Welcome to Laughing Dog Farm!
My wife, Divya Shinn and I, (Danny Botkin) and various seasonal interns, volunteers, neighbors and friends, run a unique and diversified homestead and organic "micro-farm" in central Franklin County, Massachusetts.
Laughing Dog Farm consists of 3+ acres of raised beds, greenhouses, inter-planted perennials, vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit and nut trees, as well as a small herd of delightful, multi-purpose, dairy goats.
Our mission here is not only to steward the land and grow the finest food in the world, all year long, for ourselves and others... But also to teach, promote and inspire wider participation in small-plot, "permaculture-inspired", food production! (...And have an abundantly good time doing it!)
Assessing the troubled state of our World a few years ago, we asked ourselves..."What could be the 'best use' of this beauteous hilltop?
...of this growing opportunity?"
- ...and of this fleeting time we've been gifted?"
- To survive global climate change by gleaning treasures from the trash and mud?
- To challenge limiting assumptions about farming and teach practical food gardening to other wannabe farmers??
- To share its precious fruits with family, friends and allies, spreading seeds of knowledge and connection from this green sanctuary in Gill???
- To cultivate family, community, healthy soil, heirloom tomatoes, baby goats and... a small measure of food literacy and PEACE along with all the good, green grub????
"Yeah, yeah... YEAH! That's it. That's it!", we thought.
Intentional Community's long History
This stunning, sunny hilltop we inhabit was once part of the "Renaissance" commune, one of the first and longest-enduring, with a dramatic and facinating history, now past. Through neither of us was directly involved with the commune, we know many people who were, and, thirty years later, still feel the ripples of the original vision and values that spawned it...
...Our own lives and work here this past seventeen years have also been informed by an ongoing quest for community and connection, as we have sought to re-create some of that legacy of cooperation, stewardship, activism and co-creative inter-dependence. That's always been the ulterior goal, the idealistic Bigger Picture, per se.
However, like everybody else, we're just practitioners, on the planet, working, growing and learning daily -- imperfectly attempting to do it better each time.
A Return to Farming
In 2000, inspired partly by the potential, Y2K "Millenium Glitch", I left a 20+ year career in teaching, counseling and human service to dedicate myself full-time to micro-intensive food farming with a "permacultural" bent. Our pragmatic goal was to produce ongoing, abundant harvests of diversified, high quality, nutrient-dense food, around the calendar, using organic, soil-enhancing methods, on marginal acreage... all by hand.
Food as Curriculum
But we also looked at the rapidly changing world, with epic sized challenges as diverse as Peak Oil, cancer, and Climate Chaos, and saw the ubiquitous need for greater knowledge and literacy of food, plants, farming and other basic, food-related subjects... We realized that these are key competencies to be taught and promoted in this age of global connectivity and instability.
We soon realized that the traditional food and farming skills we've been learning and practicing at LDF are perhaps even more valuable than the fresh, organic bounty we harvest. And we understood that the inspired interns, apprentices and assorted WWOOFers we've mentored are actually "highest value crop" of all!
And so we continue to explore new ways to teach food literacy and to inspire others to grow food in non-traditional spaces. Interestingly, we've found that skills, seeds, space and time aren't the only obstacles to more folks growing their own backyard sustenance. The most insidious are the mental barriers that stand in the way of more proactive home food production.
For 15 years now we've had a series of wonderful, seasonal interns ("WWOOFers") who come to live and volunteer on our farm in exchange for food, fellowship and learning. These mentoring relationships at Laughing Dog have been precious and enormously rewarding for everyone. We continue to take on mentoring relationships with serious, but less experienced growers. Please inquire.
Laughing Dog Farm was organized for ten years around a small Community Supported Agriculture project, which was a group of lucky folks who signed up and paid in advance for a weekly delivery of excellent produce, from May to October. The CSA provided the farm with some income and an important, community focus. CSA's work best when there is a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship between farmer and a vital community of consumers. In 2014 we took a hiatus from the CSA, but missed it greatly. We are currently exploring the options of CSA or a similar food sharing pod, for 2015, as well as barter and direct sale to local consumers who "get" our missionary bent. Growing the amazing food is rarely a problem, at Laughing Dog Farm. Even if we suffer a crop failure, we usually have a huge and diverse bounty, nonetheless. We're now seeking a core group of hungry and committed foodies willing to tweak the delivery mechanism, in order to help the amazing, Laughing Dog produce see the light of day, doing the most good, in service to the cause... Please inquire if you'd like to receive produce from us, on any scale...
