Wild Roots Farm 2021 Immersion Program
Fostering self-growth and societal change through hands in the soil experiences
Summer 2021 DATES:
Starts June 21st- Ends August 21st
We have developed a program for participants ages 18-25 to immerse themselves in farm life and hands-on learning. This program will foster building connections to our food, energy resources, and local ecology, with an emphasis on creating stronger relationships with ourselves and the natural world. This is an in-depth immersive nine-week experience for people who want to dive into living close to the land while developing homesteading skills and engaging with the daily rhythms of Wild Roots Farm. Participants will also integrate experiences through philosophical discussions of culture, society, climate, politics, and lifestyle choices. Over the summer you will be introduced to local experts and go on field trips to meet farmers, activists, ecologists, and community members who will share their passions, knowledge, and strategies for regenerative living.
This is an experiential educational immersion in lifestyle choices, natural history, connection to values, and developing a reciprocal relationship with the land. Our immersion curriculum dives deep into many intersectional aspects of life, from learning to meet our basic needs to redefining what makes a resilient community.
Outside of collaborative work and projects, each participant will choose what they are interested in exploring on a deeper level. This allows you to focus and expand your interests with guidance, mentorship, and curious sheep cheering you on.
The application deadline is March 15th. Once we have reviewed your application we will reach out to schedule a brief follow-up interview. All applicants will know if they have been accepted by March 29th or earlier. Let us know if you need an answer sooner.
This immersion is open to three participants between the ages of 18-25. We can offer an evaluation for students wanting to receive college credit.
More program details
This farm program provides plenty of time for hands in the soil, physical labor, reflection and journaling, presence and breathing, and skill exploration. Throughout the nine weeks, we will be fostering our connection to food, learning about sustainability on a new level, and immerse in nature enjoying the emergent flow of life on a Catskill farm. You will be living and eating seasonally, from start to finish, learning to cooperate with the weather and seasonal harvests. Below are some of the many aspects of this in-depth experience.
Cooking and working with fire: Cooking in the outdoor woodfired bake oven and developing a relationship with fire, heat, foraged and cultivated foods, and the cultural significance of recipes. Learning to work with the farm crew and process food in a community setting is part of the village experience.
Nature hikes and gathering wild foods: We are lucky to have 100 acres of wild forest to practice sustainable foraging methods where a large part of our diet comes from in the early months. The program will explore the aspects of traditional foraged foods and current trends that play a role in the overharvest of wild places.
Practicing presence while working with plants and animals: Spending time learning from the life around the farm is an important aspect of this program.
Group dynamics and self-care: Living in a community can have its challenges and joys. Throughout the program, we will work to facilitate a balance of collective learnings, work, and fun activities while giving space for reflection, journaling, self-care, and creative expression.
Music and mountain culture: We will gather for weekly music nights for anyone to share songs and stories, learn about mountain music, step dance, and laugh. If you play an instrument or are learning to play one we encourage you to join in!
Fiber arts: Using natural plant dyes, spinning yarn, felting, and various fiber arts: Throughout the program participants will be able to learn from harvesting the flowers for dyes, to getting to know the personality of the ewe whose wool they spin. Creating a final product from felting, weaving, spinning etc will be an option for those drawn to fiber arts.
Organic vegetable production: This includes planting, soil amendments, weed management, harvesting, and storage methods. We will also work with culinary and medicinal herbs, salves, and tinctures. Learn apple orchard management and berry production. Learn the significance of soil remineralization and microbial stewardship with some permaculture design.
Animal relationships: You will explore farm animal husbandry, soil management, rotational grazing, hands-on shepherding, and cow management. We have Icelandic, Shetland, and Scottish Blackface ewes and will welcome Shetland lambs in the spring. Moving the sheep and cows, planning pasture management, and spending time with the animals by taking the cows on walks or cuddling with lambs are all part of the experience.
Ecology: You will have the opportunity to observe the local ecology and learn to identify flora and fauna at Wild Roots Farm.
Energy: Living with energy derived from solar will give you a new perspective on daily necessities. You will be assisting with small solar projects and building a community space from logs harvested on the farm throughout the immersion.
Cultural connections: We will encourage you to dive into your ancestral connections to food and land practices.
Resource people: Visiting Catskill farms and community food and justice projects in the Catskills will help to expose you to many lifestyle choices, farming methods, and community projects.
Community life and covid-19:
As a member of the immersion, you will be part of our 2021 farm crew! You will live in Wilding Village nestled in the woods a quarter-mile from the farmhouse. It has been home to Wild Roots interns for over 25 years. Adjusting to a slower pace of life is exciting and sometimes new, but you will be navigating it along with a crew of like-minded young people. Our farm crew living in Wilding Village will include three program participants, last year's intern Raven and program coordinator Iris. Throughout the immersion program, participants will function as a pod and be following the recommended Covid-19 precautions. Self-care and community health are values of the program.
Each participant will live in their own private bedroom cabin, with a communal village kitchen where you will cook dinners together. Throughout the day time will be spent at the main part of the farm where we will eat lunch, learn and work. Evening suppers will be cooked together back at Wilding Village. The accommodations are rustic off-grid cabins, half a mile from the main house, with an outhouse and solar shower. Mattresses are provided.
Internship vs. Immersion:
This is not just an exchange of labor for the experience of living on a farm. This is a collaboratively curated educational program. What makes this immersion program different from a regular Wild Roots Farm internship is that it is a more in-depth curriculum customized to each participant's interests for maximum growth. In the past, our internships have been an exchange of labor for teaching and learning about how we run our farm. This program is more of a hands-on educational journey. Participants will be active in farm work for part of the day and then take part in facilitated activities related to their interests or creative passions. The program curriculum has a processing component and creative arts element that is beyond the average internship. This will ask you questions, challenge you and your mindset and understandings of agriculture, nature, and homesteading.
