Farming and Foraging on The Plateau
There’s magic in the soil of The Many Hands Peace Farm at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center.
The Many Hands Peace Farm at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center is an idyllic community garden with vegetable plots, a Food Forest, a Mushroom Laboratory, and a chicken coop.
Here, since 2009, resident sustainable agriculture experts have provided counsel and education in regenerative agriculture through apprenticeship programs, farm training, foraging and wild edibles tours, and an annual summer farm camp.
Common to other places in the mountains with trees, plants and animals, visitors delight in the semi-magical aura of the Farm. They tell of air-filled sounds of hens and ducks clucking and bees buzzing in the pollinator habitat. They fill their noses with the earthy aromas of the damp ground where mushrooms flourish on logs and on the forest floor and the sweet scent of bushes of wild berries. Their eyes awash in the vibrant colors in the rows of flowers, herbs and plants.
Overseeing it all is Joey Kyle, Farm Manager. Kyle first arrived at the camp as a teenager when he attended summer farm camp there.
The child of Peace Corps parents, he was born in Honduras and grew up outside Columbia, South Carolina. His history includes stints in organic farming in far-flung corners of the earth, including Taiwan, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe and New Mexico. He formally arrived at The Farm five years ago, in the apprentice program and has been there ever since.
Although he clearly embraces all the aspects of the farm operations, Kyle is especially drawn to foraging for the humble yet astonishingly versatile wild mushroom.
A Certified Mushroom Forager, he spends nearly half his time leading expeditions and unlocking the mysteries of the fungi. He is an advocate of planting mushrooms in home gardens, advising that for the modest cost of $25, a bag of “mushroom sawdust” can be purchased from MushroomMountain.com, that will yield a harvest in only six months – producing a fresher and tastier mushroom than can be bought.
The simple method involves laying down cardboard in your aisles, sprinkling on the sawdust and covering with fresh woodchips – the fresher, the better.
As to planting in April, he believes in the adage that summer vegetables should not be planted until Mother’s Day, and recommends installing the cooking greens, lettuces, winter squashes, beets and carrots that can withstand a light frost.
And he says that, “Now is the time to prepare your space for the summer plants – weeding, tilling, mulching, and laying down cardboard to prevent weed growth when you are ready to put the tomatoes in.”