All who live and work at St. Francis Farm are volunteers (see the mission statement on the home page). Whether you have experience or energy and willingness to learn, you can help with gardening, preserving, renovating or woods work. Put together a group for a work day or come on your own. Please do not bring pets. Call ahead to find out what we’ll be doing when you want to come or to be sure someone is available to work with you. Scroll down this page to find more information on volunteer application process, community life, daily schedule, work, accommodations, transportation, & reasons for volunteering.
We can accommodate overnight volunteers between April and October. If you are interested in volunteering, please read the information below and consider whether this is a way of life in which you are willing and able to participate. Then copy our application form here, give your answers, and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or St Francis Farm, 136 Wart Road, Lacona NY 13083. Volunteers begin with a visit between Monday and Saturday and the time commitment can be extended by mutual agreement. There is no minimum time commitment.
We live together intentionally. We share work, meals, and time for silent prayer and reflection. When tensions or conflicts arise we acknowledge them and try to work through them. The current core community is a Quaker family–mother, son who was 15 and daughter who was 19 when we came to the farm in 2001. Volunteers may come from any faith tradition, or from none. We expect all to show respect for others and to refrain from proselytizing. Some boundaries help us to model an alternative and to welcome guests without unnecessary tension or confusion. We ask volunteers to refrain from smoking, using drugs or alcohol, or engaging in sexual activity outside marriage while they are with us. The competitive consumer culture is concerned with appearances, with looking good. We ask visitors to bring work clothes they won’t mind getting dirty or paint-stained. Shoes should be sturdy. Warm clothing may be wanted in spring and fall or even on a chilly summer night. Sexy sells in a consumer culture, but the farm is a community of faith. We have no dress code but we ask visitors to remember that others visiting or volunteering may have different standards than theirs and to consider modesty and respect in their choice of clothing.
Accommodations and Transportation
Volunteers stay in the farmhouse, where there are individual bedrooms and shared bathrooms. Towels and bedding are provided and volunteers will have access to email and telephone and are welcome to use our bikes, library and musical instruments.
Volunteers arriving by public transportation can reach Syracuse, NY by train, bus or airplane. A Trailways bus runs twice daily from Syracuse to Pulaski, where we’re glad to pick visitors up.
Work and daily schedule
Monday through Saturday we start with morning prayer from 7 to 7:30. Breakfast is ready by 8, and after that we work until lunch at noon. In the afternoon we work from 2 until about 5. Supper is ready between 5:30 and 6. After cleaning up, people may gather for a sunset walk or music or take time for their own pursuits. Much of the work during the months volunteers come to stay is in the garden. Help is also welcome with firewood processing, construction and building repair, landscaping, fencing, gathering forage to feed or dry, haying etc.
Volunteers will also participate in other aspects of the community’s work as they are able and interested; this might include milking goats, canning and freezing vegetables, cooking and cleaning, welcoming and listening to guests etc. We want visitors to have opportunities to learn and do what interests them as well as help with whatever needs to be done.
Volunteers work with members of the core community, and sometimes also with local volunteers, migrant workers or other guests. Some of the people with whom we spend time have mental health difficulties. Patience with and respect for people from different social backgrounds and with varying abilities is essential.
Further thoughts about why people might volunteer here–or not-follow the photo grid below; so do reflections from earlier volunteers.
—do we live like this?
–would anyone else want to try it?
In his book Hamlet’s BlackBerry,William Powers writes of the importance of getting away sometimes from our screens and the virtual crowd surrounding us in order to experience more depth. He poses the following questions: Does your screen help you think and work better? Does it deepen ties to friends? Do you come away in a better state of mind than you were in to begin with?
There is an intrinsic value in anything we do with our hands…for working by hand brings with it a meditative mind and self-fulfillment. –Satish Kumar in The Case Against The Global Economy
We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes which we are inviting catastrophe to make.
—What Are People For? by Wendell Berry
Simplicity doesn’t mean meagerness,but rather a certain kind of richness, the fullness that appears when we stop stuffing the world with things.–The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by Thomas Moore
Think about your own life: which moments mattered most? Didn’t most of them entail being involved in something larger than yourself? Either out in the hugeness of the natural world, or working together with those around you toward some common end, often for no material gain?
—Deep Economy by Bill McKibben
Our own version of why someone might want to come:
• an alternative–away from commercial messages and virtual reality and preoccupation with image and mindless consumption and junk/fast food
• work–manual labor to meet basic needs of self and others and opportunity to learn practical skills
• nature–woods and fields and starry skies and opportunity to learn about the creatures that share the planet with us
• silence for reflection, focused conversation
The challenging nature of coming to the farm is the consequence of these same things–eating a lot of whatever is in season, getting up early, dressing practically instead of for image, showering in water that smells of sulfur, getting tired and dirty and hot, encountering bugs and snakes and worms and bats, spending day after day with the same people in the same place, facing all the inner fears and doubts that can be avoided by distraction and noise, and communicating honestly and kindly when problems arise.
Links to writings by previous volunteers:
James Reader’s account of spending a week with us in 2018
Renee’s story from our June 2017 newsletter
Wakako is a Japanese exchange student who spend 6 weeks WWOOFing with us in 2016
Saki is a Japanese exchange student who spend 6 weeks WWOOFing with us in 2016
on spending 2 weeks WWOOFing with us in 2015
about 2 weeks spent WWOOFing on the farm in summer 2015
Reflections On Yearly Visits by Bob Bartell, from our Dec. 2014 newsletter
Anna was a just-graduated high school student who wrote about her week at the farm in our June 2013 newsletter
Julia Rox’s article on 2 weeks WWOOFing at the farm in summer 2012
Sean Wood’s comments posted on our WWOOF webpage in winter 2011
Joe Kruse’s story about 2 weeks helping & learning about Catholic Worker farms, from our September 2011 newsletter
Ruthie Cole’s story about 2 weeks helping out and learning about Catholic Worker farms, from our September 2011 newsletter
Daisy Lopez’s account of her WWOOF experience here in 2011
Amy and Aya reflect on 2 weeks WWOOFing together at St Francis Farm in 2010
An Alternative Model of Life, Work and Learning by Mike Clark, who volunteered with us in 2008 and introduced us to the WWOOF program
Melinda Kurowski’s thoughts on spending a month at the farm in 2006
Minke’s Story about coming from the Netherlands to spend 2 weeks helping at the farm in 2007
Dan Kauffman’s story from our September 2008 newsletter
Global Encounter by Mike, who spent a week here with a group of high school students in 2006
Visitor’s Perspective: Thoughts from Abraham and Kate Land, a brother and sister from New Zealand who spent a week with us in 2002