starting a farm

November 5, 2008

Several of us are starting a small market garden in Timberville for the 2009 growing season. This opprotunity will give us a chance to try and implement some of the things we have been learning about and to establish ourselves as farmers!  So far, we have tilled in an almost 2,000 sq. ft section of lawn and sowed a cover crop of oilseed radish and winter rye.  We are currently going through the processes to aquire a spot at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market and then configuring a budget, supplies list, and seed selection.  Its exciting! Let us know if you have interest, information or comments!


So, for those of you who were not at the sustainability rally on court square last week I wanted to share some numbers that I have figured out concerning the food production of hburg/rock co.:

John Jeavons, who spoke and did a workshop at EMU the other week, said that, at the minimum, it takes 3,000sq ft. to feed a person using biointensive methods.  Well, I got to thinking,” How does this relate to us on a large scale in Hburg and Rock Co.?” So, me and Sarah did some math and have concluded that if we were to feed all of Hburg and Rock. Co. using Rock Co.’s land, we would need 1.4% of the land found in the county! This leaves just a little room for error, growth, etc. This does not include green space inside the city limits of Harrisonburg. I envision blocks collaborating to grow their own food using all of the backyard space.

At first upon discovering this, I was just amazed. Now, as I continue to think about it, I am wondering how farmer’s would react to this, how citizens would react to this, and how the government would react to this (local and federal)? So, I am wondering if anyone has thoughts on how to take this information and spread it out to folks. There is one problem that I see:If we were to provide all the food for ourselves, through small farms, edible forest gardens and free ranging integrated animal systems, who would be making any $$$.  Know that I don’t believe in our current money system, but it doesn’t look like the Federal Reserve is closing any time soon and money is still what it comes down to for most people.

So, how do we spread this information and dealing with the fact that farmers in the valley who own the land, need to make money? Discuss!

Radical Roots Farm Tour

September 3, 2008

On Saturday August 30, HPUG, Harrisonburg and Charlottesville Farmers Market customers and vendors converged on Radical Roots for a tour of the farm. About 40 people showed up and good times were had!  We explored the whole farm, Dave explained the swales and how they serve as an underground water reservoir for fruit trees and how the nitrogen rich legumes planted around the trees can be cut back and will act as mulch for the trees.  We perused the garden beds, observed the recent hail damage, and tasted cherry tomatoes much to our chagrin.  The chickens made us laugh as they chased each other and jumped their protective fence.  I was inspired by the consensus that the farm is uniquely sustainable and how first timers took to the permaculture concepts without disbelief.  Chips & salsa and herbal lemonade followed with introductions and escape to the coolness and shade of the barn pack out.  I think each person left with a new tidbit of information, to either be stored away in the depths of the brain or to be tried out in the home garden. I had a lot of fun!

I’m working on organizing a winter garden/cold farme construction workshop for early october… date TBA!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the tours! It was a huge success and the serviceberries, tea, food and design workshop made it soo much better! Thanks to everyone who came out! There are a few highlight pictures below.

Our next event is going to be on July 13th at 3:30pm. (directions to be posted) Marilyn will be hosting a ‘Building a Chicken Coop’ workshop followed by a potluck! She says that she will provide the drinks if everyone else will bring a dish/something to throw on the grill… it should be a great afternoon of learning, building and social energy… hey if you play an instrument, bring it along! To see her original comment, check out the previous post’s comments. And, if you haven’t already, go to and join our group for event reminders and discussions sent right to your email account!


May 17, 2008

So, a few of us met tonight and did a lot of talking about where this project is going. We discussed our long term visions of the group becoming an edible landscaping guild that works on peoples homes as a non profit (or for profit) business. Having a subscription or membership fee that goes towards projects was also mentioned as a way to invest folks in the project. We also realized that our visions are high-bar and that most of us don’t know where we will be in 2 years, but wanted to take the baby steps towards developing the group more. We think that sticking to our original vision of hosting workshops, tours, events and projects is the best way to reach out and become better known and to gain experience. We brainstormed possible summer/fall events and assigned them possible time frames. This is a great space to brainstorm more possible things that we could host!!! Use the comment area!!! :0)

Here’s what we have so far:

Early june: tour of 2 of Hburgs finest urban gardens and a small work project

mid-late June: Video: The Synergistic Gardener

July: Home style chicken coop/ Radical Roots tour

August: Fall Apple Cider Fest

September: Permanent(but movable) window boxes

October: Canning workshop

Others: Intro to Permaculture Panel/ Roundtable, Stucco workday @ Radical Roots

Like I said, let us know what you are thinking, even if you want to install an herb garden and need help. You could turn it into a workshop and learn a bunch and then pass on the knowledge to the rest of us!

Permaculture: Conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems – Bill Mollison (the guy who helped start this whole thing)

So, of course this definition is a blanket that swoops over the whole of this great thing called permaculture, and really, who knows what it means? Hopefully, you will figure it out after reading a couple of these blog posts.  :0)

So, let’s get up to speed.  HPUG started back in the winter o’ 2007.  We decided that we wanted to learn and teach each other permaculture.  I mean, there isn’t a much better way to learn than to teach. Well, except to DO what you are learning, too! So, that’s what we are doing, learning, teaching, doing.  We started by figuring out what permaculture is, what is the philosophy behind it, and why do we need it in this crazy world of ours.  We did some research (and we still are) to decide what we wanted to learn about through workshops, and we have had one on water and medicinal herbs.  From our water discussion, we have installed several rooftop water catchement systems on our homes (pictures will come), and man, we are really impressed with how fast 4 55 gallon barrels can fill up in the springtime! what an untapped resource! just imagine if every house had a cistern with a filter… well, public water would only be used in the summer during a severe drought in suburban areas! (Maybe a slight exaggeration)

We decided to make a local backyard our testing grounds for a seasonal garden, and boy has it been a learning experience! We installed a keyhole garden bed, designed with a keyhole path in the middle to control footsteps through the garden, thus limiting soil compaction.  The bed was covered through the winter to kill the grass, and in the spring, we sheet mulched (manure, cardboard, straw/wood chip mulch) which has brought hundreds of worms and other microorganisms to the beds. It has been really great at holding the moisture in the soil and we have hardly any weeds! We also have installed and are continuing to install a raised bed, due to black walnuts in the backyard.  So far we have planted kale, spinach, beets, carrots, tomatoes, basil, eggplant, cukerbits, peas, corn, garlic, onion, and more is to be seeded and planted.

We have already faced some challenges in the guild and in the garden too.  Once we plant all this stuff, who takes care of it? Being that we are largely college aged and beyond, many either have left for the summer or have their own gardens, or, they are busy people.  We are working on getting some people to commit to being garden caretakers, while anyone in the group can stop by, say hello, and plug in if needed.  Also, our kale and spinach have been visited by some slugs!!! We are working on drumming up a solution and coffee grounds seems to be in the forecast.  We’ll post on our trial!

So, that’s where we are now. If you have ideas, comments, want to be a part of this group, let us know!

The video posted gives a good overview of permaculture and shows some people doing stuff. The end is a little off the PC and for who ever put it up, but the beginning is good. enjoy