Could Jericho build local food sovereignty? And if we did, what would that look like?
The GRO-Jericho Kids Garden Contest is a pilot project that Transition Town Jericho embarked on this spring. This is a small way to reach into the community and start sharing the idea of growing your own food.
With a goal of giving away ten 4’x 6’ gardens, the TTJ team advertised at the Jericho Town Library and The Deborah Rawson Library. The rules were very easy; just describe in writing or draw a picture of what you would like to grow in your garden.
We received eleven entries in the contest and it was decided to award them all a garden. We got several pictures submitted with the contest applications. Pictured here is Bodhi with his artwork. He said he’d like to grow daffodils, carrots, irises, sungold, tomatoes and peas.
Our Steering Committee was excited to meet these new gardeners, as we delivered the beds to all of the homes in the week leading up to Mother’s Day. Later this summer, we’ll be visiting the kids to see how their gardens are growing.
Congratulations to the First Annual Kids Garden Contest winners!
Irene and Dave here:
On April 25, Transition Town Jericho presented a 90 minute hands-on gardening experience at the Jeri-Hill Retirement Community. TTJ donated the 4’ by 6’ raised garden bed, and UVM Master Gardener Eric Hill assembled it on site for about twenty or so people. Besides the JeriHill residents, a couple families and children who entered TTJ’s Kid’s Garden Contest attended as well and eagerly helped move the dirt!
Eric guided folks through setting up the raised bed garden, sharing the following information:
Why use a raised bed? It drains better, warms the soil faster, and adds two to three weeks more growing time to the season. It decreases weed and pests, and helps build better soil.
Building your raised bed garden box
Steer clear of pressure-treated wood. Pine can work; cedar lasts longer. Synthetics are now available as well. Start with 6” depth; you can always go to 12” later on.Four feet across is ideal so you can reach the middle, and it can be any length.You can place the garden right on sod by putting down a layer of cardboard or several layers newspaper; soak it with water before adding the soil. One-half cubic yards of soil will fit into a 4’x 6’ garden
How to site your raised bed
Find a location that is easily accessible, and make sure there is abundant sunlight (ideally more than eight hours per day) in that location. Also, consider drainage in that spot; not too much water and ideally close to a water source for easy watering during dry times.
Lasagna Gardens are a type of raised bed. You build a lasagna garden by alternating layers of carbon and nitrogen source materials. Carbon comes from newspaper, leaves, and straw and nitrogen comes from manure, grass clippings and compost.
Other Factors to consider:
Frost Dates Last frost (mid to late May) and first frost (mid to late October). Spinach and peas are frost tolerant and can be planted outside before most other crops.
Days to Maturity Counted if you seed directly into the ground.
Start plants indoors Eric recommended this to extend your growing season.
Space requirements for the plants If you plant to densely, leaves can’t dry out and might mildew as well as easier access for pests to spread. Trellising is a good option. Experiment!
Layout Tall plants should go in the back (north side) so they don’t block sun from low-lying plants. Eric recommended planning out your garden on paper for added success.
Compost With access to water, air and heat you can make your own!
Water in the early morning (best) or in the evening (next best). If soil is moist two inches down, you can skip watering, Eric said.
Thanks to Eric for coming out and sharing his expertise for this event!
Laura M. reporting:
About fourteen of us gathered at the Jericho Town Library on March 21 to attend Laura Oliver’s informative workshop on Seed Starting. This was TTJ’s first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic and fell on the first (lovely!) day of spring! Laura co-founded and heads the Jericho Seed Library and is an avid home gardener herself.
Here are some of the takeaways:
Whys of seed starting
Besides saving money, having flexibility with timing, and a wider choice of seeds, Laura said you are in better charge of the health of your own plants.
Types of seeds
1)Open pollinated which are pollinated by insects, birds and wind; 2)Heirloom which are passed down through the generations (all heirloom seeds are open pollinated) and; 3)Hybrid which are created from different parent seeds, producing a new variety; unusable for saving/replanting.
Laura said most seeds last for several years, with a few exceptions, such as alliums. For older seeds, simply plant more of them to assure germination. Laura took us through how to read seed packets to garner the useful info provided. For example, days to maturity refers to when the seedling is transplanted into the ground rather than when the seed is planted.
Seed tray options
After describing various options of seed trays, Laura ultimately recommended using soil blockers in which you mold your own blocks of soil, avoiding the use of trays altogether except for a bottom tray holder. She said locals are looking into the library obtaining a soil blocker for communal use.
