People often ask us how Shimmering Light came to be. Here's our story:
It all began around a kitchen table with five women in 1996. We had all been working in the computer education and publishing field as trainers, curriculum developers and managers. A couple of us had children facing serious illness, others were caring for elderly parents, and we were all striving to balance work and home. We wanted to apply our skills and experience to topics that would have healthy impacts on our immediate families, our community and the environment. And we wanted to actively involve all the generations. Our visioning sessions encompassed all sorts of possibilities. We were not drawn to one outcome, but several. We dreamed of a community supported farm, educational programs on healthy living, a shop to sell vibrant and sustainable products, and a retreat center where people could come to relax, renew, learn and just be present. We started researching.
After visiting other CSAs, attending conferences at Camphill Villages and talking with local farmers we felt guided to start a Community Supported Agriculture farm/garden. Deb Denome had a house on 10 acres in Honeoye Falls, NY, which was quickly changing from a rural town to a more suburban area with many new families. It seemed the logical place to start our first endeavor. In 1997 we established Seeking Common Ground (SCG), Inc a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to exploring, modeling and inspiring more conscious and restorative ways of life. None of us had ever farmed before, though several of us were organic gardeners. This did not deter us. We established the CSA, hired a farmer, enlisted our families as (not always voluntary) labor, sold memberships to friends and advertised in the local community. We built a greenhouse complete with flowforms… it was so beautiful. The first year's production was a harvest mostly of love and community and kale, plenty of kale. We had a lot to learn about soil, planting, harvesting and maintaining a 5 acre garden for 100 families. And we learned.
The farm was always an educational organization. Training interns, offering workshops on consensus and community building, maintaining vitality at work, biodynamic agriculture, and healing with herbs were among our early programs. We had a thriving children's garden with weekly programs on everything from building scarecrows, to pond study, planting and tending the Iroquois Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash), making lunch from the garden, and much more.
This grew into a Waldorf homeschooling cooperative we operated in Honeoye Falls, Roots and Wings, serving 30 children. We are still deeply inspired by the life and work of Rudolf Steiner.
Herb Haven was born through a collaboration with the Sojourner House in Rochester. The Sojourner House serves homeless women and children by providing housing, self-sufficiency skills, and education programs. Once a week, for 16 weeks per year (for 5 years), the women and their children would visit the farm and learn about healing plants, nature and experience the peace of the farm in the summer evenings. Dinner was fresh from the fields. Children who had never heard a cricket, seen a deer, or picked a fresh vegetable were introduced to a whole new world.
In 2001, the CSA was relocated to South Bristol, NY overlooking Canandaigua Lake. The view is breathtaking. Sunrise reflecting off the lake shimmered, dew on the meadows shimmered, energy in the air shimmered, love in our hearts shimmered, hence the name.
Shimmering Light Farm grew from a CSA to include serving local restaurants and markets. Now, post drought of 2016, we have morphed into a unique, collaborate, community, permaculture garden and food forest! Herb Haven expanded into serving women and children at the Rushville Health Center and women at the Ontario County Jail, and now beyond. Finger Lakes Farm to Cafeteria was born in 2006 and has connected dozens of cafeterias and farmers in our region. 2015 saw the launch of our long-held vision of a farm-based retreat and education center, the Renewal Center
With all of our programs, a succinct explanation of Seeking Common Ground was getting quite complicated. After 20 years, we took stock of where we were, our focus, and our future. A group of board members, staff and long time members met to explore a way to rename our programs so that they would reflect where we are now. After much discussion, and many, many spirited meetings it was decided to group all programs of Seeking Common Ground, Inc under Shimmering Light. So we now have Shimmering Light Farm, Shimmering Light Herb Circle, and Shimmering Light Renewal Center, all co-located in South Bristol.
We are blessed with countless connections and supporters and stories, but they are for another time.
(You can check out this quick list of some of our organizational partners over time, as we have worked to make the healing of nature more accessible to more people.)
We hope you will join us in the garden, on the dance floor, or around a fire sometime…
~ Sarah Cass Berg (c0-founder)