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Ushering in the Community Garden Learning Center-Nepal

front porch has been making notable progress in collaboration with the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation (KRMEF) to launch the Samudāya Learning Garden Center (SLGC) here in Khahare, located at the southwestern edge of Kathmandu Valley. We’ve spent the past three weeks setting things in motion to begin the physical installation of the Center.

First, however, we would like to extend our deep gratitude to each of you, our supporters, for sharing our story with others; for your financial support; and for your belief and trust in our projects. Thanks to you all, our 2021 year-end fundraising campaign was a success! We would like the Cold Mountain Fund of RSF Social Finance in San Francisco for their matching grant, and to Walter & Susan Cudnohufsky and Dave Lidsky & Cornelia Sylvester for their combined gift of US$19,000.

Our particular appreciation goes out to each and every one of you for your financial contributions and moral support for this work. We are continuing to develop phases two and three through curricula design and deepened connections with the KRMEF community. We welcome your continued support and appreciate you being a part of this initiative to reach rural communities in Nepal.

The Kick-off Meeting!

To officially commence this project, Andy & Mae met with KRMEF founder Krishna Gurung (center) and Operations Director Santosh Chhetri (far left). Local engagement has deepened as we have met with community members and leaders, begun design and planning of the Demonstration Garden, tested soils for viability, and established blueprint benchmarks for further progress at the Center.

One integral piece to the educational aspect of SLCG is the Demonstration Garden, an outdoor classroom designed to showcase gardening and irrigation techniques, planting bed preparation, soil structure assessment, seasonal cold storage, produce washing, compost making, greenhouse growing, hügelkultur, and water and solar harvesting. As you can see, Krishna and Santosh enthusiastically received Andy's preliminary site plans for the Demonstration Garden.

Biodynamic Farming Seminar

front porch and KRMEF hosted a 1-day seminar to share the underlying principles and practices of biodynamic and organic farming. Over 50 people attended, ranging from members of the local community to farmers who traveled from both the eastern and western reaches of Nepal. Sharing various farming applications along with the overarching goals of the Center itself builds a dynamic network of practitioners, a louder voice for women's empowerment, and fosters sustainable rural development.

Women's Empowerment

The ability to determine one's own choices and the right to influence social change is a foundational aspect to SLGC. Kali (left) has been mentoring others in the community as they learn and apply various biodynamic farming practices. These women have developed close working relationships and will extend their knowledge and experiences to the other community gardeners as SLGC grows.

Garden Intern Orientation

Andy and Mae led an engaging, informative orientation session with the community garden interns. Topics of discussion included women's empowerment, capacity building, the power of collaboration, and the positive impacts many of the most vulnerable community members have experienced as they have become more connected with KRMEF's inclusive programs.

As the interns moved to the outdoor learning space, Andy introduced new garden implements supportive of the no-till practices of biodynamic/organic farming. Enthusiastic practice with the broad fork, which was constructed onsite (pictured above), helped solidify the methodology behind working compost into the soil to encourage soil biodiversity. Following this interactive portion, Andy walked the interns through the rationale behind the Demonstration Garden, along with its preliminary design. Co-created with Krishna, this section of the community garden will offer visitors a look into the gardening practices employed and examples of the types of produce grown in the upper garden areas.

St. Lawrence College Presentation

An unexpected invitation prompted Mae and Andy to visit St. Lawrence College in Kathmandu as guest lecturers to share SLGC's business model to a group of MBA students. Their instructor expressed the need for Nepal's up-and-coming generation to lead as social farmers and build a more positive perception of agricultural and rural resources across the country to fuel sustainable agricultural development.

During our talk, we had the pleasure of presenting the Center's purpose as well as the structure of a cooperative gardening model, as well as an introduction to additional agriculturally based business models. The intent was to illustrate the myriad of entrepreneurial opportunities available to the students as they consider career options.

Mae spoke to SLGC's sustainable development principles, capacity building, and the importance of gender inclusion and promoting diversity in the workforce through the empowerment of women as leaders and/or business owners. Andy introduced multiple business models, such as vermiculture, hydroponics, compost farming, and community-supported agriculture, to emphasize that viable livelihoods exist--and thrive--in the sphere of agriculture. Emboldening younger business-minded folks to explore options beyond banking careers and shop owning has particular importance in Nepal. Many young adults have not been exposed to successful land-based businesses and tend to turn away from agriculture, given the limited, subsistence farming practices prevalent across the country.

These students, however, seemed engaged and curious; we hope that we were able to spark interest in these bright, young minds and encourage them to explore new ideas in the business world.

next steps...

The next few months will bring a lot of growth (pun intended!) to SLGC as the garden interns prepare the garden beds for planting by incorporating housemade compost into the soil and installing the Demonstration Garden infrastructure. Site plans (see below) include vegetable beds, a storage shed, the seedling nursery, a produce washing station, greenhouse, compost making, and examples of alternative gardening methods.

Hügelkultur, vertical gardening, and greenhouse elements round out the interactive environment that has been designed to instruct as well as produce. The near future will also bring solar-powered cold storage methods, combined to serve as models of diversification amidst the growing environment.

Stay tuned as construction gets underway. Click below to enjoy good cheer from the next generation of biodynamic farmers as they bid you a happy day:

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