Seedling maintenance and health
Laura suggested using warming mats for germination, then getting seeds under lights as soon as they poke through the soil. (Some exceptions like small-seeded lettuce germinate better with light). Seedlings need roughly 16 hours of light a day; bent stems indicate a lack of light!
Other tips for healthy seedlings and avoiding a fungal disease called damping off: don’t over water; just water when the top of soil starts to dry out; bottom water from the edge of the tray when seedlings are new and fragile. Once the second set of leaves show up, you can water from the top. Keep fan going for good air circulation. Fertilize seedlings after three with dilute fish emulsion. After 3-4 weeks, transplant either to the garden, or to larger pots if needed.
When to plant
Laura cautioned against starting seeds too early, saying that seedlings should be indoors for as little time as possible. While info such as Jericho being in zone four or the first official frost date being between May 15 and June 15 is helpful, there are many other factors like wind and land elevation to take into account. Reading signs of nature can be helpful too; Laura said she is cued by spring peepers and various migratory birds in knowing when to plant.
She recommended hardening off seedlings before outdoor planting, to slowly introduce them to the outdoors. She said it they’re cold hardy, they can be left outside overnight (under cover) but recommended bringing tender plants indoors if it falls below 50 or so degrees.
Keeping seeds cool and dry is best for germination; put dessicant packages in with your seeds!
Invest in LED lights; better for the environment, longer lasting and more effective.
Planting depth for seeds is generally twice the size of the seed being planted.
Garlic and chamomile tea help prevent damping off of seedlings.
Laura finished her talk by introducing us to the Seed Library; resembling a card catalog, it’s located on the first floor of the Jericho Town Library. Becoming a member and access to seeds is free and open to everyone.
It was gratifying to see a large group of people in attendance at the March 2 online NOFA Conference panel, “Building Food Sovereignty in Jericho” hosted by TTJ. The panelists’ envisioning of future possibilities was inspirational and the ensuing discussion covered a multitude of ideas.
John Abbott, Jericho’s new town administrator, said the popularity of farmers markets is a great indicator of townspeople wanting healthy local foods. In discussing challenges of land use, John described the ‘land banking’ concept for affordable housing, saying we could do something similar in agriculture, to support more acreage being put into farming. He also mentioned the possibility of a community development corps, a vehicle whereby towns can purchase lands for agriculture use via a third party that works for the community rather than for profit.
Alissa White, ecologist and UVM researcher/educator made a distinction between food security and food sovereignty. While the former doesn’t distinguish where food comes from or conditions under which it’s produced/distributed, food sovereignty emphasizes ecological farm practices, economic justice and localized food systems.
Alissa also talked about the importance of land use planning, saying that better state policy could help. She said we need more offsets to the high cost of local healthy food, such as subsidized csas. She said we need a shift in how we schedule time, suggesting a 30-hour work week, so we can put more time into our food, gardens and homesteads. She envisions more environmental education for both kids and adults and community cooperation with skill sharing activities.
Alissa spoke of a future scenario where the town would hire a community food access coordinator, a town naturalist, and even a climate resilience coordinator. In fact, she said, a food sovereign town would host many new jobs from running food storage facilities to operating distribution and access programs.
Tucker Andrews works part time as a farmer and as a lab technician. He described his farming as a two acre ‘bare bones’ operation. Tucker said his sale of specialty crops supports him in his true love, giving away food. He said that while it’s easy enough for him to plant and grow, he relies on a volunteer pool to harvest and deliver the crops, adding that he wishes this structure of supporting farmers could be formalized, or even legalized.
With a much stronger tax/land base than his own town of Bolton, Tucker sees Jericho as a great candidate for food sovereignty, and shared his vision of the town setting aside 100 acres, tax free, for a farmer to grow “a ton of food” for giveaway. He sees solutions like this easier to achieve at the town rather than the state level.
Dave Clift, TTJ steering member, described the food process as a web rather than linear. He said that while in the 1970s, the four biggest food producers controlled 25% of the market, they now control 80%. He added that as an affluent bedroom community of Burlington, there’s a perception in Jericho that people don’t need to grow their own food. He went on to describe GRO-Jericho’s neighborhood garden hubs and the upcoming Kids Garden Contest, aiming to motivate Jericho’s youth to learn more about growing food.
