Small amphitheater in Killington is part of a master plan to better connect, engage with community and nature
By Polly Mikula
Mission Farm in Killington is situated on four acres of open land with an orchard. Behind it 176 acres of forest rises up the mountainside and the Ottauquechee River flows in front separating the pristine oasis from Route 4 and Killington Resort’s Skyeship Gondola. In other words, it’s tucked away but in plain sight.
Mission Farm has always been open and welcoming to the greater community. With it’s hiking and kayak trails, gardens, water for dogs, Church of Our Saviour chapel open for reflection and community events.
But now there are greater plans to enhance connection and engagement with the community and nature.
“Our focus this year at Mission Farm is ‘Radical Invitation,’ as we restore our inherent connection to nature, Spirit, each other and our ancestors. We are creating spaces, offering programs and convening gatherings that highlight this intention,” wrote Reverend Lisa Ransom, vicar and executive director, in her newsletter The Graze, Feb. 5, 2023. “As we move toward spring, we are engaging in work with the land to bring a closer sense of belonging between the ecosystem and one another. We are creating accessible paths and picnic areas. We are improving our trails for public use. We are continuing to expand the apiary and gardens. And, we are commissioning a community space — an ‘Odeon’ to offer a radical invitation for gathering people together. This project has been in the planning stages for over a year with artist and author, Dan Snow. The Odeon will be a space that connects us to the past and looks toward the future as we gather with the intention of connection.
“This project is a part of the larger picture of ‘Invitation’ that we envision for the future of Mission Farm,” she wrote.
Partnering with Jack Rossi Landscape, a Master Plan for Mission Farm’s space was developed. The Odeon, or small amphitheater, will be a central feature.
Stone craftsman Dan Snow of Dummerston, Vermont, has designed and will construct the small amphitheater to the back left side of the chapel. Dry laid stone construction is Snow’s preferred mode of making site-specific works of environmental art. He combines master craftsman skills with sculptural artistry to bring new geologic forms into the natural world.
His works stand alone as sculpture, and come alive when engaged by visitors.
“From the practical to the fantastical, Snow’s works in stone fuse vanguard vision with old world techniques and traditions,” said Rev. Ransom.
The Odeon will be constructed from granite and ringed with native plants. It’s purpose is to host larger educational gatherings, weddings, Sunday service, and musical performances as well as offer a site for personal tranquility and reflection.
Snow reflected on his impression of Mission Farm, saying: “Once in our travels, along the Ottauquechee River just north of Bridgewater, I spied an incongruous site; a flash of white across the green valley. As quickly as it appeared it was gone, but the memory of the little stone church fixed in my teenage mind,” he said. “Fast-forward 55 years and once again I’m gazing at the edifice that is The Church of Our Saviour. It’s not just a fleeting glance this time. I’ve been invited into the Mission Farm community to take part in the ongoing celebration of its unique buildings and grounds.”
“The ‘mission’ I’ve been assigned by the community members is to craft an assemblage of stones into a space that will concentrate the earth’s energy into a light-capturing atmosphere,” Stone continued. “When completed, an area of the hillside meadow above the church will become a physical and intangible attraction. Taking a word from the ancient Greek to describe an earthwork used for music recitals and poetry recitations, Mission Farm’s ‘Odeon’ will host gatherings for performance and ceremony.”
“Architectural details from the church have informed the Odeon’s design,” Stone explained. “A seating arrangement of granite slabs, their surfaces speckled with iridescent mica like the church’s facade, are set atop retaining walls built in a matrix style that emulates that of faceted, stained-glass windows.”
Construction of the Odeon by dry stone walling professionals and member volunteers will begin this summer.
In addition to the Odeon, the master plan includes a sweep of trees that will line the road announcing the entrance to the Farm. Accessible walkways, as well as flat stone paths, will provide easy access from parking areas to the Chapel and the Amphitheater. To capture the most sunlight, food will be grown on the West side of the property. Raised beds for vegetables are already in place. Blueberries and apple trees will be planted on the hillside, and an enlarged Apiary placed just beyond. Throughout the meadow, native wildflowers will feed the bees, who provide honey for the Farm.
Bakery, farm store
“It is our vision to grow, produce and share food but also to build community with an emphasis on food education and accessibility,” states Mission Farm’s brochure.
The former Mission Farm Bakery will be re-imagined to serve as a cooperative kitchen space and farm store, providing economic development opportunities and nourishing food to the local community. The Bakery will be renovated to commercial kitchen standards, allowing local food artisans a space to create products for sale at area farmer’s markets.
“We believe food is a gift to be gratefully received and generously shared. Our vision is to have shared community meals at the Farm throughout the season. Fruit and vegetables from our garden provides the ingredients for healthy meals,” the brochure continues. “Our goal for this initiative is to build capacity for more food distribution and deeper involvement of our community in the growing and sharing of food into the future. We plan to build a robust volunteer network and food ‘maker’ community centered around the food-producing land and commercial kitchen space. In addition, we envision this space to offer a support system that combines resources, knowledge and experience to offer educational opportunities and support food entrepreneurs.”
Over the years, a series of trails have been cultivated behind the chapel beginning at the parking lot on Mission Farm Road. These trails cut through meadow, pine groves, and beautiful mature mixed-deciduous forest. Persevering up to the top of one of the three loops in the trail system will reward you with a sweeping view of the river valley and mountain range.
Mission Farm is now beginning to develop a series of new companion trails with marked spaces for meditation and prayer.
Church of Our Saviour has served the local community for over 125 years as the founder Elizabeth Wood Clement envisioned its mission — a meeting place for social gatherings both mundane and sacred. The active Episcopal congregation has been stewards of this land and has offered hospitality to the community.
In recent years, significant restoration has taken place in the Church including: new roof, updated electric, and energy efficiency improvements have recently been completed. Restoration of the stained glass windows has begun, allowing sunlight to stream into the Church once again.
Rectory & Guest House
For the past 50 years, the guest house at Mission Farm has housed travelers and friends of Church of our Savior. Beginning its life as a carriage barn and tavern, the guest house flourished under Father Heminway’s leadership (it was named in his honor).
In the near future, an energy audit for the Rectory and Guest House will be conducted to identify efficiency opportunities. In the long term, an architectural plan is needed to create comfortable accommodations for guests and inviting gathering spaces for retreat participants. A space that allows for restoration of spirit and connection to the land.