Our thanks to all the people over many years who have helped to create Knoll Farm.
Your intellect, care, creativity, vision and strong backs have helped to make Knoll Farm. And to the hundreds of supporters and those who have walked this land alongside us:
Repairing roads after a storm, manifesting dreams, mulching berries, cutting wood, asking questions, answering email, writing curriculum, lighting lanterns, raising money, offering retreats, banging nails, shaping cob, harvesting food, designing buildings, guiding, governing, listening, walking, writing, laughing, crying, raising kids, being there, saying hello and saying goodbye:
Julian Ageyman, Kyla Allon, Rani Arbo, Cesare Assad, Adrian Ayson, Molly Bagnato, Kayla Barss, Maeve Benz, Diana Blank, Joe Bosson, Marcus Bradley, Adrienne Maree Brown, Aric Brown, Taylor Burt, Drew Burdick, Ali Cashdan, Lisa Cashdan, Bryan Cassidy, Mohamad Chakaki, Roberto Chene, Scott Chaskey, Steph Cesario, Shiren Chen, Bill Coperthwaite, Liezl Cosentino, Ann Day, Skip Dewhirst, Andy DiMario, Marc DiMario, Sasha Dunbar, Chris Eaton, Maria Echevarria, Caleb Elder, John Elder, Torri Estrada, Anushka Ferdandapoule, Carolyn Finney, Jesse Maceo Vega Frey, Dylan Funnell, Samara Gaev, Steve Glazer, Ben Gould, Ben Graham, David Grant, Jean Hamilton, Toby Herzlick, Jenny Helm, Olivia Hoblitzelle, Michael Holanbach, Polly Hoppin, Glen Hutchinson, Diane Ives, Pete Jamison, Wendy Johnson, Cynthia Jurs, Stephanie Kaza, Scott Kessel, Hank Lentfer, Spencer Leonard, Will Lintilac, Addie Livingston, Gil Livingston, Anya Maier, Ella McDonald, Libby McDonald, Megan McGeary, Ginny McGinn, Nicholas McHugo, Kevin McMillion, Eddie Merma, Flo Miller, Kristen Monsell, Anna Nasset, Melissa Nelson, Riley Neuberger, Dan Neumeyer, Coco O’Connor, Danyelle O’Hara, Theo Pappas, Chris Patterson, Kinny Perot, Kevin Peterson, Deva Racusin, Kesha Ram, Kavitha Rao, Cara Robechek, Greg Ryan, Al Sabatini, Isaac Sacca, Mario Sacca, Dana Saladoff, Scott Russell Sanders, Lauret Savoy, Carson Schoellkopf, Jeff Schoellkopf, Deb Schoenbaum, Hans Schoeppflin, Neha Shukla, Taz Squire, Anayza Stewart, Craig Strachen, Rick Thompson, Kaylyn Sullivan Two Trees, Phillip Ulrich, Anita Virmani, Tom Wessels, Peter Whybrow, Ruth Whybrow, Ashley Woods, Diana Wright, and Mandy Yonkman.
A History of Service
Our chapter at Knoll Farm began in 2000 when we learned that the Vermont Land Trust was looking to sell an unusual place to someone able to breathe new life into a beautiful old farm.
The moment we heard about Knoll Farm, our lives connected to Ann Day and her family, who had stewarded the farm for 50 years with a powerful social and environmental consciousness. In the 1980s Ann began traveling to Nicaragua through the American Friends Service Committee and made Knoll Farm a place of refuge for people fleeing the civil war for asylum in Canada. Ann was one of the first people in Vermont to protect her land through conservation easement, ultimately gifting it to the Vermont Land Trust with the understanding that they would find the next stewards to carry on her vision for the farm as a place of education, service and family-scale agriculture. What’s more, Ann’s uncle was Richard Gregg, the Quaker lawyer who brought Gandhi’s teachings to America, a man we had long admired. We knew we had found our home, and now it was our turn to make Knoll Farm a place of service.
Today at Knoll Farm
We’ve had two responsibilities at Knoll Farm: to refine our skills at building soil and growing food for others, and to do the same around our commitment to social justice and reciprocity that we express through radical hospitality here at the farm and what grows from that into efforts all over this country. We call this Making Refuge, a life’s work that arises from our values and purpose. Making Refuge is our long-term commitment to a making a healthy homestead, sharing it openly with others to build relationships across difference, and then to nurture the work that blossoms elsewhere as a result.
Every year, we have brought cohorts of people doing important social and environmental change work together at Knoll Farm. For the first 12 years, we focused that intention through the organization we created called Center for Whole Communities, and the offering was focused on cultural change: in bringing together people who care for the earth with people who care for our communities, we hoped to close the gap in understanding between the two. That work helped to nurture a generation of leaders who could bring conservation and social justice together. We created something that hadn’t existed before: an innovative curriculum based on systems-thinking, inclusion, and working across difference that gave people a direct experience of a healthy, whole community.
