PAWNEE ROCK — Saturday afternoon, a steady stream of visitors made their way to Heartland Farm, 10 miles west of Great Bend, for an opportunity to pet an alpaca, coo over baby chicks, and learn about a way of life that is in tune and at peace with nature. It was the Dominican Sisters of Peace annual Open Farm Day, and this year the sisters had much to celebrate.
While 2019 marks the 31st year since Heartland Farm was organized, it also marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of the congregation of Dominican Sisters of Peace.
On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, seven former Dominican Sisters of apostolic life became one congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Peace. The congregation is incorporated in the state of Kentucky, home of the earliest founding community, the Dominicans of St. Catherine, founded in 1822. The Dominican Sisters of Great Bend was founded in 1902. Heartland Farm is one of five environmental ministries fostered by the congregation. Other ministries of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Great Bend include Heartland Center for Wholistic Health, a health-care ministry, and Heartland Center for Spirituality, a spirituality ministry.
To mark the milestone anniversary, a tree planting ceremony was held in the fruit tree orchard north of the straw bale building and silo in the center of the farmyard. The public was invited to attend, and joined several of the sisters in a responsive reading, prayer and song.
“As we plant this tree, may we look upon it as a symbol of continued growth, flourishing life, for this holy place,” Sister Jane said.
Farm manager Randy Fish carefully loosened the root ball of the Flowering Canada Red Cherry and set it in its planting hole. As the sisters continued from their readings, he filled the hole with soil.
“The Divine One created good trees so the children of earth might benefit from them,” she recited. “As we plant this gift of God, may the sap in its branches flow.”
The children at the gathering were then invited to take a turn watering the tree.
In addition to the tree planting, visitors explored the farm, taking part in farm tours, learning to bake cookies in a solar oven, visiting the chicken coop to view the six-day-old baby chicks up close, and meeting the alpacas. At the end of March, the farm hosted its annual shearing day, and the farm adopted two young alpacas, one Suri (with long, twisted hair) and one Huacaya (with straight, fluffy hair). For the past month, the public has been invited to submit possible names for the boys through the farm’s website, social media and via email. From the list, the Sisters chose five possibilities for each alpaca, and the public was invited to cast their votes throughout the day. The results, announced at the conclusion of the day: The Huacaya is now Otis, and the Suri is Leo.
A threesome of the farm’s more mature males who are more accustomed to halters were on hand for visitors to meet up close. Their handlers were happy to share information, including some surprising snacks the camelids enjoy: bindweed and dandelion. With plenty on hand (the farm is organic, so no commercial systemic weed killer is used) they were offered their fill of the tasty greens.
Demonstrations of how to make natural beauty products, create a nutrient-filled compost for the garden, and spinning alpaca fleece into yarn also punctuated the day.
And for those with a sweet tooth, the sun cooperated Saturday, supplying enough radiant energy for the sisters to bake cookies in the solar oven. Chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, it was hard to tell which was more popular.