The Plum Village Happy Farm is inviting applicants for their one-year Happy Farm Volunteer Program for the coming season, from November 2015-October 2016.
The Volunteer Programme offers a rare opportunity to combine mindfulness, community, deep sustainability and organic farming, in the peaceful nourishing environment of Plum Village Practice Center.
What is The Happy Farm?
The Happy Farm is a small organic vegetable farm located within the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. We have around 1 acre of land in cultivation, comprising 42 beds which are 35m long and 1.2m wide. In addition we have a new polytunnel with a further 6 beds which are 27m long. We grow almost all the common vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, garlic, pumpkins and many more. The food we grow is all offered to the Plum Village community.
The three main aims of the farm are:
- To grow healthy organic produce to offer to Plum Village.
- To be a training ground in applying the principles of mindfulness into a working environment.
- To offer education in organic growing, sustainability and mindfulness practice.
The Happy Farm project is currently in its third year. The farm continues to grow and flourish in beautiful and unexpected ways. In brief, last year we grew over 8000kg of organic produce, a figure which looks likely to rise this year.
In June 2015 we hosted our first Happy Farm sustainability retreat. The retreat which was attended by around 200 people from all over the world watered many beautiful seeds in everyone. Finally we offered joyful educational sessions to hundreds of children during the summer and trained 3 long-term volunteers and several shorter-term volunteers in the basics of mindfulness practice and organic farming.
At the farm we grow using classical organic methods similar to those described in the books by Charles Dowding, John Jeavons and Eliot Coleman. We do not use many permaculture techniques and while there are small areas for innovation, this coming year the farm will continue to use the methods which are serving us so well.
Volunteer Programme for 2015-16
This coming year we are offering six one-year places on the Happy Farm, starting from November 2015 to October 2016.
During the first three months Plum Village will be in its yearly Winter Retreat. During this time there will not be so much farm work and so it will be a chance for us to deepen our practice and to settle into the community.
Please note that currently Happy Farm volunteering places are only open to men. This is because the farm is based in Upper Hamlet, where monks and male guests are housed. Nuns and female guests are hosted at Plum Village’s Lower Hamlet and New Hamlet. Both sisters’ hamlets offer the possibility of long-term stays for women to practice and join community work around the hamlet and in their organic vegetable gardens. Women are invited to contact the sisters’ hamlets for more information. (The Lower Hamlet now has their own Happy Farm with Volunteering opportunities.)
The bulk of Happy Farm work will begin in March when we begin seeding. In general we will volunteer around 30 hours per week doing a wide variety of tasks. The main duties of the farm include seeding, bed preparation, transplanting, weeding and harvesting. During the year we will also get the chance to host childrens groups on the farm and to facilitate groups of adults visiting the farm to work.
A typical day on the Happy Farm
5.30am Wake Up
6.00am Sitting Meditation
9.00am Mindful farming
3.00pm Mindful farming
8.00pm Sitting Meditation
We do our best to apply the principles of mindfulness and working meditation on the farm. This includes, amongst other things: working a bit slower than normal; 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. In addition to this we normally begin each session with a brief sitting meditation.
Happy Farmers enjoy two days off per week. One is lazy day, typically Monday, where the whole community enjoys a day of rest. The other is a Day of Mindfulness where we listen to a Dharma talk and have a day of practice together.
As the above schedule shows we also have the opportunity to join in with many of the Upper Hamlet activities such as morning and evening sitting meditation, community meals, as well as some of the activities during the big retreats.
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.
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 working on the farm mean life as a farm volunteer has a different rhythm to that of a retreatant in Plum Village.
Finally it is our aim to train our volunteers to a point where they can take responsibility and make informed decisions on the farm. However in the early months we ask that ivolunteers be willing to expand their knowledge by receiving instruction and feedback in order to fully understand our system and the context in which we work.
Initially decisions that concern the farm are made by the farm co-ordinator with support from the farm committee, made up of all those who have spent at least one year on the farm, and the monastic farm mentors.
What we offer
We will provide training in all aspects of working on an organic farm. We will also provide training in mindfulness practice and how to facilitate the basic Plum Village practices. We are confident that after a year on the farm our volunteers will have learned the basics of large-scale organic growing and how to implement and facilitate the basic Plum Village practices.
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. Many of our volunteers shared that a year on the farm was the best year of their life. We also receive feedback that it can be a life-changing experience for many.
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.
We will also provide a reference on completion of the year.
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, 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 the Happy Farm Volunteers Program 2015-16, 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 14th of September.
The deadline for applications is the 14th of September, and we will contact you by the 20th of September to let you know whether or not your application was successful.
Please email applications to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Starting to volunteer at the Happy Farm
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. 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 of 1200 euros to contribute to cover the cost of the Winter Retreat. After this no further payment is required, your contribution on the farm is your offering to the community.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Stuart and the Happy Farm team