The Happy Farm Lower Hamlet is a small organic vegetable farm located on one of the monastic sisters’ ground in Plum Village. It brings together farming and the mindfulness practice of Plum Village. In 2012 the first Happy Farm was founded in Upper Hamlet. Four years later, based on the concept and experience of our Happy Farm brothers, the Happy Farm in Lower Hamlet has been formed. It is the realisation of a long-held wish to establish a Happy Farm for the nuns and female lay friends. In April 2016 they started to cultivate 14 beds and a small herb garden. They grow vegetables like zucchini, pumpkin, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, and many more. The food they grow is all offered to the Lower Hamlet Sangha.
The Happy Farm is a wonderful opportunity to become aware of habit energies in a context where I have responsibilities, and to learn ways to “work” happily and freely!
Inspiration to join the Happy Farm
I came in contact with Thay’s teachings and the practice in 2012. I have been living for one and a half years in Plum Village. For me it is really a privilege to live in a place like that and to practice. Life seems to be deeper and more meaningful here. It is inspiring and life changing for me to have found this spiritual path. Last year I was helping out at the Happy Farm in Upper Hamlet and learned more about farming, raising the plants, and taking care of the different aspects. When I came back for the last winter retreat, the conditions seemed to be sufficient to set up a Happy Farm in Lower Hamlet. So I wrote a letter to the Sangha expressing my wish to stay longer and set up a Happy Farm here. It is a great opportunity to live here and start a project like this. It felt like a big playground to start something new here with little experience, but to learn so much every day, to be in the practice, and to have the support from the Happy Farmers in Upper Hamlet and the Sangha, everything seemed to come together very magically. During the winter we did a lot of planning. The Happy Farm Upper Hamlet supported us by raising the seedlings because this year we were also busy to set up the infrastructure and didn’t have a greenhouse yet to grow the little plants.
Growing vegetables has been important and very nourishing to me since I had been part of a communitarian vegetable farm during my studies. When the opportunity came up to join in starting this project in Lower Hamlet, I was very excited and happy! I was lucky that my inspiration to come back to Plum Village for a longer period of time just fell in the time slot that the Happy Farm started to manifest. During my last year back home, I was wondering a lot about the question of how to maintain a profound mindfulness practice in daily life. The Happy Farm is a wonderful opportunity to join the mindfulness practice and a “working environment” together, to become aware of habit energies in a context where I have responsibilities, and to learn ways to “work” happily and freely! Doing all this being outside in nature, taking care of plants, and literally nourishing the community is an amazing gift…
Support from Lay Friends
Andrea: It is really heartwarming how much support we got. A lot of lay friends were interested to join the Happy Farm for two or four weeks. Usually, there are three or four lay friends who come for a few weeks to support the Farm. From time to time lay friends join us during the working meditation. It is great to see how people enjoy it and how nourishing it is for them to be with the nature, the earth, and the plants. We had some experienced friends who know the practice for a long time and are gardeners. It was great to have them here, learn more about different aspects of farming, and establish the mindfulness practice together.
Andrea: The whole project and how everything unfolded is still very amazing to me. It is such a precious opportunity to live here and have the freedom to create the Farm.
Tabea: I agree. When I am filled with gratitude about all of this, I really feel happy. Other happy moments we experienced were, for example, in the very beginning, when we looked at the first little cucumber plants.They looked as if they were doing yoga postures with their leaves stretching out! Discovering the first zucchini flowers was a great joy and then, of course, bringing the beautiful harvests up to the cooking area and seeing all the joy in the monastic sister’s faces…
Andrea: There were moments when I didn’t know how to get all the necessary work done, and then help appeared almost magically! For example, when I was alone on the farm for two weeks and I had to plant almost 300 cabbages, I asked for support of 3-4 people – but then lots of more lay friends came and our Upper Hamlet Happy Farm brothers appeared and suddenly there were 25 people running around and planting cabbages…that was a happy moment!
Tabea: I have learned to trust that everything will be okay. Especially in the beginning we easily got stressed about things not working out within a certain time frame…In the end, almost every time we realized everything suddenly worked out well and that there was no need to worry.
Wake Up Earth Retreat
Tabea: It was a very powerful Wake Up retreat. So many young adults came together, shared the practice, and went home inspired. It gives me a lot of hope and confidence to see that so many of us long for a different way to live our lives and to relate to each other. They had the opportunity to join in some work in the Happy Farm either in Upper Hamlet or Lower Hamlet and “taste” our way to grow veggies and to see: it is possible to dream about and start new projects!
Also the family Dharma-sharings were very nourishing and we could see the transformation that took place within a week. For people who were in Plum Village for the first time, it was touching to hear the impact the retreat had on them.
Andrea: On the first day of the Wake Up Earth retreat, there was a Happy Farm presentation and it was funny when somebody said that Happy Farms are the solution to all the problems in the world. But then the next day, when Christina Figueres from the United Nations came to talk about her work in the Climate Conference last November, she repeated the sentence. It was great to hear that from her! Growing organic vegetables, reducing a lot of the harmful aspects of mainstream agriculture e.g. long transportation – and experimenting a new working culture of mindfulness, care and joy is a very meaningful thing to do.
To read more about the daily life of Happy Farmers in Lower Hamlet and how they get financial support, subscribe for the upcoming issue of The Mindfulness Bell Winter/Spring 2017!