Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Sisters Propose Organic Farm at Monocacy Manor
St. Francis Academy, also known as Monocacy Manor, was once home to a Catholic High School for girls.. Situated atop a forbidding hill along Bridle Path Road, it was a fortress guarded by the School Sisters of St. Francis. They presenting many challenges to nearby Bethlehem Catholic High School boys. It's now a retreat center, but the Sisters have more ambitious plans. At the January 14 meeting of Hanover Township Supervisors, they disclosed their intention to establish what they are calling Monocacy Farm. Following the Franciscan tradition, they want to use the land for organic and natural agriculture. They hope that, in the process, they will encourage community involvement, provide educational opportunities and serve the needs of the poor.
The Sisters plan to convert 13 acres of fields and vineyards into community gardens, a production farm and an organic agriculture demonstration farm. The demonstration farm will be used to teach vegetable horticulture to area residents, children and adults in low-income communities. The Sisters also plan to add a "pizza garden", shaped in the form of a sliced pizza, to teach children how to grow many of the basic ingredients for pizzas that children will start making at the end of the growing season. Seventy-five community garden plots will also be made available to area residents.
Local residents and low-income families will be able to purchase "shares" in a community supported agriculture program, after which they will be able to pick up weekly harvests.
In addition, there will also be a "pick your own" program in which excess produce and flowers will be sold to the public.
Finally, the Sisters would like to establish beehives near their natural agriculture farm, to be maintained by a licensed beekeeper. The bees will pollinate the farm's flowers and produce, and will find a safe haven at a farm that uses no toxic sprays or chemicals.
The School Sisters of St. Francis, a catholic religious order that originated in Austria in 1843, have been at Monocacy Manor since 1947.
Though Sister Bonnie Marie Kleinschuster must jump through several zoning hurdles on January 23, Supervisors told her they will pose no objections. Township Manager Jay Finnigan also assured Supervisors that Traditions of America, their next door neighbor, has no objections.
In other business, Public Works Director Vince Milite reported that the Township recycled 1,035 tons of leaves and 470 tons of yard waste last year. He also mentioned that potholes are breaking out all over the Township as a result of several thaws and freezes.
At some point in the meeting, Township Manager Finnigan's skills as a plow truck operator were called into question, prompting Finnigan to plead for divine intervention. Supervisor Jack Nagle looked out at Sister Bonnie, who was sitting in the audience, and told her, "That's your department."
Then Finnigan asked her to pray for Nagle, too. "He's a Moravian, so don't pray too hard," he joked.