IHE M.Ed. grad Kelle Kersten has more than 20 years experience as an organic farmer/gardener. Currently Kelle lives and gardens veganically with her husband at their vegan homestead, Ahimsa Village, in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. She offers paid and work shares for friends to share in the bounty of her gardens.
Kelle says, “I don’t have a ‘job’ in the conventional sense. My ‘work’ is to embody ahimsa (non-violence/unconditional love) more and more in my life and to inspire others through my example.” Besides veganic gardening/homesteading and humane education, Kelle’s interests include dancing, hiking, kayaking, biking, reading, meditation, spiritual inquiry, eating and working with friends, and mentoring vulnerable young people.
We asked Kelle to share about her life and work.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
KK: I was very excited when I discovered humane education about 10 years ago. First, humane education reflected my growing awareness that all the seemingly different types of oppression, exploitation, and violence are inseparably connected and therefore cannot be addressed without considering the other types. Second, humane education’s use of empowering and inspiring educational methods was refreshing after years of struggling to overcome my own conventional schooling experiences. Finally, humane education provided me with a means of integrating the various threads of my life (working with vulnerable young people, organic gardening and sustainable living, and animal and environmental activism).
IHE: Share how you’re currently manifesting humane education.
KK: My homestead, Ahimsa Village, is a sustainable living educational center. We give tours and host vegan dinners and potlucks. I have facilitated two World Peace Diet book discussion groups. Several people assist with the gardening in exchange for produce and learning about veganic growing and cooking. For eight summers we have been hosting one or two girls from New York City through The Fresh Air program. The girls learn about ahimsa,veganism, gardening, and sustainable living.
Also, this year I had an article about veganic gardening published in American Vegan magazine.
IHE: Share a success story.
KK: For the past two years a Korean woman who is interested in sustainable living has been helping with gardening. She is now vegan even though her husband, daughters, and friends are not.
IHE: What have you noticed about people’s changing relationship with their food?
KK: People are becoming more concerned about factory farming and conventional agricultural production for health and environmental reasons. Because of this shift, more people buy organic produce and “humane” meat, and some even reduce meat/dairy/egg consumption. Unfortunately, not as many people are concerned about animal suffering.
IHE: What are your future humane education/changemaking plans?
KK: My vision is to establish a vegan “university” that will give other vegans and myself the opportunity to practice ahimsa in our advocacy work. The university would serve as a supportive resource for both vegans and nonvegans. Courses would include vegan advocacy, vegan nutrition, vegan cooking, veganic gardening, and vegan homesteading. The university would be an expansion of Ahimsa Village, the vegan homesteading education center that my husband and I have been creating since 2005.
I am also thinking about starting a local Vegan Spirituality Group, so that I can belong to a spiritual group that espouses veganism. I see veganism as far more than abstinence from using and consuming nonhuman animals. Veganism is the complete embodiment of our true loving and compassionate nature, because it includes nonhuman animals. So many spiritual groups miss this fundamental truth and perpetuate speciesist attitudes. The Vegan Spirituality Group would explore veganism as a spiritual practice and would provide a safe place for discussing and practicing loving and compassionate ways of advocating for non-human animals. More information about vegan spirituality can be found at www.veganspirituality.com.
IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?
KK: I would recommend IHE’s graduate programs to anyone for expanding awareness about the connections between nonhuman animals, humans, and environmental issues and about effective educational methods. I think the IHE programs would be especially beneficial for people who are currently educators in schools, after-school programs, nature centers, sustainable living festivals, etc., or people who are interested in such endeavors.