Friday, January 16, 2009

brand new world

Hello and welcome to my update. I thought it long overdue that I should let my readers know what's going on. I haven't kept up with this blog as I would have liked over the past several months. I have good reasons for not doing so and I'd like to share them.

The first is the upcoming publication of the book I coauthored with Sharon Astyk, A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil which will be out in March of this year from New Society Publishers. We've created a website to coordinate the efforts of this book. You can visit and purchase a copy by clicking here. I'll be traveling a bit this spring and summer to support the book. If you'd like for me to come visit, send me an email and I'll see what I can do. I'm hoping to stay with farmers and foodies while visiting other parts of the country. Email me at if you're interested.

I am going to be a Participating Farmers in this the inaugural growing season of the Cabarrus County Farm Incubator Program. The program is like others across the nation that help dedicated gardeners become market farmers. I'll be sharing more on this program and my experience of hatching my farm efforts during the coming year. The short of it is that I'll be growing lots of food this year and selling it and giving it away.

I've created a business with both for-profit and not-for-profit components that will install and perhaps manage gardens for people who need help getting started with growing food. My partners and I will be installing raised beds and plant them. We'll also be building compost bins, rainwater collection systems and who know what else in an attempt to help other people grow food for themselves and for people who can't afford the ever-rising cost of eating in this country. The Greater Goods Garden Company will have a website up very soon where you'll be able to track our progress.

I am teaching two classes with Sharon this winter. I am very excited about this. In February we're going to teach "Garden Planning Design." Of course we'll cover what to grow, how to grow it and where but also how to make your garden less reliant on outside inputs. My training is as a landscape architect and I have experience in both the nursery industry and as a residential landscape designer. Sharon and I have both been growing food of all types for many years. We also have the advantage of being in different climates- Sharon in central New York and me here in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Regardless of where you live I think this class can help you make the leap into home food production.

In March we're offering, "Adapting in Place" a class Sharon has taught before. It's about making do with what you have, where you are. For many of us dealing with peak oil, climate change and the financial meltdown will not mean moving to a new strawbale home powered by solar panels that juice our electric cars making possible our commute to our new green job. Many of us will need to triage our lifestyles and find a tolerable and enjoyable way to downsize and be happy with less. This class is here to help with that process.

All classes are taught online, and you don't have to be online at any particular time. While there are "class days" when we devote ourselves to the class, you are free to read material and ask questions/participate whenever it is convenient for you. All classes include one 15 minute scheduled personal phone call (assuming you want one - some people elect not to have one) to explore any questions you don't want to ask in the group, or just to get to know one another. Phone calls usually take place in the evenings (EST) on the class days, but things can be worked out for those who can't do those times or who are many time zones away.

Classes meet every Tuesday and Thursday of the month. Cost is $150 each for the February and March classes. We do reserve a few spots for low income folks, so email if you would like one. In the past a few kind souls have donated additional spots for those in need - if you'd like to offer a scholarship, email Sharon at the address below. Enrollment is limited to 40 people. You can send payment through paypal at or by check to Sharon Astyk PO Box 342 Delanson, NY 12053. For more information on enrollment email Sharon:

I have a few other side projects going on. The truth is I abused the garden here at my home while writing the book. Presently our back yard is ready to serve as the filming location for a scene in which the movie's villain arrives home at a classic southern trailer park complete with an assortment of junk littering the backyard- 42 gallon soon-to-be rain barrels amongst bamboo pickets not yet formed into a fence alongside drying gourds, pots of young plum tree seedlings and containers of waste vegetable oil all serving as a potential perch for one of the 11 bantam hens acting as excellent yard birds. My wife has suggested I spend some time out there cleaning up before beginning the negotiation process necessary to add rabbits and bees to our yard. I can take a hint.

I will return to writing for Groovy Green shortly. I am planning to post most of my agriculturally related material to Hen and Harvest where all the cool new gardeners and farmers are hanging out. I'm making friends like crazy with local food advocates and with those of you half way around the world working to make the most out of what's going on during our life times. It's a bit scary out there but the truth is this planet and our society have been getting increasingly screwed up over the past few decades and now's our chance- like it or not- for action. So let's get to work and enjoy our exciting times. Best wishes to all of you and good luck.

Oh and if you're wondering about the new header at the top of this blog it's a collage of images related to my oldest daughter Keaton and her first efforts at gardening. Last spring she picked a seed out of the compost pile and announced that she wanted to grow it. We prepared a 12"X12"X12" box with soil and worm casting into which she planted her seed. Later the 25 foot vine produced two pumpkins, both of which were larger and better looking than any I have ever grown. Tastier too. One was made into baby food to help feed her younger sister. The other was canned and will become pumpkin soup, pumpkins bread, pumpkin ravioli or if Keaton has her way lots of pumpkin pie.



Dave said...

Sounds like you have some great things in the works- a lot of them things I'm trying to move towards with my practice. Thanks for the updates! Your successes make it all feel doable on a grey January day.

homebrewlibrarian said...

All the classes sound excellent and while I really would like to learn more about adapting in place and landscape design, I feel that my educational needs are more specific than the classes will offer. Maybe I'm wrong and I'd like to be but living in Alaska, specifically in Anchorage, AK, has it's own unique challenges. Like all the rain for the season coming in the fall and the over abundance of light during the summer freaking out certain types of plants (hops and onions, for instance). Add in the fact that the average summer air temperature is 55 degrees and soil temps don't get up over 60 degrees and you'll understand my reticence (forget most squashes and eggplant and non-containerized tomatoes and peppers).

I did, however, take an organic gardening class last year taught by a local expert and that was helpful. But it's basic stuff aimed at people who are not familiar with organic gardening or gardening at all. I may take the class again this year because another local expert is teaching it but I'm not sure. I may just pick some brains instead.

I'm sure many people will find the classes you and Sharon will teach to be extremely useful and that's a good thing. I'll see how to take advantage of local talent in this area to increase my knowledge since it will be Alaska-based.

I'll keep my eyes open for archives and group discussions.

Kerri in AK

nulinegvgv said...

Thanks for the comment Dave.

Kerri, I think the class will be relevant to people despite differences in local conditions. Garden design and planning isn't as much about the specifics as it is about an approach to working with and within specific natural systems. Design is a language and we'll be helping people learn how to speak garden design. There's lots of things you can say once you know the language.

By the way this is a classic problem with gardening books. They are either to broad and therefore not helpful in dealing with local conditions or too specific and therefore not helpful to a greater percentage of the population. Or at least this is the excuse I use for owning so many of them.