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.

Events @ Listening Tree

Jackson Gillman and Pierre Giono to kick off Spoken Word! series at Listening Tree

April 6, 2018, 2 pm, @ Listening Tree

 

Celebrate spring with an afternoon of ecological Songs & Stories for a Small Planet. Jackson Gillman will be performing along with a visiting colleague, Pierre Giono, who will recount his grandfather Jean’s story of The Man Who Planted Hope. In it, Giono retells his moving encounters with Elzeard Bouffier, a reclusive shepherd/tree planter in Provence. Wendell Berry said, “In the figure of Elzeard Bouffier, Giono summarizes the best that can be said of our species.”

Jackson Gillman’s ecology background from the College of the Atlantic informs much of his work, with a wide variety of nature-oriented programs in repertoire. He has performed for many environmental groups including the North American Alliance for Environmental Education. And when all is said and sung, it is apparent that there is an underlying foundation of beneficence, hope, and spirit infusing his work.

After the performance, we’ll kick off the first potluck of the year. Then, we’ll open the mic for participation of any poets, storytellers, stand-up comedians, and other Wordy Rappinghoods and stand-up folx. Come for the spoken word featured performer, or the potluck and open mic, or both.

$15 donation requested for Jackson Gillman performance. Registration here. Potluck free. For that, please RSVP (401)710-9784.

Events @ Listening Tree, permaculture

Plans, plans, plans

trail-map-overlay-ltc.jpg

Plans are shaping up for 2019. As part of our social permaculture, the community made new year’s vision boards, and shared with each other our individual visions for the next year. My (Karina’s) biggest plan is to plan:

  • write up the results of our group permaculture planning to date;
  • complete a Natural Resource Conservation Service forestry plan with a local forester, complete with medicinal herb preservation, agroforestry, food forest expansion, woodlot management, and biodiversity enhancement;
  • integrate the permaculture and forestry plans into an official conservation plan for the farm with the Northern RI Conservation District.

And we’re planning events. We already have the Pollinators workshop that had to be postponed from last October set for May 18. And the potlucks will again return to the first Saturday of all the warm months, April-October.

We might host an herb workshop, a spoken word night, the Young Farmers Network, compost toilet workshop, and bring back some faves, like the worm composting workshop and wild edibles. I’m thinking of presenting a sustainable energy workshop–using our energy efficiency and renewable energy systems and solar greenhouse/solar shower/wash station complex plans as the laboratory to explore energy concepts and practices for decarbonizing our world. We might host the National Solar Tour here Oct. 5.

What do you want to learn about? What might you present? Contact us with any ideas at (401)710-9784. Details to follow, as always on our Events @ Listening Tree page.

 

 

Events @ Listening Tree, permaculture

Daylong Workshop: Making Ways for Pollinators RESCHEDULED

Tom's Promotion Pic 082717
Tom Sullivan of Pollinators Welcome with some of his pollinator attractant plantings

Pollinators are essential to healthy agriculture–yet they are threatened, in part due to losing habitat to monoculture farming, which grows acres and acres of only one plant and displaces the variety of flowering plants that keep pollinators fed and healthy all season long.

Here at Listening Tree, we’ve been on the land for 3 plus years now planting polycultures and herb gardens. These include pollinator attractors–flowering plants that feed pollinators through four growing seasons. The late, great summer of 2018 was the first year we saw a burgeoning of pollinator species come back. Amazing iridescent blue wasps, our first honeybee visitors from a neighbor’s farm, a not-so-great encounter with a bee hive in the leaf mulch pile, and it feels like perhaps we’re on the right track to healthy habitat.

Making a difference in the ways we support native bee pollinators is what our October  workshop is all about. Led by Tom Sullivan, owner of Pollinators Welcome, who has been designing beautiful pollinator habitat landscapes since 2009. A graduate of the Conway School of Landscape Design and designer of the first pollinator habitat nursery in Massachusetts, Tom teaches folks how to design and create pollinator habitats that meet pollinator biological needs by: appropriate siting of gardens in the landscape, choosing plants well suited to soil and sun, creating significant nesting opportunities and choosing pollinator life cycle protection through freedom from pesticides.

rescheduled to May 18, 2019, 9 am – 5 pm

Find out more and register here.


Events @ Listening Tree

Create a labyrinth

Jenza's labyrinth

 

This Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, 10-3, learn and do @ Listening Tree! This month it’s why and how to build a temporary labyrinth of natural materials. When it’s complete, we’ll walk the labyrinth in a guided meditation.

Jenn Nino of Jenza’s Garden will lead us through the whole process.

Our meditation will focus on making peace with the land we walk on. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, you’ll “walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Click on the link below for details, or go right to registration.

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