March 1, 2011 Mini-Farm Missive

March 1, 2011

Dear All,

Thanks again to Bob and Janet for hosting us and providing such a delicious and healthy meal, and such a toasty and welcoming atmosphere.

As I mentioned, each day something interesting happens with this project and today is no different.

Coincidentally I was on a email communiqué with the building committee at the JCA this morning and happened to be in touch with Steve Woolf who is an architect.   He is happy to help us consider all the architectural questions that we have and he is already working on figuring out exactly where to place our garden so as to afford us the greatest sunlight.  He is also thinking about composting and a shed—from an architectural perspective.  He has already sent us a site plan of the property, which I have attached.

Here’s what we decided last night.

1. Sustainability Our garden will not use power tools, such as a powered roto-tiller.  We don’t need to be dogmatic about this, but rather we aspire toward this goal.  Part of our goal is to instill in our community the love of labor–or at least the respect for it, foster manual intelligence, and learn what it takes to bring forth food from the earth.

2.   Goals The goals of our mini-farm are to grow

A.     a portion of our food/produce for the  at-risk community

B.    a portion for JCA’s weekly Shabbat table (tomatoes, peppers, cukes,          lettuce, carrots) and JCA’s ritual needs including flowers for High Holidays, a variety of gourds for Sukkot (and possibly wheat for Shavuot).  What we grow will be determined in part by what the “at-risk” community needs.

•Bob & Ellen will research needs of food pantries in Amherst & Holyoke.

3.   Seeds As a group we will not be growing seeds but individuals may do this (and we will all be grateful!).  We will reach out to the community at large for seedlings and we may purchase some seedlings.  Bob has many varieties of seeds that he is willing to donate to the project.

•Ellen will produce a flyer to go out to the JCA listing all of our needs, including seedlings.

4.   Garden design and the question of flat and raised beds.   The general consensus was that we would have a mixture of flat and raised beds.   The advantages of raised beds are that they are more comfortable to work on (especially for our older members) and that we would not have to worry about soil quality, which we will not be able to ascertain until April.  The advantage of flat beds is that they are less costly.

The group will also consider what we want to be planting given the needs of the community and will consider companion planting and what crops should be planted where.

•Ruth, Bob and Janet will work up a few different design ideas and will present these to the group at the next meeting.

5.  Composting, and the question of whether we need to improve/update the JCA composting procedures.  There is some concern as to whether folks would muck up the composting system by throwing in sugar items.  This problem may be helped by good signage and education.  We do want to have as a goal that JCAnicks understand the need/value of composting.  We want all to know/appreciate the cyclical nature of life.

•Robert will survey the current composting situation (both in the kitchen and the compost bin outside)  and will make a recommendation at the next meeting.

6.   Scheduling We need an overall seasonal schedule to stay on task.

Shemariah will develop a calendar for us

7.   Expenses      Various expenses will include soil and soil amendments, wood for raised beds, shed, garden tools, hosing, stakes, cages, fencing, 50 lb scale, black/board (communication board). We will do what we can to keep our expenses to a minimum, while covering our costs. We should easily stay within our budget.  Whenever possible we will look for volunteer contributions.

It may be nice to make the building of the shed a community building event as well, so if there are ways of thinking about engaging the community at large in this without creating headaches, that would be nice.  What are the building costs for the shed and what can be donated?

•We will need a 3’ fence to deter rabbits and enhance our design.

•Bob found that 4×8 raised beds cost $85 and 4×6 beds cost $75

•Estimates on composted loam ranged from $35-45/cubic yard

•Danielle will work on finding volunteers to build a shed (Bob Weitzman, Scott Nielson, others); certain considerations include how big a shed and where to locate it.  Architect Steve Woolf is happy to consult on this.

8. Communication   For the time being Ellen will coordinate communications.  At some point down the road, someone else may want to take over this task.  Rav Weiner suggested a blog and will discuss with Aaron Bousel.  Our goal is to communicate as completely as possible with the understanding that we want to keep excellent records on this project, knowing that others in other communities can benefit from all of our experiences—from our challenges and stumbling blocks as well as our successes.

• Ellen will develop a flyer/email that will go to the JCA list, stating the needs of our group. We will be looking for seedlings as well  as  garden tools (including tools for children), and we will be looking for volunteer builders.  Future flyers will discuss work days and garden rotations.

Next Meeting: March 21, spring equinox 6:30 PM potluck at the Winston home.  At this meeting we will decide on a design based on the rec of the small group.  We will also hear back about other various tasks.   We will schedule work days to begin the establishment of the garden beginning in April.



Enjoy the sun, happy trails, nesiyah tovah,  and look forward to seeing everyone soon,



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