Molly Rockamann of EarthDance and Ron Coleman of The Open Space Council announced yesterday night that the organizations had jointly purchased the 129-year-old, 14-acre historic Mueller Farm in Ferguson. They surprised a crowd of apprentices, farm graduates, CSA subscribers and supporters gathered for a field lesson in composting and a farm potluck. Cheers, claps and whistles followed the news. The sale ends four years of uncertainty for EarthDance, which had previously leased the farm year-to-year.
“The farm is a testament to the power of place in our lives, a fertile ground to sustainably grow food, farmers and community,” Rockamann says. “We grow lettuce, Swiss chard, butter beans and okra, white cobblers – that’s potatoes to you youngsters – strawberries and grapes. We grow friendships, farmers and skills. We compost, we build confidence and a sense of community. That’s what EarthDance grows here.”
The Open Space Council, a non-profit organization committed to protecting land and water resources, also works to preserve small family farms. The Council donated $50,000 towards the Mueller Farm purchase.
“In dirt we trust,” Coleman says. “A conservation easement will be placed on the farm, which is to be used for organic farming and education,” Coleman says. The easement restricts land use in perpetuity that may damage the farm.
Earlier in the day, rain threatened to move the event from the farm to a local church hall, but clearing skies prevailed. The sweet smell from scattered hay bales, the trills and caws of songbirds, the green sward of rough cut grass and the darkly brown wet earth bestowed a calm beauty to the scene.
The crowd of nearly a hundred folks, old and young, farm folk and city folk, snaked in a long line around the tables covered with lush vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meats and desserts.
Apprentices, board members and farm graduates brought real plates and silverware from home. “You learn right away to keep plates and silverware in the car when you visit the farm,” Tim LaBeaume, a farm graduate, says. At EarthDance, sustainability matters.
Buying the farm will allow EarthDance to grow food, organic farmers and advocates. They plan to build outdoor classrooms, a greenhouse, a barn and commercial kitchen for events and small livestock buildings. “The office will move to the farm, improving our efficiency. Apprentices take note; we’ll have indoor bathrooms and electricity, too.”
Farm graduate Nancy Schnell says, “Before my apprenticeship, I never knew how beautiful and miraculous a farm is. I never used to say grace before meals. Now I thank the organic farmers who preserve our health and our environment every day.”