From Denver, Susan and I drove five and half hours to the middle of Kansas— 15 miles outside of Great Bend. As we drove over the flatlands on our way to Heartland Farm, the sky was something spectacular: a raging lightning storm loomed ahead of us while the sun dipped down by our side, casting pink and purple streaks every which way. The welcome to Kansas could not be any more perfect.
Heartland Farm is run by a small group of dedicated Dominican Sisters who raise alpacas for fiber, run a pottery studio, keep chickens, and cultivate several vegetable gardens on the grounds, among other projects.
All of the nuns were extremely welcoming and allowed us to spend all of Monday shadowing their operation. First, we joined Sister Jane in the garden, who explained how everything is on a strategic three-year crop rotation that keeps both a healthy soil and harvest. They also utilize indoor greenhouse space and cold frames in order to grow food for themselves year round. Sister Jane always has fertilizer on hand in the form of alpaca droppings: while we assisted Sister Terry in calling in the animals from the pasture later that day, she explained to us that unlike other animal droppings, alpaca’s can be immediately applied for a nitrogen boost to crops without further composting.
Sister Marion also showed us around their quite spiffy solar oven, which she cooked a very tasty corn casserole in for our lunch on Tuesday. The oven didn’t take long at all to heat up to 400 degrees in the Kansas summer heat!
All in all, Heartland Farm made for a great stop. The Sisters all had such rich and diverse stories to share with us about their life experiences, and we sincerely enjoyed having the chance to listen.