TISKILWA — Peacefully nestled on top of a heavily wooded hill outside Tiskilwa, members of the Seed of Hope Farm have devoted their lives to helping those in need.
Inspired by the Catholic Worker Farms that began in the 1930s, Seed of Hope members Steve and Boo Graham, Jim and Meg Foxvog, and Mike and Helena Marfell are committed to the ideals of “sharing work, food, family and shelter” with each other, and anyone else in need of those valuable blessings.
“The broad definition of what we’re doing here is, we’re sharing the resources of a rural environment. We offer hospitality, and we’re willing to take in people who don’t have a place to stay. There aren’t many places around where people are willing to share their families with others,” Boo Graham said.
The Grahams and Foxvogs first met each other at a similar farm in southeastern Ohio, and their children grew up together. Former members of nearby Plow Creek Farm, they moved to the Seed of Hope Farm after their home burned down in 2010.
Today, the farm’s members work their gardens to provide a variety of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables for themselves, the weekly communal dinner held at the First United Methodist Church in Princeton, the residents of the Bureau County Senior Center, and the Princeton Farmers’ Market.
While the group owns 36 acres located elsewhere in the area, the hilltop site is currently rented. A dream of the group is to own all of their land and be able to farm enough in order to have enough to sustainably operate.
Boo said donations to the group arrive from “the strangest of places.” They would also like to expand into baking and offering fresh eggs. Recently, they were awarded a grant from The Closet of Princeton, which the members used to construct a new greenhouse.
“We have a lack of land and the equipment needed to grow more food, but we’re hoping to receive a grant we can use to purchase a tractor,” Boo said.
One member from each family must work outside the farm in order to help cover necessary expenses. While this helps the operations continue, she added, it also limits how much time is available to work on the farm.
“It’s all about what each member has to contribute,” Boo said.
Jim does weekly ministering at the county jail, in addition to his other work on the farm, and this is one of the many places where people learn of the farm’s opportunities. Boo said most people learn about the Seed of Hope Farm through word-of-mouth, and often through one of the many local churches.
She added that “visitors are special,” and that each one is unique. Some stay for the night and others for longer.
“Each person is an individual case, and that’s how we treat them. We learn what their needs are and then see what we can manage to offer them. They may provide special challenges, but they also have their own perspectives, talents and gifts they can share with us,” Boo said.
She shared a story of a visitor surprised by how the farm members ate dinner together as a family, and also prayed together before enjoying the meal for which they’d worked. The visitor told Boo they hadn’t realized there were people who actually did things like that, and that they’d thought that was just something from a bygone era.
“It was nice to be that for someone who’s never experienced it before,” she said of her communal family.
To donate, or for more information, visit www.seedofhopefarm.org, their Facebook page or call 815-646-4950.