A Food Forest for Environmental Justice

A Food Forest for Environmental Justice

Crowdfunding Completed: July 13, 2017

Amount Funded: $4495

Project Owner: The Mountain

Short Description of Project

Help launch our Food Forest to nourish, educate and equip people of all ages to promote sustainable agriculture and agitate for climate justice!

How was this project connected to UU?

This Food Forest project is yet another manifestation of The Mountain's commitment to its vision and core values, which are directly inspired by the Unitarian Universalist principles on which it was founded in 1979. The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center is an active member of the UU Alliance of Camps & Conference Centers (UUACCC) and a Related Organization of the Unitarian Universalist Association. At least half of the retreats and programs held at The Mountain are sponsored by UU congregations or groups. Unitarian Universalist congregants make up the majority of our annual members, contributors and volunteers.

The Mountain is dedicated to these Unitarian Universalist principles which are central to this project:

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Traditional agricultural land is often sterile, making it difficult to see the interdependent web of all organisms. In a food forest, trees, shrubs, vines, mushrooms, and fauna are constantly exchanging energy and nutrients. The Food Forest is a space in which one can envision and directly experience how human beings and all of Earth’s organisms can sustainably cohabitate.
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.  This project will provide an educational space for hundreds of campers and local kids that come to learn about the complex components that make up a food forest. The Mountain's Food Forest will offer opportunities for people of all ages to actively work for environmental justice as a counterbalance to the detrimental trends in modern agriculture.
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. The Mountain's Food Forest will be a space available for spiritual growth through contemplation, relaxation, and meditation. Individuals, congregation groups, and other retreat groups will be invited to enter the forest, eat its fruits, and connect with nature.

Full Description of Project

Thanks to all of you who have pledged so generously to fund this project! Especially to those who are responding to this final call for gifts that will be matched up to $1,000, if pledged by next Tuesday, July 11th. If we can keep this momentum going, we think we can make our goal!



In response to global concerns about climate change and sustainability, it is more important than ever for youth and adults alike to learn more about the environment which we all share.  The Mountain's Many Hands Peace Farm provides myriad learning opportunities  for children, youth and adults from around the country. This project demonstrates our commitment to promote sustainable agriculture practices, experiment with new ideas, and prepare a new generation to be responsible citizens caring for our world.

Specifically, your gifts will support our new Food Forest, a transformation of a mature grove of Black Locust trees into a sustainable and complex agro-ecosystem designed and managed to provide several decades of food, forage, and wildlife habitat for humans and non-humans alike.

The Many Hands Peace Farm was established in 2009 as an educational project. The Farm is dedicated to teaching farm apprentices, guests, campers, and visitors of all ages about the concepts and techniques of regenerative agriculture. The mushrooms, produce, flowers, and herbs produced by the Farm are supplied to The Mountain's kitchen for preparing guest meals. Produce is sold at the local farmers market, generating revenue, promoting The Mountain and its farm, providing marketing and sales experience for our farm apprentices, and establishing them as part of a vibrant local community of farmers and gardeners who exchange ideas and resources and teach one another new skills.

Our goals for the year ahead are to:
1.) Provide an educational demonstration space for people of all ages to learn about the ecosystem, environmental sustainability, and regenerative farming. Specifically, young participants in our MountainCamp will be given the chance to get their hands dirty as they learn about responsible stewardship of the Earth's resources.

2.) Maximize our productivity, yielding a larger volume and variety of edible crops. The Food Forest design will occur in phases that continually integrate new features over time with help from apprentices, volunteers and campers.

3.) Expand our farm-to-table output by providing a wider variety of foods grown onsite for the Mountain's kitchen to serve its guests.

4) Strengthen our environmental justice efforts by a) supporting older youth as they teach their younger peers about sustainable agriculture; and b) developing connections to activist groups both local and national and sharing with them the information and knowledge gleaned from our demonstration farm.

Moreover, the Mountain's Food Forest will advance our organizational commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship goals outlined in our 2017 strategic plan. Here is the design The Mountain Board approved in May 2017:

Overall Benefits of the Food Forest

• Educational - The Food Forest will serve as a demonstration site for those interested in cultivating perennial food crops. This space will also be used as a unique outdoor learning space for MountainCamp activities, area students, and adult visitors.

• Economic - Fruits, nuts, and other Food Forest products will be sold at farmers' markets and in the Mountain Store, generating additional revenue. Produce such as berries and fruits will be used by The Mountains kitchen for special meals and desserts.

• Aesthetic - The Food Forest will be an attractive place for guests, campers, and visitors to gather for peaceful reflection, wedding receptions or other social events. The meandering path that circumnavigates the area provides a meditative labyrinth suitable for farm tours. The location is highly visible from the road and will create an alluring first impression of the Mountain for guests and visitors.

• Ecological - The carefully selected native and naturalized species will provide habitat and forage for a wide range of wildlife including bees, butterflies, deer, rabbits, birds, toads, and thousands of soil microorganisms. If we provide these critters with ample food in the Food Forest, they’re more likely to pollinate our field crops rather than eat them!

Our Food Forest will demonstrate and affirm The Mountain's mission, vision, and core values. Our mission is to enrich lives, foster an appreciation of the natural world, honor the interconnectedness of all things, and inspire people to build inclusive, meaningful, sustainable communities throughout their lives. Our vision is for The Mountain to be an exemplary retreat, camp & learning center that celebrates Unitarian Universalist principles, inspires people of all ages, transforms lives, and builds a more compassionate world.

 Our Core Values:

• The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Individual
• Justice, Equity and Compassion in Human Relations
• Acceptance of One Another and Encouragement to Spiritual Growth
• A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning
• The Right of Conscience and the Use of Democratic Process
• The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty and Justice for All
• Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of which we are a part

The Many Hands Peace Farm is fortunate to have a small, but highly skilled and energetic staff, committed to implementing this project. Joey Kyle and Ben Galindo are the Co-Managers, with the assistance of Tanner Csonka, our 2017 Farm Apprentice, shown here with two of our farm supporters.

Testimonials from some of our Mountain supporters and Many Hands Peace Farm Volunteers:

Bruce Kirkman, long-time Mountain supporter and former Board Leader, writes: 

"The Farm has provided multiple sources of education, involvement and commitment to sustainable practices for our two grandsons during their ten and twelve years of camp at The Mountain. It is the first place they go when we go for family Thanksgiving weekend."

Another loyal supporter of the Many Hands Peace Farm and The Mountain writes:

I support the growth of the “Many Hands Peace Farm” because it offers ideas on ways to cultivate and share foods that are needed to sustain life.  Furthermore, I feel our contributions to Mountain programs become lifelong sustaining gifts that have the potential to multiply exponentially.

Participation in these programs also allows each of us to internalize skills and abilities that can enhance the philosophy of the “interdependent web of life”.

Love, Lyn Klarman

Contributors to this Food Forest project will be recognized at these giving ranges of pledges:

Comfrey Pledge   $10-$24.99
●  Certificate of appreciation

Hazelnut Pledge  $25 - $99.99
● Reishi tincture sample
● Certificate of appreciation

Paw Paw Pledge  $100-$499
● A tree planted in honor (with signage)
● Reishi tincture sample
● Certificate of appreciation

Chestnut Pledge  $500+  (up to 8 pledges)
● A guild planted in honor (with signage)
● Reishi tincture sample
● Certificate of appreciation

Thank You for your generosity and support--from your friends at The Mountain!