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CENTRAL CONNECTICUT RIVER VALLEY INSTITUTE, INC. 7 School Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370 (413) 625-2525 Fax: (413) 625-8485 Federal Tax Identification Number: 04-3529309

will@ccrvi.org

Community Food for Shelburne Falls and Beyond: The Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan and The Perennial Food Project We humans live as part of the natural world, one member of a community much larger than our species alone. The natural world feeds and sustains us, and our actions affect all other members of our community: we are all in this together. Yet, most of us do not experience these realities either practically or existentially with any frequency, if at all. One of the larger goals of the Central Connecticut River Valley Institute (“CCRVI”), of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, is to foster the emergence of a culture which encourages and supports us to experience ourselves in these ways, to know ourselves as “native” to the places where we live. These positive principles and goals dovetail in our times with concerns about the security and sustainability of our food supply systems. Large-scale, long term, interconnected challenges such as global climate change, peak oil, rising food and energy prices, the far-flung industrial food system, declining food quality and safety, and the concentration of food production in the hands of a few corporate agribusinesses leave small towns like Shelburne Falls vulnerable. Thus, developing locally-owned, locally-controlled food systems for ourselves can simultaneously realize CCRVI’s goal to reconnect us to the natural world and each other. Therefore, CCRVI has initiated its Community Food program. Community Food initially encompasses two interrelated projects that build upon and support each other as a whole system and that will also serve as pilot projects and models for larger-scale implementation beyond the Village of Shelburne Falls: the Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan and the Perennial 1


Food Project. The first project will be undertaken in collaboration with the Conway School of Landscape Design and other local educational institutions. The latter will be primarily initiated and run by The Apios Institute, a subsidiary of CCRVI, which researches and educates the public about perennial food gardening. The Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan The Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan aims to: (1) estimate and characterize the minimum food requirements for the Village of Shelburne Falls, and; (2) provide at least one viable vision for how the Village can meet its food needs locally. What do we eat through out the year? What food production strategies and crops hold the most viability within the Village’s specific site conditions and social context? What would a realistic maximum food production scenario look like on household and neighborhood scales? What implications would this scenario have for the Village and the farms in the region? What directions can and should the community take to feed ourselves successfully and happily? We envision this project as a multi-year effort that will break the overall goals down into manageable objectives that build toward a comprehensive understanding of Shelburne Falls’ food shed situation and reasonable response to it. This approach will offer time to develop community interaction, discussion, and support, and therefore build public engagement that we hope will ultimately lead to concrete actions being undertaken by community members in response to and as part of the project. Project Overview • Estimate the current and future annual food needs of the Village and characterize the current “food shed” of the Village, that is: - What do we eat and when? - What are our basic food requirements and is everyone meeting their basic food needs? - Where does our food come from now, at what financial and ecological 2


costs? - What local food supply sources exist, and what financial and ecological costs do they entail? - What food growing and preservation skills do Village residents possess, and which are residents currently using? CCRVI anticipates that these questions will be answered through some combination of research using demographic and nutritional data, public records, public meetings, and resident surveys and interviews. Initial efforts will focus on publicly available data, with later work taking that information deeper with surveys of actual food habits of community residents. • Evaluate the potential for meeting the Village’s food needs within the Village itself by assessing the quality, character, and potential of the village landscape and soils for food production. This will initially involve assessing the development patterns and land use history of the village to evaluate the implications of these patterns for crop selection, food production methods, potential yields, and the social forms appropriate to the different social habitats. It will eventually include implementing a soil lead sampling program to assess soil lead levels on a village-wide basis, as well as characterizing the different site conditions found within the village and the potential crops suited to those conditions. • Assess the community’s social and cultural conditions relative to the residents’ willingness, interest, skills, and time available to undertake homebased agriculture, participate in local food systems, and so on. This may include evaluation of ordinances and zoning regulations that relate to food production, skills assessments, and the envisioning of methods for tapping the community’s social resources and filling its skills gaps, and perhaps some oral history work with local elders who lived through the Great Depression. • Develop scenarios for meeting as much of the Village’s food needs as possible within the Village by developing schematic designs for one or more neighborhoods of Shelburne Falls as food-producing urban landscapes. Each scenario will develop food budgets for the neighborhoods designed and describe the implications of the neighborhood scenario for the Village as a 3


