Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cattle Ranching Nuns

Benedectine nuns blend work and prayer on a farm run by the Abbey of St. Walburga near the Colorado-Wyoming border. From left are sisters Maria-Gertrude Reed, Ann Lee, Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer and Elizabeth Baumgartner.
Sonja Salzburg for Harvest Public Media
The Salt:
Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it's not the only food or drink made by a religious order. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.
Just 5 miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border you'll find one of these places. Idyllic red farm buildings sit in the shadow of the main abbey, all tucked in a stony valley. At the Abbey of St. Walburga, cattle, water buffalo and llamas graze on grass under the watchful eye of Benedictine nuns.
Sister Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer runs the abbey's ranch. Other sisters volunteer their time to work. The list of agricultural activities is long. In addition to the cows and llamas, the nuns raise chickens and bees, most of which are used in the abbey's kitchen. The water buffalo are the newest addition, brought on in April and milked to make mozzarella cheese. But because the sisters need a health certification for their operation, the cheese-making is currently on pause.
The biggest moneymaker on the farm comes from the beef cattle. The sisters are very aware of their marketing edge, Schortemeyer says.
"We have kind of a corner on the market — you know, nuns selling natural beef. People just kind of believe in it," she says.
Religious orders have a lot of farm operations.  The Congregation of the Holy Cross, which runs the University of Notre Dame, owned almost 1,500 acres until they sold a few years back.  Closer to home, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood own a large farm at the site of their old seminary in Carthagena.  Back in the day, they had plenty of labor and plenty of mouths to feed.  Today, not so much.  But the growth in the local foods movement gives the religious orders much needed income.

No comments:

Post a Comment