Yours truly talked about the conference film, Food for the Rest of Us, with its inspiring examples of food sovereignty across the Americas. One in particular, the Ma’o Organic Farm in Wai’yanai Hawaii, hires and trains 17-24 year olds to learn everything from indigenous roots of agriculture to growing and marketing crops. I cited some new programs in Vermont, including the Every Town Project, striving to diversify Vermont’s farming population as it puts more land into agriculture, and the Regeneration Corps, offering an alternative education track to high schoolers who want to learn about regenerative agriculture.
Further discussion delved deeper into food sovereignty, community gardens, land use, town planning and more; this a vital community dialog we at TTJ intend to continue!
To access the workshop:
During the pandemic, it’s been gratifying to see people come together to provide food for the neediest among us. Here in Jericho, it’s been easy to get volunteers to show up for TTJ’s Extra Row days. As long as a farmer is willing to grow an extra row of crops, people will show up to harvest and help get them delivered to local food shelves and charities.
Threats to our food supply are on the horizon, as supply chains and delivery insecurities abound, translating into gaps on grocery store shelves. Add inconsistencies from climate change and labor issues and I can just hear the worried-sounding oy-yoi-yois of my Jewish ancestors.
Why are local farmers, our true land stewards, struggling to exist, and why aren’t more people gardening, preserving and storing crops in ways humans have done for eons, before industrial agriculture took over? To address these questions, TTJ has hosted sessions on Abenaki seed renewal efforts and we support Vermont’s indigenous peoples returning to the land, growing heirloom crops and living in balance with the earth.
Here in Jericho, we hope to go beyond depending on food imports, and work toward gaining food independence. That entails a whole lot of skill sharing and in turn, great community building, neighborhood by neighborhood. As the saying goes, “Feed the people fish, they eat for a day; teach them how to fish, they eat for a lifetime.”
To these ends, on March 2, TTJ will be facilitating a workshop at Vermont’s Winter NOFA Conference, titled “Building Food Sovereignty in Jericho,” during which we’ll dialog around creating a working model for any town in Vermont and perhaps even the whole USA. We’ll bring together our town administrator, John Abbott; a local food advocate, Alissa White; and Jericho farmer, Tucker Andrews. Dave and I from TTJ will represent an activated citizenry.
Panelists will look at some ‘what if’ questions in order to envision a future Jericho that is food independent. The entire town would have to evolve in numerous ways in order to reach the goal of feeding its people year-round. We’ll invite workshop participants to share their thoughts.
Ultimately we’ll explore the steps we can take as a community, starting in the present moment, toward food sovereignty. Of course, we’re not starting from zero, as examples of what’s already happening will be presented, from Jericho and the rest of the country.
Hope to see you at the conference!
“Building Food Sovereignty in Jericho” panel discussion will take place on Wednesday March 2, from 12-1:30pm via Zoom. To register for the conference, go to: www.nofavt.org.
Laura here on the 2021 Report!
Edible Landscape Project
A productive summer for Jericho’s Edible Landscape Project (just north of 500 Brown’s Trace) Ann Gnagey reported she and husband Tom Baribault planted leeks, New England pie pumpkins, and about seven varieties of potatoes, all with fair yields.
New berry additions to the elderberries were purple-flowering raspberries and to the existing edible trees (apples, black cherry and serviceberry) they added twelve black walnut seedlings and two chestnuts. If you look toward the west, you can see the two chestnut trees just to the north of Kurt Melin’s (neighbor) shed. Since these trees are also favorites for rabbits and deer, they protected them with wire and mesh, visible from the road. Five yards of compost were purchased from Davis Farm and have been used to build the soil, giving the seedling trees a good start.
This past summer, TTJ initiated GRO-Jericho, encouraging neighbors to work together to grow more of their own food and build community at the same time. Reports here on three of the summer’s garden groups.
Brown’s Trace neighborhood gardeners:
Ann reports she and Tom have worked closely with four couples who live within a half mile of their homestead. Folks have gotten to know each other and share gardening chores, chicken, sheep, and pet care. This enables them to take vacations and have reliable help while they’re gone. Produce is shared when someone has excess and Ann encourages them to use their greenhouse to dry food and grow plants. The working relationships are good and Ann expressed satisfaction in getting to know each other better.
Pinehurst Drive neighborhood gardens:
Dave Clift reports there were five families invited to be involved in the gardening effort, planning to grow and can tomatoes together. As the summer progressed, it became apparent that everyone's growing season based on the type of tomatoes grown were different and there never seemed to be enough produce to do a large canning effort among the families. The concept of crop sharing was not entirely embraced, as the greater focus was on each individual’s garden efforts.
