I discovered St. Francis Farm in the fall of 2015 through a flier in my local library. The flier connected with me because of its reference to simplicity. At the time, I had begun to notice and get rid of some of the many distractions and possessions in my life. I was eager to visit the farm and learn more about its inhabitants, however, I was nervous about the religious element at the farm. Listening to news about religious extremism had made me associate strong religious belief with intolerance.
Despite my fears, I reached out to Lorraine at the farm, and we set up a date. On the day of my visit, I nervously turned into their driveway, and was met with warm welcomes from Joanna, Zachary, and Lorraine Hoyt. During lunch, I was amazed to learn that a lot of their food came from their own land and was made from scratch. Before this, the only people I knew who did this were the Amish. I was given a tour of the farm and was interested to see how each family member’s talent was expressed as a role on the farm. Each role was equally important in maintaining and running the farm. On this day, I was also introduced to their walking trails, their greenhouse, their goats, their gardens, their chickens, and their chapel. Needless to say, all my preconceptions about the Hoyts disappeared when I realized how tolerant and kind they really were. After this visit, I felt very lucky to have met such people.
Since my first visit, I have come back many times to help out, to chat, and to walk. I have helped Joanna plant peas, plant onions, and milk goats. I found these tasks to be very calming, and they gave me a feeling of purpose and helpfulness. The conversations I have had with Joanna and Lorraine are what really stand out to me. Through their open-mindedness and genuine kindness, they have helped me recognize a lot of the rifts in my life. They have helped me find direction when I have been completely lost. More importantly, they have opened up their home and created a place for not only me, but also for anyone who is in need of alone time, a place to be heard, or something else. They have taught me how special it is to be present in your surroundings and listen to other people. Before meeting the Hoyts, I did not understand a fortune cookie that I once received that stated: “By listening, one will learn truths. By hearing, one will only learn half truths.” I now understand the fortune cookie’s quote, and can point out a family that embodies the meaning of the quote to its core.
In a world with so much noise and so little listening, it is very easy to feel isolated and not understood. St. Francis Farm is a place where you will find the opposite. At St. Francis Farm, silence is sacred and healthy communication is abundant. The farm is a place to stand still and realize how connected you are to nature and to other people. After visiting St. Francis Farm for the first time, I described the farm to my mom as an intersection between the turbulence of the mainstream and the clarity of simpleness. The Hoyts do not close themselves or their lifestyle off from other people. In fact, they open up their farm to people of all different backgrounds. As a child and as a teenager, I was constantly told to not talk to strangers. The Hoyts have showed me the power of reaching out and opening yourself up to people who are different. The powerful things I have learned from talking to the Hoyts and working at their farm have changed me immensely. I now have more faith in my convictions and who I am, and, more importantly, more faith in the goodness and potential of other people. I find that there is so much fear in this world, in myself, and in other people. It is a lot easier to pass off another person or experience as "strange" or "dangerous," and to build a shell around yourself than to meet that person or experience head-on. When I think of this, I am reminded of a quote I once read that says, "When you protect something, the thing you are keeping safe decays." The decision of the Hoyts to open up their homes and themselves to other people is an extremely powerful one, and I, along with many others, are extremely grateful for this decision to choose this more challenging route.