Who We Are and What We Do

The Merry Lea Sustainable Farm is an educational, demonstration, and experimental farm specializing in perennial agriculture, carbon farming, regenerative agriculture, social & environmental justice, food literacy, reintegrating crops and animals on the farm, and environmental education.

Our #3 nationally-ranked college farm is set within a 100-acre landscape that includes pastures, woods, prairie, wetland, orchards, vegetable gardens, and a historic farmstead. Students gain experience with annual vegetables, fruit and nut orchards and livestock. One unique feature is a 5.5-acre Woody Perennial Polyculture mixed crop and animal system. The farm supplies food to local food pantries, Merry Lea programs, the Goshen College dining services, and a student CSA.

Curricularly, the farm serves the Agroecology Summer Intensive, 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.

We grow a diversity of crops and it seems like the list grow more every year!  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.

Part of our mission is bring animals back to the farm and integrate them as part of crop production.  We currently raise turkeys, meat chickens, laying hens, milk goats, meat goats, cattle, honey bees, pigs, and millions of soil microbes, beneficial insects, etc.

The 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.

How to Get Involved

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: 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.