Change the Narrative

This is such an excellent article by Cat Buxton, it has to be shared. What she says for Vermont can surely be said for New Hampshire and for much of agriculture in this country. We hope, in our own small way at Canillas Community Garden, we can help change the narrative of food-growing to enhance not extract from the soil, through minimal tilling, ground covers, and by returning organic material to the soil, thereby creating healthy, absorbent soil and nutrient-dense foods.


Change the Narrative

We like to think that the food produced in Vermont is pure.We value a healthy food system that supports communities and regenerates ecosystems above and below the ground. We are extremely lucky to live in a place where there are so many small-scale diverse family-owned farms that are doing the best they know how to. Thanks to many of these land stewards and food producers, and to cooperative food stores, like Upper Valley Food Co-op, we have access to the healthiest food we know about, and we take care to include measures to ensure that all people in our communities have access.

Despite this vision, we primarily support an extractive system, one that takes from ecosystems more than it gives back. The food system we have in Vermont has polluted our lakes, has planted most of the acreage dedicated to corn in GMO varieties, and leaves even our very best farmers and food producers having to sell the farm and/or establish Go-Fund-Me campaigns to afford the medical care they need as they age. True food system resilience will include measures that take care of our land AND our land stewards, that address the quality of food, and that ensure that all people have access.

A majority of the runoff polluting our waterways come from agricultural inputs. Constant tillage, phosphate and nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, mismanaged dairy manure lagoons, and even the OMRI certified organic, salt-based soluble fertilizers create conditions of disturbance that destroy habitat for soil microbes, all but the most pathogenic ones. Agriculture is also the source of a majority of greenhouse gases. Tilled soils respire carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide as roots and soil life die and bare soil is exposed. Confined animal operations and poorly managed manure pits respire methane and produce sick animals. If our soil was truly healthy we would not need constant additives to conduct nutrient exchange, and an intricate web of biological life would mitigate runoff, using up or retaining the rain that falls. Fortunately, our most insightful land managers are beginning to change this dynamic, teaching us that soil should be covered, with living roots in the ground.

Simply put, microbial networks facilitate nutrient cycling by eating, pooping, and collaborating with plants. Plants manufacture carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars and oxygen. Some of those plant sugars exude from roots to feed microbes that solubilize sand, silt, clay, rocks, and pebbles into the essential nutrients that drive life on the planet. Healthy, aggregated soil is teeming with zillions of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, micro arthropods and earthworms, that eat each other, build soil, and make the glues that are the structure of the soil carbon sponge. Intact, soil life and the spaces they create allow plant roots to grow, nurturing photosynthesis, driving nutrient cycling, drawing down rainwater and atmospheric gases and sinking them into the soil to sustain the whole systemic cycle of life.

I believe that our greatest power in this world is to be educated consumers and active participants in local democracy. By participating in these ways we can shift the paradigm. We can change the narrative. We have an opportunity to restore biological and hydrological systems by creating the right conditions for earth’s systems to thrive. Let’s bring back the beaver, promote crazy diversity everywhere, and restore the soil food web. Let’s mimic nature. We CAN cool the planet, heal ecosystems, produce nutrient dense plant and animal based foods, produce forests and fiber that support regenerating ecosystems. There is a lot you can do by spending your dollars wisely and by getting involved and learning from your backyard, in schools, in your neighborhoods, and in town and statewide committees.

-Cat Buxton, Upper Valley Food Co-op Board Member

To learn more about resilient food systems, biological farming and gardening, slowing and sinking water, and behavior change for the greater good, join Cat Buxton in the workshop series “Grow More, Waste Less” at the Upper Valley Food Co-op. Visit for more information!

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Canillas Mint Tea


Mint is prolific and quite unruly in the garden . . .  but on cold winter days, when the temperatures are in the minuses, it is such a comfort to have a pot of hot mint tea to connect us to the garden .  .  .  and iced in the summer it is refreshing and a delight as well! It is so easy to pick, bunch, and hang .  .  .  and enjoy all year round.



Tea for Two

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Seed Saving Comes to Canillas!

The Hanover Garden Club sponsored two inspiring seed saving-related events this past week: The documentary Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds on Monday and a presentation by Ken Green of Hudson Valley Seed on Tuesday.(Watch “Open Sesame” trailer) Genetic diversity is being lost at an alarming rate as the seed industry consolidates and focuses only on the most profitable seeds, much of which are GMO and cannot be saved. But we individual gardeners can do something: We can support independent local organic seed businesses such as Solstice Seed in Hartland, VT; and High Mowing Seed in Wolcott, VT.,   And we can save seeds!

