CHARITY OF THE MONTH: Orkestai Farm

Local Farm Welcomes Volunteers of All Abilities

Alethea Vasilis graduated from college, then took her backgrounds in dance and cultural anthropology and embarked on a life-changing adventure to Northern Mali. Here she saw firsthand two agricultural communities coming together through dance, drumming, and food. She was hooked.

When she returned to the U.S., she worked as a support person for Rachel, a young woman with autism. She brought Rachel to her father’s farm (her dad is Peter Vasilis of Long Island’s Orient Organics), and Rachel fell in love with the calming rhythm of farming work. This led to the start of the one-acre SustainAbility Farm at Oyster Bay’s Plantingfields Arboretum in 2011, which Alathea worked at and then managed in 2013. In 2014, when SustainAbility moved to Upstate, New York, Orkestai Farm was born.

Orkestai—derived from the Ancient Greek for collaborative movement, or the part in a theater piece when dancers move together to interpret nonverbal parts of the play—provides an opportunity for Alathea and her staff to bring together farming and the arts through a program she calls a CCA: Cultivated Community Agriculture. A CCA share at Orkestai consists of a weekly CSA share filled with local and sustainable produce, free access to Expressive Agriculture events (like a one-of-a-kind performance by theLong Island Vegetable Orchestra), yoga on the the farm, and, perhaps most importantly, thrice-weekly experiential farm learning, when people of all abilities come together to build community, learn about farming, and develop confidence in areas previously unexplored. New for 2018: a Kids’ Program for ages 2-10, featuring experiential learning once a week and one Sunday a month (no CSA share included).

According to Vasilis, the diversity among the volunteers and staff at Orkestai mirrors that of the crops themselves. “Orkestai Farm facilitates person-centered expressive and educational support for people of all abilities as they learn to grow food, participate in an inclusive community, and care for the land, ” she says. “We echo the notion of environmental biodiversity with a call for the acceptance of human neuro-diversity, a philosophy which honors the inherent worth of everyone in our community.”

To tour Orkestai, or inquire about the CCA program or about your group volunteering at the farm, visit http://www.orkestaifarm.org. And thank you for contributing to this wonderful program for the month of June through our Bring Your Own Bag program! 

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