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: firstname.lastname@example.org Also, consider supporting our efforts by becoming a patron! http://patreon.com/thecooperativeatdawnfarm