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Everything grows!

This spring has been a whirlwind, in the best possible way. Everything is waking up on the farm.

A view of “The Learning Hoop”- our 30×48 hoop house dedicated to educational/experimental projects!

 

One of the first and most adorable signs of spring was the second lambing season for Project Mow. Babies! 14 of them. They are a complete delight to all who encounter them. It again provided an opportunity for some of our membership to engage with and learn from that process- at one point I took a small lamb home to nurse back to health since our shepherd, Yuko, was out of town on work.

 

My daughter bottle feeding the little lamb who needed some help.

 

The kids now insist on regular visitation!

 

It was a wonderful experience for me and my kids, but it also provided Yuko the ability to leave the flock and rest easy knowing her farm community had her back. It was very gratifying on all sides. The little lamb was named “Sunny Alex” by my kids, and he is the sweetest and most sociable lamb out at the farm. He’s chunky and happy and we even know him by his distinct voice. The only slightly inconvenient side effect of this community lambing fiasco is that it gave me a distinct baby farm animal itch… trouble!

 

 

Gardens are going in fast and the landscape of our project is continuing to mature. One very exciting thing is that our membership has nearly doubled this year- from 9 members to 16. This tells us that the need for this organization exists and that our mission resonates! Our work will only improve with more engaged membership, and we are already seeing things come to life this year in a way we had only imagined before.

 

Jesse from Garden Party put his first crops in the hoops!

 

We are brainstorming ways to connect to the wider community- to invite everyone to really see what it is we are doing and why it matters. One way we hope to do that is by introducing our members here on the blog. Every member of the Cooperative has a story, and they all fill such a distinct niche here at the Farm.

 

 

We will also be increasing our signage around the property, the hope being that people could take themselves for a walking unguided tour around the farm. We always want to encourage folks to ask questions, come for a tour, and give us feedback about how we can do even better work. However, up until this year, we’ve been largely preoccupied with the foundational work, which hasn’t left much time or mental bandwidth for the outreach we wanted to do. The hope is that many hands make light work, and we will find ourselves with more and more practical support, which will yield each member more and more freedom to fill those diverse roles (like sharing here!).

Look for more posts from us here soon!

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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