Washington State’s Most Prayerful Dairy Farm

Our Lady of the Rock Farm

Barns and Fields at Our Lady of the Rock Farm


Mother Therese Critchley is Prioress

by Gigi Berardi-Allaway, Resilient Farms Nourishing Foods blog

Shaw Island’s Our Lady of the Rock (OLR) Monastery was the first certified raw milk dairy in the State of Washington. Besides fresh, certified raw milk, the monastery produces much, (and delicious I hear) nutrient-dense foods for its personal use. At OLR, everyone takes on considerable farmstead work, which, as labora (Latin for work), is both rule and rubric. It is a yardstick by which the overall monastery health is measured. The prayerful part, the ora (which means prayer in Latin), is, of course, its primary mission.


Mother Hildegard

However, it’s with the farming work, that the nuns need particular assistance. The farming (and in particular, the livestock management) is especially challenging in the winter months.

The monastery offers a land intern program and is currently looking for interns to assist with the land and livestock work. Never was this more critical – according to OLR’s Mother Hildegard, very few Benedictine abbeys and monasteries in the U.S. still farm. Raw milk dairies, creameries, and processors need as much support in Washington state as possible (see http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/).


Visitors Tour the Monastery Farm

Lastly, guests are always welcome at Our Lady of the Rock – arguably, one of the most beautiful (and health-ful) places on earth.

Visit the monastery website at ourladyoftherock.com.

For more, contact Mother Hildegard at mhildegard at rockisland.com and also see her new blog, ISLANDLIFE-INAMONASTERY.BLOGSPOT.COM.


Llamas and a Beef Cow


Cotswold Sheep and Llamas

Gigi Allaway is a WAPF member who has studied and worked on small-scale farms for almost 40 years (her master’s and PhD at Cornell were on organic farming and low-input farming, respectively and she has been on the editorial board of Biological Agriculture and Horticulture since its inception in 1981). A foodie inspired by Kimberly and other blogging foodies at WAPF meetings, she started a food blog in November, resilientfarmsnourishingfoods blog and, as a professor of Environment and Food Studies at Western Washington University, leads summer study tours in Washington state and in Europe in biodynamic farming and nourishing foods.


  1. I think you’ll find that the religious community is made of contemplative sisters rather than cloistered nuns. A cloister consists of a community whereby the nuns withdraw from the outside world to focus on prayer whereas the lives of contemplative sisters permit visitors. But fabulous story! I wish I lived close enough to buy my milk from the abbey. How perfect would that be!

  2. Thanks so much for this uplifting story. I couldn’t find an online or mail order store but I would love to support them through sales. Please update if they ever sell through the mail/online.

  3. Thank you for posting this lovely story! The nuns also manage the ferry terminal on Shaw Island. It’s wonderful to see the ferry pulling up to the dock and the nuns dropping down the walkway, etc. I miss the San Juan Islands!
    I didn’t know they had a dairy; that is so great. Thanks again for sharing this post.

  4. Hello! Thanks for your comments! To respond —
    Mother Hildegard’s new blog actually displays some of the monastery products for sale and you can contact her directly (http://islandlife-inamonastery.blogspot.com/). Actually, there were three orders of nuns on Shaw Island — and it was the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist that ran the Shaw Landing, now operated by the Mason family. And correct, contemplative is a good descriptor for the character of the nuns inhabiting the monastery enclosure and grounds. Best, Gigi Berardi

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