whole and for the Village’s need for food from surrounding farms and farms within and outside the region. • Evaluate the farming community in the region immediately adjacent to Shelburne Falls in terms of their current and potential crop types, production levels, economic viability, and connection to the Village. • Build community involvement and interest in the project through public meetings and discussion, and by using existing community organizations to gain awareness and acceptance of this work. • Lay the groundwork for the future expansion of the Project to cover all of Western Franklin County and eventually spiraling out into all of Western Massachusetts, the rest of the Connecticut River Valley, and the rest of New England. Preliminary Strategy and Budget • We intend to begin this project with a 12 week project by Conway School of Landscape Design students in January through March 2009. This team will begin by gathering publicly available data on food needs, assessing village development patterns and their implications, community meetings, neighborhood redesign visioning, and assessing of zoning and other local ordinances. Later teams will refine and deepen this first iteration of work with more specific data from the village itself. • Estimated costs for this first piece of work follow: Conway School of Landscape Design team: Project liaison, support, supervision Total Estimated Costs Funds raised to date Total Remaining to Raise

$6,000 $500 $6,500 -$3,000 $3,500

• The Conway School has access to a matching grant to help cover their costs if we can find donors to provide matching funds. This matching fund has $1,350 remaining in it at this time. 4


The Perennial Food Project When most people think about growing food, annual crops come to mind, that is, crops that grow for one season, go to seed and die or are harvested and must be planted from seed the next year. This style of production has dominated world agriculture for millennia, and, though it does currently feed most of the world, it represents a high-maintenance, high-energy-input approach that destroys soil and ecosystem health. The use of perennial crops, those that live three or more years without replanting, is older than annual agriculture, and has great potential as an adjunct to annual agriculture. Perennial crop systems can produce plenty of food at lower energetic and labor cost while rebuilding soil and ecosystem health. One of the keys to such systems is the art of creating “polycultures” - patches of ground with more than one species growing in them at a time. While perennial crops and polycultures have received little research attention or development, and are therefore most appropriate for home-scale gardens at the moment, a number of perennial crops worthy of propagation and active research exist. The Perennial Food Project will propagate and research the culture of perennial food crops at a home-scale level in a semi-urban village context. Here we mean the phrase “the culture of perennial food crops” in its broadest sense. This project will investigate, develop, and spread the horticultural knowledge and practices required to grow perennial vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, small fruits, tree fruits, and nuts as integrated ecosystems in a village setting. We will also mentor participant families in the harvest, cooking, and enjoyment of the perennial crops they learn to grow, to support a shift of the families’ cultures towards ways of life that include perennial food production. We have partly modeled this multi-year project on the highly successful Heifer Project, where participants receive animals from the Heifer Project and then give the animals’ offspring to others in their community and train them in their care. In this case, however, the participants will share perennial food plants and mentor others in their culture and use. In this way, the project will propagate not only the plants, but the human culture that goes with them, into and around the village, and then out of the village into surrounding burgs. 5


