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EarthDance Grows Food, Farmers, and Community Through Hands-on Education and Delicious Experiences

EarthDance Farms

Information for this article compiled by Crystal Stevens, EarthDance Farms Garden Manager

EarthDance is a 14-acre teaching farm in Ferguson, MO, which practices innovative no-till and small-scale market gardening growing techniques.

EarthDance was founded by Molly Rockamann, who had a long affinity with the land after visiting the farm at age 15 with her father to meet the original farmers, Al and Caroline Mueller. Rockamann fell in love with sustainable farming and preserving wild spaces after spending time abroad working with farmers in the Fiji Islands, Ghana, and Thailand. In 2005, she had an apprenticeship at the U-Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Upon her return to her hometown of St. Louis Missouri, Rockamann founded EarthDance as a way of continuing the Mueller’s legacy and preserving the heritage of the land and keeping it in organic agriculture. Rockamann received 501c3 status with the help from The Open Space Council as their fiscal sponsor. Since 2009, EarthDance has operated an extensive training program for beginning farmers.

A catalyst for positive environmental, social, and economic change in the community, EarthDance is an epi-center for ecological farming, gardening, environmental awareness, and soil health in the Midwest.

Since its inception, over 300 apprentices from all walks of life have completed the Farm and Garden Apprenticeship program. Thousands of children have visited EarthDance through field trips and tours; EarthDance has hosted a plethora of on-farm events.

EarthDance cultivates community and certified organic produce. The bounty is sold at the Ferguson Farmers Market, located at 501 S. Florissant Rd. in Ferguson, MO every Saturday morning from 8am-12pm (May-October).

EarthDance also supplies produce to local restaurants including Vicia, Squatters Cafe, Bakers & Hale as well as City Greens, Local Harvest, SLU Kitchen, STL Metro Market, and Fair Shares CCSA.

Farm-Based Education
The Farm & Garden Apprenticeship Program
EarthDance offers a part-time 5.5-month apprenticeship program in which apprentices learn the skills of organic agriculture, through hands-on education in the fields and from experienced farmers and gardeners. EarthDance’s Farm & Garden Apprenticeship Program was developed to serve the needs of individuals seeking to learn organic growing techniques and practices, on a part-time basis. Some apprentices aspire to operate their own farms, while others plan to cultivate home, community, and youth gardens. The program incorporates instruction in techniques applicable to garden-scale production in addition to growing on a commercial scale. Tuition is $1000 (full and partial scholarships & payment plans are available). EarthDance’s YEAH! (Youth Exploring Agriculture & Health) programs connect young people ages 5-21 to the natural world, healthy eating, and organic farming through farm-based job training, employment, and educational opportunities, including field trips for 1300+ students in 2017. The Junior Farm Crew is EarthDance’s summer jobs program for youth ages 16-19 from the Ferguson-Florissant area. The program operates 20 hours/week for 8 weeks in the summer. Currently, EarthDance partners with STL Youth Jobs to cost-share a stipend of $9/hr for crew members.

Biodiversity
EarthDance is an urban oasis and home to several hundred species. EarthDance staff are not only teaching the next generation of young farmers but are also stewarding the land in Ferguson, MO. Biodiversity is very important at EarthDance.

In addition to being a market garden specializing in standard favorites such as Sungold cherry tomatoes, leafy greens, cucumbers, summer squash, and root vegetables EarthDance Organic Farm School grows a myriad of pollinator-attracting plants, rare or unusual fruits and vegetables, heirloom varieties, several dozen varieties of medicinal and culinary herbs, fruit trees, and fruiting shrubs. Each year, the farm adds several new and exciting varieties to the species list. In the past few years, the fruit trees and shrubs have started to bear fruit. This spring, we hand pollinated several dozen paw paw trees using paint brushes. The paw paws are now fruiting. EarthDance chose permaculture darling varieties known for being resilient, hardy, disease and pest resistant, and drought tolerant.

Among those varieties thriving this year are Illinois everbearing mulberries, Asian pears, Redhaven peaches, Nanking cherries, tart cherries, juneberries, goumi berries, red and black currants, gooseberries, aronia berries, and elderberries. EarthDance is also home to several heritage trees including apple, pear, persimmon, white mulberry, and black mulberry. There are black walnut, chestnut, and hazelnut trees as well.

There has recently been a significant rise in the number of aspiring young farmers.
Now, more than ever, this network of young farmers is growing as the demand for local organic food is getting stronger.

Farms throughout the United States are implementing methods of regenerative agriculture, permaculture, permanent raised beds, and beginning farmer education.
With permaculture at the heart of the operation, EarthDance uses a permanent bed system and has scaled down from 4 acres of vegetable production to 1 acre using intensive no-till management practices which reduces weed pressure, builds soil organic matter, retains moisture, and promotes healthy crops and healthy soil.

EarthDance is a pioneering example of regenerative agriculture in action.
Free Farm Tours every Saturday (May-October)
Shop at the Ferguson Farmers Market (501 S. Florissant Rd. Ferguson, MO). Meet by the Jolly Trolley shuttle at 9:45.
Ride the shuttle to EarthDance for a free tour from 10am-11am. The shuttle will take passengers back to the Ferguson Farmers Market shortly after 11:00am.

www.earthdancefarms.org
EarthDance Organic Farm School
233 S. Dade Ave, St. Louis, MO, 63135
Check out EarthDance on Instagram and Facebook @earthdancefarms

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