Some 145 kilometers (90 mi) north of New York City, near the hamlet of Wallkill, New York, is a group of farms that have played an important role in the worldwide Bible educational work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first of the Watchtower Farms, as the facilities are now known, was purchased 50 years ago, on January 2, 1963.
David Walker, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who has served at Wallkill since the beginning, tells why the first farm was obtained: “The world headquarters staff of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, was growing, and we needed to feed them in a cost-effective way. The other farmland that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been using in upstate New York took between six and eight hours to reach from Brooklyn. Wallkill was only two hours away. This made it the ideal spot for our needs.” Eventually, Jehovah’s Witnesses used this farm to grow fruits and vegetables and to produce poultry, pork, and beef, as well as dairy products. In time, more farms were added.
Within a decade the worldwide growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses led to unique developments at Wallkill. In addition to producing literal crops that could be harvested, literature began to be produced that would help with the figurative harvest work that Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2; John 4:35, 36) Consider just some of the work that has been done at Wallkill.
Printing: During the mid-20th century, the printery located in Brooklyn, New York, produced the majority of our Bible-based literature. But as the demand for literature increased, the Brooklyn printery was no longer able to keep pace. So in 1973, Jehovah’s Witnesses completed construction of an additional printery at Wallkill. Since then, the buildings housing the printing operations have been expanded several times, most recently in 2004.
Computer Technology: In 1979, a team of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Wallkill began developing a computerized system, now called the Multilanguage Electronic Publishing System (MEPS). This tool allows for the publication of Bible literature in over 600 languages.
Education: In 1988 the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead moved from Brooklyn to Wallkill, and on October 17, classes began. The school remained there until its move to the Watchtower Educational Center in Patterson, New York, in April 1995.
As with other farms, over the past five decades, Watchtower Farms’ techniques and operations have changed. Still, considerable effort is put forth to provide quality food products for Jehovah’s Witnesses now serving at the U.S. Bethel facilities in New York.
Currently, Jehovah’s Witnesses are constructing new office, residence, and support facilities at Wallkill. They are also renovating existing buildings. All this work will help Watchtower Farms continue to supply the spiritual needs of the growing number who are joining the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this part of the world.
David Walker, quoted earlier, says: “Over the past 50 years, it has brought me great joy to see how from small beginnings, the facilities at Wallkill have grown and contributed to our worldwide effort to teach people the Bible’s message!”