Late August. Western Wisconsin. Mid afternoon. Picture a big white farm house with people flowing in and out carrying trays laden with home cooked food, two bearded men with guitars on a stage in front of an old granary surrounded by hay bales, flags akin to those you might see in a mountain city in Tibet fluttering in a swift breeze, and more life of all sorts milling around the grounds, laughing, painting, eating and exploring. There’s a tent city in a lakeside clearing down a short grassy path from the refurbished – yet – simple barn and a guy on a green tractor pulling a wagon full of people through the middle of it all. Welcome to the Wild Springs Festival at Lily Springs Farm.
The farm’s namesake, a lily — or lotus — grows out of the mud and, in that spirit, their mission is:
..to provide a sanctuary in the natural world, dedicated to bringing beauty out of murkiness by reconnecting to what is essential and generative.
Permaculture and whole systems design are being applied to restore our habitats to health and to build a sustainable perennial-based farm system that integrates land, people and the built environment. Programming flows naturally from that work and from our intention to foster health in ourselves and the land.
As the afternoon progresses into evening, people on bikes roll in periodically, ready for some time in the lake after a windy 50 mile ride from the twin cities to the west. Volunteers from the organization the farm partners with the put on the festival, Eat for Equity, ready the buffet table for dinner while groups of friends, new and old, embark on the “trail of destiny”, meet the resident goats and play field games with abandon. Dogs and children roam freely, the keg of craft beer is tapped and the brave are out on paddle boards, in kayaks or floating on inner tubes as the sun gives way to gusty winds and intermittent rain sprinkles. The music eventually moves into the red barn when the rain starts to fall in earnest, and we pass around homemade pies, sit together on blankets and eat wood-fired pizza well into the wee hours of the morning. That’s the sign of a place that holds good energy: Everyone who arrives….stays. And has fun despite an ever darkening sky and 30 mile an hour winds howling alongside the musicians on stage.
We wake up after a night in tents, on the floor of the barn or in the farm house to fair trade coffee, fresh fruit, granola, roasted potatoes, egg quiche and toast with jam. Folk music pierces the damp chill of the morning air, and some of us gather for yoga in the barn that’s still strung with twinkling lights. And we leave refreshed and reminded that there are still places that hold this kind of energy and need our commitment and presence to keep that energy alive, well and growing.
Lily Springs’ commitment to cultivating health and wholeness for people, creatures and the planet was illustrated in full during this weekend of eating, connecting, dancing, playing, and existing close to nature and each other. The energy generated by gathering together people who share the values of living sustainably and promoting equity among all living beings never ceases to invite wonder. That sort of energy is palpable and has the power to create the change that is so needed in the world. You can’t fake authenticity. And you can’t stop it.
*Photos via Lily Springs Farm on social media.