“We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world, and train all our young people to help. They want to; we need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience." - Bill Mollison
On a cloudy, rainy morning in early August last year, I was staring at a 7-yard pile of crushed stone and a mound of cardboard that were the foundation of the sheet mulching workshop Root to Rise was leading that morning at Reklis Brewing Company. The volunteers gathered in a circle, adorned in garden gloves and hats to block the rain, more than the sun. As I prepared to go over the logistics of the morning permablitz workshop, a large white van with the Boys & Girls Club of the North Country (BGCNC) logo on the side drove up and a whole gaggle of kids climbed out and ran over to where we were gathering. We opened by stating our name and the one place in nature we enjoy the most. The volunteers began, then the kids shared, giggling and shuffling their anxious feet the whole time. When the work commenced, the kids from BGCNC jumped right in, grabbing cardboard and buckets, helping each other and helping the whole crew. We taught them how to sheet mulch and how to drill; the reminded us to be playful and not take ourselves too seriously. At the end of the day, we thanked the kids for their time and energy and I asked, “would you like us to design and build a garden at your club next year?” The response was a resounding, “YES!”
Through the leadership of Sara Shovlin, the BGCNC’s Executive Director, we began a series of conversations on a partnership between our two organizations. We held listening sessions with the kids at the club where we learned about their interest in having blueberry bushes, pizza gardens, treehouses and worm composting. We explored programming that would support weekly environmental, gardening and permaculture education sessions with the kids. We reached out to like-minded partners, like the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, to discuss co-teaching sessions with the kids. And then in January, we learned about the Tillotson Fund’s new grant, Empower Youth, which supports the education and empowerment of our youth in programs that give back to the environment and create more resilient, regenerative communities and landscapes. It was the perfect match to the vision Root to Rise and the BGCNC had developed together.
We are happy to announce that we received this competitive grant and that we received word that the Tillotson Fund board was very excited about our grant and the work proposed in the application. This year, from May – October, Root to Rise, along with collaborating partners, will provide hands-on environmental and permaculture education to the kids at the Club. Root to Rise is currently hosting a Permaculture Design Certification at the club and the students in the course are working with BGCNC staff and club members to identify goals for the site and a long-range vision to include food gardens, pollinator plants, flower forts, a peace garden and natural play spaces. The design created in this Permaculture Design Certification course will be further refined and implemented in phases starting with the hands-on workshops through the Empower Youth grant this summer.
If you would like to support our work, you can volunteer at our next permablitz at the Boys and Girls Club on June 15th where we will be building the raised garden beds for the kids’ garden. It’s a fun gathering of community members where we learn by doing and share food, laughter and conversation while getting a tremendous amount of work done together in the garden. Contact Stacey Doll at email@example.com for more information. All monetary support for our work can be donated at www.roottorise.net.
Celebrate Earth Day, and our Youth, today and every day!!!
Story Written by Stacey Doll, Founding Director of Root to Rise and Board President.
Hugh Roberts, Program Coordinator for the Veterans Victory Gardens Program with his wife, best friend, and rock, Colby Melissa Roberts
It was a warm and humid day in May 2017 when I first met Hugh Roberts. I had been invited to teach a Permaculture Design Course at Green Mountain College and Hugh, a non-traditional student who had just returned from the war in Afghanistan had signed up for my course. A Corporal in the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 16 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas with the United States Army sat in the Farmhouse at the college, hands and arms tattooed with images of rifles, crossed over his broad chest where his beard had grown to since he left the war. I wasn’t sure what to expect. His quiet demeanor and strong presence was a bit intimidating and I only hoped that he would be receptive to the lessons and possibilities permaculture provided. On our second day of class at his request, he opened our day by reading the poem Tommy by Rudyard Kipling, a story of a solider who is treated with respect when off fighting a war and disrespected and forgotten when he is not, and through tears, honesty and vulnerability he shared that day, I saw a brave man choose to open up and Hugh’s permaculture journey began.
