Bearing Witness Retreat

2nd Land, Food and Race
Bearing Witness Retreat

September 20-23, 2018

Soul Fire Farm 1972 NY-2, Petersburg, NY 12138

Bearing Witness to the U.S. Food System

Please join us this Fall on a retreat that will provide you the opportunity to bear witness to:

  • The natural world: the soil, the elements, plant and animal life
  • Racism in our food systems and communities
  • Activist farmers building a just and sustainable future

While this retreat will contain some history and activities you might also find on a tour, the point is not to merely gain information. Rather, we intend to realize an embodied, mindful and heartful experience of interconnection. We aim to bring familiarity, understanding and intimacy to parts of humanity characterized by trauma, separation, and invisibility. We will experience that another world is not only possible - it’s on the way.

This retreat is in the spirit of the Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreats. It is not organized by Zen Peacemakers, Inc.

Soul Fire Farm


"Soul Fire Farm is committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. We raise life-giving food and act in solidarity with people marginalized by food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system. We bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health and environmental justice."



Paco Lugoviña

Rev. Francisco Lugoviña is a community gardener at the Greyston Foundation (where he served on the Board of Directors) and Finca del Sur-South Bronx Farmers, where he focused on race through lens of growing food communally. He is a long-time resident and businessman in the Bronx, New York. Rev. Lugoviña teaches Peacemaker Circle work as a Sensei (Senior Teacher) in the Soto Zen and Zen Peacemaker lineages. He completed a Practicum in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Professionals. He has participated in Bearing Witness Retreats and pilgrimages to the high New Mexico desert, the sacred mountains of Tibet, Auschwitz-Bierkenau Concentration Camps, India, Shrilanka, Rwanda, as well as on the streets of New York City and other USA cities.





Leah Penniman

Leah Penniman (Manye Amidede Adelowu) is a Queen Mother who serves the Lwa-Orisa through sacred herbal baths, ancestor reverence, rite of passage ceremony, and spiritual activism in defense of the earth and our people. As a founder of Soul Fire Farm and high school science teacher, Leah Penniman is an educator, farmer, writer, and food justice activist. Leah was initiated  as Manye (Queen Mother) in the Vodun-Krobo tradition in Ghana, welcomed as a Jew by mikveh and beit din in Worcester, MA, baptized to Vodou through Milocan in Haiti and initiated to Oya in the Yoruba-Ifa religion. At Soul Fire Farm, Leah coordinates a subsidized farm share program and runs training programs for aspiring Black and Latinx activist-farmers, an on-farm restorative justice program and uprooting racism trainings for intersectional activists. 

Ariel Pliskin

Ariel Pliskin is an ordained Minister in the Zen Peacemaker Order and certified yoga and mindfulness instructor. He has participated in and staffed several Bearing Witness Retreats on the streets, at Auschwitz and with Native Americans. Inspired by the experience of street retreats, Ariel founded the Stone Soup Cafe, a weekly pay-what-you-can community luncheon in Greenfield, MA. Every week, over 100 people from a variety of racial and socio-economic backgrounds gather to prepare, serve and share healthy, locally grown, delicious food. As the founder and Executive Director of Unity Tables, Ariel helped launch similar cafes around the United States. He is currently studying for a Masters of Social Work and he is the Path of Freedom Coordinator at the Prison Mindfulness Institute.

Retreat begins Thursday, Sept 20 at dinner (registration earlier) and ends Sunday, Sept 23 at lunch

Sample Daily Schedule

The Bearing Witness Tradition

Members of the Zen Peacemaker Order (ZPO) share commitment to a spiritual path combining meditation and social action.  One core practice is the Bearing Witness Retreat (BWR). ZPO leaders have guided several hundred participants in Bearing Witness Retreats in places like Auschwitz, Rwanda and the Pine Ridge Reservation for the past two decades, bringing together diverse groups including those affected by large-scale trauma for deep listening and transformation. Soul Fire Farm and Unity Tables will lead a gathering inspired by this tradition, in order to bear witness to the food system and race in the Unity States.

BWR participants deeply plunge into an intensive personal practice and also to work to heal social wounds through a Peacemaking process based on the three Peacemaker tenets:  

  1. Not-Knowing by giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
  2. Bearing Witness to the joy and suffering of the world
  3. Taking Action that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness

The ZPO defines peace as wholeness.  Peacemaking, therefore, is a process of bearing witness to all voices and taking actions that arise from witnessing.  Bearing Witness retreats facilitate Peacemaking before, during, and after the retreat.

Apply to Attend

Apply now for one of the twenty spots in this retreat. 

We offer sliding scale payment and require applications to ensure a diverse group.


Round 1 Deadline: May 24, 2018