Representing the Catholic Urban Farmers of Denver, Malcolm Schluenderfritz was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to a Catholic family. “My family was devoutly Catholic,” he said, “and I felt called to serve the Church in some way. As the eldest of six children, I helped with housework and cooking from an early age.” Because of health conditions of some of his siblings that required special diets, Schluenderfritz even learned to incorporate unusual ingredients, such as quinoa, buckwheat flour, and various unusual greens from the garden such as purslane and mizuna in his home recipes.

While he was still a youngster, his family moved to Colorado, and that is when Schluenderfritz’s cooking and farming passions really strengthened: “I planted my first garden when I was 8 years old and began experimenting with various horticultural methods and vegetable varieties,” he said. “I became interested in sustainability and alternative agriculture.”

He added that as a teen, he began reading the works of G.K. Chesterton and was inspired by his vision of family-centered, Christian economics, and also by Pope Leo XIII's defense of the dignity of work. Thus inspired, after high school, Schluenderfritz not only searched out more garden space but also wanted to build a local community around food and gardening. 

“I started posting flyers to find Catholics with similar interests,” he said, “and started meeting with others to discuss possibilities. A wonderful couple from my parish allowed us to use their vacant land and hosted get-togethers at their house for the workers.” Their support pulled together a group of volunteers who planted vegetables in a quarter-acre plat and fruit trees and built a greenhouse. The project netted ample produce for the volunteers’ own consumption and to donate to local food banks. We ate meals together and built lasting friendships,” he said.

Six years on, Schluenderfritz is looking at other options for this project, including opening a food-buying co-op. and helping to build a local food-growing community with the goal of expanding their farming scale. 

As Schluenderfritz says, “I hope this project can promote a more radically Christian life centered on strong community bonds, care for the poor and for creation, and a simpler lifestyle in accord with Gospel poverty. Perhaps most importantly, I hope that this project can promote unity among Catholics in these divisive times. I was surprised to find that the farm appealed to a wide range of people with different backgrounds and viewpoints. ... I hope that a renewed focus on the physical can help to heal the wounds in the Body of Christ, helping to fulfill the prayer of Christ ‘that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us.’”

As plans continue to develop, Schluenderfritz welcomes suggestions and feedback from others at https://catholicfarmers.wordpress.com.