Hello friends, and warmest wishes for the new year! It’s been quite a year for Terra Cultura. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a short time. I’m not sure we’d believe it ourselves if it weren’t for this kind of crazy video evidence. The top footage is from just before we moved onto the land last spring, and the bottom clip shows what Terra Cultura looks like today:
We’ve been working hard to regenerate the ecosystem of this patch of earth–considering everything from water, soil, plant species, and human and animal habitats. In this video you can see the severe erosion and decline in biodiversity that was occurring due to overgrazing and neglect. The caked sand contained hardly any organic matter. Deep gullies showed where water had run down the hill eroding debris onto the road. After 8 months of hard work, our hillsides are green, erosion is controlled, and deep roots are pulling nutrients back up into the soil, with the help of lots of compost and mulch. The ramshackle rabbit hutch and tottering turkey coop you see in the video were destined for demolition until we decided to rehabilitate them and make them useful as sheds and workspace. In addition to seeing increased plant biodiversity recently, we’re also seeing more wildlife, including deer, bobcats, woodpeckers, hawks, tree frogs, great horned owls, turkeys, coyote, hummingbirds, quail, many bees and insects, jays, rabbits, a fox, and even a cougar!
Of course, we’re working to make the land more hospitable for humans as well, so that educators, students, guests, and volunteers have as comfortable an experience as possible here. Considering that we started with almost no infrastructure, we’ve come a long way. The next year will bring even more exciting infrastructure projects as we work towards increased resource conservation, energy efficiency, and the comfort of our visitors. Every project we undertake, be it infrastructure, agricultural, or educational, takes into account the impact on our community and the land. 2019 is going to be a big year for Terra Cultura, and we can’t wait to tell you more about some exciting educational programming we’ve been developing in collaboration with local organizations, educators, and diverse community leaders. We’re excited to keep working alongside you, in projects both collaborative and mutually educational, bridging agri-culture and culture.
As part of a growing movement that believes it is possible for humans and the environment to both thrive–in ways that are socially fulfilling, environmentally sustainable, and economically viable–we have our work cut out for us. The way we see it, we have no alternative but to do this work. And we’ll only succeed when we work together, sharing knowledge, resources, and support. In the past 8 months, we’ve been welcomed into a vibrant community of artists, educators, agriculturists, animal-enthusiasts, and activists. We want to express a hearty thank you to our local community, as well as our friends and family across the state and country, who have been so incredibly generous and supportive of our big daring dream. We are honored to be laboring lovingly with such fine, far-sighted people. Thank you.
Speaking of community, we get really excited when January roles around, because that means it’s EcoFarm Conference time! The EcoFarm Conference offers us a unique opportunity to learn from and network with other small-scale, ecologically-minded farmers, and we gain so much from the experience each year. The theme for this year’s 39th annual conference, “Resilience is Fertile”, resonates with us, since resilience is the cornerstone of Terra Cultura’s mission. Many believe that small-scale, ecological farms are the future of food systems. We’re excited to be a part of that, and to be working towards more just, inclusive, and empowered local communities. We’re excited to be participating in the work-trade program this year, which will allow us to attend the full conference for the first time. We can’t wait to share what we learn with you!
Finally, as we wrap up 2018, we’re working to lay a strong foundation for the year ahead. It’s the final few days of our fundraising campaign, and we’ve almost reached our goal. We’re so grateful to those of you who have donated, and volunteered, and offered us wisdom and support. If you’ve been meaning to give but haven’t quite yet, we hope you’ll go to our donation page right now and help us reach our goal. There is much work to do, and we can’t do it without you. Thank you for believing in our mission and working with us to achieve it.
This past year we (you + us) moved onto the land, we built check log terraces to hold the first quarter acre of no-till row crops, we established a pollinator garden, hedgerows, a silvopasture, and food forest, we built a temporary classroom, we rehabilitated two sheds, we improved accessibility, we dug a well, we taught workshops at community centers and community events, we helped kids from underserved communities plant their first-ever plants, we composted, mulched, and cover-cropped our hearts out, we dug many berms and swales to keep water on site and stop erosion, we put down deep roots in our soil and in our community, we diligently planted the seeds for next year’s exciting and ambitious educational programming, and we made art and music and meals and magic alongside you, our cherished friends and family. Well done. It’s a lot, and it’s only the beginning. Here’s to a bright and bountiful new year.