Why is the Farm at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village so Unique?


| 8/26/2015 10:13:00 AM


Tags: Shakers, traditional skills, sustainable communities, historic places, Mary Quinn Doyle, Maine,

 

Mother Ann Lee and eight of her followers established the Shaker Church in America in 1774. Over the years, more than thirty Shaker communities that focused on an agrarian and self-sufficient lifestyle were established in the United States. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine, is the only active Shaker community that exists in the world today. It is a peaceful community which has lived in harmony with the land since it was founded in 1783.*

Situated on 1800 acres of land, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village remains a working farm. It is home to an apple orchard, tree farm, vegetable gardens, a commercial herb garden, hay fields, and pastures. Some of the traditional Shaker pastimes are still carried out at the Village, such as basket making, weaving, printing, and various handcrafts. At the present time, a flock of sheep, four Scottish Highland cattle, pigs, and several cats are being raised by the Sabbathday Lake Shakers.

Traditional Shaker Farming Practices Live On

Long ago the Shakers developed a reputation for their efficient and productive farming practices. They were founded as a peace-loving community based on common religious beliefs. Surprising to some is the fact that they were progressive in many ways with their assertion of the equality of the sexes, their communal lifestyle, their openness in welcoming those in need, and their embracing of inventions and technology.

The Sabbathday Lake Shakers cared for a dairy herd, sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and draft horses when their thriving community was home to approximately two hundred individuals in the 1800’s. A gristmill, sawmill, several barns, spinhouse, herb house and a hothouse, where seedlings and flowers were raised, were all located on the property. Extensive gardens and an orchard abundant with a variety of apples graced the landscape. The Community was recognized for its knowledge of medicinal and culinary herbs and its collection of seeds. Plum, peach, and cherry trees were grown, as well as asparagus and strawberries.

Draft horses were utilized on the Shaker farm through the 1950’s. According to Leonard Brooks, the former Director of the Shaker Library, the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake are credited with advancing the efficiency of the horse-drawn Maine mower and also in improving the design of a heavy-duty collar for the draft horses.The Shakers that lived in the various rural communities in our country have always been innovative in regard to farm developments. They have been credited with improving the air-tight heating stove, spring clothes pins, an apple peeler, the butter churn, the flat broom, washing machine, circular saw blade, and metal-nibbed pens.




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