North Shore

SUMMARY

Our North Shore program originated at the Jostyn Family Farm in Hamilton, Mass., and is growing across the broader North Shore region. In addition to our farm project, we've:

• Done educational work with young people to learn about their community history and neighbors, and how to grow and share food;

• Hosted team-building gatherings and theological summits for ecumenical and community groups in natural settings;

• Researched ways to improve prisons and church landscapes through community gardening;

• And partnered with growers and environmental organzations on projects benefitting both nature and humankind.

The North Shore region was chosen for its proximity to important environmental ecologies such as the Great Marsh and North Eastern forest, social ecologies such as the burgeoning North Shore arts community and diverse ecumenical environment, and its closeness to Boston’s rich tech sector. Together these offer interesting and dynamic opportunities for growth in caring for our region in ways that blend Spiritual, Relational and Environmental (SRE) areas.   

In the future we hope to build more SRE connections with the arts, ecumenical, farming, tech, and gardening communities, with hopes of uniting neighbors in order to benefit food insecure populations in the region, improve the regional environment, and build community.

Learn more about our first North Shore project in Hamilton, MA below, and sign up on our Connect page for more info about our future endeavors.

IN DEPTH

The Jostyn Family Farm
In our first project, we've been developing a family home in Hamilton, MA into a small production farm and helping the owners make spiritual, relational, and environmental connections with their property. We began by thinking of the home and property as connected within a larger ecosystem of wholeness (including the Hamilton community, the North Shore, the Greater Boston area, and beyond). We've been working to grow a greater sense of connectedness between the house, the lawn, the forest, the neighborhood, the town, etc. Initially we researched the historical, geological, environmental, ecumenical, social, and religious context of the property, which helped us understand more about how the property naturally fit into the local and regional community and what its potential could be.  
The owners of the Jostyn Family Farm asked us to incorporate three guiding spiritual qualities in our renovation/activation of the site - wisdom, economy, and brotherly love. Below is what we've accomplished as a result: 
  • We've helped the owners create a mission statement for the property that encompassed their unique spiritual goals and desire to use the property to bless others.
  • In the forest, we've aided the owners in actively loving it by working to improve its health and habitat. In 2019 we hired a licensed forester thanks to a Forest Stewardship Grant that is available to homeowners. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/forest-stewardship-program  
    Guided by our forester's care plan, we've:
    • Removed nearly 100% of invasives from the site, such as buckthorn and poison ivy, in order to improve soil, light, and water quality for native plants; 
    • Repurposed much of the removed plant material (buckthorn only) into natural brush fencing, and kept discarded material onsite;
    • Managed our tree health by doing targeted patch cutting of diseased and hazard trees; 
    • Learned more about the property’s soil through site-wide soil testing;
    • And worked to protect our wetlands by maintaining natural water flow.
  • In order to help the owners grow in the reuse and repurposing of materials onsite, conserve carbon emissions, and lower purchasing, we've:
    • Created a forest compost area to help store and recycle removed material for reuse later;
    • Repurposed much of our leftover material into a natural berm boundary that serves to designate the property line and shield the compost area for neighbors;
    • Started a food-grade mushroom farm onsite by harvesting 150+ logs from downed trees;
    • Begun an onsite composting program for food scraps and chicken waste.
    • And installed a log-slice stepping stone path around the edge gardens in the yard that’s beautiful, functional, and made solely of material from fallen trees.
  • So as to activate food growing onsite for sharing with local food pantries we've:
    • Created a series of multi-acre edge gardens along the forest edge with all kinds of berries and other semi-shade loving edible plants;
    • Added a large number of blueberry bushes to complement native ones already proliferating onsite and to generate a significant production crop;
    • Developed a chicken program, enabling the owners to donate 12-24 eggs a week;
    • Created a production shiitake mushroom farm in the woods;
    • Experimented with an indoor garden that enabled us to donate lettuce and kale and helped us learn lessons we can share with others in the future;
    • Placed raised vegetable gardens around the house that host annual veggies;
    • And worked to install lots of pollinator-loving plants to feed pollinators onsite, including bees from our three beehives.
  • In the home, using these same principles of wisdom, economy, and brotherly love, we've:
    • Furnished much of it from second-hand sources;
    • And installed many sustainable environmentally-friendly systems including solar (enabling the owners to be 100% off-grid at certain times of year), composting, occupancy sensor lighting, robot lawn mowing, and smart thermostats -- all of which serve to save money, use resources in an intelligent and caring way, and conserve energy.  
  • As we've grown in our understanding of the site, we've also helped the owners deepen connection with their community by: 
    • Instituting the hosting of annual harvest dinners, 
    • And working to build relationships with immediate neighbors, local farmers and the faith community.