Greetings from the Root Center!
2011 was an amazing year for us, from which we learned innumerable lessons and experienced just as many joyous moments. We would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts all of the forty volunteers who helped out with the project over the season, as well as all the inspired artists and dedicated organizers who came to our aid in spreading awareness and raising funds. And the roof. Of course, we are also very grateful to the National Gardening Association who made all the amazing volunteer work possible by providing our first public garden! And we are forever in gratitude to the original landowners who helped us grow our first 2,800 lbs of food last year.
We are passing the winter just as busily as the summer, it seems! Our quarterly board meeting in the Berkshires at David Allard’s dome was January 14th. We set forth many bold and exciting plans for 2012, the two biggest being getting land and building our first aquaponics dome!
After much reasoning and calculation we realized that not only is our project ripe for the next stage of our fractal evolution, but these two ambitious goals are actually eminently achievable! Building the dome out of reinforced hempcrete and ETFE plastic film means that we could build the entire superstructure for less than $5,000! There are also foundations and code requirements to consider, but even with a five foot deep footing it would cost less than $10,000. Add on our aquaponics set up (half of which is already donated) and we’re up to $15,000. Add another ten grand for buffer and we’re in the surprisingly available $25,000 grant range; there are several granting organizations in Vermont alone that make grants in that range, not to mention all the national grants. Mind, that’s more than 4,000 square feet of greenhouse, passively heated and supporting hanging fish ecologies and hydroponics!
As far as land is considered, there’s a bit more serendipity involved. We’re looking initially for 1-5 acres, and hoping to expand over the next couple years into a 10-20 acre area. There are plenty of landowners in Chittenden county who pay taxes on land they don’t use, and any one of them could easily save themselves the taxes and get a big rebate check by making a deductible donation to the Root Center! If this appeal to manifestation doesn’t work, we’re planning on getting the property listings of every town in the county and sending letters. We’re really, really serious about getting land. Contact email@example.com if you get any bright ideas!
But don’t fret! Our beloved 1100 Dorset site will be in full swing this spring (we hope you’ve seen the acoustic dome standing proud as you drive down Dorset st., David Allard was kind enough to let us keep it up all winter!) We’re scheming a subtle garden overhaul: swapping the tomatoes/amaranth/basil section with the kale section, moving the three sisters, a general old fashioned crop rotation. And there’s the soil building: winter rye tilling, potash and fish emulsion, a few more tons of compost, a few billion more mycelium spores, the usual… Some discernment is also in action when we choose which species we will be planting. Plum tomatoes, for example, did not fare well, nor did some types of kale. It’s hard to pinpoint the causes, because we certainly had our fair share of pests, washout, failed starts, bad soil, etc. but you can’t go wrong with experimental results! If anything, we will be practicing more companion planting than last year. Gotta keep our harvesters on their toes! Because although we donated an amazing 3,000 lbs of organic produce, 1,000 lbs of which went directly to Hurricane Irene relief (thanks to Black River Produce and the indefatigable writer for the Compass Jan Lambert) we’re hoping to DOUBLE that this season. While we’re on the garden subject, a new discovery...! A very rare amaranthus hypochondriacus plant yields RED SEEDS! We’ve never heard of such a thing, but reds and purples in plants are signs of flavanoids, which are crucial nutrients for people. The most nutritious grain just got better. Out of all the amaranth plants we had this year (350+) only a single one had red seeds. So grateful. We’ll plant as many as we can, and hopefully have much more of these rare red amaranth seeds next year!
Of course, there is much more to the Root Center than organic produce getting grown specifically for those most in need! If you or anyone you know would like to get us connected with other organizations (e.g. UVM plant and soil college, Gund institute, Vermont State Legislature, Todd Ecological, etc.), organize a fundraiser (thanks to all those who did so last year!), write grants, build prototypes, take on research assignments, or somehow funnel your creative energies through the Root Center, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Stay tuned to 105.9 FM LP out of Burlington or www.theradiator.org every Sunday 2-3pm for the Root Down Radio Hour for the latest in Root Center news, current events, elevating music and thought-provoking discussion. We’ll also keep you informed on our Facebook page, and keep an eye out to www.therootcenter.org for an upcoming renovation! We are (so far) entirely supported by donations from individuals, so if you’d like to help the garden grow you can donate via the paypal button on our website, or send a check to the Root Center at 525 S. Willard St. #2, Burlington, Vt 05401. Our volunteer season begins in March this year; any aspiring horticulturalists out there can lend a hand with planting the thousands of seedlings we will start in the greenhouse! For those who just love getting dirty, there’s plenty of soil prep that will get rolling up at 1100 Dorset St. early April. In either case, drop us a line at email@example.com! We’d love to hear from you!
Hopefully, Gratefully, Gracefully yours,
Left to right:
This last season was a doozy for weather across the northeast, and although the garden site was situated at the top of a hill we still got plenty of flooding! On top of that, we had to wait a month after plowing in order to let the meadow “die under,” and then till, plant and transplant. Then there was the cucumber beetle, which completely devoured our most promising seedlings (cucumbers, go figure) and spread the white mold which none of the squashes managed to outrun, no matter how long and fast they grew.
