Saint Fiacre Gardens Microfarm
“Gardening is the only way to prevent an other world war –
to bring a living, active peace on earth
by working with healthy, creative, positive life forces. In doing this
we become one with those life forces.”
Volunteer Newsletter March 12, 2011
Spring is coming and manual labor is gearing up.
… we want to finish Spinach transplanting in the hoophouse and expand our pruning activities to Apples, Pears and Grapes away from the “farmhouse.” If you can help we will be working Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. We’ll start with daily prayer at 12 noon in the hoophouse, and work till 4 or 5. There may be work shifts Monday afternoon, plus Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Plans can easily change due to weather or workflow, so please call the night before to confirm.
Drivers for Gift Produce
We are now seeking driver/ambassadors to bring gifts of produce weekly or monthly to the programs we support – Bethany House, Saint Joe’s House, Penfield Food Shelf, and to the various Gift Garden projects.
Do you have the ability to take home sheafs of dried cooking herbs and teas to strip and pack up in airtight jars? We need to get all the herbs from 2010 prepared and packed to be ready for the new season.
St. Joe’s “Employment Training Program”
We welcomed Woody Flagler to the team last fall. He came to the Microfarm through St Joe’s House “Employment Training Program,” designed to provide income and skills to members of the guest community. It was great to have Woody on board. We have missed him while he has been away this winter. I hope he can continue, and see his goal of a St. Fiacre farm market enterprise blossom.
Court-ordered community service has worked out well for us to bring the blessings of microfarming to new friends. Nick and Deborah (ABC D) made their mark with the team last fall. And farming has made its mark on them. Thanks to Chris Doyle for referring Nick to us, and thanks to Woody for making the bridge with D.
Missing John Bishop
Many of us were struck with sadness at John Bishop’s death this November. If you met him once, at a hoophouse covering day, or a hot soup lunch after insulating the root cellar, you knew he was joyful, appreciative, strong, serious about building things right, dedicated to others, curious about the world, and wonder-fulled. I was blessed to spend a few hours with he and his daughter Dana in ICU 3 days before he passed. At that point he couldn’t see or speak or move his right side, but he could clasp your hand. I read him from that morning’s psalm, “in the shadow of your wings I take refuge….”
Fall / Winter Accomplishments
Melissa, Molly & Randy pitched in at the crucial moment as the true November cold was setting in, helping to dig, pot and move large winter greens, such as Kale and Collards, into the root cellar. I have to hand it to Janice and Dave for sticking with me on those days in December when we harvested Carrots, Leeks, Rutabagas, Burdock, Turnips, Chinese Cabbage and Pac Choi from under the snow cover in stinging wind. Fall picking is glorious in its bounty, and intense in its discipline.
By about mid-December the root cellar was stocked to the gills. Storage spilled over into the hoophouse, the basement, (the back of the van, sometimes!) and Kathy’s garage.
Thanks to Jo-Anne for offering time to coordinate our order of Sustainably caught Alaskan salmon. We did not have enough to make a 22 lb carton. The local mega-order will take place again in the spring. Interested? Call me.
Jo-Anne also saved the day when we had a surplus of saleable apples and grapes in September. She promoted to our past fruit consumers, and we found homes for all the best fruit.
New Land Coming Into Production
The Microfarm will begin renting 2 acres in Henrietta this spring, on the land of the former Miller Dairy Farm, in order to consolidate growing locations, develop greater crop production and follow better organic management practices. This land is now pasture, with 2 large existing vegetable gardens, and about 12 orchard trees which we will adopt. Eventually we will grow 1 acre of vegetables per year, rotating with 1 acre of cover crops. In 2011 there will be limited CSA and gifting crops, as the primary focus has to be weed/soil/fertility management, plowing, disking, tilling, cover crops & green manures. We will also prepare locations for future brambles, strawberry, and blueberry patches.
Welcome New Apprentice, Tim Braley
The farm welcomes a new Apprentice, Tim Braley, who comes via Nazareth College and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Tim’s commitment to extend nonviolence throughout his lifestyle has brought him to pursue organic farming. He has been working with us since last summer, and now works 2 days per week. Tim is reading 7 or 8 books on organic farming under my guidance as part of his experience. By April he will be up to a 25 hour work week. Tim will have special responsibility as the point man for the new gardens in Henrietta.
The Catholic Worker movement advocates for a new economy based on generosity (not acquisition) and gifts (not commodity transactions). The foundation of this is the view that our work is an artistic expression of the sum of our blessings. It should be given as a gift. The farmer and primary volunteers at St Fiacre accept no wages for our work. This year we are moving further into the Gift Economy by reorganizing the consumer programs. All CSA and Advance Order customers have been invited into a year-round CSA plan, where they have a greater range of choice from our produce. The consumers are asked to offer a gift, based on our cost of doing business and their ability to give.
It was 2 springs ago when Chris Doyle, Kathy and I were relaxing after the volunteer recognition party, when Chris Doyle came upon the “Gifting” theme. The concept has provided a way for the Microfarm to ease into small scale support of meal programs for the hungry. And it gives church members and others a way to practice the Works of Mercy with gardening of their own. There is now a loose network of gift-gardening churches, each a little different.