The last of those retreats at Knoll Farm occurred in 2015, just as our nation was beginning to understand the gravity of political choices we would face in the presidential election. Dozens of alumni returned that summer to help us build the Water Temple in honor of our departed friend and mentor, Bill Coperthwaite. It was a time of looking back, searching, beginning to build something new. For many reasons, the 2016 presidential election was an inflection point. We were strongly aware of an even more divided nation. What took shape initially was a simple offering of time to our alumni and their colleagues– to remember and restore one’s long work, and take time to pursue individual projects. The concept was not to teach or train, but to support great people already on their journey. Out of that intuition was born the Better Selves Fellowship, which is growing stronger each year.
Knoll Farm continues to host other groups like the ACLU, Academy for Change, 350.org, National Parks Conservation Association and many other institutions leading the way for change in their respective fields. These trips and retreats at Knoll Farm are valuable learning experiences in their own right, but they also contribute significantly to the over-all financial stability of the farm to be a place of learning and change-making.
The physical and emotional labor of farming and creating space for others where we also live and raise a family has never been straightforward, but we’ve grown: more experienced and practical, certainly more empathetic, possibly wiser. We’ve learned so much. All gifts are multiplied in relationship; thank you for being in relationship with us.
A Return to Renewables
We strive toward a self-sustaining, regenerative farm. As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and our consumption, we converted to solar electricity and wood heat in 2008. We reduce water and recycle human waste through our composting toilets (when thoroughly processed after 2-3 years in the composter, it goes as soil onto our sheep pastures!).
kilowatts solar power generated (per year)
cords of wood harvested for heat (per year)
pounds of humanure turned into soil
Peter’s life work is helping divided communities to heal, and helping organizations committed to nature and place to open their work to all people. Peter works directly with communities across the country to have dialogue on matters of consequence to their future, most often about working across differences in culture, power and ideology. Peter also works directly with dozens of organizations in the environmental sector to become more inclusive, diverse, willing and capable of changing themselves. Peter is the author, co-author or photographer of more than 6 books on culture change and the relationship between people and place.
You can learn more about Peter’s work at and beyond Knoll farm at www.peterforbes.org
Helen divides her time seasonally between organic farming and writing and editing. She manages and runs our farm operation as well as mentors farm staff and helps organize events and retreats for the farm and Refuge. She has also done research and writing on organic farming for NOFA-VT, been part of Vermont’s Farm Viability Program mentoring new farmers, and is co-producer of the film Organic Matters. Helen was a book editor for many years, running an imprint for W. W. Norton. Now she works as Editor-at-Large for Orion magazine, and is connected to many other magazines and publishers as a freelance writer and book editor. The author or editor of several works of nonfiction, she is also currently completing her Master’s Degree in Journalism at Harvard.
Kyla is returning in 2020 as our Assistant Farm Manager. She has worked and taught on farms since 2004, including an herb farm in Australia and her own farm in Massachusetts. She is also a fiber artist and will be making value added products with our Icelandic wool.
Kayla, one of our Retreat Managers in 2019, recently completed her degree in Wellness and Alternative Medicine and is a Certified Massage Therapist. She enjoys rock climbing and gardening in her free time and will be travelling to Asia to earn her yoga teacher certification.
WILLOW AND WREN FORTUNOFF
Peter and Helen’s daughters – who changed their names back to Peter’s father’s Ukrainian sirname before he changed it during WWII – both help with the farm and the retreats when they are home in the summer.
Spencer will be returning in 2020 for his second season as our land steward. He believes it compliments his forever lifestyle well as a career, professional ski patroller at Mad River Glen. “I immensely enjoy the hard work – everyday it’s like CrossFit and I get paid to do it”. He feels an integral part of an amazing community on both mountains.
Ella, one of our farm hands and assistant retreat managers in 2019, now works with Peter from her home base in Maine on land conservation. She recently finished her undergraduate studies in environmental studies, and enjoys cooking, hiking, and doing pottery in her free time.
Zoë is a creator, who works in clay, ink, paint, wood, and tattoo. Her studio The Perch is in the sunny rooms below our office. She grew up in the woods of Vermont and has always been inspired by her natural surroundings. Zoë lives in a tiny house she designed and built in the Mad River Valley.
Mandy is our Business Manager. She lives in Fayston with her family and likes to ski, snowboard, run, swim, hike and read real books made of paper from the public library.
Here is our list of those that inspire us and feel like part of our extended family of people and places doing important work in the world:
By joining our community, you become part of the story of this land.
Be the first to know when the berries are ripe, workshops are scheduled, or leadership fellowships are announced.