Tree of Peace Farm
Seed is a precious common heritage and an essential component to the future sustainability of our food. Our ancestors have faithfully passed us this incredible gift of life over countless generations. It has only been a few short generations that we have seen these connections slip away; Sierra Seeds is revitalizing the human connection to these sacred heritage seeds, and honoring their cultural and practical context within our daily lives. They are a part of a growing movement to reconnect and rematriate seeds and humans back to the local land, allowing for resilient seeds that will be ready to meet the challenges of the ever-changing face of our Mother Earth. Integral in this seed movement is the cultural memories and stories, and how we regain a sense of who we are as a culture through our foods and seeds.
Over the last 20 years of learning the art of seedkeeping from the cycles of the plants themselves, we have had the honor and privilege of studying with a beautiful network of mentors and in turn teaching and mentoring hundreds of seed stewards… a diverse community of empowered humans coming to learn how to re-establish relationships with the source of the very foods that nourish us everyday. We love sharing our passion for seeds and stories, music and craft; how seeds and songs have become a beautiful living bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. Following this diverse trail of seed and stories, we have come to understand more about ourselves, our ancestral roots, and have received the blessing to carry and keep dozens of unique heritage seeds in our baskets and bundles for our family to be nourished and to pass along to future generations.
We garden, we make art and music, we make herbal medicines and cook nourishing meals from the generous ones who sustain us in the gardens and orchard, we pray and make offerings to all our relations here… we also both work from home with our unique mission-driven work with seeds, music, and herbal medicines, leadership/mentorship and craft. This work also calls us out in the world, as we occasionally travel to teach, play music, and share our gifts in community. The farm always welcomes us home as a place of rest, rejuvenation and healing.
Tree of Peace Farm is an ancestral Seed Sanctuary, a home, a garden, a quiet and abundant garden retreat space at the end of a dirt road in the small community of North San Juan. This land that we have the honor and privilege of stewarding has always been a gathering place…from the original inhabitants (Nisenan) who have left their imprint in memory with the abundant granite grinding stones that dot the hillside above our farm, whose prayers still lay in songlines and kinship routes on the land, in honor of whom we tend and feed the old ancestral ones here.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, this was home to the quirky Abotek village, where sons and daughters of the original “back-to-the-land hippies and beatniks” lived communally here, practicing their ancestral earth art skills and lived in rustic dwellings here on the land. We will see remnants of their fire pits, tipi circles and old sweatlodges that have fallen back into the earth. We arrived here as land stewards during the summer of 2007, and have been blessed to court the red clay earth with our hands and heart to grow abundant gardens in service to seeds and their life-giving forces. This land has grown us in ways immeasurable,and we make our lives love poems to continue to work in service of the benevolence that sustains us here.
Rowen and Gordon are the primary land stewards since 2007. Having farmed together for nearly 20 years, they have a deeply shared love for cultivating the land in a way that aligns with their spiritual and cultural values. Rowen and Gordon each hold their unique spheres of creativity in relationship to the overall farm flow.
Rowen White is a Seed Keeper, farmer, mother and storyteller from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for indigenous seed and food sovereignty. She facilitates creative hands-on workshops and strategic conversations in community around seed/food security around the country within tribal and small farming communities with both Sierra Seeds and Indigenous Seedkeepers Network. She mentors emerging leaders/mentors and community-based organizations to align their way of working with their cultural and core values. Rowen has a deep commitment to approaching food systems revitalization with a cultural context. She is an author and creative intuitive and enjoys a multitude of different creative modalities.
Gordon Hellegers is a dedicated musician, farmer, father, student, and craftsman. He tours with a band called Simrit, and also composes music for his solo endeavors. He is inspired to share both his music and his vision for healing with medicinal plants with the world. He is a committed steward of the forests here, restoring indigenous methods of clearing and tending to ensure a healthy forest ecosystem that reflects the wisdom of the original people of this land.
Maizie Hellegers (15) is a budding chef and artist who was raised here on this land. Homeschooled for her whole life, she has a maturity that is unique in this modern world, and a great sense of humor on top of that. She attends a homeschool charter school 2 days a week, and is making beauty with her hands and heart wherever she goes.
