BRIEF HISTORY OF MICHAELA FARM
Sister Theresa Hacklemeier arrived in Oldenburg, IN, on January 6, 1851 after a long and arduous trip from Vienna, Austria. She was greeted by Father Francis Joseph Rudolf, who was inspired to co-found a religious community of women to serve the Church of southeastern Indiana. Thus began the historic founding of the Sisters of St. Francis. We were founded to be educators of the young and within the first year, the three original Sisters were teaching the children in Oldenburg. By the year 1854, Father Rudolf saw the need to open a boarding school to help care for the orphaned children of the area. (Cholera had swept through the area and some of the children lost one or both parents to the epidemic.) It was at this time that Mother Theresa agreed to care for the children, but they would also have to feed them. Father Rudolf knew of 40 acres of land available near the convent and purchased the land himself giving it to the Sisters as the beginning of their farm. Sister Michaela Lindemann was the first farm manager and cared for the farm for the first 18 years, until she was elected superior general.
From its beginning until the 1960’s, the farm grew and production flourished. At its peak, the farm produced meat, dairy products, vegetables, fruit, forest products and water for the Sisters and the academy students. (At that time this was about 500 people.) The farm not only raised but also butchered cattle, hogs and chickens. The dairy provided milk, butter and cream. The vegetables were from farm to table. The fruit orchard provided fuit and jams and jellies. Much of the tillable land was used to raise feed for the livestock. it was labor intensive but the farm embodied the use of sustainable agriculture to provide for those who tended the land.
The next ten years were a series of successes and challenges. In 2004 an agronomist met with the Sisters and a direction for Michaela Farm was established. Between 2004 and 2006, the barn renovation took place. It was reroofed, tuck-pointed, new gutters and downspouts were installed, windows were repaired, a new floor was laid, and an electrical upgrade took place. In January of 2008, a professional farmer was hired as farm manager.
The farm manager and his staff have worked diligently to improve the working of the farm. Because of some genetic problems with the beefalo herd, it is slowly being transformed into a Devon herd. The Devon breed of cattle, which is a heritage breed, will give the same qualities of being grass fed and as low in fat as the beefalo. Our hay fields are producing high quality hay for feeding the cattle over the winter. Our gardens are producing abundant vegetables and herbs.
In February of 2018, the Sisters decided that we could no longer continue to have cattle on the farm. While we regretted having to sell the herd, it was a necessary decision. Our hay fields and pastures are still in use because a local cattle farmer is using them. We can still see cattle on the pastures, although they are not ours. We still have our chickens and we still operate the gardens. We are still committed to making a difference by how our gardens are grown and how our chickens are tended.
Michaela Farm is making a difference by helping to offset carbon in the atmosphere with its hay fields, pastures and forested areas and by providing our Motherhouse and the local community hormone free, antibiotic free, genetically unaltered fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs. The farm also provides a place of spiritual nourishment in its walking trails, labyrinth and retreat house. By providing a place to test out (educationally) new ways of growing vegetables and by providing a place for educators to bring their classes for ecological study the farm’s mission continues.