Local Daoists run organic farm, teaching hermitage

Students learn Chinese nutrition, qigong, meditation practices; organic vegetables sold to Moscow Food Co-op



Charlotte Sun, who runs the Genesee Valley Daoist Hermitage with her husband, talks about Daoism practices and Chinese nutrition during an interview on Saturday morning at the Hermitage.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Tucked away on a quiet road in Genesee, Idaho, is the Genesee Valley Daoist Hermitage, run for over 25 years by husband and wife Da-Jin and Charlotte Sun.

The Suns use their home to host students who commute from nearby towns and all over the world to learn about Daoism practices, meditation and Chinese nutrition, Charlotte Sun said.

Outside their home, they run a completely organic farm where they raise chickens and grow potatoes, onions and herbs.

“We live a simple lifestyle,” Charlotte said. “We try to work with nature, not against it.”

Charlotte has a nursing degree, bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in education. She studied philosophy and religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies and studied for her graduate degrees in China, where she lived for more than 40 years, she said.

“I lose track of how many years,” Charlotte said. “Time is not that important.”

The husband and wife met at a qigong teaching facility in China where Da-Jin, a qigong master, was working at the time, Charlotte said.

Qigong (pronounced chi-gong) is an ancient Chinese practice involving slow, coordinated body movements. Arlene Stoddard, a massage therapist who studied under Charlotte Sun, said qigong is like tai chi for the internal organs.

Stoddard said she lost movement in her arm after an accident in 2013 but was able to restore almost total function by continuing to practice qigong. She was able to resume practicing massage just eight months after her injury.

“Chinese medicine takes body, mind and spirit as one,” Stoddard said. “Even though I couldn’t lift my arm to do a part of the [qigong] practice, I lifted it in my mind. I intentioned it, so to speak.”

In addition to qigong, the Suns focus on the importance of nutrition as part of healing at the hermitage. Their schedules are mostly flexible but meals are always on time, Charlotte said.

“Our life works around our nutrition,” she said.

Logan, who preferred not to use his last name, is the produce manager at the Moscow Food Co-op and has worked with the Suns for about three years because they sell organic produce to the Co-op, including potatoes, spinach and arugula.

“Not only do they have clean growing practices,” Logan said, “but also they just put a lot of really positive energy into the food that comes out of that … they’re even more than just a local farm.”

Charlotte said much of what she does through the hermitage is “bridge work” — sharing Daoist philosophy with Westerners in a way that the Western mind can grasp.

“It’s wonderful,” Stoddard said, “but it’s kind of like the more you know the more you realize you don’t know.”