“Coming into permaculture I had no idea of the depth of personal exploration I would have to do! Being open and honest about the impact we have on our environment and being unafraid to express my personal needs for self-care have helped tremendously in returning to a non-military life. The commonalities I share with former strangers during the permaculture design course, opened my ability to accept that I am not just connected to Veterans and to my family, but can see that any stage of life, or experience, we can all work together and achieve great things as a group,” Hugh said. In class, Hugh worked with fellow students to embrace all members of the community, including veterans, and to look at the principles of permaculture as a way to connect those with limited access to soil, land and healthy food to those abundant in resources and knowledge. He began to see the opportunity for him to get involved, to become a bridge between the veteran community and the college, and to lead by example. “As a veteran I need to lead from the front and not sit back and observe the problems faced by our communities and the veterans and families. If I don’t stand up who will?”
When the students were asked to utilize their newly developed permaculture design skills to begin a project that supports resiliency and restoration of the local community, Hugh chose to develop a Veterans Victory Garden for the American Legion Post #39 in Poultney, VT just down the road from the college. “I was inspired by the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaigns of World War II when Great Britain and Northern Ireland struggled to feed the growing Military and civilian needs,” Hugh said. “Today Veterans and their families are food insecure, homeless, and facing a terrible crisis as far as adjusting to being apart from the structure of the military.” Hugh recruited several of his classmates to help design the Veterans Victory Garden and brought students from the college to the Legion, for the first time, to present their design to the members. The Legion Commander, legionnaires, and auxiliary members were inspired by the work and voted to support the implementation of the Veterans Victory Garden for Post #39.
In the months to follow, Hugh continued to share the concept of the Poultney Veterans Victory Garden with other classmates and wrote a paper about it in his Food Justice class. At the same time, I was leading the effort to create Root to Rise, a nonprofit foundation with the mission to support permaculture education and experiential learning beyond the classroom, supporting the transition of permaculture theory into practice and embodiment. I shared Hugh’s story and the work he led in designing a garden for veterans in Poultney with the Board. I knew Hugh was eager to begin the project and was seeking resources to make this garden come to life. In the summer of 2018 with the help of the Dorr Foundation, Root to Rise was able to support Hugh as a permaculture apprentice and provided him with the resources to continue the Veterans Victory Garden at Post #39. As the work began, Hugh realized that the potential to have a positive impact on the veteran community was not limited to Poultney and suggested that we change the name from the Poultney Veterans Victory Garden to the Veterans Victory Gardens Program, opening up the possibility to design and install gardens for veterans around the region and the country. “I firmly support coming together at the various veterans’ organizations to build gardens, raised beds etc. in order to provide food for each other so we can help heal and provide opportunities for all of us,” Hugh shared.
This fall, the second Permaculture Design class assisted Hugh, who stepped in as the teacher’s aide for the class, in planting apple trees, building raised beds, and sheet mulching the beds in preparation of spring planting. During the process, the Commander at the Fair Haven Legion, just down the road from Poultney, took notice and requested to spend some time with Hugh learning more about permaculture and the Veterans Victory Gardens Program. Inspired by Hugh’s work and the opportunity to support healthy food access to their members, the Fair Haven legion voted unanimously in favor of designing and installing a Veterans Victory Garden. A small group of students are rallying for a group independent study through Green Mountain College, led by Hugh, in the spring of 2019 to design the garden. Root to Rise is now reaching out to local veterans’ organizations in the Littleton/Bethlehem area to connect them to Hugh and the Veterans Victory Gardens Program in hopes of growing the Program to work with more veterans and continuing to support Hugh’s brave journey as the Coordinator for this Program. “Making a difference is all I want at the moment,” Hugh said, “I am reminded of the army values, particularly the value of selfless service; this is selfless. Start an idea rolling then be content with the impact it can have. Best said in the words of the Big Red One, ‘No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great. Duty first!’”
To support Hugh and the growth of the Veterans Victory Gardens Program into more of our local communities and veterans organization, CLICK HERE!!!
