Story from the MyFoodStory website:
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It's great to be in a group whose focus is intentional community. We are not yet living in community, but have been trying to bring one together. We thought to add information here on the acreage next door to our own which we would like to sell to form a cooperative community.
We admit we have little experience in community living, but our need is for community and we want to know that it is possible to successfully work in cooperation with others toward common goals. Regarding the sale of the land we won't be handling it like a typical real estate deal. We're wanting to process this first with the people who share our goal for a cooperative community to learn where our compatibles lie.
A good example of what we seek in a cooperative community setting was lived in rural America in the 1930's. Then independent homesteads of extended families tied together as communities was the norm in pre-urban, pre-oil based America. This was a natural social condition that occurred as a result of the European/American culture and the conditions of the time.
We also combine this vision with the images we've seen from the TV show "The Waltons". This was a story about three generations living under one roof, learning from, sharing in the workload where all shared the workload and all reaped the benefits of that work. With the exception of living under one roof, this is what we're trying to reproduce in community.
We own our farm debt free, and we operate it without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. We have learned a great deal over the years about growing successfully in our region. Patti is a School Nurse and Daniel has worked the farm. Daniel was an independent auto mechanic before devoting his full time to our farm. Our arrangement works out well as Patti has the spring and summer breaks off to help in our lifestyle.
We have two very busy times of the year...that is spring planting and weeding and in the fall the harvesting and food processing. Daniel does the majority of the spring work and also putting the garden and greenhouses to rest and pruning the fruit trees in the fall, etc. Also during these times Patti remains busy after her work and on weekends to help get us started in the spring and finished up in the fall with our food processing. We always manage to get things done before the snows fly, but oftentimes this happens barely in time. We're thankful for the winter to rest and do repairs and other unfinished indoor chores we put off until then. This is our life.
During the 70's we were inspired by Helen & Scott Nearing (Authors of the "Living The Good Life" series of books and important contributors to the back-to-the-land movement via their many articles contributed to the Mother Earth News based upon their homesteading experiences beginning in the 1930's). They created and lived sustainable principles and methodically set about living solutions to modern days problems. Following their examples, we focused ourselves upon many years of plodding along slowly establishing the systems that will become sustainable. Like the Nearings we planned and took things step-by-step and paid-as-we-went. Also, like the Nearings, we are vegetarians. We find we often need to tap into their examples to strengthen our resolve and we reread their books on a regular basis. There are many others who also contribute into our lives in the same spirit...Wendell Berry, Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison, Eliot Coleman, John Jeavons...just to name a few.
Our Farm Photo Album here shares a photographic story, but does not tell the deeper story, which is quite simple...One day in 1979, during the Oil Embargo days, we understood that we should target a good post-oil lifestyle. We felt strongly urged to get back to the land, do this debt-free and begin living this dream. Slowly we acquired the knowledge and skills we needed to be able to grow for our year around vegetarian diet and learn how to preserve our harvest.
Naturally, lifestyle and vocation are related subjects. Besides doing this for ourselves, we also decided that we wanted to help people by teaching them what we have learned. Beginning in 1993, we established an educational center teaching food and energy self-reliance, voluntary simplicity, and right livelihood. When we were in full swing in our educational efforts we offered informal apprenticeships on organic farming and sustainable living at our farm. From us people have...
...learned how to grow and preserve the majority of one's year around diet from one's own organic gardens. We have taken them from seed start, planting and harvesting through all the steps of food processing and preserving such as canning, freezing and root cellar storage. We have also shared with people the how to of preparing one's soil and to extending one's growing season...
...gotten introductions to self-reliant living and skills. This included learning how to live on Solar and Hydro power, heating one's home with wood, gravity feed water systems, learning how to live within the cycles of nature living simply and within one's means.
Unfortunately, we had to stop taking on new students because we couldn't manage all the work of running this educational center on our own and also continue to live our food and energy self-reliant lifestyle. Our hope is to be able to restart this again in cooperative community.
In our growing we have adopted the techniques we've gleaned from Ecology Action (see at http://www.growbiointensive.org ). One of the important manuals we gave our students to read was "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Even Thought Possible on Less Space Than You Can Imagine" by John Jeavons. Ecological Action has taken the sustainable and self-reliance gardening movements in directions which have provided many examples of maximum and sustained yields for small farms.
We utilize primarily low-tech hand tools and manual labor in our growing methods. We invented a portable cold frame system for extending our growing season with sheet plastic covers over our raised beds (see photos). We practice the growing techniques we learned from Ecology Action and grow in double-dug raised beds and plant intensively and in succession throughout our growing season. Our raised beds are prepared for planting using a U-bar, and once established these beds are never walked upon and never require tilling. The soil in our raised beds are kept at peak fertility by liberal additions of manure, compost, organic additives and rock powders as needed. We practice French Intensive planting techniques, crop rotation and heavily mulch to keep weeds down.
Our garden has 50 raised beds, 23 of these have PVC cold frame foundations for sheet plastic covers we use for extending growing season with a drip irrigation system throughout. The irrigation system used for these beds is from a well with a back up gravity fed system from an uphill tank. Our garden include 50 mostly young fruit trees with numerous blueberry and other soft fruits.
We utilize two greenhouses attached to main farmhouse... 1) Large Main Greenhouse 33'LX12'W has seed starting infrastructure with lights and ample space for potted transplants...is also used for heat loving transplants early spring into fall growing season. 2) Trellis Greenhouse 22'LX8'W has beds used for Tomato, Peppers & Cucumber growing early spring into the fall growing season. (see photos)
The majority of our year around diet comes from our own efforts grown organically. We are ovo-lacto vegetarians. We keep a small flock of chickens for their eggs. We manage to grow and process 80% for our year around vegetarian diet, excluding grains and dairy products which are areas we'd like to add to complete our food self-reliance. We have been wanting to make our milk, cheese and tofu from soy, but this would take us over the edge of what we could maintain on a regular basis. We know that with people in cooperative community we all would be able to realize 100% of our goal of year around food self-reliance. One of the important aspects of a food self-reliant lifestyle we learned was how to adapt one's diet to what one can grow in one's local climate.
Working backwards from the time we first began our goals of living self-sustainably, with crops growing and food put away for our food self-reliance, there are years of work ahead of us in building the necessary infrastructures and acquiring the needed knowledge, things which didn't happen for us over a short period of a few months or weeks. This we have accomplished over many years of hard work. Along this journey we realized it takes more people working together in community in order to sustain this lifestyle over the long term. It is important to us to begin now in building community so we'll all have the time we'll need to address challenges of living self-reliantly in a community setting.
We welcome an opportunity to communicate with and learn from people in this group.
Best Wishes, Daniel & Patti August 27, 2005
Editor: Andrius Kulikauskas
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