Last Thursday evening I attended my first Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society event , Farmer’s Night Out hosted by New Earth Farm & Goods. The farm,which also is home to Keipos Inc., is located just North of the Platte River outside of Papillon, NE. Home to Jonathan and Catherine Dodd it truly is a family affair. Keipos which means “garden” in Koine Greek mission states their “hope is to see abundance flow from the heart by connecting people and communities to their place and another from the garden to the table.” Further reinforcement of this idea is seen in their great hospitality and offerings of internships and other educational opportunities. These also include many outreach opportunities for educating people in Omaha on the benefits of urban farming within the community.
The Dodd’s operate their land with many methods of permaculture; the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
We began the tour overlooking a large set of flourishing terraced planting beds reinforced with fallen lumber from the property and recycled tires for steps.
As the tour made it’s way across the front of the property Jonathan also pointed out a set of herb beds in front of the house that he had fashioned out of an old set of 4 church pews. Each part of the layout has convenience factored in as well with these herbs being nearest to the house and readily available for cooking.
Jonathan continued to explain the use of hugelkultur (raised beds) and sustainable natural irrigation, that with the gracious rains this summer, have allowed him to avoid having to install an artificial system. The front most part of the property is where they contain their CSA (community shared agriculture) plots. Although right now their membership is often as small as 12 this allows them to offer the surplus crops at the local farmer’s markets.
For all of the soil on the farm fertilizer is all natural maintaining what the call a “morganic” approach. The fertilizer is made from a fertilizer tea that is applied manually. The tea itself is created from food waste from the local craft brewery and restaurant Nebraska Brewing Co. , and a manure mixture created on site. A mixture like this, Jonathan says allows him to not have to rotate crops like more common conventional methods because it replenishes the nutrients in the soil. The next stop on the property was a grove of various trees including persimmon, which according to the USDA are excellent in aiding to prevent soil erosion. Jonathan says that he overplants these trees seasonally so he can sell them to other farmers looking to prevent and control erosion also. Elements like these reinforce the idea of “morganic” and the organic idea of giving back to the soil through cultivation. As a farmer Jonathan agrees, “the soil is my bank account.”
While making our way to the back side of the property there were many other fruit trees being grown to create eco-plots that combined with sea berry is another curious approach to soil replenishment. Sea berry is legume that when grown actually is know as a nitrogen-fixer with it’s organic matter replenishing the soil with nitrogen. These beds utilize hugelkultur (raised beds reinforced with timber) again to control irrigation.
On the back side of the farm is where the livestock reside. Pictured above Catherine explains their Heritage breed of American New Guinea Hogs. The hogs are not solely used for food production through butchering. Their hogs actually graze and forage the land aiding in brush control as well as naturally softening the soil prior to planting and seeding.
Sheep, a goat and a flock of chickens and turkeys also reside on the farm in this area. All of the coops and cover on the plot is fashioned again from recycled lumber and other refurbished materials.
Two other sustainable structures on the farm include this greenhouse as well as a straw and mortar structure that was still under construction. Jim Schalles originally from the Omaha area was hard at work and introduced us to the structure and the methods. Schalles has spent much time in Oregon studying sustainable structures and often facilitates workshops to share his knowledge.
At the completion of the tour everyone gathered to share in a bountiful meal of local produce, much of it brought from their own farm. I noticed an interesting pair of structures on the back patio while enjoying the meal. One of these I was informed was a J-tube for this.
The J-tube is usually contained in one of these, a rocket stove. This particular rocket stove is a product of a recent work shop Jim put on. He explained that it allows you to sustainably heat a space, while using minimal wood or fuel. This is accomplished through an internal chamber of J-tubes large enough to allow the gases to remain hot enough before being exhausted out the chimney.
Sustainability can take on many forms and it was a pleasure and a privilege to experience and engage with the Dodds and other members of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. Thank you again for your hospitality Jonathan and Catherine.
If you have any questions or interest in workshops or sustainable agriculture with any of the methods described please visit their pages and start a conversation. In the end it’s all about information, options, and community.
New Earth Farm & Goods :http://www.negoods.com/
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society : http://www.nebsusag.org/