Story Written by Stacey Doll, Founder of Root to Rise and Board President. Quotes by Hugh Roberts
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” - Albert Einstein
We’ve all heard the phrase “change is inevitable” and yet so many of us struggle with change and try to fight to keep things the same. In permaculture, one of the principles I found to be of great value to my understanding of this practice is the principle Creatively Use and Respond to Change. In permaculture, we accept the fact that our world, our ecosystems, our weather and climate, our population, our economy, EVERYTHING is constantly in flux and that it’s a purposeless act to try to stop change from happening but our response to change and how we creatively move with the changing times is within our control. The other aspect of this principle is that if we know of changes occurring, we can plan and design for them. We can plan and design for the change of seasons. We can plan and design for the succession of an ecosystem, how it changes and grows and withers over time. We can plan and design for social changes, ensuring that we open up to new community members and ideas as they weave into our existing neighborhoods and towns.
We asked people at our May launch events, what changes would you like to see in your community and why? Here is what we heard:
What changes would you like to see in your community? Any why?
• Community gardens
• Replanting maples along roads
• Walking trails
• More planters downtown
• More areas for people to grow their own vegetables, etc. if unable due to rental living
• A skate park
• More participation; More community members advertising the cause to improve local awareness of our project
• I love that you will be teaching permaculture! Old attitudes need to change. NH is surprisingly stubborn. I’m struggling with our river/riparian ecosystems and wanting some more protection and restoration. We should be seeing more food growing and less lawns. More fruit trees, berries, foraging, etc.
• Collaboration among human/social services and recreation and permaculture (i.e. Tyler Blain House Homeless Shelter community garden to supplement food pantry)
• Preservation/Conservation of land when warranted
• Dog park, as a gathering place
• More for teens to do, and a teen center isn’t really the answer
• Littleton needs more gardens and flowers that attract birds, bees, etc.
• More purposeful use of spaces . . . . . and less trash!
• We should accentuate the positive – how can that be wrong
• Community gardens (near tracks/DDs in Whitefield)
• Bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly tails linking inns, trails, schools, restaurants and town centers. This would allow our recreation minded community members to be free to commute in a healthy, eco-friendly way
• Promotion and implementation of reduction in plastic in public schools
• A more integrated trail network where I can hike and bike in a safe environment
• Edible perennial gardens for the community
• Eco-building, water harvesting and edible landscaping demonstrations in local parks and town squares. Also at pre-existing educational institutions.
• More flowers and more colors, and natural colors
• Have random areas around town for wildflowers
• Faster pace in returning to small town shops; cobblestone streets, rock gardens, etc.
• Community gardens (near the tracks/Dunkin Donuts in Whitefiedl)
• More purposeful use of spaces . . . . and less trash
As Root to Rise works with our local communities on planning, designing and creating permaculture spaces, we will look for ways to integrate these suggestions into the work we do. We know that we build a strong, resilient community by supporting a diverse set of ideas and perspectives. We know change is inevitable and we are happy to find the skills of creativity and adaptability in working with change as opposed to trying to stop it.
If you want to join us at our first design workshop where we will change the ecosystem of a local business in downtown Bethlehem, contact Stacey Doll at Stacey.firstname.lastname@example.org. Our design workshop at Rek-lis’ brewing company is from July 5th – 12th. You are welcome to be part of any piece of the design process or join us for the whole adventure. You won’t be disappointed!!
Once you have a chance to read a few definitions of permaculture and share examples of permaculture gardens and designs, its easy to think that permaculture is all about caring for the natural world, when in fact, Earth Care is just one of three ethical pillars of permaculture. In addition to Earth Care, permaculture balances people care and fair share as the three ethics to root every project and every decision. It’s in caring for the people that permaculture now becomes more than just a practice of conservation, recycling, and growing food, but it becomes a practices of building relationships, connections, choosing collaboration over competition.
David Holmgren, one of the founders of the permaculture movement, states, “People Care begins with ourselves and expands to include our families, neighbors and wider communities. The challenge is to grow through self-reliance and personal responsibility. Self-reliance becomes more feasible when we focus on non-material well-being, taking care of ourselves and others without producing or consuming unnecessary material resources. By accepting personal responsibility for our situation as far as possible, rather than blaming others, we empower ourselves. If we can recognize that a greater wisdom lies within a group of people, we can work with others to bring about the best outcomes for all involved.”
