Many Hands Peace Farm


The Many Hands Peace Farm is an educational farm dedicated to teaching apprentices and The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center’s guests about the concepts and techniques of regenerative agriculture.

The Many Hands Peace Farm contributes to The Mountain’s overall environmental sustainability, producing food, mushrooms, flowers, and herbs for use in our kitchen and dining hall. The Farm sells produce at Highlands’ farmer’s market and Cashier’s farm’s market. This generates  modest revenue, raises visibility for the Farm and The Mountain, and provides our apprentices direct marketing and sales experience as well as farm training. Farm staff regularly participates in farm tours, foraging and wild edibles tours, workshops, and other educational programs in the area to learn from other farmers and gardeners.

You can follow us on the Many Hands Peace Farm Facebook page, Instagram, and online Etsy store.

How and Why It Began

In 2009, Brian Gifford and a small group of Mountain staff had a vision of sustainable agriculture at The Mountain. This vision became the Many Hands Peace Farm. This garden was to: provide environmental and agricultural education for guests, cultivate environmental awareness and sustainability, and produce locally grown, organic food for guests attending Mountain programs. Through determination and hard work the Many Hands Peace Farm and began its first season in 2010.

Our Methods

We use no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Most of the work on the farm is done with hand tools, though we occasionally use a walk behind tiller or tractor. We regularly compost food-waste from the dining hall to reduce our waste stream and to utilize nutrients and organic matter that would otherwise go to the landfill. Many Hands Peace Farm aspires to make a lasting impact on The Mountain, its overall sustainability, and our guests through educational programming, improving the soil and infrastructure of cultivated areas, and planting perennial food crops.


We are happy to raise happy laying chickens both young and old! Currently we have Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, Plymouth Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Americaunas, and a few mixed breed roosters. We also have a mixed flock of a dozen or so ducks and 4 turkeys. We primarily hatch our own chicks and duckling every spring. Our birds have access to pasture every day and freely intermingle with one another. During the growing season we rotate our poultry to help us prepare uncultivated land for annual and perennial crop production. We supplement their foraged diets with fermented grain feed and calcium to ensure they receive all their necessary nutrients and minerals. Their coops are managed with the deep litter method. This consists of regularly adding leaves or sawdust to retain nutrients, give the chickens something to scratch through, and to keep the chicken coop free of unpleasant odors. Our eggs go to the Highlands Farmers Market, Cashiers Farmers Market and are also available to our guests on the salad bar.

Come see our happy poultry!

What’s Growing on the Farm?

Though we have a short growing season due to our elevation, we usually have produce available late May – mid October. We thank Sow True Seed, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Seeds of Change for donating seeds for our upcoming growing season.

Here is what is growing in the garden this year:

  • Greenhouse: tomatoes, violas, lettuce mix, sugar snap peas, lettuce, kale, spinach, collard greens, basil, nasturtium, micro greens, lemon balm, mint, stevia. We also start all our flats in the greenhouse before we transplant them into the field.
  • Garden: potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers (jalapenos, poblanos, cayenne, sweet peppers), beets, chard, radishes, bush beans, pole beans, corn, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, collards, kale, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, cut flowers, turnips, garlic, sunchokes.
  • Herb Garden: thyme, basil, dill, chives, rosemary, mint, violas
  • Flower Garden: Black-eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Sunflowers, Yarrow, Gaillardia, Mint, Echinacea.

Food Forest 

Many Hands Peace Farm is in the process of establishing a 1-acre food forest in the Black Locust grove at the base of The Mountain. A food forest is an intentionally managed space with trees, shrubs, vines, low-lying plants, and mushrooms that produces a long lasting harvest for humans and wildlife. We raised over $5,000 through crowdfunding on We’ve used some of the money to buy over 200 trees and bushes which are planted in a temporary nursery bed adjacent to the food forest. Many of these plants have been purchased from nearby nurseries that specialize in native and naturalized food producing species.

By establishing the Food Forest, we create a demonstration site for those interested in homesteading and sustainable agriculture. This space will also be used as a unique outdoor learning space for MountainCamp activities and other programming. The Food Forest is an attractive place for guests, campers, and visitors to gather for peaceful reflection, wedding receptions or other social events.

The space provides habitat and forage for a wide range of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, deer, rabbits, birds, toads, and thousands of soil microorganisms. If we provide these critters with ample food in the Food Forest, they’re more likely to coexist with our field crops rather than destroy them!

In addition, the Food Forest contributes to the farm’s financial fortitude. Fruits, nuts, and other products derived from the Food Forest will be processed into products to be sold at market or our Mountain Store. Many of these products, such as greens, herbs, nuts, berries and fruits, will be supplied to The Mountain’s kitchen for preparing delicious meals and unique desserts for our guests that are locally sourced and bioregionally appropriate.

Stop by and check out our progress the next you’re here at The Mountain!


New Mountain Products in 2017

The farm is proud to introduce new handmade mountain goods! Lip balm, bath bombs, bookmarks of pressed wild flowers, and a 2018 mushroom calendar featuring photographs of mountain fungi by our very own Joseph Kyle. We have also updated our mountain salve with more medicinal herbs and essential oil and created a three mushroom blend tincture containing Maitake, Reishi, and Turkey Tail. You can find our products at The Mountain store or on our Etsy.

In the fall, we harvested 640 pounds of apples from local trees graciously offered by our Highlands neighbors. From our harvest, we made many apple products for The Mountain’s guest to enjoy including butter, sauce, chips, BBQ sauce,pies, breads, and cakes.  

Mushrooms on The Mountain

The Many Hands Peace Farm has created a Mushroom Laboratory as part of our overall food production and education programming. The edible mushrooms will be used by our Mountain kitchen staff in meal preparation for guests and campers, with additional mushrooms sold locally to markets and restaurants, depending on supply and demand.

The educational aspect of the Mushroom Laboratory project involves teaching Mountain guests, campers, local visitors, farm apprentices and staff about mushrooms and how they grow and reproduce. Visitors and staff can learn about the nutritional and health benefits mushrooms provide, other medicinal uses for mushrooms, how mushroom cultivation fosters environmental sustainability, recycling and waste management. This is being done by reusing waste materials generated by The Mountain–cardboard boxes, paper, coffee grounds & paper filters, plastic and wood containers to feed and grow the mushrooms. Sustainable waste management through this kind of mushroom production has many potential benefits for the environment, cost savings for the organizations, as well as the learning process for all involved. Children and youth on planned visits to the farm will receive Mushroom Kits to take home with them and grow their own.

We are grateful to the Rotary Club of Highlands for the grant they provided in 2017 to fund Mushroom Lab sterilization equipment.

Cluster of mushrooms growing in wheat straw Mushrooms--right on!

Learning Opportunities

We offer tours to guests on request, and sometimes as a part of programs. We also offer workshops on topics including edible wild plants and garden bed preparation techniques. During MountainCamp each cabin gets to go to the garden one morning to learn and work, and campers are able to work in the garden during field time if they choose to.

We also have an apprenticeship program. During the apprenticeship period, apprentices learn skills and techniques in sustainable agriculture and experiential education. This includes working in the garden, completing a personal project, and facilitating tours, workshops and team building activities.

The dates for our 2018 Farm Apprentice Sessions are:

Spring 2018

Session Dates: May 1st- August 1st

Application Deadline: March 1st

Fall 2018

Session Dates: August 7th-November 30th

Application Deadline: July 1st

For more information please click here.