ARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Imagine a secluded 80-acre farm situated along the back roads of western Kansas. As you walk onto the land, you are greeted by the sounds of the wind, the birds chirping, and the occasional insect flying about.
“Peacefulness isn’t something we conjure up. It’s already here and we kind of protect it in some ways and foster and nurture it too,” said Sister Jane Belanger.
Belanger is one of three Dominican Sisters of Peace who lives and works on Heartland Farm located about 12 miles west of Great Bend, Kan.
“When the Dominicans came here to the Great Bend area there were no hospitals, there were no schools, there were all these immigrants who needed education and healthcare, so that was a need. Now, we are responding to the needs that these times have caring for the planet, growing food, sustaining community,” Belanger explained.
The sisters, with the help of a farm manager and long and short-term volunteers, manage the property. They tend to the gardens, grow fresh produce, which they share at local farmers’ markets, take care of dozens of chickens and raise alpacas for their fleece and their organic compost.
“It really is about being a place of sustainability and of education to our rural area and really beyond. I think it’s learning about our human, earth connection,” she said.
Escape to the farm
“This is a place that can really transform lives,” said Heartland Farm Marketing and Media Coordinator Teresa Johnson.
The farm’s mission goes beyond sustainable gardening and farming. The sisters host community events, retreats and host day and overnight visitors.
“We have an open farm day where people can just come and visit the farm, tour around, walk the trails, see the animals. Just kind of hang out and see what we do. It’s an invitation to enjoy it, but primarily connect with the local community,” Sister Belanger said.
The activities list is a long one. The farm offers everything from breadmaking, beer brewing, canning, pottery, knitting, spinning, cooking, composting, and even massage.
“There are a lot of skills that are kind of falling by the wayside,” said Johnson. “Not a lot of people probably know exactly how sheep’s wool, alpaca fleece becomes yarn, becomes clothing, so those are the kinds of skills we are trying to keep active. You know, there could be a time in the future where we need to have those skills.”
While many people visit the farm to learn a new skill, Belanger said most come to find peace.
“I think if you are looking to heal, sometimes it’s just that. People have been on a rat race or have had a lot of stress. It gives them a chance to simmer down and catch up with themselves,” she explained.
Heartland Farm is located at 1049 CR 390 Pawnee Rock, KS 67567. You can contact the farm for visiting hours, retreat packages, etc at 620-923-4585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.