Greening Your Thumb: Wholistic Gardening from Seed to Table

Thanh -- December 6th, 2009

As most people have been cleaning up their gardens this fall, about 30 people have been participating in a 5-week course to learn how to create gardens and how to eat sustainably titled “Greening Your Thumb: Wholistic Gardening from Seed to Table.”  The course is being taught by Beth Schermerhorn, Adam Campbell, and Soula Pefkaros of New Community Project and meets once a week for 2-hours.

Throughout the course Beth, Adam, and Soula have led discussions and lessons about sustainable gardening, permaculture, linking social justice issues to food production (where does our food come from and what impacts does that have on the earth and other people?), and have shown examples of how large and small land areas once thought unable to grow food because it was in the dessert, on pavement in the middle of a city, etc. have been changed to producing farms and gardens. They have inspired participants like myself by sharing their own experiences working at Muddy Bikes, a New Community Project garden in Harrisonburg that also sells at the Harrisonburg Downtown Farmers Market, as well as personal experiences from their own gardens at home.

The course has also included many hands on opportunities and opportunities for participants to learn and interact  – discussing what worked and what hasn’t and to discuss why. Beth, Adam, and Soula have taught participants how to create a lasagna garden by sheet mulching, building each of the layers of the garden right in the middle of the classroom(!); how to build a palleted compost bin; how to construct a rain barrel; and how to make and use compost tea which provides natural, valuable nutrients directly to plants in liquid form. Seeds and plants have been brought in and participants have broken out into smaller groups to share and draw up garden designs/plans and discuss them.

One interesting set of statistics Beth shared with the class, and that she was kind enough to email me was this:

Hburg pop (2006) – 40,885
Rock. Co. pop – 72,564
Total: 113,449 people

John Jeavons [Director of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Farming program for Ecology Action] says that we can grow our entire diet on 3,000-5,000 sq. ft. This is given a vegetables only diet (although I would argue that you could add at least some chickens on that amount of land).  When we do the calculations including all city and county residents, this would only take 2% of the land in the county.  The other 98% of our land could be used for small-scale livestock,  major reforestation projects, local renewable energy, etc. and does not include city land, where the average lot size in the city is about 7,500 sq. ft.  Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could be completely self-sufficient if we made some changes to the way we viewed our land, income and how we currently are living as a culture. 

It is vital that we all begin to see growing all or a portion of our own food as something that we can do while still working other jobs.  A well designed garden can be maintained with a few hours of work throughout the week and a few more during the weekend.  Path to Freedom Urban Homestead in CA  produces 6000 lbs of food on a 1/10 of an acre/ year.  We live on prime growing land, there is no reason why we can’t be doing this, too!  Plus, its fun, it’s a good workout, it’s better looking (and more productive) than grass, and boy does the harvest taste better knowing that you grew it yourself!!!  Gardening is the most popular hobby in the country, just think if all of those “hobbiest” became small-scale gardeners!!!

New Community Project has not yet committed to holding the class again, but say that they are considering it due to the interest it has generated. If anyone is interested to learn more about New Community Project’s gardening projects, volunteer, or express interest in this class they should contact Beth at Bethrosmalls [at] gmail [dot] com.

Beth also has her own blog at, which she  is using to “keep track of the time that we spend in our backyard gardening, how much money we spend on it and how many pounds of food we harvest from it to see if the average home could realistically produce a large chunk of their food while having super busy lives!”

Here’s a listing of course’s major topics:

*Permaculture 101* Introduction to basic permaculture, a framework for designing your home-scale garden for sustainability and abundance.

*Soil and Water* The two critical elements for a healthy garden. We’ll learn about soil structure, health and skills for building fertile soil and harvesting water.

*Gardening* Walk away from this session with a design for your garden and a calendar for four-season growing.

*Food and Nutrition* Cooking made fun, preservation made easy. Maximizing the joy and nutrition of your abundant harvest.

*Celebrating and Extending the Table* Bring it all together! Extending the vision beyond your backyard.

3 Responses to “Greening Your Thumb: Wholistic Gardening from Seed to Table”

  1. anonymous says:

    I’ve often wondered about the possibility of converting some of the giant poultry houses into greenhouse gardens. Structures that size could produce mountains of food year round.

  2. Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard says:

    If you missed this opportunity, there are even more chances coming up to learn about sustainable patterns of growing food and landscaping.

    This Tuesday, December 8 Radical Roots Farm & Blue Ridge Permaculture Network are showing a free movie and having a discussion at Clementine about how permaculture concepts can be applied to daily living!

  3. Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard says:

    At 7 pm

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