The program cost is $2,000 with partial and full scholarships available. When you fill out your application, you can request a full or siding scale scholarship, and we will be in contact with you. The tuition goes towards lodging, food, meeting resource people, program supplies, farm products, and your creations from the program that you will take home. We are working to fundraise for this program because we want to make sure it is available to people of all income brackets. If you have any questions please reach out to us at email@example.com
The cultural and economic landscape:
Wild Roots Farm is located on the top of a mountain on the western edge of the Catskills in rural upstate NY. We are at the headwaters of traditional Lenni Lenape territory. It is a predominantly low-economic and white area. We know many of our neighbors and have had a longstanding involvement in the surrounding communities. We have built relationships of mutual respect with our neighbors (many conservative, working-class folks of European descent and people from NYC who have recently moved to the area). More recently the area has been experiencing significant gentrification. The county's agriculture and food system is made up of POC/Latinx food workers in the local factories and smaller generally white-owned farms. Part of the experience will highlight the economic, racial, and cultural impacts on food and agriculture regionally and nationally.
After the Immersion:
Once you have graduated from the program, you are part of the family of people who have connected to this place. You will have connections to past Wild Roots Farm interns, friends who have local farms and businesses in the area. There is also an opportunity to share what you’ve learned with community members and possibly return and work on Wild Roots in the coming seasons. We offer evaluations so you can get college credit for your participation in the Wild Roots Farm Immersion through your school. Please let us know if you are interested in this option.
Wild Roots Farm history:
Wes’ parents C Wesley and Bea Gillingham bought this land in the 1950s. Wes grew up hiking through the woods and he has continued to deepen his relationship with the place throughout his life. He taught on a traveling college program for 10 years before starting Wild Roots Farm with Amy in 1997. Iris and Roan are the third generation of Gillingham’s to have a relationship with this land.
Meet Who You'll Be Working With
This program is a collection of the many skills and interests of Amy, Wes, Iris and Raven!
As Catskill Mountainkeeper’s co-founder and Associate Director, Wes helps develop the strategic thrust of their programs and coordinates collaborative efforts working with regional, state, and national partners on Extreme Energy Extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure fights. Dedicated to pushing New York into a Just Transition away from fossil fuels he has personally lived off the electric grid for over 30 years and serves on the advisory board of the Center for Earth Ethics and Northeast Organic Farming Association. For ten years, Wes and his wife Amy ran a 150-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable operation. Prior to farming, Wes served as an Acting Director of Field Programs for the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute, teaching graduate and undergraduate environmental education throughout North America and also worked as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service. Although graduating from the University of Maine his real education comes from his extensive experiences in rural and wilderness America. All stemming from growing up learning about the interaction of humans and the natural world here in the Catskills.
Amy is the heart of Wild Roots Farm. She homeschooled her two children and taught them through experiential learning on the farm. Amy loves working in the garden and grows all of the family’s fresh vegetables, looks after the orchard, berry patches and flower gardens. She is a fiber artist and hand spinner, dyer, knitter, and felter using wool from her sheep. Along with her garden skills, Amy is knowledgeable in wild edibles and medicinal plants. She has led workshops on building connection with the natural world. Amy is a Certified Breath Facilitator and Group Leader with Transformational Breath® Foundation. She was inspired to build the outdoor wood-fired bake oven to help foster community connections. Amy has a strong relationship with the earth and has worked closely with nature in all seasons. She works to bring people together around art and food by connecting to nature and our foodways.
Farm-Arts Facilitator and Food Coordinator
Raven is a scenic & multimedia designer and artist, and a recent graduate from Ithaca College where she received her BFA in Theatre Production & Design. Since graduation, Raven has been transitioning her energy to exploring farm work, painting in relation and response to the natural world, and sustainable arts practices. In her work, she loves to explore collage, motion, dreams, and is drawn to experimental, devised theatre and large-scale installation art. For the past few years, she has worked as the Artistic Associate at Andy’s Summer Playhouse, a children’s theatre in New Hampshire dedicated to creating original, socially relevant work that empowers children to have voices in their community. In addition to her experience with youth and theatrical arts, she is now looking to merge these passions with her love of nature and fascination with patterns, fostered in Fall 2020 when Raven interned at Wild Roots Farm. During her time on the farm, she discovered the value and harmony of living in balanced relation to food, animals, plants, and self. She particularly found joy in fiber arts, learning the process from sheep to yarn, and food preparation and creation. She cannot wait to return to the energy of the farm this summer to help share these experiences with a new cohort and learn and grow together!
Program Co-Creator and Facilitator
Iris Fen Gillingham is a 21-year-old climate and food justice activist and Program Associate at Catskill Mountainkeeper. Between 2014-2019 she worked with Earth Guardians and helped launch Zero Hour. Iris grew up on Wild Roots Farm, an off-grid regenerative farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Iris became involved in climate justice work at the age of 9 when her community rose up against the threat of fracking. Her positive passion for change and voice has been featured in articles and videos by Vice, The New York Times, CNN, Teen Vogue, along with international TV stations and local media outlets. She was featured in the National Geographic and Bloomberg Philanthropies film “Paris to Pittsburgh”. Iris is one of the co-creators of the Wild Roots Farm Immersion Program and its intersectional curriculum. She wants to help young people build connections to their food, energy resources, and local ecology, with an emphasis on creating stronger relationships with themselves and the natural world. She is currently studying Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic in Maine.