attending the schedule.

A year working on the farm, while living in Plum Village, offers many invaluable benefits including increased self awareness, deeper joy, increased confidence and a better ability to take care of suffering.

More practically volunteers will be offered two weeks of holiday during their time on the farm. All equipment needed to carry out farm work will be provided, but please bring a set of old working clothes and rubber boots. We will also provide a reference on completion of the year.

Things to Consider

Our aim is to farm in a way that leads to less suffering than commercial methods. Equally we are committed to continually refining our own methods in order to gradually reduce the harm that occurs on our farm. In extremely rare occasions however we may use organic pesticides or herbicides to protect our crops.

Additionally the needs of the farm are constant and extensive. The work can be tiring and hard at times. Furthermore for the project to succeed we bring a degree of professionality to this work. As a result, the demands of helping on the farm mean that life as a farm volunteer is more demanding to that of a retreatant in Plum Village. Initially decisions that concern the farm are made by the farm co-ordinators with support from monastic farm mentors.

How to apply

We are inviting applications from those interested in learning about organic growing within a mindfulness setting. As the work can be hard we encourage applicants to be reliable, self motivating, punctual, and capable of living and working harmoniously with others.

Experience is not essential. It is more important to us that applicants demonstrate a willingness and enthusiasm to learn, as well as an enthusiastic approach to the farm work. We ask that all applicants have attended at least one retreat in this tradition and because the work can be physically demanding we ask that only those in good physical condition apply. We recommend that all volunteers provide their own health insurance.

To make a formal application for next year please send us

  • A letter of aspiration sharing why you want to live and practice in Plum Village for a year and specifically what inspires you to work at the Happy farm.
  • Details of your experience with the Plum Village community or any relevant experience you may have of living in community or practicing in other traditions.
  • A CV highlighting any growing or farming experience you may have as well as any practical skills which would be useful in this context.
  • Details of language skills

Please be available for a brief Skype call in the days after 16th September.

The deadline for applications is the 16th September, and we will contact you as soon as possible to let you know whether or not your application was successful.

Please email applications to: lowerhamlethappyfarm@plumvillage.org

If your application is successful you will be invited to come to Plum Village for the start of the Winter Retreat. This 3 month period allows us to get to know each other better and to decide if a year on the farm would be in the best interests of everyone. (Please note: There is very little farm work during the Winter, as we allow ourselves, and the land, to rest). Therefore full acceptance onto the farm team will only be given once it is clear that the volunteer can live in harmony with the community, follow the daily schedule and work well within the farm team.

Volunteers are asked to make a financial contribution to cover the cost of the Winter Retreat. Last year the volunteers were asked to pay 2000 € for the Winter Retreat. After this it was a monthly contribution of 100 €. Contributions for 2016-17 are yet to be finalised, but will be shortly.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Happy Farm Team Lower Hamlet

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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