Which explains the zucchini numbers… Then there was the early blight, and the late blight, and we ended up with half of the tomatoes as bacteria fodder. And the brassica moth, with its worms. And the tomato worm. And the occasional deer or rabbit. But all in all it was an extremely fulfilling year, to bellies and hearts alike!
This year things are gonna be a smashing success, with your help! We really need volunteers that are going to be passionate about gardening, inspired to help impoverished youth get the nutrition they need, and be physically and logistically invested. We need people who can maintain! That said, we are very eager to aid the fifty or more people who expressed desire to volunteer in fulfilling their wishes! Ultimately we’re going to need six billion superheroes to save the world, and there will be plenty of opportunity to get in the dirt:
BackYard Greenhouse Construction
Seedling Tray Prep - Watering
Tilling / Soil Amendments / Compost Spreading
Direct Planting (After 5/25 Transplants)
This was the most inspired year we’ve had! Between amazing, out of the blue fundraising events and local festivals, more grassroots support and awareness than we could possibly expect, and the community outreach that brought many talents and efforts together to improve our collective reality we became stricken with awe. It’s really means a lot to us that there are so many people supporting the cause however their passions lie. That’s what we appreciate most about the Root Center: it’s the perfect venue for just about anything you love to do.
Dear bredren Nick Heilig was our coincidental cohort at most of the festivals we participated in, and has already booked us right alongside him, pop-up to pop-up at a half dozen more festivals this year! Sky lanterns are going be the next big thing. Again. This is in addition to having donated a stack of framed original prints to the cause, and in addition to being one of the hardest working artists in the land!
We’ve got to give shout outs to the following light warriors:
Dan and Matt Murphy and their band One Over Zero, as well as Ian Greenman and his Working Man’s Army for conspiring the political chi of OWS into the Conscious Thursdays event series, where we were the first grateful recipient of funds raised.
Andy Lugo, one of the fathers of the Burlington music scene and his band 2nd Agenda for never backing down and always burning the torch brighter.
Christophe Morel aka Face One who made the Seeds of Change fundraiser bloom last May. It was a one day, one building festival all for The Root Center!
Judging by the success of fundraising last year we’re going to redouble our efforts this year! We’re booked for several festivals and will need folks to help set-up and tear down the dome, as well as taking a shift or two to occupy the booth. Any of these fundraisers and events all need a certain amount of promoting, and flyering and handbilling. These are things that our small crew usually can’t find time for. Could you? As we mentioned above, we’re looking to renovate our website and make it more than just a fact bio of our organization. It’s got to be a dynamic and inspiring page that keeps pace with our development and growth. If there’s any webmasters out there that would like to lend their services and take some time to meet up and get inspired, holler at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’ve got a few spots for volunteers at each of the following area festivals :
Rhino Fest August 3-4, Liberate music and yoga fest in July, the Magnetic Gathering in October, and possibly more… Everyone keep an ear out for upcoming Root Center events this spring, sure to include fresh local music AND food.
Let’s talk domes. The acoustic dome that you see up at the NGA garden site is a far cry from the naturally inspired, high tech abundance generator that we’re currently preparing to build. Moreover, it will be mostly made of natural materials, and prevent environmental degradation in the surrounding area. And it will make food growing year round a possibility. We might even see Vermont’s first fruiting avocado tree!
Why domes are amazing?! They use 20%-30% less building materials than traditional architecture, and because of their curvaceous structure (and low surface to volume ratio) they use passive thermodynamics to regulate the internal environment. They’re also one of the strongest shapes you could build, using tensegrity (cred. Buckminster Fuller) to disperse load tension evenly across the struts. Our dome will be mostly a cementatious mix of lime, amaranth hemp, fine gravel and steel wire. The huge southern window will be covered in ETFE (Tefzel, Fclean, Neoflon, Texlon, etc.) which is strong enough to use as a trampoline, allows a broader light spectrum than glass, has 1% the weight of glass and is super cheap! When ordered bulk it costs less than seventy cents per square yard. It’s also long lasting: in weather-intensifying lab tests it withstood thirty years worth of UV, wind and rain without any appreciable decrease in performance. These considerations have been made in order to ensure that the dome kits, exported to all sorts of different climates worldwide, will be able to be produced using easily available materials. In wet climates any necessary waterproofing could be done by glazing the struts and hubs as if they were pottery.
With all of this do-it-yourself R&D going on we’re gonna need some skilled and thoughtful folks to help out. There’s at least ten casts to build from stacked plywood (if anyone wants to lend a jigsaw and their time), and all those amaranth stalks need to be pounded into fibers and pulp. Those projects will be ongoing for a few months, starting ASAP. But around mid March we’re going to be resurrecting the greenhouse we had outback of our world headquarters, and it could happen really fast and easy with a couple more hands. We’ve also got an idea to use condensation instead of pumps to get the water back to the top of the aquaponics system. It will be pretty simple, but will definitely take an artful execution. And finally, if someone is crafty with Google Sketchup and would like to offer some tutorials, computer simulations are way cheaper than redoing prototypes… Our first dome prep volunteer day will be Feb. 25th, contact email@example.com to get involved!