We see this project as the initiation of, and pilot for, a much larger-scale and longer-term project intended to research, demonstrate, educate people about, and propagate regenerative perennial agriculture in temperate climates across the United States and the world. By starting in a small town like Shelburne Falls, we hope to work out bugs in our systems and crystallize the strategies and methods needed to turn this kind of program into a more robust national and even worldwide program that operates along similar lines, but will involve at-risk youth and low-income families in challenging urban environments that desperately need better nutrition, skills, jobs, community, and greater understanding of and connection to healthy ecosystems. Project Overview • Develop one or more standardized perennial polyculture designs for different kinds of gardens that can function as replicate trials of species, varieties, and polycultures during the project. We will begin with a focus on herbaceous perennials (that is, non-woody plants that die back to the ground each year) and then add woody crops (that is, shrubs and trees) as the program develops. • Select participating households. Begin with ten households the first year, and double each year thereafter as participants become trainers and mentors for others and have plants to share. Select households based on demonstrated level of commitment, interest, and persistence; openness to new food experiences; ability to cover a portion of the initial cost of the gardens (though we intend to provide subsidies); desire and ability to work cooperatively; their social skills and attitudes; and their potential as future trainers and mentors. • Evaluate participants’ properties for lead and other factors, and select garden sites. We believe that garden site selection is a critical part of the project’s success, and plan to locate garden beds “in sight, in mind” as much as possible given neighborhood, site, family, and cultural constraints. Each site will receive one or two perennial polyculture beds as part of the program, but we will endeavor to integrate these beds into the participants’ landscapes 6


so that they do not seem to be a separate element visually or practically. The more integrated they feel aesthetically, the more they will integrate into the culture of each household. • Train participants to install the gardens and facilitate a cooperative “worknet” where each household helps each other household to install their perennial beds. This reduces installation costs and helps build community among participants, which we also believe will help the gardens to succeed socially and functionally. Two Worknet Leaders would guide families through the process of installing the low income families’ gardens and support the development of participants in the group to carry the worknets on beyond the initial two days of organized support. • Mentor participants in garden and plant culture as well as the food culture of the crops over a period of two or three years through a series of mentoring visits that start with a higher frequency and gradually decrease over time. • Mentor visits will also double as research data collection opportunities that monitor plant and the polyculture designs’ performance over a period of three to four years. We will use this data to refine our standardized designs over time. Research attention will also examine the human cultural side of the gardens, particular designs, and crops, such as flavor ratings and acceptance of new crops, attitude shifts and involvement in the gardens, management and maintenance challenges and dynamics, and so on. This data will also flow into perennial garden design refinements over time. • As households and gardens mature, use them as propagation centers for both the plants and the culture by spreading plant divisions to new participants in the project and selecting among previous participants to find new mentors and trainers to expand the project. Also work with local farmers to grow perennial plants as nursery crops for our standardized designs. • Feed data and experience back into the program to refine species selections and polyculture bed designs, and to develop mentoring and training methods that are increasingly effective. 7


• In subsequent years, multiply first the number of participants in the project within Shelburne Falls, and then add communities, as plants, mentors, and funds become available: diversify the perennial bed designs, adding woody crops; spread the program to other communities; begin working with at-risk youth to help run the program; train mentors and participants in plant breeding and selection; involve professional researchers in experiments using the gardens that result; develop educational programs and tours using the demonstration gardens the project has created; publish results of and studies from the work. First Year Budget Estimate • Participants in the program will pay nominal fees to increase their commitment to the workshop and worknet series. We plan to assist five low income families with subsidies that will cover costs for plants, soil amendments, and soil testing for their sites, while additional participants will cover these costs themselves. Fundraising will therefore primarily cover salaries and expenses for running the program, with some money to subsidize plants, testing, and amendments for the five low-income families. Project Coordinator: $2,500.00 Workshop Instructors (3 days): 3,000.00 Worknet Leaders ( 2 people, 2 days ea.): 2,000.00 Mentor/Monitor (7 visits/site, 4 meetings): 5,000.00 Employee costs (workman’s comp, etc.): 1,250.00 Mileage for Apios staff: 750.00 Plants ($150 ea for 5 low inc families): 750.00 Soil Testing ($100 ea for 5 low inc sites): 500.00 Soil Amendments ($50 x 5 low inc sites) 250.00 Teaching Materials: 300.00 Insurance: . 500.00 Total $16,800.00