Dave shared his excess crops like potatoes, onions, peas and carrots. Lesson learned: being part of a neighborhood group caused some anxiety about how to share. Sharing crops that grew well and produced extra worked best, as well as sharing with the group as the crop was harvested.
Barber Farm gardeners:
No formal group here, but cooperation among us neighboring gardeners, with about four gardens in all. There is some sharing of seeds and tools, and taking care of each others’ gardens while on vacation. Retired farmer/landscaper Charlie Siegchrist is always ready to lend a hand with his plow or offer up greenhouse space when needed. At summer’s end, when retiring our aging compost boxes, Charlie helped shift the large quantity of compost onto the fall beds. Last year he plowed an area for us to establish a pollinator garden and this year our gardens seemed to attract a multitude of birds and insects, yay!
Barber Farm growers tend to share excess harvest with each other. My favorite swap of the season was supplying a neighbor’s family with excess beets, then later receiving a bunch of pickled beets from them. Nice surprise at Halloween: all residents of Barber Farm received personal pumpkins with their initials engraved; somehow Charlie kept it a secret all summer!
Do you have examples of neighborhood garden crop-swapping and/or collaborating? If so, please send along your stories and we’ll include them here...let’s do more to GRO-Jericho!
Year two of the Extra Row Project with farmers Tucker Andrews and Charlie Siegchrist has been completed!
In June, Tucker Andrews laid down plastic and planted 400 feet of butternut squash for TTJ volunteers to tend, harvest and deliver to food agencies at the end of the summer. We had great weather for working in the fields this summer and early fall, weeding in July and harvesting in early October before the first frost. There were about ten volunteers on each work day, so we were able to complete the tasks in about an hour; many hands made the work light and fast!
It was a great experience working with Tucker and seeing the final results, with over 2400 pounds of butternut squash grown, weeded, picked and transported to five food agencies in Chittenden County. While the majority of squash were donated to Feeding Chittenden in Burlington, others were delivered to the Janet S. Munt Family Room, Williston Food Shelf, Heavenly Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church in Essex Junction, as well as two deliveries to the Jericho-Underhill-Essex Ecumenical Food Shelf. In all, 880 squash were harvested and donated.
Special thanks to the TTJ volunteers that assisted in the weeding, picking and delivering the squash to the food agencies. They include: Jeff York, Bill McMains, Amy and Steve Ludwin, Mary Bibb, Geoffrey Cole, Irene Wrenner, Burt Lindholm, Bob Savaglio, Barb Lindburg, Jessica Dion, Jason Gallet, Barbara Frankowski, Laura Markowitz and Anne Clift.
As Val Gabert of the Heavenly Food Shelf said, “...without all of you working together in support of each other, this opportunity would not be available.” Thank you Tucker, for again making the Extra Row Project possible!
Charlie Siegchrist of Barber Farm in Jericho Center joined The Extra Row Project this year, supporting the Essex-Jericho-Underhill Ecumenical Food Shelf’s distribution day. Thanks to Joanna Weinstock for providing us with additional volunteers to pick those sumptuous green beans in July- the bean bushes were overflowing with beans and several bushels were picked with plenty of volunteers to complete the task.
With such an abundance of beans, a few volunteers showed up again a few days later to provide additional bushels, this time delivered to the Janet S. Munt Family Room in Burlington for their families. Thank you to Charlie for planting and tending those beans and joining the Extra Row Project!
Transition US Regenerative Communities Summit
The national hub of the Transition movement, Transition US, is hosting an online Summit that will trace an arc from “What Is” to “What If” to “What's Next.” The Regenerative Communities Summit will extend from Friday evening, Sept 24th through Sunday, October 10th. Yes, that’s three weekends and two intervening weeks with an abundance of inspiring plenary sessions, skill-building workshops, dynamic discussion spaces, films, and engaging activities.
This is an awesome opportunity to learn about the Transition movement on a national scale. As the climate emergency, social crises, natural and everyday disasters continue to rock our communities, Transition and the broader movement for regenerative, just and resilient communities offer inspiration and hope through practical local action. Transition US invites all doers and dreamers, activists and community leaders, farmers and entrepreneurs, educators and artists, and everyday people eager to reimagine and rebuild our world.We have social spaces, too, where you can meet and connect with fellow organizers from all around the country and beyond, including those within the Transition Movement as well as people from allied groups and movements.