Moss Hellegers (13) is a playful spirit who knows how to have adventures! He is a student of computers and all things electronic, he skateboards and bikes and is often with friends who cliff jump and swim in the beautiful rivers in our watershed. He attends a homeschool charter 3 days a week, and has a vibrant smile and laugh that will melt your heart.
We also have a full-time seasonal farm manager named Guillermo Navarro, who helps us tend the land here, and engages his broad base of skills to help us grow the vision of this seed sanctuary. He has been with us for 8 seasons, and much of his brilliance has helped us grow this farm from the ground up. He lives offsite but is here 5 days a week during the growing season, and down to a couple of days a week in the off-season.
We currently have 2 private cabins for residents, so you will be sharing the community kitchen/living space with another person/couple during the season. Rowen and the garden volunteers use the community kitchen during the months of April-Oct on Wed and Friday mornings occasionally for canning and preserving garden abundance. Occasionally there will be a guest who stays on the land who will use the community space as well, but that will be posted well in advance. You will be asked to keep the community space tidy to respect all the various folks that share the space, but it is a quiet and cozy space to use for cooking, craft, relaxation etc.
This is a peaceful sanctuary at the end of the road. There is a guest bed in the community space, and residents are allowed to have overnight visitors come as long as the rest of the farm residents ( our family and the other folks living on the land) are given at least a week’s notice, for scheduling purposes in a shared community space, knowing that privacy in the community space is limited.
There are various spaces in and around the property for quiet and alone time. Sometimes there’s hardly anyone here and the silence is incredibly healing and conducive for deep creative work. We invite you to feel at home on the land here. There are some rules and potential restrictions on the use of our tools on the farm, which we will go over when the residents arrive (restrictions made largely around liability etc) We ask that you not make significant changes to any of the buildings while here unless there is expressed permission from Rowen or Gordon (meaning construction, painting, built in shelving etc) but many of our residents have left lasting beautiful touches to the land and spaces here.
Please be mindful of sound space, as we all inhabit a stretch of land on a hillside that carries sound far and wide ( loud amplified music and loud drums is generally not a good idea etc). The last mile or so of the road into our farm is dirt/gravel and we ask that folks travel at top speed of 10 mph to honor the requests of our neighbors who live right on the road, and to also expand the lifespan of our road. We keep our gates closed due to the fact that some GPS programs interpret that our driveway is a full road that goes up over the hillside, when in fact it does not. We have had our fair share of confused drivers come down our road and driveway over the years, and have chosen to keep the gates locked to avoid unnecessary disruption.
There are times when there may be public events, workshops, gatherings, dinners, etc. that occur here on the land,but those will be posted well in advance. We raise our children here, so there is also occasionally a group of teenagers here on the land, but mostly in our private spaces or outside running around. As we have homeschooled our children, they are curious and inquisitive community members here, but often enjoy the quiet retreat of the land here as much as we do.
We strive to be a safe space, with shared values of anti-oppression and radically open and direct communication. We are committed to healthy, constructive dialogue about ways we can be stewards of the land, hosts of the space, and members of the community. Our core values here at Tree of Peace farm are integrity, humility, reverence, compassion, honesty and openness.
North San Juan is a small town, which is a short 5-minute drive from the farm, which has limited amenities such as a post office, gas station, cafe, and garden supply store. There is a well-stocked full-service natural grocery store also within a 5-minute drive from the farm, called Mother Truckers. The gorgeous Yuba River has multiple river crossings for swimming and hiking, which are a short 10-20 minute drive from the farm. Ananda Village Community ( an intentional yoga and spiritual community) are our most immediate neighbors to the east, and host people on their land for a variety of activities. Nevada City/Grass Valley are our closest full-service towns. Having a car would be almost essential for freedom of travel, although previous residents have also relied on bikes and the limited public transportation that serves the San Juan Ridge.
Many residents find employment locally while in residency, there are opportunities often posted on the ridge and in town, and others work from home using the digital interfaces here (our internet is decent but not super fast at 5mbps. I work from home and can do video calls and internet interface, but video uploads etc are super slow). Some have saved up money for this type of sabbatical and choose to use the residency as a way to feed their creative spirits.