A bit farther afield is Hudson Valley Seed in Accord, NY.  Hudson Valley Seed is preserving the stories behind seeds they save, and are using art as a way to honor the story. They select an artist, tell the story behind the saved seeds, then leave it to the artist to capture the story in visual form. (Hudson Valley sells prints of the art work as well as  beautiful seed packets that make lovely gifts and wedding favors.)


Pippin’s Golden Honey Pepper Seed Packet

The story:  Pepper seeds had been saved by Horace Pippin, a black farmer who found relief for his arthritis in bee-sting therapy.  He developed a friendship with a beekeeper/farmer, and in exchange for the bee-stings, shared his pepper seeds which were popular within the black community.  The farmer stored the seeds in a trunk, and when he died, his grandson discovered the seeds. The grandson, William Woys Weaver, was a seed saver; he grew out the seeds and kept the variety alive and eventually shared them with Hudson Valley Seed.

A few Canillas gardeners have been inspired by these presentations and by the threat of our seed supply being controlled by Monsanto and other chemical/pharmaceutical giants.  We will be buying seeds from Solstice, High Mowing, and Hudson Valley, etc and trying our hands at seed saving, with the intent to share our saved seeds with other gardeners. As of now, Helen will be saving sweet basil, Paula – Sugar Ann pea pods, Suzanne – sunflowers, Jean – Ganti tomatoes, Pat  – Yellow of Parma onions, Polly – Anna Swartz winter squash; given that the seed packets are generous, we will probably have seeds to share this spring.

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Peppers in December!


My peppers had a slow start in the garden this year. Too much rain. When frost was threatening, and they were in flower, I dug this plant up and brought it inside. Peppers love sun and my window only gets sun in the afternoon . . . but that was enough to produce these 4 jewels! I loved adding bright red pepper slices to the salad I made for New Year’s Eve festivities . . . a very special treat.

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Canillas Garden Shed Wreath

                      ❤   ❤   ❤    ❤   ❤   ❤   ❤   ❤

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

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High Water!


The two days of rain have left their mark, similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene!

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Climate Farming, the Agriculture of Hope


“Carbon levels in most agricultural soils have declined over the past 100 years, from some 5 percent to less than 1 percent in many places. These oxidative losses have degraded the structure, productivity, and resilience of these soils and their capacity to infiltrate, retain, and sustain water to cool climates.” – Walter Jehne, Healthy Soils Australia

“A lot of farmers are being educated about the capacity of soil to sequester carbon. It gets them excited to think that they can contribute to a reversal of climate change.” – Kate Duesterberg, Farm Manager, Cedar Circle Farm, Vermont

Soil health and climate stability are closely linked.  In the atmosphere, carbon exists as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas warming the planet. But in plants, carbon forms a sugary liquid that is exuded through the roots and gobbled up by microbes. This infusion of carbon and the microbial activity it supports gives structure to soil, improves the nutrient density of food, and increases soil’s capacity to hold water.

A new and growing movement is inspiring farmers to produce food in a manner that can mitigate and even help reverse global warming. It is being called “climate farming, the agriculture of hope.” Techniques for climate farming include use of cover crops, no-till farming, and sequestration of carbon by returning carbon-rich material to the soil through composting.

With this in mind, we at Canillas asked Lebanon’s Department of Public Works for the leaves from Fall clean-up of Colburn Park.  Not only did they offer us the leaves , but they delivered them to our garden – three truckloads of dried leaves!  With funds from the Robert F. Church Charitable Fund, we purchased a leaf shredder, and yesterday, began the process of shredding those leaves. Some of the shredded leaves will be mixed with manure and added to the hugelkultur.  We will also experiment with a chicken wire,’silo’ of shredded leaves and manure, to be added to gardens in the springtime.

We have also purchased organic buckwheat seeds, to be used as a cover crop on raised beds  . . . a little too late to be useful this year (buckwheat likes warmer weather) but luckily, buckwheat seed is viable for many years.


Shredded leaves!

Two articles on this topic, source of much of the above info:

Awareness of this issue has been heightened through the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition List Serve discussions. Formed in February 2017, the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition are mostly Vermonters, representing grassroots activists, enthusiasts, organizations and businesses that work with or for the land and water, all volunteers with an interest in shifting the paradigm of how people interface with the land. We operate under the premise that we can restore land water cycles by covering Vermont’s bare soil; nurturing photosynthesis and the biology underground.

To join our brand new, still-forming group, fill out this quick survey []. Then, follow the instructions in the email confirmations that you’ll receive to join the listserv.  If you have any trouble, contact Cat Buxton at or Juan Alvez at


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