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Villa Maria Farm

Abstract Villa Maria Farm is part of the Villa Maria Community Center, the Motherhouse complex of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, located on 728 acres of land in Western Pennsylvania. The Villa Maria campus includes 280 acres of farmland, 400 acres of forestland, a 95 acre Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, wetlands, hiking trails, organic gardens, and pasture for sheep and cattle. Earth Spirituality, environmental education and ecological stewardship are among the many ministries of the HM Sisters. Taking an integrative and ecological approach to spirituality, agriculture, land management, and education, the Sisters created EverGreen as an environmental ministry that would complement the Land Management ministry. Motivated by the Story of the Universe, EverGreen seeks to promote sustainability through experiential and educational programs on earth spirituality, ecology, healing, and the creative arts. EverGreen holds book and discussion groups geared towards rethinking human-earth relations and provides a place for gathering to appreciate, learn, and experience the sacred mysteries of the universe. Villa Land Management is responsible for hands-on stewardship projects on the Villa Maria campus, including the farm, tree nursery, wetlands, bird sanctuary and walking trails. This ministry seeks to create a land management system based on spirituality, sustainability, simplicity and the preservation of local life systems. In addition to supplying fresh vegetables and flowers to the Villa Maria community, the organic gardens help to feed people who are poor and hungry: over 70% of the produce is donated to outreach programs serving areas in Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. The Farm is home to 15 brood cows, 13 ewes, and maintained bee hives. Land Management also sponsors educational programs about topics related to ecological land management, wildlife, and sustainable agriculture. In addition to children and youth programs, student internships are also available.
Religion Christianity (Roman Catholic)
Geographic Location United States of America (Western Pennsylvania)
Duration of Project 1864–Present
History Although the Sisters of the Humility of Mary have practiced conservation and organic gardening on their land since 1864, when the congregation established their motherhouse on 240 acres of farmland in western Pennsylvania, they have made explicit commitments to do so over the past few decades. In 1968, the congregation adopted a comprehensive conservation plan that included provisions to protect wetlands. A forestry stewardship plan was adopted in 1977. In 1983, an outreach program was initiated to provide local food centers with fresh, organic produce. In 1989, an environmental Reflection/Action Group was established by the HM Congregation under the Direction, “Care and Protection of the Environment of our Planet”. Between 1991 and 1993, consultants were hired to perform an environmental audit and resource assessment and to advise the congregation about earth healing measures. EverGreen was officially established in 1995 with the dual-intention of fostering greater awareness of the connections between spirituality and the environment and promoting new conceptions of human-earth relations through education, celebration, and advocacy. Since 1995, Villa Maria has been in the process of becoming an entirely organic farm. In 1997, the congregation adopted the following Direction Statement: “We will claim / the depth and significance / of our charism of humility / which connects us / with the whole earth community / and unites us / in our ministries / on behalf of the poor.” In 1999 Villa Maria received the Lawrence County Conservation Farm of the Year Award from the Lawrence County Conservation District. The following year, the farm received the Area One Tree Farmer of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Tree Farm System of the Bureau of Forestry.
Mission Statement

Land Management
“Recognizing that the land of Villa Maria is an integral part of the heritage and charism of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, we are called to: reverence Earth and humus as God’s gift; function as a model of sustainability for the congregation and the surrounding rural community; serve the Villa community and the guests who use the facility; extend the fruit of our labor to feed the poor and needy of the area; preserve the diversity of the living presence that surrounds us; and nurture this land in peace, harmony, and beauty for present and future generations.”

"EverGreen, a ministry of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, is rooted in a spirit of humility and the holy ground of Villa Maria. Earth education programs and experiential activities are designed to integrate spirituality, simplicity, and sustainability for people of all ages, cultures, and religions. EverGreen provides a gathering place to experience Divine Presence and more abundant life by: appreciating the mysteries of the universe; learning from Earth’s ecosystems; renewing creative energies; networking for eco-justice and global partnerships; and choosing alternatives for a sustainable future.”

Partner Organizations
Audubon Society
Earth Ministry Network
Global Education Associates
Lawrence County Conservation District
Natural Resource and Conservation Service
Ohio Ecological and Food Association
Pennsylvania Alliance for Environmental Education
Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture
Sisters of Earth
Slippery Rock University/Youngstown State University
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Western Pennsylvania Earth Literacy Network

Partner Organizations None Listed
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information

Villa Maria Farm

P.O. Box 206
Villa Maria, PA 16155–0206
Phone: 72. 964.8920, ext. 3350
Fax: 724.964.8082
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Land Management
P.O. Box 732
Villa Maria, PA 16155–0206
Phone: 724.964.8920, ext. 3262
Fax: 724.964.8082
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Sisters of the Humility of Mary