Our thanks to all the people over many years who have helped to create Knoll Farm.
Your intellect, care, creativity, vision and strong backs have helped over the past 15 years to make Knoll Farm. And to the hundreds of supporters and thousands of others who have walked this land alongside us:
Repairing roads after a storm, manifesting dreams, mulching berries, cutting wood, asking questions, answering email, writing curriculum, lighting lanterns, raising money, giving money, leading retreats, organizing retreats, banging nails, shaping cob, harvesting food, designing buildings, guiding, governing, listening, walking, writing, laughing, crying, raising kids, being there, saying hello and saying goodbye:
Julian Ageyman, Rani Arbo, Cesare Assad, Adrian Ayson, Molly Bagnato, Diana Blank, Joe Bosson, Marcus Bradley, Adrienne Maree Brown, Aric Brown, Taylor Burt, Drew Burdick, Bryan Cassidy, Mohamad Chakaki, Roberto Chene, Bill Coperthwaite, Ali Cashdan, Lisa Cashdan, Scott Chaskey, Steph Cesario, Shiren Chen, Ann Day, Skip Dewhirst, Andy DiMario, Marc DiMario, Chris Eaton, Maria Echevarria, Caleb Elder, John Elder, Torri Estrada, Anushka Ferdandapoule, Carolyn Finney, Steve Glazer, Samara Gaev, Ben Gould, Ben Graham, David Grant, Jean Hamilton, Toby Herzlick, Jenny Helm, Olivia Hoblitzelle, Michael Holanbach, Polly Hoppin, Glen Hutchinson, Diane Ives, Pete Jamison, Cynthia Jurs, Wendy Johnson, Stephanie Kaza, Scott Kessel, Hank Lentfer, Will Lintilac, Addie Livingston, Gil Livingston, Coco O’Connor, Chris Patterson, Kevin McMillion, Megan McGeary, Libby McDonald, Ginny McGinn, Eddie Merma, Anya Maier, Flo Miller, Kristen Monsell, Anna Nasset, Melissa Nelson, Dan Neumeyer, Riley Neuberger, Danyelle O’Hara, Theo Pappas, Kinny Perot, Kevin Peterson, Deva Racusin, Cara Robechek, Kesha Ram, Kavitha Rao, Greg Ryan, Isaac Sacca, Mario Sacca, Scott Russell Sanders, Dana Saladoff, Lauret Savoy, Carson Schoellkopf, Jeff Schoellkopf, Deb Schoenbaum, Hans Schoeppflin, Neha Shukla, Taz Squire, Anayza Stewart, Craig Strachen, Rick Thompson, Kaylyn Sullivan Two Trees, Phillip Ulrich, Jesse Maceo Vega Frey, Anita Virmani, Tom Wessels, Peter Whybrow, Ruth Whybrow, Ashley Woods, and Diana Wright.
A Rich History on Rich Soil
Our experiment began in 2000 when a friend encouraged us to write up our dream for farming and creating a retreat center as the Vermont Land Trust was looking to sell an unusual place to somebody able to breathe new life into a beautiful old farm. We were in our 30s, eager and with plenty of energy, and we had some great examples to follow: Helen Nearing and Bill Coperthwaite, Dana Meadows and Chuck Mathei. Their lifework had already deeply influenced our own.
The moment we heard about Knoll Farm, our lives connected to Ann Day who with her husband, Frank, and their kids, Alan and Deb, had stewarded the farm for 50 years with a powerful social and environmental consciousness. In the 1980s Ann began traveling to Nicaragua through the American Friends Service Committee and made Knoll Farm a place of refuge for people fleeing the civil war for asylum in Canada. Ann would also honor the nature and people of our valley by being the very first to protect her beloved land through conservation. What’s more, Ann’s uncle was Richard Gregg, the Quaker lawyer who brought Gandhi’s teachings to America, a man we had long admired. We knew we had found our home, and now it was our turn to make Knoll Farm a place of service.
In 2002 our life energy was joined by some of the strongest and most wonderful people we had ever met: the staff, board and faculty of Center for Whole Communities, the leadership organization we founded. Together, we created a safe harbor and a bright fire circle around which we gathered thousands of social change and environmental activists and leaders for a period of 12 years.
Center for Whole Communities’ work eventually moved on from Knoll Farm, but our story of making refuge for others at continues vigorously today.
Rise of social order, villages and chiefdoms of Abenaki peoples.
Rise of social order, villages and chiefdoms of Abenaki peoples.
White settlement begins. 300 settlers in Vermont.
Vermont Statehood established; 85,000 settlers in Vermont.
