Plow Creek

I visited Plow Creek Mennonite Fellowship for 2 weeks in June.  Plow Creek is an intentional Christian Community in western Illinois that has been doing alternative/organic agriculture for a good number of years.  It wasn’t much like what I typically think of when I think of Mennonites, though.  Their theology was basically Mennonite, but their culture was a little different.  I typically think of men with simple blue pants, button down shirt, suspenders and a straw hat and women in simple single color dresses and bonnets.  This wasn’t Plow Creek.  The people dressed pretty normally, as far as rural people’s go.  They dressed and lived simply, but didn’t look all that much different from the rest of the people that lived in the town around them.  The people were very nice and extremely welcoming.  There was a lot of energy in the people and the community was very alive.  There was a good mix of people from different ages, different ethnic backgrounds, and different upbringings.  There seemed to be a very deep sense of community and unity among the people even with all the diversity.  I could tell right away that these people were deeply intentional about their lives.  They were genuinely concerned for the needs of others, they were sharp, friendly, and funny, they cared.  It was very refreshing to spend time there.

While at Plow Creek I mostly worked on the farm and I came right in the height of strawberry season so I picked strawberries for several hours almost everyday for the whole two weeks.  Picking strawberries is not the most pleasant activity if you aren’t used to it, and I definitely wasn’t used to it.  Strawberries grow basically on the ground, so to pick them, you either have to bend over, kneel down, sit down crouch down, or some combination of those things to get at them.  By the end of the second day of picking, my legs and lower back were pretty sore and I was very tired, but I could tell that my body was starting to get used to it, so I kept at it and eventually the soreness went away for the most part, I got very flexible and I started enjoying myself more.  The thing that made it tolerable to get to the point where my body wasn’t yelling at me, was that there were always people to talk to while picking, and the conversations were almost always very good.

Plow Creek was similar to Koinonia is a lots of ways, so it felt very familiar to be there even though I didn’t know anybody there before I went.  Their farming enterprise was organized pretty well and they had a pretty sweet deal going on with the amount of people that came out to do the pick your own thing with the strawberries and blueberries.  They kept very good records of the farm operation, inputs, sales, plant cultivars, pruning and harvesting schedules, and lots of other stuff.  Good record keeping is very important in farming.  The community was set up very similarly to Koinonia in that there were houses and community buildings mostly built reasonably spaced around an open yard area to facilitate privacy when needed and to cultivate community by having most people close together.  I stayed in the upstairs portion of one of the houses and lived with the two guy interns.  They were good guys and we had a lot of fun together.  The girl interns lived at a house that was about a mile down the road, but we still hung out pretty frequently.  Most meals weren’t eaten as a community, which I didn’t really expect before I got there and I thought it would have been nice if they had more community meals, but whatever.  I had several meals with different families in the community and the interns all ate several meals together and hung out a good number of times while I was there.  We had fun, got to know each other a little bit and then it was time for me to head on to the next adventure (as has been the story of the last 7 months of my life).  Plow Creek was the first community that I’d been to since Koinonia that felt like it could be a possible place that I might want to stay, but I still felt like I needed to keep searching to find out if there was a place that more closely matched what I’m looking for.  Is there anyone, any group of people, anywhere, living without fossil fuels, living a radically simple life of love and service and community with passion and intentionality in a sustainable way?  There’s gotta be….. right?

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