Peacehaven is inspired by the family members of the farm’s founders: Tim and Susan Elliott and Buck and Cathy Cochran. As parents of children with special needs, they have experienced the joys, the heartaches, the quest to “fix”, and the awe and wonderment of having someone they love with intellectual disabilities become all they were meant to be.
One of the Elliott’s twin sons had a brain hemorrhage shortly after birth. They wanted to ensure that their son would one day have a place to live where he was not only cared for, but where he was also in a learning and loving environment. As the Elliotts began researching opportunities for their son, they met with Buck Cochran, a former associate pastor at their church. Buck had a passion for working with people with special needs and in the ministry of L’Arche communities. The L’Arche model centers on community and sharing all aspects of daily life—it is based upon the gifts of individuals with developmental disabilities, rather than just their needs.
In 2007, the two families came together to begin to transform 89 acres of empty farmland into Peacehaven Community Farm. Susan Elliott lost her battle with cancer in 2009; however, her vision continues to inspire the board, staff and many volunteers that give the farm life.
Farming operations and volunteer programs began in 2009 with the help of two recent NCSU graduates, Chas Edens and Ben Wright. Chas and Ben and two of their friends, Weston Monroe and Ryan Nilsen, lived onsite for over a year bringing the farm to life. Peacehaven is indebted to them not only for their hard work and great spirit but also for the way they engaged the local community and many others to become involved.
Peacehaven is a sustainable farm and affordable housing community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are not a place of worship, but a space which embraces and cherishes difference. We welcome people of all gifts, abilities, beliefs, backgrounds, and identities and consider all people crucial in our work of manifesting a more inclusive way of life. It is our sincere hope that all will feel safe, supported and respected here.
Peacehaven Community Farm says it all—it is a working farm that offers a job for everyone. It is a place that values and receives the gifts of all people; a place of peace and a haven:
peace [piːs] n A state of harmony between people or groups.
haven [ˈheɪvən] n A place of refuge or rest; a sanctuary.
The farm provides the environment to connect with other people and with nature through educational and vocational activities that engage disabled and non-disabled people in a shared purpose.
At Peacehaven we are not just growing vegetables—we are growing relationships and building a community that will sustain this farm for generations. It is the support of the community that fuels the development of Peacehaven and gives it life. There is great diversity within the volunteer base; most are people who appreciate community, enjoy the company of people that may be very different from them, and value the opportunity to get their hands dirty to support the growth of fresh, local food. Their age range has been between 2 and 92 years.
A core ethic at Peacehaven is the hope that learning and growth be an opportunity not just for individuals with special needs living and working at the farm but also for those who participate in working and volunteering. Without this mutual growth, Peacehaven cannot reach its full potential as a community supporting individuals with special needs and our community at large.
Since the beginning, the dream has been to create a community that models a family. The most basic community most people will ever experience is that of their own families. In November 2011, Peacehaven received a $375,000 federal HOME grant from the Guilford County Commissioners. These funds helped build the first of five homes at the farm that will provide a setting where people with special needs have the opportunity to live independently, where they are valued and are able to grow.