One thousand trees planted, biomass heating... in Farnières, investment made in caring for nature and the planet

Vielsalm, Belgium

Located in the middle of a forest, between Vielsalm and Trois-Ponts, in the hills above Grand-Halleux, in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes, the Domaine de Farnières is an enchanting place naturally deputed to hospitality, retreats, group meetings, and animation. Two religious communities - the Salesians of Don Bosco and the "Notre-Dame au Bois" house of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians - reside there and contribute, along with their lay collaborators and several volunteers, to welcoming hundreds of groups each year.

In such a beautiful natural setting, the papal encyclical Laudato Sì cannot but elicit an immediate call to action; and in recent weeks, in fact, Farnières has experienced a real "ecological transition."

Case in point: heating. Each year 60,000 litres of diesel fuel are needed to heat the halls, dormitories, rooms, and various bungalows.

It has been ten years since the centre’s managers have been thinking about the future. Even back then, photovoltaic panels were installed (a rare project at the time) that produced 10,000 kW of the 110,000 consumed.

In December 2022, an even more important new step was taken: the installation of a new biomass heating system for all buildings - a much more environmentally friendly system - and this month the two boilers using wood chips went into operation. This is the largest investment made by the house since the major renovation 25 years ago.

Another operation that testifies to the attention paid to the care of the Common Home had also taken place shortly before, on November 26 and 27, when a "tree planting" weekend was held on the grounds of the house, bringing together some 20 volunteers. In total, more than 1,000 trees and shrubs were planted. The goal was to transform the large lawn bordering the left side of the main access path to the centre into a welcoming place: small green areas for picnics surrounded by bushes, spaces for sharing in small groups bordered by hedges, small footpaths for walking... In this way, in addition to improving the appearance and functionality of the services offered, the safety of the centre has also benefited: the hedge planted on the edge of the road leading to the parking lot prevents children from accessing the driveway.

The hedges consist of black currant, red currant, and raspberry bushes. In addition, an orchard of apples, plums, cherries, and pears has been planted, which can contribute to the food supply of the house in the future.

And one must also consider the organic and educational apiary, which has been under construction for several years and has been delayed due to the health crisis, which should be completed in this 2023, thanks mainly to the contribution of students from the "Don Bosco" School in Verviers - in a process, typically Salesian, that directly involves young people in the implementation of beneficial projects.

To learn more about the Farnières centre, click here.