Power from the Bottom Up in Bloomington: Grown in Town Farmstead, Community Orchard, Lotus Arts in the Park

I sit here, stomach roiling from the latest death-and-destruction drama via, most likely, at least two mind-controlled, manchurian candidate “lone shooters” at a Las Vegas Harvest Festival, “harvesting” blood and bodies (59 so far, 558 wounded), to induce fear, panic, confusion, chaos, gun control, and of course, the requisite link to ISIS (no, not the goddess (remember Her?); rather, the CIA created “terrorist” group) — all  to spread more fear, panic, confusion, chaos, gun control, and, in the end, “they” hope, sheepish obedience to a clanking, militarized, centralized police state that, in the end, makes sure that only the government has the guns! Do we want that? Think, people, think.

I do not own a gun. Instead of participating in gun culture, trying to hold on to what is “mine” and stave everybody else off from taking it, what we are doing here in the Green Acres Village is inculcating a culture of beauty and connectivity with each other and the Earth Mother. Ours is one tiny example amidst many tiny, potent islands of sanity and cooperation that are rooting in, deep and without notice, immune to the violence addicted MSM. Knowing the utter necessity of our common calling during the current killing time, we continue, no matter what happens around us; we show another way, we shine the light of contrast between the senseless ugliness promoted by media and the authentic common-sense (sensing in common) of community and communion.

Over the past three days, I happened to visit three different locations here in Bloomington, all of which are cultivating the same kind of sanity and civility as we do here in our village. They vary in their cultural reach: from the Grown in Town Farmstead of permaculturist John Galuska— one individual grounding, growing, and sharing his vision; to the Bloomington Community Orchard — a cooperative venture between a dedicated community group and the City of Bloomington; to the Lotus Festival, in this case, the free Saturday afternoon concert at the 3rd Street Park. By far Bloomington’s most famous annual festival, Lotus reaches out to the whole world by drawing in musicians from various nationalities and tribes for a four day and night multicultural extravaganza with hundreds of volunteers and as many as ten performances going on at once downtown in large tents and churches.

In each case, what I am featuring is rooted here, in this locality, as one example of powering up from the bottom. I’m sure that one can find the same kind of grounded reach in most other localities, should you choose to focus there. The solution to the centralized one world government called “globalism” is universal, interconnected, decentralized hubs of aliveness. Everywhere, locaties celebrating what they know best, themselves and their connection to each other and the land beneath their feet.

Grown in Town Farmstead

John Galuska has cut himself a big job — permaculturing a full acre homestead — all by himself. (In contrast, we have .6 of an acre here in the GAV, and three houses take up about 1/3 of that space; plus, we do it with nine people all helping out). Of course John needs woofers, and interns, and he knows it. And is now seeking help from IU interns on how to get that help! YES!

Meanwhile, he decided to host four free workshops, all with the aim of both educating people as to the benefits of growing food in town as well as networking those who already do so into a more cohesive network that can, among other things, provide mutual aid when necessary and negotiate with the city for needed changes in antiquated laws.

I attended the second workshop, having been at our CE-5 group meeting during the first. I plan to attend the final two as well.

Here are a few photos I took from that event two days ago: Of both his farmstead, which he has been working on since 2007, plus John himself —

— and the group that met for the workshop.

We enter the Farmstead,

and immediately notice the beautiful hoop house on the right. His second, John says. The first, which we could see, a bedraggled one, kept losing its plastic in the wind. But he learned, from that experience, how to anchor it down! And this new hoop house is tight. Notice the crutches that help hold up the roof! “Yep. That’s permaculture,” John says. “Use what’s at hand.”

John has plants I’ve never actually seen, like this pomegranate bush which, he says, will bear fruit after the new shoots have overwintered one year. John obtained his two pomegranate bushes from Darren and Esprit, who run a permaculture farm near Paoli, Indiana. Darren gets big pomegranates from his bushes.

And like this citrus, a Japanese lemon of some kind, which, when you look up close, has wonderful spines.

Then there’s the back 1/2 acre, still in the rough. Part of it will become a pond. Not sure about the rest. Getting a full acre permaculture urban farm going is a lot of work!

Bloomington Community Orchard

From its “About” page:

As one of the only projects of its kind in the nation, the Bloomington Community Orchard is on the forefront of sustainable living and community building. Incredible, dedicated volunteers have worked thousands of hours to carry the Orchard from its first community meeting in February 2010, through two major grants and two community-wide planting days, and onward to harvesting and maintaining a place they love. Thanks to hundreds of community members who voted in the Communities Take Root contest, representatives from Edy’s and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation came to town to provide the trees and instruction for our first planting.

The Orchard contributes to Bloomington’s food security, inspires joyful community engagement, and educates citizens while making sustainability delicious. The Orchard is a nonprofit organization that operates in partnership with the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. A volunteer Board of Directors approves major Orchard decisions. Volunteers have organized into teams and committees, and each has a board member as the team or committee leader.

I remember the day when Amy Countryman, the founder of the Community Orchard, defended her Master’s Degree with a power point presentation on the topic of Community Orchards. I was there with my son Colin at SPEA to cheer her on. When she finished her entirely theoretical exercise, Lee Huss, Bloomington’s Urban Forester who was present, said, “Well, why don’t we start one?” Can you imagine how that remark, from a city official, must have impacted Amy? What? Really?

That was when, 2009? Early evening Sunday, I visited the Community Orchard that Lee and Amy started on my way home from John Galuska’s Farmstead, since it is only a few miles away. Here are a few photos:

Love their funky, homemade gate! In fact, it inspires us to construct a new one for the Green Acres Urban Farm next spring.

Unlike what we are doing here, The Orchard started out as a non-profit, with a Board, and a design for what they wanted to do. In contrast, we have been inching our way along for just about as long, using an organic process, learning through trial and error what kind of design the land and people actually want. This has taken awhile. And now, after all these years, we’re finally getting around to the business of creating a non-profit, thanks to our SPEA student Payton, who is working with us on the project as her practicum for a course she’s taking this semester. So far, it looks like we will become a Community Land Trust, which is one type of non-profit.

Here’s the Orchard’s original design.

And here are a few shots of the orchard as it has grown.

The entrance:

Fruit trees grown into an espalier design along a frame.

The Orchard is a welcoming and contemplative public space, a commons carved out with the vision and sweat of a dedicated Board and a revolving band of volunteers. Featuring falling fruit, lots of events add interest and education. Here’s one event I plan to attend.

An added bonus: the Orchard is located next to the Willie Streeter Community Garden.

Lotus in the Park

Son Colin and puppy Shadow sat with me on a hillside in the shade during the first part of this Saturday’s four-hour Lotus in the Park concert.

I especially enjoyed Alash, in a big tent erected just north of the hill in the park.  Tuvan “throat singing,” from the Republic of Tuva in southern Siberia, took me right back to my own travels in southern Siberia just a few months ago. Sorry, no pics from me. But here’s a sample of their singing/playing:

So there you have it. Three local initiatives featuring bottom up power — to the people, for the people, and from the people, starting with one individual’s dedication to Urban Farming and its benefits, widening to an alliance between a local group and the city gov that benefits the community as a whole, and on out to the huge regional and global reach of Bloomington’s very own international Lotus Festival featuring music from all over the world.



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