Did we mention registration is by donation? That means you can have all this for free if you wish. Suggested donation is $45 (already a bargain) but you can pay as little or as much as you like. Not only that, everything in the Summit will be recorded and accessible whenever you have the time to watch, or re-watch.
Register for the Summit now to enjoy the Summit's Mighty Networks platform (already live) where you can meet and connect with fellow organizers from all around the country, those within the Transition movement, as well as from allied groups. You will also gain access to the recordings of all the programs and films! Please Note: Times on the website are Pacific time. Add 3 hours for Eastern.
-Thanks to Transition Town Media (PA) for this post!
Extra Row Project’s “Weeding Day”
The extra row of squash, planted by Tucker Andrews off Nashville Road, is growing quite well and will be ready for harvesting in September. But even with plastic placed around the plants and between rows, weeds have popped up. The row needed to be weeded to keep the squash plants strong and not have to compete with taller weeds.
On July 24th, Transition Town Jericho pulled together seven volunteers to come out to the field to get those weeds pulled. The day started off cool, with the warming sun soon hitting our backs. We were glad to be out early in the day before the heat became a challenge! At 180 yards, the squash row was pretty long, so we got to work and went quickly, getting the row cleared of weeds in just over half an hour. The weeds came up easily as a result of the recent rains.
It was great working in the field on a beautiful sunny day. The squash plants had big leaves and trailer vines populated the aisles between the rows; we had to be careful where we stepped. Among the squash leaves, we could see the little squash forming. Alongside the volunteers, there were plenty of bees buzzing around, pollinating the many squash flowers and varieties of field birds were singing their summer songs. It made for a very pleasant experience.
A special thanks goes out to the volunteers who were able to come by to assist:
Bill McMains, Amy and Steve Ludwin, Jessica Dion, Jason Gallet, Barbara Frankowski and Anne Clift.
Please watch for our squash harvest announcement coming up in September. Tucker advises leaving the squash in the field as long as possible, but will be watching for signs of an early frost; the harvest ideally completed before that occurs.
Dave and Laura’s report:
Here at the height of the gardening season, we may see pests and diseases destroying our crops. On July 12, we invited Ann Hazelrigg, Director of the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at UVM to speak to about 16 participants. Her zoom presentation, Garden Pests and Diseases of 2021 and Beyond, included diagnostics of participant’s garden pests.
Ann jumped right in, including pests that have yet to arrive into Vermont, but important to know about as they will likely soon threaten Vermont’s native species. Ann pointed out that our trees are especially susceptible, as the newer pests do not have natural predators and can harm or kill trees in a few seasons.
One example is the spotted lantern fly or “gypsy moth” which is being seen here in its largest numbers since the 1990s. Ann said it’s best to eliminate them in the early larva stage in June, before they become gray moths (July). An unsuspected threat is the “crazy snakeworm” a type of earth worm that damages new growth roots and may defoliate large areas of the forest floor. First arriving here fifty years ago in pots from Asia, the snakeworms now arrive in potted soils from the south; be aware to look out for these worms if you purchase nursery stock. The “spotted wing drosophila” attacks any soft fruit. It was brought to the region on the winds of Hurricane Irene few years ago. The best solution for this fruit fly is using row covers (one called Protect 80 is widely available).
Moving onto crops, Ann talked about “septoria leaf spot” the typically blight we see on tomato plants, She said it’s important to rotate crops year to year to prevent the resurgence of blight (either early or late) as the fungus can overwinter on dead plant tissue. Blights start lower in the plant and works its way up the plant; the goal in prevention is to insure quick drying.
Things you can do:
-Stake the plants
-Keep the plants strong with good soils.
-Avoid overhead watering as the moisture promotes the growth of the blight. The more rain we have the more blight we see.
-Improve air circulation by picking off the lower leaves of the plant.
Problems with broccoli plants that don’t produce heads or kale that starts rotting from the inside? Ann talked about the “swede midge” a tiny bug that only attacks brassicas; she said that while solutions are experimental at this point, prevention may be the best route: dedicated rotation and keeping plants covered until flowering, two suggestions offered for a number of other pest problems as well.
Ann addressed many more garden pest issues that we are seeing this summer. To view the presentation, send in a request to: TTJericho.VT@gmail.com
If you have questions or are seeing unusual pests in you gardens or forests, please feel free to contact Ann at: firstname.lastname@example.org