HARDWICK, N.J. — In western New Jersey, far from the hectic metro New York area where he has spent most of his ministry, Francis Kim, OFM, is developing a farm that will be more than a place to grow crops and raise animals. He hopes that it will be a place for people to come for peace and prayer, and to spend time in nature.
Last month, he completed another step toward his vision when a barn was erected that will accommodate visitors when complete.
On Sept. 19, workers came to St. Francis Village in rural Warren County, N.J., to add the roof to a new building on property that Francis has been tending for nearly a year. The workers added the roof to the post-frame construction, a building technique that uses large posts buried in the ground to provide vertical structural support and girt beams to provide horizontal support. The method, known for its speed and affordability, enabled the roof to be affixed in just several hours.
The 40-by-124-foot structure, standing 35 feet high, has been painted blue and white, the colors associated with the Blessed Virgin. The barn will also have a chapel and rooms for meetings and gatherings, Francis added.
Developing the Site
“I want to create a place for people to come to pray and meditate,” he said. “I envision a nice place with a pond and flowers, where people can relax and be contemplative.” He said he plans to add a stone path.
The exterior of the barn was completed in September, Francis said, and he plans to finish the interior during the coming months as money and manpower will allow. “My budget is not big. I will try to do much of it by myself,” he added. “The architect at St. Francis Church in New York City, Noel Im, is helping to draw up the blueprint. He has been a great help.”
Francis is aiming for completion in the spring. “It takes a long time,” he said, because of “my ministry work and other activities.”
Since last year when, after a two-year search, he found the site, Francis has worked to prepare this more than 90-acre property. He purchased the property last fall. The farm, which includes a house where Francis lives, was paid for through a foundation, the Franciscan Missionary Charity, as well as donations from Secular Franciscans.
Francis, a mechanical engineer, identified the barn-building business through his contacts in the rural Blairstown area, where he has lived since last year. “It’s a small town, so people tend to know one another and can recommend specialists.” Francis has been asked by the local officials to serve as a chaplain for the town.
Planning for Growth
He has been growing hot red peppers and sweet potatoes and raising chickens, and plans to raise more animals, including cows, goats, pigs and sheep. Some of the produce will be donated to St. Francis Breadline and Franciscans Deliver, food ministries in New York City. The remainder will be sold to Korean communities in New York and New Jersey.
Francis has cleared trees on the property and will install a furnace inside his greenhouse to enable corn, green peppers, soy beans and zucchini plants to be grown in winter.
All of his crops are grown organically. “I don’t want to use chemicals,” Francis said.
He is repairing and purchasing farm equipment, and, little by little, transforming the property into a community with a farm and a place for meditation. Last week, he acquired a new tractor. This month, he is planting 1,000 pounds of garlic, which he plans to sell to the Korean community.
Francis, who marked 25 years as a friar this year, immigrated to the United States in his 20s and was ordained a priest in 1996. He has spent many years helping the Korean community, creating Secular Franciscan groups, and learning about and engaging in organic farming. Members of the Korean community of St. Francis Church in New York City, which he established nearly two decades ago, visit the farm to assist Francis. Some cook meals and others do outdoor chores. Volunteers come nearly every day, he said, many from New York City area parishes with Korean communities.
The friar spends weekdays at the farm and on Sundays travels to celebrate Mass at St. Francis Church on West 31st Street and Assumption Church in Wood-Ridge, N.J., where he is stationed. He also regularly visits parishes in Philadelphia and Virginia, and works with Secular Franciscan groups.
He will soon be training young people from the New York City parish in organic farming. These young professionals are planning to go to Africa to work with a group of Franciscan Sisters in Zambia.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.