Shangri-La Farm is more than just a farm. There is a sense of magic and higher spirit on the land, in the fields of wildflowers and on the moss next to the river. Upon arrival, you immediately feel their deep love, appreciation and understanding for the natural earth. It is mid July when I visit, and due to the summer rains in Vermont everything is electric green. The waterfall behind the sugar shack is flowing. The bees are hard at work producing organic honey and it is picturesque, blooming brightly everywhere. The trees in the orchard and the berry bushes are full of fruit and the gardens are overflowing with fresh produce. It feels like an oasis, as if time stands still and all is at peace.
The farm is run by Karen and Kit Harris , their four kids, their dog Merlin, and Karen’s brother Gary. After living and working as a nurse for years in New York, Karen was eager to return to her Vermont roots to build a place that served both her family and the community. This place has turned into Shangri-La Farm. Born in Ecuador, Kit moved to the lower East side of Manhattan to live with his grandmother at the age of twelve. Years later, he met Karen in Manhattan. After moving to Shangri-La Farm, Kit quickly became a true steward of the land. Today, Karen splits her time between Vermont and New York where she continues to work as a nurse part time, spreading the message of sustainability to city dwellers. Each week, she heads to New York with a crate full of fifteen dozen fresh eggs from the farm that she distributes to her clients. The true definition of farm to table.
Along with building the wooden stage for the band playing at their next music festival, the food on the farm is Gary’s department. In vast raised beds, he grows organic garlic, beans, carrots, kale, squash, herbs, and onions to name a few. In the greenhouse, his lettuce, tomatoes and beets are plentiful. At the moment, these gardens are for the family to live off of the land. On average, they get about two dozen eggs each day, which are certified organic. The farm is fully sustainable, even down to making their own soil with compost. “Composting is taking part in the transition of life to another life. It’s the decomposition of life that feeds other life. This is just so significant,” Karen explains.
When I sat down with Karen, Kit and Gary to talk about the farm, they had just returned from a fundraising event in East Hampton for Green Beetz, a non-profit organization teaching kids about where their food comes from. They had spent the day serving sugar on snow made with their organic maple syrup and a snow machine. Karen’s energy is beaming and contagious and her love for the farm and what it does to better their lives and the lives of others is very evident. “This place has a spirit that we’re responding to. It’s driving us. We don’t keep bees, they keep us. Culturally, that’s what happens in this place. Vermont wants to be sugared. The bees are what make life. It’s what makes food, what makes things grow. Now we’re seeing the monarchs. Sustainability is not just what it gives us, it’s what gives back to nature. This is sustainability for the earth.”
So what is in store for the future of Shangri-La Farm? They plan to continue to grow, incorporating more modern methods into the way they run the farm, especially when it comes to making maple syrup. In addition, they have plans for expanding the sugar shack, along with continuing to be a venue for events such as weddings, festivals and possibly yoga retreats. As for Karen, her hope is to expand her niche market in New York City and the Hamptons and establish a bigger delivery system for her eggs and maple syrup, encouraging the farm to table lifestyle. “We have some big plans and we are going to continue to make all of this happen here at Shangri-La Farm because it is such a magical place.”
Photography by Josie Beeken