Holy Cross Abbey’s Sustainability Journey
Want To Know What Sustainability Is?
The Cistercian monks of the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia are on a journey to maintain the monastery, their way of life and a 1,200-acre farm on the Shenandoah River. Saving Place Saving Grace is a documentary about a community on a path to sustainability. You can stream the 57-minute film from the links provided here.
These are the monks that make the fruitcakes in the Shenandoah Valley. I’m not a big fan of fruitcake but I love their fruitcake slices dipped in dark chocolate; they call them fraters and oh my, moist, decadent, and pair well with a good Port wine. The fruitcakes, fraters and other items make great gifts and they ship.
Sustainability: It’s More Than Just Selling Fruitcakes.
Sustainability means using “place” without diminishing its beauty or bounty and…staying in business.
This one-hour documentary describes the journey to sustainability with breath-taking imagery and storied dialogue. Their journey includes upgrading the ovens that bake the fruitcakes, a green cemetery, fencing cattle out of streams, converting cropland to forests, improved farming techniques, open-space easements, a CSA (community supported agriculture), recruitment of monks and more.
The film was produced by George Patterson and Deidra Dain of Picture Farmer Films. It first aired on WVPT in Virginia and will be shown soon on other PBS stations. They are still in need of funding so please go to their IndieGoGo site and contribute if you are so moved.
Ecology Meets Theology
The film interviews many people involved with the sustainability journey including forest ecologist, explorer, and educator, Dr. H. Bruce Rinker, a lifelong friend of the monastery.
One leg of the sustainability journey was improving water quality in the streams. Holy Cross Abbey is bordered by three miles of the Shenandoah River, and the historically important Cool Spring bubbles up out of the ground within a few feet of the Abbey. When I arrived to provide technical assistance, cattle were tromping the banks of the river and the stream flowing from Cool Spring. Cattle were standing in the stream up to their bellies in muck. The stream was a quagmire of sediment and cow manure – polluting the stream, the Shenandoah River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Improving the Waters of the Chesapeake Bay
Fencing cattle out of these water resources was paramount in achieving sustainability. The monks enrolled their land in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Virginia’s Agricultural Best Management Practice Program. The farm now produces food and clean water. The monks are proud to be part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
I am proud that I am part of their journey. I’ve been a consultant to the monks under contract by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. My involvement started with a phone call from the Shenandoah Riverkeeper who wanted to know if I could help them get their cows out of the river. Click on the image below for a trailer on my involvement produced by Picture Farmer Films.
Trailer For Bobby’s Part in the Film: Click on the Picture Below
To see sustainability in action watch the film. The monks are doing it. Get on board, support the monastery and help us restore the Chesapeake Bay by improving the stream where you live.
All of the pictures in this post were taken by Picture Farmer Films and are copyrighted.