About the Farm:

**Now accepting volunteers at the farm.  Contact Jon Zirkle (jzirkle@goshen.edu) and volunteer coordinator Maria Tice (mariact@goshen.edu).  Also inquire about residential and short-term volunteer opportunities.  There are several ways this can work for us, for volunteering individuals, and for groups.

The Merry Lea Sustainable Farm is an educational farm demonstrating sustainable agriculture practices for students and the visiting public, nestled within the northeast corner of Merry Lea property.

The farm serves not only the Agroecology Summer Intensive
but also Merry Lea’s PreK-12 programs, the Masters in Environmental Education program, public programs and the wider community.   The farm is located just south of Wolf Lake, IN in a part of northeast Indiana affected significantly by glaciation.  As a result, our soils and surrounding ecosystems are diverse and quite interesting!  We welcome you to come visit.

Learn More:

To find out the latest happenings at Merry Lea Sustainable Farm, visit our Facebook page and the Merry Lea Blog.  Otherwise, keep reading our more general descriptions below.



To find Merry Lea Sustainable Farm, follow directions on the Merry Lea directions page to Rieth Village where this is parking and easy access to the farm fields, gardens, and buildings.  The address is the same as the Rieth Village physical address: 4415 W. CR 200 S, Albion IN 46701.

Short Tours: We are open to visitors twelve months a year.  If you would like a short tour or time to speak with farm staff, advance notice is appreciated.  To plan a visit, contact Agroecology Director John Mischler (jamischler@goshen.edu).  For other questions about the farm, contact Farm Manager Jon Zirkle (jzirkle@goshen.edu).

Volunteering, Working, and Conducting Research at MLSF

Volunteering: Interested in getting outdoors and some soil under your nails?  Come volunteer at Merry Lea! Check out this video about one volunteer’s experience.  Contact Maria Tice at mariact@goshen.edu to to learn more and get started.  There is a form to fill out, and volunteers agree to Goshen College guidelines.  There are a few ways to volunteer, including being a WWOOF volunteer (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) which includes living on site or volunteering on an occasional non-residential basis (Click here to find us on the WWOOF USA website to learn more).

Paid Internships: We have paid internships during the growing season, as well, accepted on a competitive basis. This has typically included an Agroecology Intern who helps plant, tend, harvest, and market annual vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, and livestock, and an intern who works specifically with the Woody Perennial Polyculture project (which includes research and data collection).  E-mail Jon Zirkle for applications (jzirkle@goshen.edu).

Research: Goshen College students have conducted research projects and collected data at Merry Lea Sustainable Farm.  This is also possible for our graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Environmental Education program, and a possibility for those outside Goshen College, as well.  Contact John Mischler to learn more (jamischler@goshen.edu).  High school students have also engaged in research in conjunction with our farm, which seems to be of increased interest in recent years.

Farm Setting, Acreage, and What We Grow:

Our farm comprises nearly ten acres, scattered over several fields near the northeast corner of the Merry Lea property.  Most of those ten acres are part of orchards and mixed perennial systems.  Less than one acre is used for growing vegetables and herbs.  Rather than growing in acreage, we are trying reduce waste and grow better quality in smaller areas.  This is a tough goal, but proves to be worthwhile.

As a relatively young farm, Merry Lea Sustainable Farm is in the process of determining which crops and tree species are best suited for our soil types, our climate, and for local preferences.  More traditional vegetables and herbs grown have included various salad greens, basil, beans (snap and dry), beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, cilantro, collard greens, cucumber, daikon radish, dill, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ground cherry, hyssop, kale, leeks, lovage, melons, mint, nasturtium, okra, onion, parsley, peppers, popcorn, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabaga, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomato, tomatillo, turnip, winter squash, and zucchini.  We grow mostly heirloom crop varieties and raise crops with organic practices though are not currently certified.  Much of our produce is consumed by students or direct marketed in small quantities.  We try our best to do some seed saving, and to raise seed types that reflect crops grown by native peoples of our region.

We are often experimenting with small plantings of more unusual crops, and some with small grains.  This has included sorghum (sweet), heirloom spring barley, rice (Japanese variety), spring oats, jute, various flowers, and many species of cover crops.  Our perennial plantings also include a wide variety of species, including apple, pear, cherry, plum, pawpaw, peach, persimmon, northern apricot, pecan, chestnut, serviceberry, blackberry, asparagus, raspberry, grape, and hardy kiwi.

Pigs 2015The main infrastructure of our farm, including our offices, are located at Rieth Village, located off of CR 200 S (Bear Lake Rd.).  Production fields are adjacent to woodlands, meadows and wetlands, which are filled with beneficial insects, bats, and songbirds, all of which we encourage in our agroecosystem.



Collaborative Projects and Research:

One of the farm’s newest projects has been the establishment of a five-acre “woody perennial polyculture” planting just south of Rieth Village on Merry Lea property that begin in 2014.  As a research project with Savannah Institute based in Illinois, this project at Merry Lea involved planting mixed species of understory perennials like asparagus, bramble and shrub fruits, vine fruits (grapes and hardy kiwi), fruit trees, and nut trees (some species described above).  Rows are separated by strips of grass that have been grazed by chickens and Belted Galloway cattle starting in 2017.  Some of the grass strips are being re-established and improved for palatability and to outcompete old-field weeds.

We intend for this mixed planting to showcase the benefits of diversified, perennial agricultural systems where both botanical crops and animals are raised together.  Merry Lea Sustainable Farm aims to demonstrate how farmers and landowners can make efficient use of limited space, reduce risk of crop failure, raise livestock thoughtfully on marginal land, and all while encouraging biodiversity and resource conservation.  Stay tuned as we continue to see this space grow and mature.

What We Produce

Vegetables and herbs (organically managed, and includes many heirloom varieties)

Tree fruit (apple, plum, cherry, peach, pear, serviceberry, and pawpaw in the future)

Berries (raspberry and blackberry, primarily)

Tree nuts (trees are in very early stages of establishment)

Shiitake mushrooms (cultivated on logs)

Poultry (chickens for meat and for eggs)

Pigs (coming late spring 2016)

Where We Market

As the farm began, produce raised on the farm was used almost exclusively for Merry Lea programs and made available to students in residence, as well as donations to nearby food pantries.  This has continued in subsequent years.

Our fruit and vegetables have more recently been marketed to the Goshen Farmers Market, Maple City Market (Goshen), Pizzeria Venturi (Goshen), and to Goshen College food services as well as to students. staff, and faculty at the Goshen College campus.  Food donations have been made to The Window in Goshen and to the Wolf Lake Food Pantry.

We remain open to new markets going forward while honoring our mission as an educational farm.