local food & food justice, organic farm, permaculture, species

Last chance for bees

“Due to the use of pesticides — along with climate change, loss of flower meadows, and parasites — bee populations are in decline. Three quarters of all crops around the world rely on animal pollination. But due to pollinator loss, between $235 billion and $577 billion in crop value is at risk,” ThinkProgress summarizes part of the UN extinction report released this week. But it’s not about the money so much as it is about food security. Which the report does mention:  ecological collapse threatens horror upon horror.

This is the last chance to save 500,000 of the one million species that don’t have a fracking home on the earth, or to go back to the technical language, have insufficient habitat to survive as a species.

Coincidentally, or not, it’s also the last chance to sign up for our bee habitat workshop next Saturday, May 18. You can learn right now how to make life easier for pollinators. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Get those rush tix! Coexist!

 

 

cooperative ownership, local food & food justice

No lords, no serfs

deer-on-the-cooperativeOne of the most disturbing social trends (and there are so many) unfolding beneath our feet here in the US is farmers being priced out of land ownership. Since former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz infamously demanded, “get big or get out!” millions of small farms foreclosed, went bankrupt, or got pushed out of the business. Agribusiness replaced agriculture: Wendell Berry sounded the alarm of the Unsettling of America. And now it’s getting worse.

Many middle-class hippies who went “back to the land” in the sixties and seventies could  afford to buy a little farm, but not necessarily to make a living at farming. Today, most US farms lose money. An unbelievable 95%, according to Agricultural Justice Project. Most small farmers are subsidizing the local organic food movement with second or third jobs. Milking the goat or weeding the garden is our third shift. Meanwhile, agriculture brings in almost $60-70 billion a year. What’s wrong with this picture?

Everything. The price of food has almost nothing to do with its value or the cost of growing it–labor, land, inputs, or environmental externalities. Food that kills you is cheaper than food that nourishes. The entire economy is so twisted, that the land we need to grow the food we need to live is valued orders of magnitude higher for building new houses or box stores, even in a state like Rhode Island, where there is enough housing for the people who are here and malls are empty.

But most concerning is the trend toward tenant farming, and even worse, young farmers commuting to their rented farmland. Rhode Island’s young farmers not only can’t afford a down payment on their farm, they can’t even rent a farm with a farmhouse. Besides the unsustainability of the driving, there’s the psychological disconnect from the rhythms of the land they steward, and the disincentive to take care of the soil for the long term.

Soil is the–shall we say–bedrock of organic farming. Healthy soil feeds healthy plants  that can resist insects, disease, drought–all kinds of trouble. But building healthy farm soil is a multiyear project, and if a farmer doesn’t have land tenure–know they can stay on their land as long as they like–there’s always the threat that their investment in soil could be taken away from them when comes time to renew a lease.

When we were looking for the land that became Listening Tree, aware of these issues, we consulted with Equity Trust, the Cooperative Development Institute, and other food movement groups to develop our structure as a limited-equity cooperative, with 10 share holders, each able to negotiate an agreement with the group regarding stewarding a part of the land for their own farm or other land-based business. Those agreements will ensure land tenure, after a trial period of one growing season, while both farmer and household can ensure they are ready to commit to stewarding this beautiful land.

The co-op owner-members use a kind of consensus process to ensure decision making is collaborative and fair. Together, we’ll adopt agreements with interested members for “farm shares”–ownership shares that include living here plus a commitment to use and take care of specific fields of the farmland. Farmer owner members will be responsible to the community, but will be able to run their own business without fear of losing their land.

Events @ Listening Tree, local food & food justice

Young Farmer Night

June 10, 6 pm
with Young Farmer Network

This growing season, Young Farmer Network is hosting a series of Young Farmer Nights focused on the theme of land access and land tenure.

We’re thrilled to be part of it, because a big part of our mission here at Listening Tree is to make housing and land permanently affordable, and help farmers be able to live on their land, with ownership, yet without the full cost of buying a farm by ourselves. That is why we chose the model of a “limited equity cooperative,” and are selling shares that include land tenure protections for farmers’ long-term viability–and for the sake of the soil.

No RSVP required. Will be a tour, talk about land access and Listening Tree’s model, a potluck, and finally a fire circle, weather permitting.

