Daniel Kiewel for the Great Bend Tribune, April 24, 2021
Sunny skies and mild spring temperatures greeted visitors to Heartland Farm, owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, for their annual Open Farm Day Saturday, to explore the farm and learn more about its mission, activities, and services.
The event returned after a year hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, and as a result, looked a little different than in past years. Heartland Farm Marketing/Media Coordinator Teresa Johnson said previously the event was held in a come-and-go fashion, however this year visitors were asked to pre-register for a specific time slot to provide more social distancing.
Johnson said they expected roughly 80 visitors for the day’s event.
“It’s just a way to show people Heartland Farm and what we’re about, to come out and have a nice day,” Johnson said. “The goal is to remind people of some of the more simple things.”
At Saturday’s Open Farm Day, visitors had a chance to experience the farm firsthand, and to learn about some of its available activities and programs.
“It’s just a place to come and relax, be with nature and walk the gardens and the nature trails, and to be with some really good people and some great, unique animals,” she said.
Sr. Jane Belanger, a longtime member of the Heartland Farm, said since the beginning, the farm’s mission has to been to demonstrate good stewardship of the land, and of the planet, through sustainable agricultural practices and through sharing the land with others. She hoped Saturday’s event would help educate visitors on those practices, and to encourage them to carry on those practices, as well.
But it is about more than just the land. Johnson said she hoped to show Saturday’s visitors the farm is an ideal, safe place for people to get away from the bustle of everyday life and find peace and healing.
About Heartland Farm
The 80-acre farm is located about 13 miles west of Great Bend, and is home to a wide variety of organically grown plants, and numerous animals. The Dominican Sisters have operated the farm since about 1987.
Most well-known, Johnson said, are the farm’s 17 alpacas, which visitors to the farm were given the opportunity to walk during their visit Saturday. The farm raises the animals for their soft fleece, which is utilized for various purposes. After the animals are sheared, the process of clearing the fleece of dirt and grass by hand takes about two months before it is sent to a fiber mill, to be processed.
In addition to animals, the farm also is home to several gardens of organically grown flowers and produce, including a high-tunnel greenhouse, in which plants can be grown year-round, and can often be found each summer at the Great Bend Farmers’ Market.
The farm is also home to about three miles of nature walking trails, and several other indoor and outdoor spaces which can be used for relaxation, reflection, and meditation.
In a normal year, Johnson said, the farm hosts numerous educational programs and activities on topics ranging from gardening, pottery, fiber arts such as knitting and weaving, beer brewing, pasta and bread making, and more. Saturday’s event, Belanger hoped, would be a step back into hosting more live in-person events.
Sisters on the farm, including Sr. Imelda Schmidt, hand produce items ranging from pottery, to soap, to baked goods, as well.
The farm also has a guest house that serves as a place for people looking to get away, and functions as a “retreat center” as Belanger described it.
Belanger said the farm also welcomes volunteers to come out to the farm and help with a variety of daily activities including weeding the garden and helping out with day-to-day chores on the farm.
For more information about the farm and its services, visit the Heartland Farm Facebook page, or on the web at https://heartlandfarm-ks.org, or call 620-923-4585.