In Hillsborough, North Carolina, a small faith group has sprung up that’s focused around family, faith and farming, per Religion News Service.

Multiple families and individuals live on one 23-acre farm called Spring Forest. They share nearly everything with one another, from farming resources to morning devotionals, as wells as sorrows, successes and joys.

This community is part of a growing trend in the United States — the return of small family- and farming-centered faith groups, Religion News Service reported.

What is the ‘Farmastery?’

Spring Forest’s Farmastery is a farm and monastery mixed into one, according to the group’s website.

“The No. 1 purpose of the farm is to foster circles of community,” said the Rev. Elaine Heath, a United Methodist minister who launched the Church at Spring Forest, per Religion News Service. “Gathering people around food, growing food, preparing food, eating food, sharing food — that breaks down all these barriers and assumptions people have.”

The Spring Forest community houses multiple generations of several families in two houses. College-educated engineers, divinity students, environmentalists and others live together, gardening, caring for the farm and the nearby forest, volunteering with refugees and leading community classes like gardening and language learning.

Despite the site’s Christian roots, it welcomes people from any faith tradition. The community is not centered around evangelism so much as it is on discipleship, per the Rev. Heath.

“We’re creating a deeply contemplative community that’s also very active in the world and that’s here for our neighbors,” she told Religion News Service. “For me, Christian discipleship is really about creating communities and helping people to love well.”

Programs like the Spring Forest Farmastery

The Farmastery is one of many family- and faith-focused living communities in the U.S.

Here are other well-known communities:

  • The Farm Community: This Tennessee community has made it its mission to show how people can live together in peace. It advocates for sustainable living and nonviolence, plus holds community outreach programs to educate outsiders on how they, too, can live in harmony with the earth and with one another. Unlike the Farmastery, members of the Farm Community live in single-family housing — and they have a lot more land held in common.
  • Koinonia Farm: This little Christian organization in Georgia was founded as a “demonstration plot for the kingdom of God,” per its website. Koinonians, as members of the farm are called, are committed to racial equality, nonviolence, sustainable living and community service. They donate extensive resources to feed the hungry and house the poor. Individuals and families must be invited to become a Koinonian; they cannot simply settle down on the property. Anyone is invited to apply to visit and partake in the farm for limited periods, however.
  • Hundredfold Farm: The Hundredfold Farm Cohousing Community in Pennsylvania is a 15-house multigenerational community that tries to live in a sustainable way. This organization is still in development, but to become a member and purchase one of the remaining plots, you must attend an organization, be mentored by someone in the group, commit to sustainable living and commit to deep relationships with your neighbors.