Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth; break into song; sing praise” (Ps 98:4). If carrots, peas, and cucumbers were musical notes, then the earth at Canticle Farm in Allegany, New York, would raise the most joyful of songs to the Lord. Canticle Farm, a nonprofit, community-supported agriculture farm, or CSA, is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany (the FSA) as a way to fulfill the sisters’ mission of reverencing, protecting, and honoring the sacredness of God’s creation.
The word canticle means “hymn” and recalls Saint Francis’ “Canticle of the Creatures.”
“We are about caring for all of creation, as was Saint Francis. It’s about relationship of brother and sister to the earth, soil, and plants, as well as all of the people who are part of our farm family in any way,” says the farm’s president, Sister Joyce Ramage, OSF.
The FSA Peace and Justice Committee decided to add Integrity of Creation to their work and began to explore the possibility of establishing an organic CSA in 1998. Upon approval, land was purchased in 2000 and was named “Canticle Farm.” The farm is located one mile from the FSA’s St. Elizabeth Motherhouse.
“The original farm consisted of 12.5 acres. We purchased additional land in 2012, which consisted of another 12 acres. Most of the production is done on the original land where we have a greenhouse and three high tunnels. The new land was farmed conventionally, so we have had to wait for three years to use it. We grow over 40 varieties of vegetables,” explains Sister Joyce.
She notes hat their produce is Certified Naturally Grown, which is an alternative designation to the USDA’s National Organic Program, and is meant primarily for small farmers distributing through local channels. As a CSA, the farm sells shares to members of the local public, who then share the risk with Canticle Farm because they pay for their produce before it is harvested.
“We grow year-round, having spring, summer, and fall share seasons. Plus we have a market on the new property called Canticle Farm Market where we sell to the public yearround,” she adds.
This is the farm’s 15th season and, when it began, they had approximately 40 shareholders. Today, that number has grown to an average of 200 shareholders each year. The shares only cover the cost of producing vegetables; the cost of infrastructure, such as tractors, is covered by a combination of donations and grants.
In addition to providing the finest of produce to shareholders, Canticle Farm donates vegetables to low-income community members. “We have a goal of giving 20 percent of the summer harvest to the poor in the area. This is accomplished solely through grants and donations to pay for the shares. It amounts to more than 12,000 pounds of produce and goes to 10 or 12 local food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and some individual families,” Sister Joyce explains.
Canticle Farm has been a welcome addition to the region. “We are seen by many as a gift to the community. Those who come to us care about the environment, the food they eat, and how it’s grown. We continue to look for ways to reach out to more and more people,” Sister Joyce says. To learn more about Canticle Farm or to donate, visit www.CanticleFarm.org.
—Janice Lane Palko
Years ago, when I was a teenager, something amazing happened to my sister Denise regarding Saint Anthony. Despite the years that have passed, this story remains fresh in my mind.
Denise was getting ready to go out on a date with her boyfriend—whom she would later marry—when she realized that her most valued piece of jewelry was missing. Not long before our grandmother passed away, she had given this ring to Denise. We scoured her bedroom floor with no luck.
Together, we prayed to Saint Anthony for help. Immediately after praying, I accidentally bumped into her dresser and knocked over a glass of water, which fell to the floor and broke. As I cleaned up the mess, the sparkle of our grandmother’s ring caught my eye—it had rolled under Denise’s dresser. St. Anthony heard our prayer, and Denise made it to her date on time!
—Jo Anne Michaels, Chicago, Illinois
“When a crystal is touched or struck by the rays of the sun,” wrote Saint Anthony, “it gives forth brilliant rays of light. When people of faith are touched by God’s grace, they, too, must give forth sparks of light in their good words and deeds, and so bring God’s light to others.”
Women and men of faith shine brightly because of God’s grace, but only after they have moved aside and given God the credit for whatever good they have accomplished. Only our sins are truly ours; the good that we do belongs first to God.
—Pat McCloksey, OFM