CTG Week 20: September 13th to September 18th- NFNA Farm Tour, Visit to the Urban Homesteader, & Final Garden Potluck at Ethan Allen

Topics:

  • New Farms for New Americans: Foster Hope, Dignity, and Independence
  • Tour of the Urban Homesteader Founder’s site, led by Ethan Thompson

Activities:

  • Final garden potluck at the Ethan Allen Homestead
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I spy a pollinator!

Whew, what a whirlwind of a week for the Community Teaching Program!   Although we have merely two more weeks to go, we surely aren’t slowing down as this week we toured both the New Farms for New Americans (NFNA) farm at the Ethan Allen Homestead and Ethan Thompson’s homesteading operation in Burlington’s Old North End.   That’s not all, this week also saw the last of our Community Teaching Garden potlucks as students, staff, and friends gathered for a yet another delectable, garden-inspired meal midst the lovely gardens.

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Squash on Squash

New Farms for New Americans: Tour led by Alisha Laramee

On Monday evening, the Ethan Allen group met midst the chilly fall breeze to tour the 6-acre farm that lies just beyond the community gardens at the Homestead.  Alisha Laramee, project manager and outreach coordinator for NFNA, met us alongside the NFNA tool shed to begin the tour.  To begin, she discussed the origins of NFNA as an offshoot from ALlV, a program that assists new Americans from all over the world gain independence in their communities.  NFNA was founded as an initiative to help experienced gardeners and farmers gain access to the land they desired to cultivate culturally-significant foods for their families.   The program operates under three levels of participation:

  •  Access to community gardens and gardening resources
  • Education about farming for a profit in the U.S.
  • Participation in social enterprise sales and launching an independent farm business
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Alisha Laramee of NFNA
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Young amaranth

As it soon became apparent, the participants of NFNA bring a wealth of agricultural knowledge and experience to their new communities, and the organization offers the opportunity and resources for them to take advantage of it.  While touring the plots of some Bhutanese and West African farmers, Alisha pointed out the various crops, from amaranth       to a bitter variety of eggplant, that the participants grow each year.  Often these crops represent cultural staples, and some participants are striving to introduce them into the Burlington market, although communication, market demand, and transportation are constant obstacles.  For more information on the program as well as how you can support it, check out the video below, or visit: http://www.aalv-vt.org/#!farms/crjk

The Urban Homesteader: Ecological Design for Backyard Farmers

Wednesday evening, students gathered in the Old North End to tour the small, yet uniquely productive ‘backyard’ of Burlingtonian Ethan Thompson, founder of the Urban Homesteader.  While studying at UVM, Ethan took a class on permaculture and since then his interest in homesteading and creating closed-loop systems wherever he can has driven his pursuits.  He claims that his small backyard, which measures between 1200-1300 square feet, is where many of the projects he works on first are tested out.

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Ethan’s Seed Starting Table

He pointed out the various crops he’s been working with, including sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke), two varieties of comfrey (a biomass builder), groundnut, and hearty kiwi, each being placed in specific ‘zones’ that are characterized by their microclimates and the needs of the plants grown there (i.e. sunlight, watering).  He additionally showed off his two rainwater catchment stations, one of which is used to divert accumulated rain towards the borders of the property where a few water-loving elderberry plants reside.

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Denise & Diane checking out the future chicken coop

Some of the most interesting projects that Ethan’s been working on include shiitake logs and hugelkultur, a method of growing plants on decaying woody material that also enhances surface area with the 3-dimensional mound it creates.    If you’re interested in the process of inoculating logs to cultivate shiitake mushrooms, check out Ethan’s step-by-step advice here: http://www.urbanhomesteadervt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Intro-to-Cultivating-Shiitake-Mushrooms-.pdf

Some more of Ethan’s take-home advice:

  • The hardest part of pursing homesteading/permaculture projects is actually doing it!  You have nothing to lose by trying and failing now, the learning process only helps in the future!
  • Seek to implement projects that won’t require constant attention, the key is to think holistically and design closed-loop systems.
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Hugelkultur in the works Photo Credit: http://www.urbanhomesteadervt.com

For more information on the projects Ethan has pursued, as well as the consultation services he provides homeowners to create more sustainable, vibrant, and healthy ecosystems in their own backyards  visit his website at: http://www.urbanhomesteadervt.com/

The busy week came to an end at the Ethan Allen Homestead as both classes gathered for the final potluck midst the very chilly weather.  The recent harvests were certainly the spot-light of the meal as we enjoyed garden fresh bruschetta, roasted tomatillo soup, and an array of scrumptious desserts.  Cheers to a wonderfully delicious potluck with friends, family, and fellow gardeners!

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Potluck pow wow
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Garden fresh bruschetta
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