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Be Well Farming: A Retreat Experience for Farmers

How do we feed and care for ourselves while we feed others? What types of practices and connections support us to be our best selves in the challenging work of managing a farm business?

Most farms focus on two of the three pillars of sustainability: economic and environmental. What is often overlooked is the third pillar: social sustainability — which can have just as much impact (positive or negative) on the long-term viability of a farm business. Just as we might revise a business plan, improve soil fertility management, or redesign a packing shed to increase efficiency and benefit our bottom line, we can also deliberately cultivate tools, skills and strategies to strengthen the social dimension of farm systems.

Our Be Well Farming project invites you to join us this December for a farmer-centered retreat experience where we’ll consider how we cultivate wellbeing for ourselves and for those we work alongside on the farm. The Be Well Farming Retreat Experience for Farmers will be held both virtually and in-person in December 2021. Our goal is to create a welcoming space for participants to explore new ways to improve personal and farm health and overall wellbeing.

The retreat will provide an opportunity to connect with other farmers and to explore practical tools and strategies to recognize, support and shape social dynamics on the farm as a way to improve overall farm success by supporting the personal wellbeing of farmers and workers. Retreat programming will consist of a series of full-group and small-group conversations, space for personal reflection, communal meals, and physical activities like nature walks, yoga and meditation. The retreat will be facilitated by the Be Well Farming project team and is intended for commercial farmers and farm employees who have at least three years of experience managing or working on a crew on all types of operations in the Northeast. A limited number of spaces for agricultural service providers are available.


Virtual and In-Person Retreat Details

The retreats will be held both in an online format and in-person. In-person attendees are required to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination as part of the registration process. In the event that the in-person retreat is not possible, both sessions will be offered online.

Online/Virtual: December 1-3, 2021, via Zoom

Our online session will invite you into a warm and welcoming virtual retreat home. We will connect meaningfully through a mix of modalities: individual reflection, small and large group sharing, dialogue walks, arts and yoga. Participants will receive a mailing with all handouts and materials needed. Plenty of opportunities to rest your eyes and body from the screen will be offered both in session and between. Please reserve December 1 and December 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET and December 3 from 9 a.m. to noon ET (final schedule still in development). Participants will be asked to commit to being fully present throughout the online experience preferably on a tablet or desktop/laptop computer with a camera and reliable internet connection. Online sessions will not be recorded.

Scholarships will be available to support full participation, based upon request by the applicant.

In Person: December 10-12, 2021 at the Friendly Crossways Retreat Center in Harvard, MA

The program begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, December 10, and concludes on Sunday, December 12, at 3:30 p.m. (final schedule still in development). All meals and snacks will be provided and dietary restrictions can be accommodated.

In both the online and in-person sessions, participants will be invited into a supportive environment, where there is a sense of comfort, community and connection that fosters authentic dialog and self-reflection. Potential participants are asked to consider the following commitments:

  • Participants are asked to be available to attend and engaged in all three days of the in-person retreat and during each of the sessions of the online program. Attendees should come prepared to be fully present to take full advantage of this opportunity.
  • In-person participants are expected to follow the required health and safety protocols throughout the retreat

COVID-19/Delta Safety Considerations: All in-person participants will be required to upload proof of completion of a COVID vaccination. Masks will be required indoors at the retreat facility in accordance to MA health requirements. Accommodations will include single rooms with access to shared bathroom facilities.


Cost to Attend

A participation fee of $50 is requested for both the online and in-person retreats. The remainder of registration (a value of $500/person for in-person) is supported by a grant from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Need-based scholarships (as funding allows) will be available to participants of both retreats to support full participation. Possible expenses for scholarship applications could include child care, work release, or supplementary staffing. Indicate this need on the application form.


Who Is the Retreat for?

We encourage applications from:

  1. Commercial producers and farm employees who have at least three years of management experience on all types of operations in the Northeast. Northeast SARE covers the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
  2. Producers representing diverse backgrounds, identities, and farm enterprises.
  3. Producers who identify as community leaders and are committed to continuous learning, change-making, and self-reflection in order to improve health and well-being for themselves and their broader farm team.
  4. Those who want to learn more about specific strategies to improve health, well-being, and fairness and equity on the farm.
  5. Those who are committed to carrying the work forward and applying what they have learned to take future action (either personally, within the farm business, and/or in the broader agricultural community).

How to apply

Please complete the application form. It may take around 15 minutes to complete. Deadline to apply is October 25, 2021. Applications will be reviewed and decisions on acceptance to the retreat series will be communicated by November 1, 2021, at which time we will provide a payment link to reserve and confirm your space.


Questions?

If you have further questions about the retreat or the Be Well Farming Project, please send them to daniel.macphee@tufts.edu.

Violet Stone

Violet is the coordinator of the Reconnecting with Purpose project, which offers farm and food system educators and change makers a retreat space to explore challenges and renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. She is also a collaborator on the Be Well Farming Project. This project creates reflective spaces for farmers and food producers to connect meaningfully and explore strategies that can ameliorate challenges and bolster quality of life. Violet serves as the NY SARE Coordinator and can help farmers and educators navigate NESARE grant opportunities.