Genesis Farm was founded in 1980 by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey. This 140-acre farm, with its rolling hills, woodlands, marshes, its houses and farm buildings, was bequeathed by Ruprecht and Mary Von Boecklin who had lived and farmed here since the 1940's. Before their arrival, Genesis Farm had been in the Kerr and DePuy families. Over the years it had been used for cattle, dairy, and sheep farming and was known as the Red Cat Farm to people in this area.
There was no association between the Von Boecklin family and the Dominican Sisters, but through some providential purpose this farm was left to the Sisters, who used it as a new expression of their traditional work in education.
The decade of the 1970's marked a growing awareness of the urgent problems that were affecting the planet worldwide. During the 1960's and 1970's the family farm crisis with its consequent effects of malnourishment and world hunger had also become evident. Racism and war had torn deep rifts in the fabric of our national life, and the connections between our local and global problems had become much clearer.
This is the context in which the Dominican Sisters founded Genesis Farm. Reflecting on these major issues prompted them to deepen their commitment to education as a way to help shape a more hopeful future and to place this land into permanent conservation. Thomas Berry, who visited and lectured at Genesis Farm on numerous occasions, provided the intellectual and spiritual framework for Genesis Farm's work.
Over the ensuing decades, people from all over, from local towns to almost every continent on the planet, came to immerse themselves in Earth Literacy at Genesis Farm. Many participated in our residential learning courses, which taught the science of the Universe Story and its many implications for social change and spirituality. A master's degree in Earth Literacy was also offered in cooperation with Saint Thomas University. A large number of Earth Literacy graduates also went on to found successful non-profits and ecology centers of their own. Genesis Farm also offered seasonal rituals, workshops, film showings, study groups and classes that took place year-round. It was also a major supporter and catalyst for many local ecologically-based organizations that formed and thrived over the years.
In 1998, an additional 86 acres of adjoining land was donated by neighbor and friend Katherine Shepard. This land, which includes a beautiful pond, has come to be known as Shepard's Blessing. In 2001, this land was also put into conservation to protect it from any future development.
In 2012, Genesis Farm reduced its operations and entered a new phase of contemplation on the future of our work. The focus since that time has been on deepening our relationship to the land and developing demonstration gardens and ceremonial spaces to nourish body and soul. We have been designing learning materials to make long-distance learning feasible and accessible, and will continue to collaborate with colleges, offering learning opportunities to colleges and faculty. We also welcome other groups and organizations whose work aligns with our own to make use of our resources and accommodations.