Gratitude

Our thanks to all the people over many years who have helped to create Knoll Farm.

photo of a barn with someone sitting inside, text overlaid reads Gratitude: Timeless Tunnel

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:

THANK YOU.

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:

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 are guided by two desires at Knoll Farm: to refine our skills at building soil and growing food, and to do the same around our commitment to social justice and building community that we express through radical hospitality here at the farm and what grows from that into efforts all over this country.  What we think of as “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: by 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 helped birth an innovative curriculum based on systems-thinking, inclusion, and working across difference.

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.  Our concept was not to teach or train, but to support people already on their journey — through rest and renewal, being in nature, and building internal and external strength and solidarity. Out of that intuition was born the Better Selves Fellowship, which now has alumni all over the country.

There are many ways that the convenings at Knoll Farm have led directly to courageous change-making efforts in places around our country. Our collaboration in land justice in Maine called First Light is a current great example.

In addition to hosting our Better Selves Fellowship program, 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 retreats at Knoll Farm are valuable learning experiences in their own right, and they also contribute significantly to the over-all financial stability of the farm to be a place of learning and change-making.

Being a small farm in this time is not easy, although that is nothing new. Hill farms have always had to innovate and change to survive, and to do many things to make the most of a very short season. We are no different. Growing blueberries and sheep (for breedstock, meal and wool) we manage to pay some of the expenses of the land, and our community’s love of this place helps us not only to survive but to express and share ourselves year after year and feel richly rewarded for the hard work we do.

Collaborators

Peter Forbes

At Knoll Farm and throughout the United States, Peter’s life work is about courageous convening of people across differences of race, class and ideology to work on matters of consequence to their shared future.  Peter works directly with communities and organizations who aspire to evolve, become more inclusive, diverse, willing and capable of changing themselves, and Peter leads long standing collaborations in different parts of this country to achieve land justice.  All of this arises from Peter’s basic artistic instincts as listener and observer. He’s a wood carver, a photographer and the author of 6 books on culture change and the relationship between people and place. Go to his website to learn more about Peter’s writing and facilitation, and to First Light for his work on land justice.

Helen Whybrow

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 and currently works as Editor-at-Large for Milkweed Editions. She is currently writing a book about the joys, sorrows and ancient pull of shepherding called Salt Stones. You can share some of her writing here. 

Lawrence Barriner II

Lawrence is a co-facilitator, advisor and collaborator for the Better Selves Fellowships here at Knoll Farm. He is a Black Queer coach, facilitator, and liberation worker who most values love, justice, community, and transformation. His unpaid work includes visionary fiction(r)evolutionary unclingcommunity-focused healing, and creating post-patriarchal futures. He is working toward a world that includes liberation and right relationship for all beings. (Photo by Maureen White)

Eddie Merma

Eddie is the founder, artistic director and all-around kid guru of Sculpture School, which is based at Knoll Farm. His creative building programs are designed for youth ages 8-16. You can see their creations and learn more by visiting their website.

 

Savitri Bhagavati

Savitri is our Business Manager and year-round core team member. Savitri has a degree in psychology and studied visual arts. Her love and respect of people, her acumen in running businesses including her own restaurants in Southern California and Vermont, combined with her sensibility as an artist make her an ideal person to help us make refuge for others at Knoll Farm.

Ellie Oldach

Ellie is the program manager who makes all of our work with First Light Learning Journey possible.  When not working on First Light, she is pursuing graduate studies around reimagining environmental governance. She is based in coastal Maine, where she loves exploring the intertidal.

Brett Ciccotelli

Brett Ciccotelli is the Tribal Land Recovery Manager for First Light Learning Journey. Brett supports the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship and First Light organizations in their shared goal of growing land ownership and access for Wabanaki Communities.

 

Zoë Myers

Artist in residence at Knoll Farm. Zoë grew up in Vermont and has been an artist here throughout her life. Her primary trade is tattoo which she began in 2014. She opened my private studio, the Perch Folk, at Knoll Farm where she plays with many different mediums such as clay, wood, block-print, illustration, and paint. The plants, animals, and land have always been what bring her the most inspiration in her art so she feels it a gift to be surrounded by such beautiful place and people.

20230607_113926

Isaac Alexandre-Leach

Isaac is the Land Steward/Renovation Project Manager for Knoll Farm. He has spent most of the last decade in the outdoors one way or another, most recently in Vermont with the Green Mountain Club and Hermit Woods Trailbuilders. He enjoys the work that goes into making outdoor spaces accessible and special in all different ways.

Axandra Boselli

Born to an Italian immigrant father and an American mother, Axandra spent her early childhood years in Italy where she first learned the significance of food and how it connects us all to each other and to the land. She is passionate about the interconnected issues of food and land sovereignty, decolonization and racial justice, collective liberation, and intersectional environmental justice. Axandra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and is currently studying Folk Ancestral Herbalism and Sacred Plant Medicine at The Gaia School of Healing & Earth Education. She has also volunteered on farms around the world, where she learned first-hand about different ecologically just and sustainable practices from composting and bamboo harvesting to tropical forest restoration. Axandra’s strong track record of working with grassroots groups, non-profit organizations, coalitions, foundations, and universities on issues including but not limited to social justice, ecological restoration, animal welfare, food sovereignty and land return reveal her deep commitments to solidarity work with diverse communities through cross-cultural team building, community organizing, policy research and analysis, advocacy, and education.

Otto Muller

Otto is the Development Lead at First Light Learning Journey. When he is not working at First Light, Otto is a composer and interdisciplinary artist whose work explores the resonance of history and place. He co-founded the BFA in Socially Engaged Art at Goddard College where he taught for 16 years, developing arts pedagogies that center social justice, decolonization, and community accountability.

Scroll to top