Young Farmer Nights are open to ANYONE and EVERYONE, all ages and backgrounds and farming experience levels are welcome. children are welcome! 2019 is the tenth consecutive year that we have been running these tours!

Read more about the history of YFN here (http://www.youngfarmernetwork.org/about-our-network/#/yfn-story/) .

Each YFN is structured as a tour followed by a potluck and hang time. Please bring a dish to contribute to the potluck dinner, as well as a plate and fork for yourself.

Tours begin at 6pm.

If you’re running late, it’s still worthwhile to come! We will try to wait for stragglers, but if we have to get moving we’ll leave a note of where you can find us on the tour.

Re: the potluck — if you’re farming all day and are busy and manage to tear yourself away but can’t bring a potluck item, you are still welcome! we understand!

Events @ Listening Tree, local food & food justice

Foraging and propogating “wild” edibles with Russ Cohen

Russ @ Blue Heron ewp, July, 2016 - good photo

Sunday, June 2, 2-5 PM

Northern Rhode Island is home to over 70 species of edible wild plants, some of which are more nutritious and/or flavorful than their cultivated counterparts. Join Russ Cohen, expert forager and author of Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten, on a 3-hour ramble to learn about at least two dozen edible plant species.  As each species is encountered, Russ will present information on identification tips, edible portion(s), season(s) of availability and preparation methods. Russ will also provide general guidelines for safe and environmentally-responsible foraging. Last but not least, Russ will also share details about propagating native edible species from seed, and how to identify appropriate places in the landscape to plant them.

Online registration here.

local food & food justice

Clearance Sale: Literally.

We hope to sell the last of the Christmas trees at Listening Tree Farm tomorrow, Saturday, December 18. So we’re setting a clearance price (yuck, yuck) at $10 a tree or best offer. There are all kinds left, short and tall, skinny and wide, sparse and full, spruce and pine. But only about 60 all told. We may easily clear all of the land we intend to plow for next spring!

What’s under these Christmas trees? Land for growing local food! Yeah!

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local food & food justice, organic farm

Land (and community) seeks farmer or farm family

An intentional community in formation is looking for a compatible organic vegetable/livestock farmer to work approximately 4 acres of field located at 87 Reservoir Rd. in Chepachet, RI. The community is seeking members and in process of forming a housing co-operative. Co-op shares, for living and/or farming, will begin to be sold upon launch of the co-op, estimated to be in November. Early birds are welcome to help in the co-operative design.

Both living and farming space are currently for rent with the potential to purchase a residential and/or farming share in the cooperative after a trial period. The market farm trial period would be one year, with land tenure upon cooperative acceptance and share purchase. Right to farm the land would be for a designated portion of the currently arable land.

At least 6 acres of the 32-acre property had been cleared, plowed and planted with Christmas trees and pumpkins by the previous owner of 30 years. Some Christmas trees remain and we hope to sell those this winter, and cut or move most of the remainder, leaving some for permaculture guilds or shade groves and wind breaks, as appropriate. About 3-4 acres of the 6 acres had been farmed before 1980 as a berry and vegetable farm. The arable land has been previously plowed and mowed, and most large rocks have been removed. Soil test data from UMass from three sites is available and shows good soil. The garden that we put in this summer is flourishing.

A large irrigation pond has a working pump in a pumphouse and underground plumbing to three sites including the barn. It still has plenty of clear water as of August 13 this year.

Composted horse manure is on the land; adjacent farm is a source of more horse manure. Deer fencing is needed.

This is our first year of conversion to organic farming. Beyond the market farm, the coop members hope to develop permaculture perennial and forest gardens, large scale vermiculture, small animals.

Our estimate of housing share prices are currently $40,000 per adult. Farm share would be additional and is negotiable. In addition to the share purchase, coop members would pay a monthly fee (like a condo fee) for insurance, taxes, utilities, and short-term and long-term maintenance.

Rent-to-own scenarios, e.g. financing of share purchase, are also possible and currently in process of development.

Farm share would include right to farm the allotted land, right to use the tractor, barn, and some shared tools, build or retrofit needed outbuildings.

Email Karina Lutz at karinalutz@hotmail.com or call 401-497-5968 to arrange a meeting.