Rufus Barrett arrives in Fayston and settles Knoll Farm. Lewis and Clark begin journey west.
Peak of sheep boom; Mad River Valley 75% deforested.
Vermont Exodus to fertile Midwest, sheep boom crashes. Knoll Farm becomes a dairy.
McLaughlin’s purchase Knoll Farm and start a dairy.
Lands still depleted. Most common animal in Vermont is the Norway rat.
The high-drive bank barn relocated to Knoll Farm from the valley and reconstructed, four years before the great flood.
Knoll Farm serves as Camp McArthur during WWII to house city kids from southern New England.
Ann and Frank Day buy Knoll Farm.
Ann Day grants Vermont Land Trust first conservation easement in the Mad River valley.
Knoll Farm houses Nicaraguan refugees on their way to Canada during Contra war.
Knoll Farm is listed on National Register for Historic Places.
Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow purchase Knoll Farm.
They create Center for Whole Communities to begin tuition-free programming to bring social change and environmental leaders together.
200th anniversary of Knoll Farm.
Knoll Farm is converted to run on sun and wood.
Our aspirations are guided by a question: What does it mean to work in conservation, farming, and writing and to live out those ideals – wholeness, inclusion, health, resilience and resistance, creativity and courage – on a specific piece of land over a life time?
- To have a vibrant, diverse family farm and learning center that expresses our sense of beauty, equity, community, and self-reliance and that above all is always welcoming and nurturing to all who visit or come to stay.
- For our farming practices to increase the health of the soil long into the future.
- To produce our own energy and to use it carefully.
- To farm with the fewest possible inputs, raising food from sun and water and the vitality of the soil and grass we are building through our practices.
- To provide healthy food for ourselves and others, always improving and learning new land-based skills, and being a place of learning, generosity, integrity, inclusiveness and inspiration for people of all backgrounds and ages.
A Return to Renewables
We strive toward a self-sustaining, regenerative farm. As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and our consumption, we converted to solar electricity and wood heat in 2008. We reduce water and recycle human waste through our composting toilets (when thoroughly processed after 2-3 years in the composter, it goes as soil onto our sheep pastures!).
kilowatts solar power generated (per year)
cords of wood harvested for heat (per year)
pounds of humanure turned into soil
Our Extended Family
Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow live at Knoll Farm with their two daughters, Willow and Wren.
Peter’s life work is focused on supporting and facilitating healthy communities through civic dialogue, leadership development, and access to land, nature and place. For the past 20 years, he has been creating curricula and leading learning experiences designed to help people transform their lives to better fit their values and to build professional relationships across divides of class, race, and ideology. He is deeply involved in the fellowships and programming of the Refuge at Knoll Farm each summer.
To find more on Peter’s projects, writing and photography beyond our work at Knoll Farm, go to PeterForbes.org.
Helen runs the sheep and berry operation as well as mentors farm staff and helps organize events and programs. She also does research and writing on organic farming for NOFA-VT and is a farm-to-community mentor for the valley.
Helen co-produced the film Organic Matters on food and farming in Vermont. She is also Editor-at-Large for Orion magazine, and works for many other magazines and publishers as a freelance writer and book editor.
Kyla is our Assistant Farm Manager. She has worked and taught on farms since 2004, including an herb farm in Australia and her own farm in Massachusetts. She is also a fiber artist and will be making value added products with our Icelandic wool.
Nick is a Graduate of New England Culinary Institute who has spent the last several years working in a variety of restaurants and farms around New England and Hawaii exploring his interest in food preparation and production. He currently lives in Strafford, Vermont with his wife where they hope to soon start their own farm.
Mandy is our Business Manager. She lives in Fayston with her family and likes to ski, snowboard, run, swim and hike.
Greg works for us a Land Steward and Assistant Retreat Manager. He moved to VT to chase the winter after having spent the last nine years in PA working as an Outdoor Experiential Educator and Musician.
Kayla is one of our Assistant Retreat Managers. She recently completed her degree in Wellness and Alternative Medicine and is a Certified Massage Therapist. She enjoys rock climbing and gardening in her free time.
Liezl is one of our Assistant Retreat Managers. She recently graduated from Saint Michael’s College with a degree in Business Administration with a focus on Environmental Studies. As a Waitsfield native, Liezl is excited to be back living and working in the Mad River Valley.
Here is our list of those that inspire us and feel like part of our extended family of people and places doing important work in the world:
By joining our community, you become part of the story of this land.
Be the first to know when the berries are ripe, workshops are scheduled, or leadership fellowships are announced.