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Michaela Farm


Abstract Affectionately called the “family farm” of the Oldenburg Franciscan Sisters, Michaela Farm consists of 300 acres of forest, pasture, gardens, and conservation land. Building on the Franciscan values of simple living and the recognition of all Creation as “kin,” Michaela Farm promotes the respectful use of resources, sustainability, and a spirit of gratitude, hospitality, and caring. A model restoration project on many fronts, Michaela Farm embodies a place-based conservation ethic through its preserved historic buildings, forest, soil restoration projects, and community initiatives. In addition to re-inhabiting the farm with sisters, staff, interns, volunteers, and guests, the Congregation has re-introduced farm animals as well, including chickens, sheep, and beefalo (bison-bovine crosses). Organic fruits and vegetables are cultivated for the Motherhouse, members of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and participants in Sharing the Bounty, a food distribution program with a nutritional/cooking class component organized by Sister Claire Whalen for low-income residents of neighboring towns. A variety of programs and events have been held at the Farm since its revitalization in the early 1990s, including three bioregional conferences, two permaculture seminars, a land audit convention, a straw-bale house-building workshop, cooking classes, herb classes, land retreats, wilderness survival skills training, seasonal and Earth Day celebrations, and various study and discussion groups that focus on sustainable agriculture, biodynamics, and Earth spirituality. In addition to tours, programs, and events, participation in farm activities is encouraged through the volunteer and internship programs. Publicity and outreach are maintained through the Farm’s newsletter.
Religion Christianity
(Roman Catholic)
Geographic Location United States of America
(Oldenburg, Indiana)
Duration of Project

1991*–Present

*Although the first forty acres was purchased by the Congregation in 1854, the current farm project began in 1991.

History

Soon after its founding in 1851, the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters in Oldenburg, Indiana acquired forty acres of farmland to provide food for the Sisters and the orphans under their care. By 1930, the farm had expanded to more than 400 acres and supplied water, meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables for the community, which included Sisters, orphans, and students. Farm production slowed in the second half of the century, and in 1970 the Sisters sold 120 acres of orchard and cropland to a neighboring family. During the farm crisis of the late 1980s, the Congregation decided that the farm was no longer economically viable and leased some of the remaining acreage. Awareness of environmental degradation was growing within the Congregation and, following a resource audit conducted by Father Al Fritsch and the Resource Auditing Service in 1990, the Congregation decided to revitalize the farm as a model of stewardship. After a communal commitment to revitalization was made, an administrator was appointed in 1992. The farm was renamed after one of the initial members of the Congregation and the first garden manager, Sister Michaela Lindemann. The long-range land management plan adopted in 1995 articulated a comprehensive revitalization effort, including organic gardening, composting, reforestation, permaculture design, and building restoration, all of which have occupied the farm staff since the 1990s. In 1992 and again in 1996, Michaela Farm received national recognition from Renew America for its restoration efforts. More recently, a county and state award for conservation practices added to the farm’s growing local recognition. The first issue of the Farm’s newsletter was published in 1994. In the first half of the 1990s, Michaela Farm sponsored several bioregional congresses, permaculture workshops, ecology and wholistic living classes, earth celebrations, and environmental conferences. As the decade wore on, sustainable agriculture became the primary focus. In 1997, the informal farm internship program that began in 1994 was transformed into a formal program that combined an academic curriculum with hands-on learning. The decade closed with the inauguration of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in 1999.

Mission Statement “Michaela Farm, embodying the Franciscan spirit, nurtures sustainable relationships among land, plants, animals, and humans, and utilizes farm resources to fulfill its goals.”
Partner Organizations Batesville Chamber of Commerce
Global Education Associates
Franciscans International
Ministerial Associations of Franklin County and Batesville
Margaret Mary Community Hospital
Batesville Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office
USDA Farm Service Agency
Franklin County
Sisters of Earth
Franklin County Community Foundation
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Long-Term Goals To merge agriculture, education, and spirituality, and to preserve land.
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information

Michaela Farm
Sisters of St. Francis
P.O. Box 100
Oldenburg, IN 47036
Ph:       812.933.0661
Email: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)