By Felice Shekar
At Shambhala Mountain Center, people often talk about being “on the land.” The SMC site, the land itself, plays a central role in the experience of those who live here and those who simply visit. This is an educational center where you can immerse yourself in the realities of nature.
It is possible, however, to not only live on the land at SMC but also to let the land live in you. As the community’s garden grows and thrives, vegetables and salad greens make the short hop from fields to the dining hall. It is possible to find homegrown arugula and radishes in your lunch salad and garnishes. The taste of food this fresh is delightful and unmistakable.
According to Sophia DeMaio, Land Steward, “SMC is serious about sustainability. A generous family foundation has helped to support our garden’s development, and the support of the entire community keeps it going.”
More than fine eating, perhaps, the garden greens in the salad bins at meal time speak to a greater shared good that is emblematic of SMC. The short journey of healthy food to the dishes of community members parallels the way various SMC departments, such as guest services and development, create an interwoven experience for guests and staff that serves the needs of many in ways that are not always visible.
As DeMaio and the community look ahead, “it would be great to host gardening and permaculture programs and bring folks together to learn about these systems. We’d also like to build a small environmental library where community members and guests can learn about the land and working with the land.” With the help of donations, the SMC garden team will expand its crops, develop sustainability further with an effective composting system, and cultivate other projects that reflect the community’s commitment to living well and thoughtfully with the land.
Kevin Korb, Master Gardener, is excited about the future. “This fall we will be constructing a 42-foot diameter geodesic dome greenhouse that will allow us to grow food throughout the winter.” Korb also envisions chickens for eggs and a raspberry path for guests to enjoy. The best part of Kevin’s job is the connection of the food he helps grow to those that he savors meals with. “Here at SMC, I know every cook that uses our produce and I sit and eat every meal with this great community of staff and guests.”
To many, the presence of garden fresh foods in the next meal is simply an occasion to enjoy tasty, healthy food. But this is also an opportunity to savor the systemic dedication of SMC to serve many needs at any one time.
With a degree in Evolutionary Psychology, a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, and previous immersion in Middle Eastern Studies, Felice Shekar has blended her business acumen with spiritual and peacemaking studies to promote conscious, systemic success to a number of organizations in service to a common good. As a published author, both in academia and the mass market, coupled with her communication and public speaking skills, she brings common sense solutions to her position of Manager of Development at SMC. Felice promotes donor engagement that helps those who visit the land to understand the financial successes and challenges of an organization such as SMC.