Happy New Year, from all of us at the Cooperative!

We haven’t updated much here over the past two years, but this project has been going forward in substantial ways. Arguably, we’ve all had too much dirt on our hands to be writing much in the way of blog posts. Now, at the start of the new year, with the farmland all snowy and dormant, we are enjoying a similar sense of dormancy (and cleaner hands with which to type…). It allows us to think about the whirlwind of the seasons and how quickly things have changed- not just in terms of the physical landscape out at the Farm, but also how this new project is taking shape.

The last big thing we reported on was the building of those hoop houses in early 2016. That really marked the launch of the project, making space for new projects and membership that wasn’t really there before. Things immediately began to fill in.



The Cooperative members came together with Dawn Farm and envisioned one of the hoop houses dedicated to education. We named it “The Learning Hoop” and it has been the site of numerous interesting projects, including a Huglekultur bed, keyhole garden beds, in-ground vermiculture systems (aka our “worm poop farm”), a still-in-progress rocket stove installation, vertical potato gardening, and testing some perennials for warmer zones than ours (more season extension) to see how they’ll overwinter with the protection of the hoop house.



Our 8 acre “food forest” went in back in 2013, and the Cooperative began to steward that project in 2016 by collectively tending to those young trees and by interplanting those rows with hay seed. Between the food forest and 2 additional fields we seeded approximately 20 acres of the property in hay, which was a significant change- they had been monocropped in soy and corn by a local farmer for over 3 decades. This shift in management felt much more in line with the goals of our group: to steward the land and increase its health. The old model of tillage and chemical inputs just didn’t fit anymore.



In 2016 we started to gain some new members. A woman from Ypsilanti had always dreamed of keeping a flock of sheep, but hadn’t been able to because she lives in the city. She got her first flock of sheep and founded Project Mow, where the flock moves off site to mow private residences and even for the city of Ypsilanti. Last spring was her very first experience of lambing- the flock was housed in one of our hoop houses and many ewes gave birth there! It was an amazing learning experience for all of us.

In 2017, one of our existing members (Jesse- designer of our beloved food forest!) brought his project Garden Party to the coop. He has established several new garden beds and used two of the hoops for season extension. He’s been working to make part of his living from the sale of his vegetables, and we are so excited for him!



We brought our membership up to 10, and the projects included personal gardens, beekeeping, education and workshops (including our 3rd annual Future of Food event that took place in early November), foraging, management of the food forest, propagation of perennial trees and shrubs, and continued building of relationships with the outside community- including the hosting of a group called Evergreen Experience, which launched their first year at Dawn Farm.



We are so looking forward to the coming year! We anticipate that 2018 will continue to show us what wants to grow in this space- both in terms of the physical landscape but also within these emerging systems and relationships. Some additional projects on the horizon include: layering another vegetable farmer into the front growing space surrounding the hoop houses, gardening courses, building the rocket stove, another mushroom workshop and Future of Food event, a composting toilet, continuing the relationship with Evergreen Experience, as well as increasing our contact with the community through education and outreach.


We hope to see you along the way! If you have interest in membership, want to take a tour, or if you have general questions about what we’re doing here, contact us at: info@thecooperativeatdawnfarm.org Also, consider supporting our efforts by becoming a patron! http://patreon.com/thecooperativeatdawnfarm


We’ve started a Patreon page! Running a nonprofit with nearly zero budget is a tough thing, so we’re asking for your support.

From our page:

Why should you support this project? We believe that our current food system and relationship to the land is in real danger. There is a lot of regenerative work to do, and a lot of barriers to those who desire to do that work. This project combines the generosity of a non-profit organization* with the creativity and energy of the local community to build the systems that will help us to heal that fractured relationship with our food systems and land. Some of our members are working to make a living growing and selling food, some are focused on education and community building, some are working towards conservation and utilization of the wild areas, others are working at animal husbandry, keeping bees, as well as tending to an 8-acre food forest**… and all of us are interested in supporting the mission of Dawn Farm in helping addicts and alcoholics find recovery.