Kickstarting Backyard Permaculture Gardens Everywhere
We see part of our mission at LDF is to offer ideas, motivation, and consultation to beginning farmers and backyard permaculturists who are serious about growing substantive food, organically, by hand, on marginal or non-existent acreage. Daniel is available to teach a variety of practical skills related to organic gardening, animal husbandry, cooking and food processing, as well as selecting and saving heirloom and other open pollinated seeds. Contact us to schedule a lecture, workshop or farm tour...
Also, if you, like us, see the wisdom of local, sustainable, grassroots, permaculture-inspired food production -- and just need a bit of support and/or inspiration getting started, check out some of these videos:
hoophouse building: http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_
goat husbandry: http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_7768_raising-dairy-goats.html
Laughing Dog Farm is still seeking one or more serious, long-term comrades / housemates / farm partners to share our home, land and vision into the future. We're especially interested in individuals, couples or a small family who share similar values and our intentional farming bent. Though sobered by the challenges of cooperative living and cooperative ownership, we remain clear and committed on this path... Please inquire!
Laughing Dog Farming Methods:
We raise all our crops by hand on less than three acres, using traditional, "bio-intensive" methods, raised beds, permanent trellises, low hoops, cold frames, extensive inter-cropping and a steady supply of rich, goat manure compost. Healthy soil translates into healthy plants which thrive with less pests and disease pressure. We use no chemical inputs, GMO seeds or poisons, whatsoever -- and produce an extended season of diverse, high quality and delicious produce. Aside from feeding our friends and family, we also feed ourselves year round on these precious harvests. Nobody loves fresh, gourmet produce like we do!
On Varieties and other Perks:
Our farm specialties are many, although we're very partial to exquisite lettuce mixes, salad and cooking greens, multicolored and uniquely flavored, heirloom tomatoes, pungent garlic and leeks, rich, buttery, ultra-healthy collards and other leafy brassicas, old fashioned beets, various humble storage roots, rare pole beans, heirloom melons and diversely colored flowers. We use early and late (Eliot Coleman-inspired) season extension techniques to offer longer harvest periods of many popular crops. We also grow spring vegetable and flower starts, cut flowers and herbs. Our dried heirloom tomatoes and other fruits are legendary.
What We Plant:
Veggies: Mesclun, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, chard, Asian greens, asparagus, collards, beets (seven varieties), carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, basil, dill, thyme, cabbage, parsnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, squash (winter and summer, multiple varieties), pole beans, bush beans, edamame soybeans, spuds, (multiple varieties) peppers, sweet and hot, tomatillos, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, watermelons, muskmelons and cantaloupes.
Flowers: Sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums, calendulas, calla lilies, ornamental beans, amaranth, echinacea, bee balm, asters... and many, many other common and culinary and medicinal herbs and plants...
For The Future: We also have 3-9 year old plantings (originally Y2K inspired...) of fruit trees, raspberries, chestnuts, gingko, peaches, pears, kiwis, cherries, plums and Asian pears which have now begun to yield. (I always wanted to live somewhere long enough to plant fruit trees.)
What gorgeous lettuces! My mom came by and it felt great to have this sumptuous stuff to share with her. She took a sample of lettuces she'd never seen before home with her. (We grew up on Iceberg and Romaine.) The abundance of flowers has also lifted our spirits no end. Muchisimas gracias, amigo! ~ C.S.
Thanks for your garden inspiration and the beautiful food, it has brightened the end of summer, early fall for me. ~ D.S.
Ihave loved both your weekly emails and the weekly offering of bounty. Your enthusiasm about sharing what you do makes greeting you each week a pleasure. ~ R.R.
I have loved all of the bounty of the farm, both human and ingestible. ...thanks to all for making this venture happen... thanks for the tutorial on heirloom tomatoes...we have all become fans here... they're the most flavorful tomatoes I've ever had. ~ J.M.
It has been an absolute treat and a pleasure eating your homegrown food this summer. The veggies have been wonderful... fresh and delicious…the way food should be, of course. Thank you, thank you for all the love your pour into it. ~ L.G.
Your Friday morning visits with abundance and glorious foods cheered me, filled me without even a bite... Thank you again and again. It was a great gift you bestowed upon my family, my friends. ~ A.M.
Laughing Dog Farm, like each of us, is a work in progress. Here's hoping that you can share with us in the next chapter of this deliciously vital, growing adventure. Your participation and input is highly valued. Join with us in whatever way you can.
Daniel "Dog" Botkin and family