The prototype Gift Garden is in Penfield at First Baptist Church, where it is tended by volunteers from St Joseph’s Church. They gift food to the Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf and Bethany House. Transfiguration Church in Pittsford has a community garden, from which they share gift produce with Blessed Sacrament’s urban meal program. Greece Baptist Church is now starting a community garden on Long Pond Road, and they’re considering to grow some gift vegetables for either Cameron Ministries or Mary’s Place. Artisan Church on S. Clinton hopes to undertake a garden completely dedicated to gifting this year.
If you feel drawn to help any of these churches with their gift gardening, let me know and I will put you in touch with their volunteers.
Thank you to Judy Misiurewicz whose gift made it possible for Grace of God Recovery House to “shop” for $15 worth of produce from the Microfarm. And thanks to an anonymous donor whose gift made it possible for Bethany House Catholic Worker to receive an entire CSA share for 2011.
This new form of sponsorship helps St Fiacre extend its food gifting ministry.
Rose Dale Farm Joins Gifting Efforts
I was contacted this winter by James Taylor, who runs Rose Dale Farm in North Rose. James is very interested in mindfulness meditation and sustainable living. He has been following our endeavors, and wants to support St Fiacre’s mission. His first offer is to grow organic Sweet Corn, Soybeans, Tomatoes & Peppers to supplement the Microfarm CSA crops. James’ Sweet Corn will also join our supply of gift produce. James has offered space on his farm which St Fiacre could use for additional growing. He would like to see his farmhouse and land become available for mindfulness retreats and Catholic Worker retreat events. Thank you James!
Other Important Thank You’s
Thanks to Melissa for keeping a few of us going on our quest to make homemade Tofu . Finally, this January — success!
Thanks to Barb for assistance collating a LOT of material from local meat farmers, so we can put together bulk orders and support some local producers (beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, goat are all options). There are about 7 or 8 consumers so far, and myself, who really want to improve the compassion and ethics of our meat consumption by leaving Agribusiness meat behind. Thanks to Sarva for offering to coordinate this further.
Thanks too to Peter Voelkl for all kinds of spontaneous technical support and generosity over the last few years. Thanks to Peter, the Microfarm “office” has a wireless network, a working laptop, a start-up digital camera, and now an emergency cell phone. Thanks for the loaner laptop that let Jo-Anne find the apple lovers.
Thanks to neighbors Dave, Kathy and Bonnie for a hand-me-over camera which has now become our working camera.
Thank you to Mike & Annie O’Reilly, and Brigit Klement Moyer, whose generosity made our last two farm vehicle’s possible.
Sarah Brownell has offered her services to help create a composting project at our new gardens on Miller Dairy Farm. She wants to intercept food scraps from the waste stream (St. Joe’s? RIT?) and haul them to the garden where we will quickly incorporate them into our soil management program. Sarah and her little infant Aniela will need strong helpers to make this possible. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Chris for her #. Sarah says, “We use fossil fuels and lots of energy to create fertilizer and put our food scraps in landfills wrapped in plastic bags where they never decompose. Instead why not follow nature’s cue and use our ‘garbage’ to build the soil?”
Penfield Gift Garden Projects
If you can help with spring projects at the Penfield Gift Garden – spring clean-up, picking and gifting the last of the winter carrots, deer fence work – please call Chris Doyle from St Joseph’s Church, 377-3720.
What is the Catholic Worker For?
There are as many answers to this question as there are people who join the movement. During 3 winter roundtables co-sponsored with St. Joe’s House we tried answering by looking back at the lives and vision of the founders, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. The conversations was lively. The stories of Peter and Dorothy really encourage and point the way to ordinary saintliness. I hope the time together fed the personal vision of each person present.
Catholic Worker Retreat Interest Group
As a spin-off from the roundtables, a small group has begun meeting and discussing what a Catholic Worker Retreat would look like for present-day Rochesterians. Dorothy urged everyone in the movement to attend a yearly retreat in PA during the 40’s, and she continued to make this retreat her entire life. It consisted of elements from scripture, from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, from the spirituality of John of the Cross. It helped the workers look deeply into the roots of their service and activism, and nourished their highest aspirations. If you’d like to help with this brainstorming, please be in touch.
Wish List (start-up equipment for the 2 acres in Henrietta)
Hoses, used and new
Trash Barrels for hauling compost
Digging Forks, Trowels, Hand Hoes
Metal Fabricating Services to create our own Wheel Hoes, Broadforks, etc….
Walk-behind Brush-cutter Mower
2” capacity Chipper-Shredder
Bypass style Hand Clippers & Loppers
6 – 12’ poles, for mounting pruning saws
Electric Pole Saw
2 gallon +/- plastic pots for root cellaring brassicas
Trash Barrels & Plastic Milk Crates for storing winter root crops
Stock for establishing new fruit plantings – Blueberries, Peaches, Plum
“She (Dorothy Day) quickly honed the advice she would give to new Catholic Workers for the next forty years. Start where you are: identify the gifts and needs present in your neighborhood, and practice the works of mercy there. Stay small: remember that massive houses of hospitality would not be needed if everyone took responsibility for those around them. Honor your vocation: choose the work where you feel the most joy….. Accept failure: remember that God’s work is like a seed that must fall to the ground before it can bear fruit. These simple ideas, repeated time and again, empowered individuals and communities to craft countless variations on the Catholic Worker ideal…”
The Catholic Worker After Dorothy, by Dan McKanan