Root to Rise is very excited to have the opportunity to practice People Care by building relationships with organization, businesses and communities and choosing to focus on projects that not only restore and regenerate our natural ecosystems but also restore and regenerate our connection to each other. At the launch event at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company on May 25th, we asked, What organizations do you feel Root to Rise could collaborate with in order to improve community involvement and revitalization? The participants responded with the following:
Root to Rise is considering a Pay-It-Forward model for permaculture projects where organizations like the Littleton Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club can work together, with Root to Rise, to design and install aspects of the projects underway this summer and in return, their projects will be the next projects we engage in this fall and spring. By being part of someone else’s project, you are essentially practicing the People Care ethic, giving before receiving, building relationships and collaborating on projects instead of competing for resources. We are all in this together and Root to Rise is excited to offer a platform for building connections and friendships. Our first design workshop is at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company July 5th – 12th. Message me if you are interested in participating: email@example.com.
I am so filled with gratitude from the wonderful turnout at the two launch events we held for Root to Rise. On Thursday, May 24th we met at Schilling Brewing Company where members of our community leadership gathered to network, to learn more about Root to Rise and our work, and to hear from Todd Workman of PermaCityLife about the success stories of Franklin, NH where permaculture has laid the foundation for economic development and community revitalization. Taylor Caswell, NH State Commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs, who attended the event, said that, “The key to New Hampshire‘s economic future is our communities and what they offer to a wide variety of people who want to live and work in our beautiful state. The role of organizations like Root to Rise to help meet those expectations is a big part of how it will be done."
On the second night, Friday, May 25th, the Root to Rise Board hosted a public event at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company and asked the participants to share their insights on permaculture, ideas for community revitalization, and ways to connect with efforts already underway in our region. We shared, laughed, gave away prizes, and at the end of the evening, walked away with lots of great input from the community as well as many new friends. I want to share with you some of the ideas we heard from the community, and over the next few weeks, we’ll share more of what we heard from those two events as well as efforts underway to integrate Root to Rise’s mission of permaculture education and community resiliency into the great work happening in our region.
At our first event, several community leaders had pulled me aside to say, “So Stacey, what exactly is permaculture,” and “can you give me a few talking points so I can share it with others.” Although I love to teach and practice permaculture, I often find it hard to capture the essence of this lifestyle in a few sentences. At the second event, we asked the participants, “What do you know about permaculture and why might you be interested in learning more?,” and this is what we heard:
And that’s where I have good news for you! This summer, Root to Rise will be hosting a permaculture design workshop at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company the week of July 5th – July 12th. We will have students of permaculture and those with permaculture design experience participating but anyone can participate, and we encourage you to participate to really understand this practice. This workshop is supported by the Dorr Foundation so instead of monetary compensation for attending the workshop, we just ask for your full commitment to the design process and that you “give back” by participating in at least one implementation workshop, or what we call a PermaBlitz, where we take a design and spend a day or two with shovels, gloves, mulch, plants, good food, and good company making the design come to life. For more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is just one of many workshops and hands-on learning experiences we are providing. Come out and join us, and embrace your own definition of permaculture.
“The power of intention is the power to manifest, to create, to live a life of unlimited abundance, and to attract into your life the right people at the right moments.” - Wayne Dyer
For years as a planner and a very organized individual, I would spend hours creating outlines, plans, and schedules, detailing all the steps to take in order to make a project or program happen. Everything was initiated and supported solely through intelligence and hard work. If something didn’t happen, I believed it was because I didn’t work hard enough on making it happen.
