Amber, Fritz, Jyna, Brielle, Denise and I took a trip to Freedom Farm from Friday to Saturday.  This was the second time I’ve visited this farm. Fritz introduced us to a year and a half ago, as he knows Ann and Edgar through his connections with the Mennonite community in NYC.  Edgar had been working in the South Bronx with youth from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, when he and Ann decided to move upstate to Otisville / Middletown, NY, and start Freedom Farm. They wanted to provide youth with an opportunity to reconnect with the earth and nurture a relationship with God.   As they begin working on the farm, they chose the tagline for Freedom Farm as “Growing in Faith” because as Ann says, “It had to be faith, because we sure did not know much about farming at that point.”  They learned to trust in God to let the plants grow – for while they can plant seeds, they can’t make them grow – “that’s the Spirit.”  Ann and Edgar and the Freedom Farm Community grow food organically, and donate the bulk of it to food pantries.   This year however is their seventh year – a “Jubilee” year – and therefore let the land rest and go fallow.

Youth retreats are a big part of the ministry and mission of Freedom Farm.   What makes Freedom Farm so unique is their connection to Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and King of Glory Tabernacle in the Bronx, two groups that do fantastic work to heal their community.  Their ongoing relationship with Freedom Farm is made quite clear by the banners and photo montages in the “luxury barn” where guests stay who visit the farm.   Ann and Edgar are interested in fostering new and deeper connections with youth and groups from the Middletown area, as these groups will be able to build stronger relationships with Freedom Farm due to their proximity to the farm.

Having the opportunity to visit Freedom Farm from NYC is quite special – it’s a chance to smell the fresh air, escape to a quiet and tranquil place and reconnect to the land.  It’s refreshing to visit people who understand the importance of giving youth from underprivileged neighborhoods an opportunity to connect with the land and retreat to grow in faith, who understand sustainable agriculture as our rightful call to steward the land, and who fully understand and practice what it means to live in an intentional community.  


Ann told us an interesting story of how the dairy farm up the road came to be known as “Freedom Hill Farm” – a name which bears a strikingly similar resemblance to “Freedom Farm Community.”  When they first moved to the land, Rick and Julie, who owned the land up the street, came over and asked what they were planning to do with the farmland.  When Ann and Edgar explained their plans, Rick and Julie got very excited.  Rick, who had previously been employed in a farming operation where he had to handle 20,000 cows and grew to despise the job, had been thinking of getting back into farming, and liked the idea of starting a new dairy farm that would focus on only a small number of cows, cared for using sustainable farming practices.  They named their farming operation, which works with a couple dozen cows as well as some chickens, “Freedom Hill Farm,” to foster a connection with Freedom Farm Community.  Now, Ann and Edgar let the cows graze on their land in exchange for milk from Freedom Hill Farm, and visitors to Freedom Farm can visit the cows and chickens, which are just across the pasture.  Now that’s what I call a community relationship!  


 Doing volunteerwork involving gardening, farming and tending to nature – especially in the countryside when coming from an incredibly busy city such as New York – is a very rewarding experience.  Your body feels renewed and refreshed, as does your mind and spirit.  And at Freedom Farm, you feel good for having contributed to growing fresh, organic food that will feed the hungry and supporting an organization working for the renewing of the spirits of our youth.