Starting a Farm from Scratch: Part 1
by Chris Grataski
In the spring of 2017, we took our first steps toward developing a diversified homestead and research farm on the Roots campus. In the coming years, this will evolve into a small-scale farm that’ll specialize in agroforestry, medicinal plants, and regionally adapted seed.
With a commitment to building integrated agro-ecosystems, we began our first year by working with livestock to build fertility and enhance the biological diversity on site. In addition to the transformative impact on the land, this decision to start by raising sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry also brings us closer to our goal of developing a lively and resilient homestead that meets the needs of our family, friends, and those who come to learn here at Roots.
While our current focus is on raising pastured meats and eggs, nutrient dense vegetables, and a few medicinal plants, everything we’re doing is oriented toward our passion for tree crops, locally adapted seed, and grassroots herbalism. In the next few years we’ll be focusing on plant propagation, designing silvopasture systems, orchards and forest gardens, and on developing a small-scale seed operation that’ll serve the Upper Valley of Vermont and the rest of New England.
Chris Grataski is a farmer, herbalist, and design professional working at the confluence of regenerative food systems and wilderness management. His work in ecological design is focused on holistic land-planning and agroecology, with special attention to bioregional food systems, wildlife ecology, and cultural renewal. As an educator he has taught across North America on the intersection of social and ecological issues, urging a re-engagement with traditional skills and ecological design as intgral components of a renewed social imagination. At Roots he teaches courses in permaculture design, homesteading and applied ecology.
Melissa Grataski has been gardening since she was 7 years old. She is an herbalist, farmer, and birth assistant, and has been involved in permaculture related projects for the last nine years. She completed a 3-year program in clinical herbalism under Kathleen Maier in 2015 and is currently taking steps toward developing her new practice in Vermont.
Willem is 5 years old, and is our chicken-catcher-in-chief. He enjoys playing in mud, sledding, and digging up garden plants prematurely when nobody is watching.