July 26-29, 2018
The Sacred Gardener Farm
In this three day intensive workshop Participants will experience first hand the remote Indigenous forest garden on the Madawaska River. This garden is based on the Native gardening practice of using successional polyculture. The Madawaska Forest garden is almost twenty years old, and very few people have ever seen it. The other central parts of the workshop take place on more familiar terrain; the farms old fields. Over the years Steven and helpers have turned a few of these acres of exhausted farmland into rich, diverse ecologies. Different terrains on the farm have lent themselves to different methods of integrated gardening such as no-till, lasagna, permaculture, and polyculture orchards. These gardens on the Madawaska and at Golden Lake demonstrate different aspects of co-creative gardening that physically and spiritually honour our ancient contract with the Wild.
- This course promises to be a journey of experiential learning, vastly different from any other agriculture course including permaculture courses. The Sacred Gardener courses take you out of the theory and into experience, which integrates and grounds the abstraction of intellectual concepts underlying the work.
- The course’s guide is Steven Martyn, who lives with his family, working as a teacher and farmer at the Sacred Gardener farm in Golden Lake. Steven has gardened personally and professionally, in many different challenging environments for over thirty years. His approach to gardening is unique, in part because he learned how to forage before he learned how to garden. This, and time he spent with the Lacodon Maya, shaped his vision and approach to wild gardening or “wildculturing”, in which the natural elements of the land and Her gifts are received and honoured with deep appreciation.
Some of Steven’s other experiences which lend depth and a broader context to his teaching are that he worked as professional landscaper and started Livingstone & Greenbloom, one of Toronto’s first ecological landscape companies in the late 80’s. He is presently the primary grower, wildcrafter and production manager for The Algonquin Tea Company (which he co-founded, and created the herbal blends for in 1996). Steven also has an M.A. in Traditional Plant Use from Trent U. He has been a part time professor a Algonquin College teaching wild edible and medicinal plant use as well as traditional survival skills for more then a decade.
The work at Trent University helped Steven research, plan and document the land use process in Madawaska. But it was Steven’s sojourn in Central America, an experience with Lacandon Mayan people and their complex polycultural milpas that really inspired him to create the Madawaska forest garden. In 2016 the story of this garden’s planning and co-creation, “The Madawaska Forest Garden” was released. The sister book, “Sacred Gardening” was released June 2017.
More About Sacred gardens and Our Inherited Obligation to the Earth.
The creation of the Madawaska forest Garden is based on indigenous practices. These ancient techniques work with the natural fecundity of the land, not through high-input annual cultivation. The wild forest garden on the Madawaska is based on traditional forms of successional polyculture. These gardens honour our ancient contract with the Wild. These central agreements our ancestors made with wild, gave us what we needed to survive and to build civilization. Honouring this agreements is central to becoming a human.
All gardening is sacred, in that it is a miraculous birth born from a spiritual relationship with ancient roots. When we are working with the Earth and plants we are involved in a high ritual, even if we are not conscious of it. This sacred bond between ourselves and wild plants and the Earth, has been taken for granted. We have forgotten what a gift we have been given and that with that grace comes debt to the Earth and plants, some reciprocal obligations. Not to replace what was taken, this is not possible. But to feed that what feeds us. This debt was clear to our ancestors. Pagan and Indigenous ceremonies were not just celebrations of fecundity, but were rituals of debt payment.
Our historic understanding of the caring and intimacy necessary to grow food, can still be seen in the agricultural term “husbandry”. Gardening and marriage have many things in common. But while our ideas around marriage have changed from the patriarchal concept of ownership or possession of the feminine, to a more egalitarian relationship, our agricultural relationship to the Earth has not evolved. We still act and think that we own the land, and can do what we wish with Her. There is a long ugly history of our “dominion over” the Earth and there are many modern laws and philosophies which have derived from that time, which still dictate and support this view. But this controlling approach runs contrary to our ancient contract with Her. And conventional modern approaches, and even some alternative approaches to agriculture, also seem backward in today’s otherwise ‘humanitarian’ and ‘environmental’ paradigm.
“Having first learned how to forage and then later how to garden, I was spurred on over many decades to develop a way to truly work co-creative and cooperatively with the Earth. The results of these unconventional “experimental” gardens, feed my family, friends and guests. Which proves this co-creative way of working with Her not only honours the ancient agreements, but can also be productive.”- Steven