Most of us have second (and third!) jobs to help us subsidize this mission-based work. We are all drawn to this out of a passion for learning and interacting with the land and each other, as well as a desire to help create and share a better more resilient model for this work. We have already brainstormed ways to reduce the barriers to success in our design- shared free land, shared farm tools and resources, access to community and each other, etc. The addition of your patronage will help us to buy things like liability insurance, help us repair our hoop houses, and add to our infrastructure (we have plans to build a communal space for gathering, processing our harvests, a composting toilet, etc.), build a farm stand, among other creative ideas. Your support means so much! 

We are also committed to sharing what we learn through regular blogging and social media posts. We want this information to be available for all who could use it. Tutorials, philosophical musings, practical tips and learned strategies… we want it all out there to be of service. Supporting this project financially will help us to generate more and more of this content! 

We’d love your support!
*Did you know Dawn Farm charges us nothing to share this acreage with us? Land is free for all Cooperative members. Building this project through an ethic of generosity is integral to our mission.     
**Food Forest! This is space planted with 1500 useful trees and shrubs. This design enjoys the ecological resiliency of a forest with the added benefit of human purpose and utility.

Food Forest Swale


A swale in the food forest. 

A swale is a water harvesting ditch on contour. The swales in this field passively collect rain water and keep it in the field, slowly moving it through the soil, instead of letting it run off into the neighbors field. 

This field is planted with nearly 2000 useful plants and shrubs using a technique called STUN – strategic total & utter neglect. Those that survive will be maintenance and worry free members of this thriving ecosystem.

Paw Paw Rice Pudding

Image result for paw paw2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup soy milk
1-1.5 Tbsp cornstarch (depends on how thick you want it)
1 cup pawpaw pulp
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine pawpaw pulp, raisins and spices and mix in a bowl,
Combine rice, milk and cornstarch and mix in a saucepan.
Heat rice mixture over medium heat and keep it at a simmer for 3 minutes, or to desired thickness.
Remove from heat and stir in fruit and spice mix.
  • You can eat it warm or cold. It will thicken more when cooled.
  • Could use white rice and I imagine it would be about the same.
  • Could probably use other plant milk or cow’s milk.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichokes are rich in inulin, a sugar that is not digestible by your body. However, it is very digestible by the bacteria in your gut and gas that they produce can be painful. This makes preparing them in the right way important. They can be pickled essentially pre digesting them. Alternatively they can be slow cooked, the roots will darken and soften as the sugars caramelize. 

4146986174_7a8b2aafa1_b1jerusalem artichokes  

Cook in crock pot on low when you can watch it warm when you’re sleeping. Keep enough water in the bottom to keep moist. 


The Hoops Have Landed

It’s been a long time coming but thanks to a generous gift to Dawn Farm from Lucky’s Market Ann Arbor, we have four additional hoops at the cooperative.  There’s always more work to do, we have to keep an eye on the hoops through the cold season and get them ready for planting in the spring. We’ll be asking four different individuals to come and get an early start in each of the new hoops.

The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 1

In each hoop, each layer of plastic/cover offers roughly a USDA plant zone warmer. Ours being 6a we can now treat each hoop as zone 7a. That buys a grower an additional month on each end of the growing season. If a grower chooses to add additional row coverings or engage in some supplemental heating they could probably push things another zone south with each and therefore an additional month(s). 

Of course the goals of each grower will be different. One will be a market garden and to feed their family, another dedicated to creating healthy social and nutritional choices in resource poor communities, and still another to plant a perennial agriculture in the fields. All of these goals are enabled by the gifts that Dawn Farm and now Lucky’s Market have given us.

The beauty of what we’re doing is that each grower can use this extra time in different ways. Tender young perennials can grow older and tougher, paving the way for trees just outside of their normal climate range and hedging our bets in a warmer world. A market gardener could start a crop of tomatoes or peppers early and keep them growing later than most others, giving them the opportunity to sell when they are the only one with their crop at market. 

We remain eternally grateful for these gifts and will continue to steward them.

The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 7 The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 6 The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 5 The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 4 The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 3 The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 8The Cooperative at Dawn Farm Hoops 2