From May 11 to 18 the Upper Hamlet Happy Farm welcomed thirty people for the first Happy Farm Experience Week . Usually we ask people who work on the farm to stay from four weeks to one year. We wanted to give others who could not free that amount of time a chance to experience the joy of organic, mindful farming for one week. The retreatants came from across the world, from Hungary, to Japan and Ireland, to Italy and even a young family all the way from arctic Norway. We worked and shared as a family for the week; in touch with the earth, caring for our plants, and watering seeds of peace and healing, brotherhood and sisterhood.
Each session on the farm included a walking meditation around the farm’s lotus pond, and through field where young tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and peppers were being planted. For many it was their first experience planting vegetables, weeding and watering a garden. In the evenings, some of us had the courage to go out at night with our flashlights to pick slugs off our tender plants!
The retreatants participated in all the regular activities of Upper Hamlet, including the recitation and Dharma sharing on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and two Days of Mindfulness with the whole community. Together we had sessions of Dharma sharing in the field under the sunshine to complement the work. Many retreatants expressed how being on the farm relieved the pressure of their stressful lives back home, and that they felt more connected to the earth, to each other and to themselves.
For many of the Happy Farmers, past and present, to be in touch with the soil and the seasons of nature is a Dharma door*. Opening up and stepping through that door delights us daily. The Happy Farm is a Dharma door which allows us to immerse ourselves fully in the stream life; in the water, the sky, the earth and each other.
At the end of the week a had a be-in** bonfire in the field to celebrate our togetherness, joy and the earth. The two young Norwegian children enjoyed running around the field, counting the frogs in our pond, picking the not-quite-yet ripe cherries and offering everyone acacia flowers from the nearby trees, instructing everyone that we should eat them.
Since this week was a wonderful success, meaning there was enough peace, happiness and joy all around, the community is offering another experience week from September 21st to the 28th. It will be in both the Upper Hamlet Happy Farm (for single men and couples) and in the Lower Hamlet Happy Farm (for single women and couples).
Scott – Happy Farm Co-Coordinator
Scott is a co-coordinator of the Happy Farm in Upper Hamlet. Living in Plum Village since 2011, he started Plum Village’s first compost system in conjunction with dry toilets before joining the Happy Farm team in 2016. He practises vegetable gardening meditation and enjoys the healing conditions offered by nature and the brotherhood on the farm.
*Something we use in order to help us to practice the Dharma.
**A be-in is a way to celebrate being together by sharing about our experiences in words but also often with songs, dance and poems.