A Community of the Future
by Hannah Scwartz
Heartbeet is the beginning of a community on a beautiful 150 acre
farm in Hardwick, Vermont. It has been envisioned and pioneered
by my husband, Jonathan Gilbert and myself. We drew our inspiration
from the social forms developed in the Camphill movement and from
the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner. I grew up in Kimberton
Hills, Camphill Village in PA, and Jonathan developed his interest
in farming through practical work on biodynamic community farms.
When I look back, I am astounded at the speed that carried Heartbeet
into reality. After living in northern Vermont for two years, in
the summer of 2000 we began to envision a farm community where we
and eventually other families could share our lives with adults
with disabilities and invite others to come for shorter times. Through
my connection to Camphill and other organizations within the North
American Council for Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social
Therapy, I found the advisory circle that supported our ideals and
we began to do research and gather the Board from the community
of anthroposophists in Vermont. Not long after Heartbeet was incorporated
we found this amazing property in exactly the area we had hoped
for. Imagine the thrill of telling our story to the older couple
who owned the land, and hearing form them about their own 50 year
old daughter who has special needs! They went out of their way to
lower the price and provide conditions which made it possible for
us to buy their farm. Mr. and Mrs. Bronner have been staunch supporters
and friends of our endeavor ever since. (Like when the well went
dry in the drought of our first summer and they paid half of the
cost of the new well.)Since we began 4 years ago this lively home
has provided respite care, vacations and day programs for individuals
with special needs, long-term residences to adults with disabilities,
and social service practicum opportunities for high school students.
The farm has hosted summer camps for children from
Camphill Special School and Camphill Soltane. There have also been
numerous work parties and farm programs for school children. We
recently enjoyed a visit from a second and third grade combined
class from the Wellspring Waldorf School for a three day farm stay.
Lately we have also discovered the healing potential of our setting
for teenagers who find themselves in need of a more structured environment.
Why is the community centered around the farm?
Heartbeet produces organic/biodynamic fruits, vegetables, meat,
and eggs, and we recognize that there is a healing aspect to working
with the earth. Caring for the land brings us together as a community.
Life skills are developed in the practical work in the fields and
garden and with the animals. People learn to cope with the inevitable
frustrations and to live up to the tremendous responsibility involved
in this work. We need to cut, split, and stack 10 cords of firewood
every season to keep the house warm. We grow and preserve food (32
gallons of sauerkraut, 52 jars of tomato sauce, 45 jars of picked
The 6 cows, 12 sheep, 2 pigs, 2 bunnies, 75 chickens, and 11 ducks
all depend upon our faithful daily care. For High Mowing Seed Co.
we raise several seed crops in our protected valley landscape. Jonathan
is bringing the old farm fields back from their wild state, growing
hay for our animals. He has been making compost and using the biodynamic
preparations. With the help of the animals he is working towards
the ideal of a self-contained farm. Winter is long in Vermont, and
the woodwork shop and the fiber arts work are the scene of creative
productivity when snow lies deep.
Why in Vermont?
Vermont is recognized for being at the forefront of the
movement to deinstitutionalize and develop strong community support
for people with developmental disabilities. There is a commitment
to quality of life for individuals with DD, and Heartbeet broadens
the choice of opportunities being offered. This is possible in part
because Vermont is still made up of small towns and rural landscapes.
There is a mix of progressive values and traditional ethics that
supports diversity, for example a growing organic and biodynamic
movement, as well as a history of family farms.
Neighbors and friends have supported us generously with donations
of farm equipment, cows and building supplies. Festival celebrations
mark the cycle of the year, and already the midnight gospel reading
and singing carols to the cows in the barn by candle light on Christmas
Eve has become a "tradition" (Thirty people came this
year!) Michealmas festival drew 75 people, and many more friends
came to celebrate St. John's Day.
Our three young children are an essential element in the life of
the household. Our greatest current challenge is the closing of
the Green Mountain Waldorf School (which closed for financial reasons,
not out of a lack of interest). We are supporting new and creative
Waldorf endeavors and working to reunite the 80 Waldorf families
in the area.
Where do we find the strength to carry forward?
In community so much more can be accomplished than when
one is working alone. In one day we can: clean the house, prepare
and clean up three meals for ten or more people, laundry (three
loads a day or we get behind), office work, continue work on renovations,
bring a group to art class, children to and from friends' houses,
weed in the garden, and do chores in the barn. Our days are extremely
full and have their moments of chaos but in community there is someone
to turn to for help. We have had wonderful coworkers join us along
An important and rejuvenating aspect to our life is the inner work
we do through our local anthroposophical study group. Last fall,
a group of us in the area decided to come together once a week,
meeting at Heartbeet throughout the long winter to begin the study
of the foundational works by Rudolf Steiner. This time of reverence
and inner reflection feeds us and reminds us of the stream that
we walk within.
What is our Vision for the Future?
Heartbeet is currently one healing household. We carry
the vision of becoming a five house community with a community center
that could host the craft workshops, a bakery, and cultural events.
Currently all the baking and crafts occur in the house.
We are presently moving forward with the next house, as the demand
for our program is far more than our single household can accommodate.
The second house will bring with it a flow of social exchange that
will provide sustainability, flexibility, and further opportunity.
Right now the second house at the farm is a go, but we are still
behind on our fund drive goals for the house.
Presently we are welcoming Mac and Ellen Mead into the community
as one of our new families. Mac and Ellen are long time anthroposophists,
who focus in biodynamic farming. Kent and Caryn Hesse will also
be joining us at the farm. Kent is an anthroposophical doctor and
Caryn is an educator. So everything is moving forward smoothly as
Heartbeet grows steadily into the future.
Heartbeet is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and
its primary purpose is serving individuals with developmental disabilities.
We are a youthful organization with significant capital expenses
so your support is greatly appreciated and can be directed towards
the following areas of need; General Operations, Building Improvements,
Equipment fund, or the Campaign for the Second House which is in
its beginning phase.
Contact Information: Heartbeet Lifesharing, 218 Town Farm Rd. Hardwick,
Reports: Heartbeet •
Youth Conference • Eurythmy