St. Francis Farm Community is a non-profit corporation with tax-exempt status. Various Catholic Worker communities and Quaker organizations helped us preserve the simple and non-hierarchical nature of the farm when we formed the corporation. The officers are Core Members who live and work at St. Francis Farm, carry out the mission and make decisions as needed. We continue to live by gifts given and received, taking no salaries. The board of directors meets once a year to review the work of the Core Members, provide suggestions, and renew their terms. In between meetings individuals on the board advise and support us in various ways. Decisions are not made by voting, but by Spirit-based discernment.
The Hoyt family came to St. Francis Farm in 2001, a mother (Lorraine) looking for community, a daughter (Joanna) looking for a hands-on alternative to the consumer culture, and her brother (Zachary) looking for new skills to learn. The farm, with its many challenges and opportunities to learn, seemed a natural extension of our years of homeschooling. Others have joined us for a few days or weeks or even a few years. All of us work as volunteers. The land and our labor provide food and wood for heating. Donations and sale of lumber and shiitake logs provide money for things we can’t grow or make. Our days are spent on farming and woods work, taking time out to welcome day visitors. Joanna convenes monthly meetings of a community service task force and organizes local Screen-Free Week activities. Zachary builds wheelchair ramps and helps elders with home repairs. Lorraine tends the perennial herb and flower gardens, manages the office, does most of the cooking and food-preserving, and enjoys bird-watching. Evenings and weekends Zachary builds musical instruments that he sells online and Joanna writes fiction and essays about farming, immigration, family, religion, politics, economics etc. We all enjoy walks and the opportunities they provide to watch sunsets, stargaze, observe the wild things that share the farm with us.
The farm’s 180 acres are mostly wooded. We also have fields, an old orchard, and several small ponds and brooks. A barn, converted into living space in the early 1990’s, has a commercial kitchen, workshops, living space and restrooms on the first floor. The upper floors contain an office, chapel, bedrooms and bathrooms. The farmhouse was renovated in 2005—new wiring and windows, insulation, vinyl siding, and efficient wood stove. It is open spring through fall to house visitors and volunteers. We’ve built barns, sheds, a greenhouse, and a sugar shack with lumber cut from the farm and sawn at our mill.
Visitors are welcome to walk several miles of trails and old woods roads, to sit or swing or picnic by the pond and stream.
Saint Francis Farm was purchased in 1976 by Father Ray McVey, a radical priest from Syracuse. He had already founded Unity Acres, a home for formerly homeless men, on land abutting the farm. (Click here to visit the Unity Acres website.) His early ideas for the farm included growing food for the Acres and housing overflow men or families who did not mix well with the larger population at the Acres.
Over the following years the farm was used for a series of community service projects: a safe house for battered women, a free medical clinic for low-income families, a home for unwed mothers, and a knitting cooperative. In 1983 Fr. McVey sold the farm for one dollar to Time of Jubilee, a then newly formed non-profit doing community development and housing work in Syracuse. Nothing really changed at the farm, but it was a way to have an official organization hold the title. During the 1980’s several trailers were purchased and placed on the farm to provide affordable housing. In 1992 Fr. McVey invited a couple who had been working at Nazareth Farm to live at SFF and host service/learning weeks for high school and college students. The barn was converted into living space for these groups. The visiting students participated in prayer, education, and community service. The number of such groups peaked in 1996-7 and then declined slowly.
The current core community arrived in 2001 as the last of the previous residents were leaving. The farm continued hosting groups for a while, but the emphasis shifted to living an alternative way of life and hosting visitors who wanted to share it (see Mission Statement on our home page). Time of Jubilee had also been growing and changing and by 2002 no longer wanted to hold this rural property which was outside their urban mission. In 2003 the farm was incorporated as St. Francis Farm Community. In 2004 the new corporation received federal tax exempt status and Time of Jubilee sold the property back to SFFC for one dollar.
There has been an increasing focus on growing food to share as well as growing all we can of what we need. In 2006 the farm began regularly supplying vegetables, eggs and cheese to a local soup kitchen. In 2007 a connection was made with Hope Wallis, who worked with refugees in Syracuse; the farm sent produce in summer and made wooden toys for the refugee families year round until refugee admissions to the US were cut sharply in 2017.
In 2007 the farm made a timber sale with the help of a consulting forester. We also bought a sawmill so we could produce lumber for farm use and for sale. From 2006 to 2011 the farm hosted a Summer Program to which children were bused from a local elementary school. Since 2009 the farm has been listed as a host site through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
For more information about our legal structure, and a copy of our bylaws, click here.