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Summary The Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan and the Perennial Food Project both stand on their own as innovative, forward-thinking projects that will benefit the village of Shelburne Falls. However, taken together, they will help create an interacting and self-reinforcing system that will help transform the village’s food systems. They can, and will, also expand and extend from this small burg to other places large and small, aiding the transition to a culture based more solidly in place, more stable, resilient, and healthier, while also less dependent on far flung industrial systems that damage the planet. Please support these projects with your tax-deductible contributions of money or material support, or by sharing this document with friends, family, and associates who may be able to offer their support to this good work. Donations in any amount may be sent to Central Connecticut River Valley Institute, Inc., 7 School Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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COMMUNITY FOOD GOALS AND PRINCIPLES The Goals of Community Food are: 1. To help participants develop a deeper sense of being “native” to this place by engaging them in an on-going process which reveals the interconnections between humans and the part of the Earth they live within. 2. To promote the availability of more high-quality, locally-grown food for our community by empowering people to grow some or all of their own food in their own yards using traditional gardening methods as well as perennial gardening - a method which ultimately requires less time and effort than traditional gardening. 3. To encourage and strengthen bonds between people in their neighborhoods and community by creating mutually beneficial activities, information, and food which can be shared with others. 4. To develop effective Community Food systems and materials in the Shelburne Falls pilot project which then can be taken out to other communities, towns, and cities. CCRVI’s and Community Food’s Underlying Principles are: 1. We want to learn to become “native” to our “place” and to promote the emergence of a culture which encourages and supports people to experience themselves as “native” to their places. [Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place (see the detailed bibliographic information below), the entire book generally and Chapter 5 in particular] This means: a. we seek to create “coherent communit[ies] embedded in the ecological realities of [their] surrounding landscape” so that it is obvious that the community includes both the landscape and the people; [Becoming Native to This Place, page 3]

b. we seek to engage in an on-going “conversation” with the landscape 10


and each other to discover what truly works for the good of the whole over the long run; [Becoming Native to This Place, page 40, we’ve paraphrased the quote from Wendell Berry, and generally Chapter 4]

c. we value technology and science and believe they should be subordinate to the human principles of connection, meaning, wholeness, health, soul, spirit, and consciousness; [Becoming Native to This Place, page 39, we’ve paraphrased]

d. we start with creating highly-effective local food systems as the platform upon which our community is built; [Becoming Native to This Place, generally Chapter 3]

e. we believe that using less energy and resources will help us develop a deeper sense of “nativeness” and we seek to discover a way “to earn our living and amuse ourselves with the least expense to our life support system”; [Becoming Native to This Place, page 5]

f. we believe that all parts of the Universe are alive, conscious, and responsive and that we can learn to interact at deep levels with each part; [Becoming Native to This Place, generally Chapter 3]

g. we believe that human-scale activities provide us with the best chance of becoming and staying “native;” [Becoming Native to This Place, pages 2-3] and h. we believe that there is much to be learned from mimicking the success of the natural world and the wisdom and practices of those who have lived more closely with the natural world. [Becoming Native to This Place, generally Chapter 3]

2. We accept that we are profoundly ignorant of how to reclaim a deep awareness of our interconnectedness with our landscape so we start with small projects, develop redundant systems, and are always ready to reevaluate, tweak, back out, and/or start over as necessary. [Becoming Native to This Place, we’ve paraphrased page 24]

3. We seek to live our lives on contemporary sunlight instead of ancient sunlight.[Becoming Native to This Place, generally Chapter 1] 11


4. We value each person in our community because we know that we are all part of a greater whole and thus inextricably connected. Note: We honor the wisdom of Wes Jackson, of The Land Institute, Salina, Kansas, as contained in his book, Becoming Native to This Place, (Counterpoint, Washington, D.C., 1994, 1996) which expressed so eloquently the principles that have been evolving inside us for many years. The words we’ve used above to describe our principles are mostly Wes’. As indicated above, some are direct quotes and others we’ve tweaked, summarized, paraphrased, and otherwise extracted into their present form.

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Communit Food Plan  

Community Food Plan

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