“Grow Food Everywhere!” is Ricky Baruc’s enthusiastic motto. It doesn’t matter if the soil is bad, or if you have a bad back. At Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Orange Baruc and his wife Deb Habib have proved that food can be grown anywhere, by anyone.
He said his secret is cardboard and worms. I will add he gets some aid from the beautiful Diemand Farm compost.
His technique is simple. He clears the garden spot then lays down large sheets of cardboard that a furniture store saves for him. He is generous with the cardboard and makes sure there is plenty of overlap. Then he spreads 4 to 6 inches of beautiful compost over the cardboard. He is ready to plant.
After the seeds or plants are in, he mulches with straw. The seeds come up, but weeding is minimal.
When Baruc and Habib started their farm in 1996, they weren’t novices. They met at the New Alchemy Institute, famed for its innovations and fish tank hydroponic techniques. When they left they farmed for ten years in New York state. “I had a large scale farm, but was uncomfortable working with equipment,” Baruc said.
In Orange they have made a scale of farm that works for them. They believe you can be self employed and still have a life. “Working hard is wonderful if you love what you are doing, but you need enough play, enjoyment, and community,” Baruc said.
He must have felt it wonderful as we talked all morning because he kept moving cheerfully from one job to another, dumping wood chips on cardboard to begin a path through a garden area, moving compost onto newly planted beds of spinach and watering other beds.
“We started with subsoil,” he said.” We have been making good soil. It is just miraculous!”
He points out that they emulate the forest. Leaves are always falling and rotting, returning their nutrients to the soil. There is no tilling. Baruc says their cardboard rots and adds organic material to the soil, while it feeds the worms that add their rich castings to the soil. The mulch also rots and adds its value to the soil.
We peeked under the mulch and cardboard in one bed and found lots of worms. It is clear that worms find this a congenial environment. They are an important element in the fertility of their new soil.
The farm now has six long plastic solar greenhouses, mainly growing a variety of greens which they sell to restaurants and markets.
And, of course, there are the plantings of 16 varieties of garlic. When Baruc was searching for a way to sell his garlic he got together with neighbors Jim Fountain and Lydia Grey. They founded the Annual Garlic and Arts Festival; it provides a market for garlic and local artists. Held in the fall, this event, billed as “the festival that stinks, is totally powered by the sun.” Last year over 12,000 people attended to enjoy the garlic, crafts, music, food, garden workshops, and each other. The Seeds of Solidarity newsletter quotes the Dalai Lama, “Too much negative emotions; more festivals, more picnics. Festivals are the answer to peace around the world.”
Baruc and Habib live off the grid. Solar panels provide the energy and radiant heat for their beautiful house built with local materials.
“There is a lot of talk about self-sufficiency, but we are all inter-dependent. We can’t do it alone. Our neighbors worked on the Garlic Festival, and we’ve come together to raise barns and do other projects,” Baruc said.
This is a message that Baruc and Habib teach others, as well as garden techniques. To this end they have set up the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, Inc., a non-profit that ”provides people of all ages with the inspiration and practical skills to grow food and use renewable energy in their communities.”
Habib sets up gardens and greenhouses at schools. On Thursday afternoons during the school year she works with students at the Seeds of Leadership (SOL) garden. During the summer students spend all day Thursday in the garden.
It is not just local children and teens who benefit; their educational efforts reach local colleges like Keene State, Antioch and the University of Massachusetts. They have built connections with organizations in New England and Costa Rica. They truly live the Center’s motto Cultivating Hope, Educating for Change.
To spread the word about no till gardening and renewable energy to the rest of us, Baruc and Habib will hold their annual Solidarity Saturday on June 13. There will be a talk and tour of the farm from 10 am to noon. After a potluck lunch, there will be workshop on their gardening techniques. The goal of these Solidarity visiting days is inspiration, hope and education.
For more information about the Farm and the Center logon to their website www.seedsofsolidarity.org.
* * * * * * * *
For those thinking about adding new plants to their gardens, mark your caledars: Bette Sokoloski’s plant swaps have begun in Whately. May 13 and 27th at 5:45. Call 665-4039 for information.
The Friends of the Greenfield Library will hold a plant sale (books, too) on Saturday May 16.
The Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club will also hold a plant sale on May 16 from 9 am till the plants are gone. It doesn’t take long.
Greenfield Garden Club holds their Extravaganza sale on May 23 from 8 am to 1 pm at Trap Plain on the corner of Silver Street.
April 25, 2009