Taking Action: Building a Year-Round Greenhouse

Continuing the momentum of the work by Zen Peacemakers on Turtle Island (USA), many of our members, past participants of the Native American Bearing Witness retreats and affiliated others have followed the Three Tenets, giving rise to organized actions in service of the Native American community, and developing relationships across cultures. Below is a report of one such action.


By Mujin Sunim

VERMONT, USA. During a retreat with the Lakota in the Black Hills in 2015, we were won over by a very innovative project: to build a self-sufficient, year-round greenhouse. The builders, Kim and Frank, are Native Americans who live on a plot of land in the middle of beautiful rolling hills in Vermont. Kim with Jen Leonard (my hostess, fellow enthusiast and kind friend) and I met last year at the retreat and it was then that Kim told me of their dream to build the greenhouse.

It seemed a great idea to encourage people to grow their own food, even in very harsh conditions. And so we set the ball rolling and the 9.7 by 4.3 meters greenhouse took off.

Most greenhouses prolong the growing season but can’t make it through freezing winter conditions and so the various heating systems envisaged by Frank are essential. In addition to wind and solar producing heat and electricity, there are rocket stoves, and in-house fertilization with irrigation from the water of large basins for breeding fish – which can be also eaten. (Right: Kim and Mujin.)

As I realized that the greenhouse was near to Montreal (my birthplace), just a 1½ hour drive, it seemed sensible to go there and then visit Kim and Frank, along with Jen and her daughters, Kaiya and Aiyana.

We all followed the ups and the downs of building (bad cold weather, lack of help, supply of materials, ill health and so on) and worried that maybe it was too much for Kim and Frank: could they manage and would it ever be finished? But we had faith in Frank’s architectural talent. The visit was planned well in advance and so with the trusty help of Jen who drove and cooked and filled the car with efficient and comfortable camping gear (I had my own tent) and Kaiya and Aiyana who were continual supports, we made it.

Just before setting out, I rang Kim and she told me that it was nearly finished and that we would be amazed – and we WERE: The greenhouse is truly beautiful. The walls are mostly logs (for insulation and ventilation) set in adobe. There are also wooden walls protected with slates. Windows are on the south side (of course) and the heating pipes from the rocket stoves pass under the growing trays (see Frank’s picture left.)  We are all waiting to hear about the yield….



After completing studies in psychology and pedagogy, Mujin Sunim was ordained in Sri Lanka under Ven. B. Ananda Maitreya Maha Nayaka Thera in 1976. She took bhikkhuni ordination in 1985 under In-hong Sunim at Soknam-sa. In 1987 she co-founded Lotus Lantern International Buddhist Center and in 2005 she opened Popkye-sa / Dharma Realm in Switzerland. Her main interests are training and living Buddhism in the modern world.


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Taking Action: Building a Year-Round Greenhouse

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