My approach to creating and initiating a vision has changed over the years. It’s not to say that planning, intelligence and hard work don’t come into play – they absolutely do – but there is also the practice of setting an intention, believing in your vision, and trusting that if it was meant to happen, it will happen. As part of my practice to embody the permaculture principle Observe and Interact, meditation and reflection is a big part of my daily routine. For the past several weeks, after the hard work and planning was complete for the Root to Rise Apprenticeship Program, it was the power of intention, meditation and reflection that I leaned on while waiting to hear whether Root to Rise had received the grants and support to make this work happen. I wrote daily in my intention journal in the morning, envisioning what the program would look like as it unfolded this summer, and I wrote in my gratitude journal every evening, acknowledging all the gifts I had received from the support of the Board to the enthusiasm from our partners and the local community. I believed and I trusted that if we were meant to do this work this summer, it would happen. And it did.
I am beyond thrilled to announce the support Root to Rise has received for our Permaculture Apprenticeship and Cohort (PAC) Pilot Program. The PAC Program provides students of permaculture a living classroom to apply their knowledge by working with and utilizing our local communities, public spaces, businesses and organizations. Students will actively engage with community leaders, organizations, and the general public to understand the science of permaculture and apply that knowledge to projects that support community resiliency, ecosystem restoration, and strong social connections and bonds. Root to Rise has established a relationship with three project sites and organizations where students can lead conversations and apply permaculture to specific populations and environments in our communities and they include: A Design Workshop and Implementation Work Party at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company in Bethlehem NH where we will work with the owners and community to integrate the science of permaculture into their operations and landscape; working with our connections to our regional veteran service and affairs organizations who have begun to explore the positive impact of gardening, earthworks, and food production on the psyche and comradery of veterans; and the OAKS organization which provides a support network to promote Organizing Acts of Kindness for Seniors and sees the potential of permaculture and our students’ design and installation work as an opportunity to grow food and medicinals for our aging population.
The PAC Program is supported by the Dorr Foundation which provides grants for environmental science education and who asked Root to Rise to consider applying to them with our unique approach to environmental education, stewardship and empowerment through permaculture. Root to Rise will lead this program in our communities in late June through August, and the students will present their work and their stories at NH Permaculture Day on August 18th in Colebrook, NH, an event that is open to the public and always an inspiring day. Join us there, and join us at Rek-lis’ Brewing Company on May 25th from 5:30-7:30pm to help us celebrate the launch of Root to Rise and share your visions, insights and ideas with us (Read More). Our event at Rek’lis’ and an event for our community leadership on May 25th at Schilling are supported by the New England Environmental Grassroots Fund. Root to Rise would like to thank the Dorr Foundation and the New England Environmental Grassroots Fund for this support in laying down the foundational steps for our organization, our students, and our communities to flourish.
Set Intentions. Believe. And Trust.
Truly Grateful and very excited,
Stacey, Root to Rise President
Every night before I go to sleep, I take a moment to write down at least one thing I am grateful for in my gratitude journal. The gratitude jounral started as a tool to help me see the good in every day, no matter what challenges arose, however, it has now turned into a daily practice, one that I look forward to doing every day. Somedays I write about a big project or an unexpected opportunity that emerged that day, other days I'm simply grateful for the roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in. Somedays I'm grateful just to be alive.
Today my gratitude is rooted in the passion, commitment and trust of the four men and women who have chosen to journey with me down the path of Root to Rise. Root to Rise is a nonprofit organization we began this December and are happy to announce and share with our friends and colleagues today. It is our intention to provide permaculture education and empowerment through hands-on learning and experiential education. Root to Rise is a support system for our current permaculture education programs, providing in-the-world experiences for students to apply their knowledge, and it is also a place for new students of permaculture to emerge in our local communities, helping organize and collaborate on ecological and social system designs that support the resiliency of our communities. Root to Rise is also a connector, a weaver of the web, sharing stories, tools, techniques, resources, and learning opportunities to make permaculture more accessible and possible for everyone. The intention and vision for this nonprofit is huge - it takes a group of trusting, passionate visionaries to make this work.
