Jerusalem Farm: Green Living in Action

By Barbara K. Roberts

      

Compost pickup; greenhouse

When exploring how to incorporate green living into our lives, a wonderful resource to follow is Jerusalem Farm, a Catholic intentional community located in the historic northeast Pendleton Heights neighborhood in Kansas City. Founded in 2012, with the support of CSJ-sponsored Avila University and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Jerusalem Farm is built on the four cornerstones of prayer, community, service and simplicity. They strive to transform their lives and those around them through sustainable living, service retreat experiences, and home repair to neighbors in need.

Jessie and Jordan Schiele lead the community. Jessie, executive director, and Jordan, project director, live at the farm with their two children and three full-time community members. “The more I live in community, the more I become a believer that our current consumeristic society is unsustainable. By living in a learning community, encouraging [your] faith, living with less resources, you’re able to give to others more freely because you yourself have a stronger sense of the community network,” says Jordan.

The Schieles, with help from a multitude of volunteers, transformed the space, which was originally a convent, into an eco-friendly community in keeping with the farm’s mission to care for the earth and reduce their carbon footprint. An example of this can be found in the solar panels they installed. On most days, these panels provide more power than the farm needs. The extra power then goes back to the utility company. The farm’s utility bills are only for service fees, which run from $15 to $25 per month.

To show awareness and conserve electricity, on Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. until daybreak, no electricity, not even batteries, are used. This provides all at the farm the opportunity to “live in solidarity with those who don’t have access, and to illustrate how our dependence on electricity can be detrimental,” shares CSJ Associate David Armstrong, Jerusalem Farm chairperson and director of University Mission and Ministry at Avila University. Moreover, all volunteer work groups are asked to not use their cell phones while at the farm.

A 3,000-gallon rain collection and irrigation system provides all of the water for the community garden, and general water needs. Residents and retreat participants are challenged to take only three showers during the week, one normal and two bucket showers.

A community garden provides the produce needs, as well as extra to share with their neighbors. The greenhouse was built with repurposed materials including wine bottles and used tires for the walls, and recycled corrugated steel for the roof. Only the tempered glass around the wood-fired stove was made with original materials. The heat from the stove runs under the greenhouse dirt, keeping the seedlings and plants warm during the winter.

The farm embraces composting and established a curbside compost program. Once a week, over 80 neighbors’ food scraps are added to the farm’s compost site, which is later used as fertilizer in their garden.

The chicken coop, made from recycled material, is home to a rooster and a dozen hens. After four years, when the hens no longer produce eggs, they are processed for consumption by the community and neighbors in need.

The farm also provides services to neighbors facing city codes violations, allowing neighbors—many elderly—to stay in their homes. Labor is provided free of charge, with neighbors only paying the cost of materials. Repayment is flexible to what the homeowner can afford—some pay as little as $5 per month. If they are struggling, the farm forgives the loan.

When repairing homes, care is taken to salvage as much as possible. The materials can be reused in another home. Soon after beginning this service, Jordan noticed that neighbors had the skill but lacked basic tools for home repairs. This inspired him to open a tool library, where neighbors can check-out any needed tools.

Looking Forward
Part of Jerusalem Farm’s original five-year plan was to have two buildings to carry out their mission. In April, they moved into a new Common Home, while also having completed renovations to their current farmhouse. More volunteers are now able to experience and share with their own community the joy of green living while serving their neighbors.

The home, the first new construction in the neighborhood in 50 years, includes common living space, a reading room and sacred prayer space, along with nine bedrooms, four bathrooms, a communal kitchen and laundry room. Generosity from donors and volunteers has helped to keep construction costs, “far below average building costs,” says Jordan, who also serves as the project’s general contractor.

The new home is being built sustainably. Its energy-saving features include insulated concrete form technology (ICF), triple-paned windows and solar panels. A wood stove supplements a highly efficient HVAC system that can be controlled in each room.

Sabbath Year
This year marks the beginning of the farm’s seventh year. In the Old Testament, the seventh year was considered the “Sabbath year.” In celebration of this, Jerusalem Farm will match all payments on all homeowners’ loans. By doing this, they can provide financial rest to their neighbors. “We take a lot of inspiration and wisdom from the sisters who’ve lived in community for hundreds of years. We want to keep that tradition, the sense of community and being good stewards of the earth alive,” says Jordan.

Jerusalem Farm provides a vibrant model of green living for their neighbors, service retreat participants and the general public. Community member Sunny Hamrick shares, “We are showing people that through the small changes, with love and compassion, you can reap radical love.”



Events at Jerusalem Farm

  • Open House of Common Home and renovations to Farm: Saturday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Community Night Dinner: Every second Tuesday of the month, 5 p.m. Please RSVP by Sunday before.
  • Jerusalem Farm is looking for new community members as well as 1-6 temporary residents.

For more information on these events and how to volunteer, go to www.jerusalemfarm.org.

 

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