By Kathleen Kershner
SOUTH BEND — When Mary Ann Weber was growing up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, she took as a matter of fact, that faith was as natural as the land. “The connection with the land, growing all of our own food — this was a spiritual exercise,” she says.
She remembers whatever she was doing — riding the tractor or baling hay — was always done as a spontaneous conversation with God.
“All we did on a daily basis was very spiritual. We worked together as a family,” she shares, adding, “Our father was the leader and he taught us ‘no matter what, with prayer and faith, we were going to get through.’ Everything we did, we did with this spiritual background.”
Stories about the difficult seasons when — but for the generosity of the members of the church, there may not have been a Thanksgiving turkey; the joy of sharing that came with and through the community; and the simplicity of life that provided more than enough, though in adult retrospect, may have been rife with poverty — captured the heart and imagination of her newly wed spouse, Bob, who believed there was something very rich in a life so lean.
“I grew up in a suburban area and the mindset is much different,” recalls Bob. “Mary Ann’s experience was so different than mine. I thought it was important to have the experience of living on a farm where the family is together, not just running around with your friends and being whatever society is telling you to be. I felt that was very important and we decided we wanted that for our children.”
The Weber family grew to include five children. “Five Sisters Farm” was established in 2003 when Bob and Mary Ann Weber purchased three acres of land about a mile west of Quince Road on U.S. 20 in South Bend, and named it after their five lovely daughters. Abundant in fruit and vegetables, the farm also provides farm-fresh, cage-free eggs year round. Vendors at the Farmer’s Market in Three Oaks, Michigan, the Weber family depends on one another in every aspect of their lives. This mutual dependency is credited to the closeness that the sisters share.
“I do think that we are very close to our family,” explains Saint Joseph High School junior Emily Weber. “It stems from all of us always being together and working together.”
Every one of the sisters has a role to play. “There is an expectation that this is a family enterprise and that the children will help,” says Bob. “We go to market to sell our goods and each of the girls has to participate. Getting up early on Saturday mornings is not what a teenager likes to do. But there is an expectation, and I think that is an important thing to instill within your children; ‘we are here for each other and no matter what, your family is number one.’”
Saint Joseph High School freshman Mary Rose Weber speaks in bemusement at the difference between her life out in the country and her friends in town. “They can just walk out their door and go to the Taco Bell,” she giggles. “I really don’t have that option. Everything I need is right here.”
Bob comments on the difference he hoped to be able to make in his daughters lives by raising them in a rural setting. “I think that secular society places too great of a focus on material things and consumerism. We hope to show the children a different life. We hope that the life that we have given them here will give them an alternative view, a more spiritual view.”
Daughter Mary Rose edifies this hope by recounting her own experience of living so close to the land.
“I would definitely say that living on the farm deepens my relationship with God,” she says. “It kind of relates back to people in the city. They have all these distractions, and here it is so quiet. At night, you can see all the stars. I love that. It is so beautiful. You can see God’s incredible work in action and talk with Him.”
With the two eldest daughters, Adelle and Anita, away at college, Emily, the oldest daughter at home has assumed the role of the eldest sibling.
“We have a kind of prayer ritual that we do together at night,” describes Emily. Seven-year-old Esther’s favorite prayers are prayers of blessing and the Guardian Angel prayer.
With openhearted generosity and warm, gentle smiles, the Webers gratefully agree, that the Five Sisters Farm is a three-acre slice of heaven. “Outside is so beautiful,” says Bob. “I find my peace and my serenity in my life on the farm. It is where God is.”
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