And that is why I am grateful, because I have such a team at Root to Rise. I still remember the email I sent Christine Frost when I decided to share this vision. We've been friends for years, ever since we were planners at North Country Council Regional Planning Commission. I planted the Root to Rise seed in that email and waited. Christine replied immediately. She was definitely interested. And then the next day sent me a second message to say she couldn't stop thinking about it all night. Christine's professional experience in running nonprofits, planning commissions, and leading programs and projects for the Northern Boarders Regional Commission coupled with her big heart, can-do attitude, and passion to make a more beautiful, connected world makes her an exceptional member of the Root to Rise team. As Christine and I met for coffee at True Brewista in Concord, we began a list of other potential board members. Steve Whitman was on the list and I decided since I had to drive through Plymouth, where Steve resides, on my way home that afternoon, I'd see if he was available to meet. In his text he asked, "is this meeting going to require beer or coffee?" "Definitely a beer," I said and I headed up the road to meet Steve at Biederman's in Plymouth.
Steve and I met in 2000. I was at North Country Council Regional Planning Commission and he worked for the Office of State Planning. We stayed in touch as planning colleagues throughout the years and it was Steve, in 2012, who introduced me to the world of permaculture and then invited me back time and time again to study and share permaculture in a variety of venues. Steve and I have taught several permaculture workshops and courses together and share our commitment to local permaculture initiatives like the NH Permaculture Guild and the Permaculture Association of the Northeast. I was hoping he would be excited enough about this idea to join our board. I don't believe I finished explaining my vision and intent before Steve said, "I'm in," and then smiled and said, "and I want a t-shirt."
My next ask was of Audrey Crowe and as luck would have it, Audrey joined me for the Yin Yoga class I teach at Root to Bloom studio in Littleton that Sunday. Audrey has over 30 years of experience as a landscaper and was deeply grateful and inspired by the Permaculture Design Course she took with me about two years ago. Audrey has a special connection with our natural world that is sometimes rare to find. She finds such joy in the simplest pleasures in nature and knows the relationships, benefits and values of each species she meets. I shared our vision and intent for Root to Rise and with a big hug, she said, "I would be honored to be on this Board,"
My last meeting was with Geoff Sewake who I had the great pleasure of meeting and working side-by-side with in our permaculture design workshop in Littleton for the Tannery Marketplace. Geoff, at the time, was the transportation planner at North Country Council and has since moved on to work for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension as the Community and Economic Development Field Specialist for Grafton Country. I knew Geoff had a diverse background of experiences and passions as well as a keen ability to keep projects on track, focused and moving forward. We met for coffee at Inkwell in Littleton and discussed the approach for Root to Rise. He let me know that if he were to join the Board, his goal would be to challenge us to think outside of the box, to be more inclusive and to make the health and sustainability of our organization a priority . He was the perfect person to add to our team.
This team, this group of friends and colleagues, are the reason I was able to make this dream into a reality and there is no doubt in my mind that the organization is stronger, more resilient and more innovative because of their commitment to it.
We are happy to announce that we received our first grant from the New England Environmental Grassroots Fund to support our upcoming launch celebrations at Schilling Brewing Company and Rek-lis' Brewing Company in late May (see our events page for more details). It is our intention to engage with as many people as possible during those events, to begin building relationships and partnerships and identify projects where we can collaborate together. We have a few pilot programs planned for this summer and are awaiting grant announcements before proceeding. Our pilot program includes working with the OAKS organization (Organized Acts of Kindness for Seniors), supporting a permaculture student, and veteran of the Afghanistan war, who wants to develop community healing gardens for vets in our region, and a permaculture design and implementation workshop at the new Rek-lis' brewing company. We've heard about the potential of collaborating with our local schools to design and install school gardens, planning and design of green infrastructure for stormwater projects, and creating edible landscapes in some of our existing infrastructure in our local communities. We look forward to seeing what other projects and partnerships emerge in the weeks, months and years to come.
So I am filled with gratitude, this Earth Day, for the people who have chosen to join me on the Root to Rise Board, for the connections and partnerships we've already made and for the collaborative intention we all have to make our local communities healthy, resilient and beautiful. I look forward to seeing it all unfold.
Happy Earth Day, today and every day,
Stacey, President of Root to Rise Board