Earth-Dance Farms Plants the Way for Future Farmers

Reader Contribution by Crystal Stevens and La Vista Csa Farm

A catalyst for positive environmental, social, and economic change in the community, EarthDance Farms is an epi-center for ecological farming, gardening, ecological awareness, soil health and living an eco-lifestyle in the mid-western United States.

Photo by Monica Pless

Founder Molly Rockamann has had a long affinity with the land after visiting the farm at age 15 with her father to meet the original farmers, Al and Caroline Mueller. Rockamann fell in love with sustainable farming and preserving wild spaces after spending time abroad working with farmers in the Fiji Islands, Ghana and Thailand. In 2005, she had an apprenticeship at the U-Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Upon her return to her hometown of St. Louis Missouri, Rockamann founded EarthDance as a way of continuing the Mueller’s legacy and preserving the heritage of the land. They received 501c3 status with the help from The Open Space Council as their fiscal sponsor. Since 2009, EarthDance has operated an extensive training program for beginning farmers.

Photo by Monica Pless

Their mission is “to grow food, farmers, and community, one small farm at a time, through hands-on education and delicious experiences.” Their vision: “Organic farmers feeding the world. Communities caring for the land. Farms inspiring creativity.”

They certainly prove their values in the community as they provide access to fresh food and education to the surrounding neighborhood. EarthDance is in the heart of Ferguson, MO and has remained a space of diversity, inclusion and communication. Through the Practicing Peace Initiative“EarthDance is working to highlight the many ways in which food justice can translate into holistic peace-building and wider social justice movements. Programs include free Yoga Classes, Nonviolent Communication Trainings and Stress & Trauma Relief Workshops”.

This year, with permaculture at the heart of their new endeavor, EarthDance is transitioning to a permanent bed system. They are scaling down from 4 acres to 1 acre using intensive no-till management practices. According to Farm Manager Mateo Lebon, “Permanent beds will change our production practices significantly. Rather than tilling the soil after each round of crops, our permanent beds and their adjacent pathways will remain in the exact same spot. We are very excited about this change because there are so many benefits to shifting to a permanent bed system.  The benefits are:

1. Reduced compaction. With permanent beds we can remove the heavy tractor from our growing fields and thus lower compaction on the land
2. Lower weed pressure. By maintaining the same beds each year, we reduce our need to turn over the soil. The less we disturb the soil, the less weed pressure we should have as the years pass.
3. Better soil health. Allowing the soil ecosystem of worms, mycelium, and diverse bacteria to build structure with minimal disturbance = happy soil = happy plants!

It will be a steep learning curve as we adjust to this new system but we are really excited about the potential for positive change. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year on how things are turning out with our new crop mix and permanent beds.”

Photo by Monica Pless

EarthDance Farms is an amazing example of permaculture in action. According to Lebon, “Their farm site is a 6-acre site with 7,980 square feet of high tunnels, a 30-by-96 greenhouse, farmhouse office, a 36-by-40 harvest house, a 200-tree mixed perennial orchard planted on berms and swales with annual crops alley cropped between, along with pastured poultry, mushrooms, herbs, cut flowers, a small pasture, prairie, and mixed woodlot.”

This is such an exciting time to be a part of the good foods movement. There is a network of growers from around the world who are connecting via social media to provide a sounding board, a support system, a wealth of resource, all with the common ground of caring where food comes from and how it is grown. Now, more than ever, this network is growing as the need and desire for local fresh food is getting stronger.

This generation of eco-growers holds reverence for the father of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, as well as all of the permaculture educators that are making great ripples of change within their own communities. The presence of permaculture is becoming more and more prevalent in communities around the world as we have seen an influx in community gardens, farmers markets, food forests, urban farms, rooftop farms, and CSA farms painted throughout the landscape of cities and tucked away in the terrain of rural areas. Permaculture Magazine is a wonderful resource for stories of real change.

We rely on innovative farming practices being spearheaded by Rodale Institute and are continually being inspired by some of the legends in gardening such as Eliot Coleman, Will Allen Vandana Shiva, Winona LaDuke, John Jeavons, Joel Salatin and Louise Riotte. Mother Earth News is the mother-ship for all things sustainable and continues to provide endless resources for those who seek out wiser living.

Young farmers now have a network of support thanks to The National Young Farmers Coalition. At the forefront of the young farmer’s ecological farming movement are authors and farmers Jean-Martin Fortier and Curtis Stone.

Crystal Stevensis the author ofGrow Create Inspire(published by New Society Publishers). She is a an eco-farmer, educator, permaculture enthusiast and artist along the Mighty Mississippi River near St. Louis Missouri. Follow Crystals adventures atGrow Create Inspireand follow her on Instagram@growcreateinspire. Read all of Crystal’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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