Blue Star Equiculture, a 129-acre farm and working/draft horse sanctuary in western Massachusetts is replacing hydrocarbon energy use with ‘animal traction,’ on its sustainable, organic and permaculture farm.
Founded by two Philadelphia carriage horse drivers – Christina Hansen, 29, and Pamela Rickenbach, 49 – the farm incorporates the agricultural philosophies each learned from experiences in Bolivia and France to make sustainability a part of daily operations.
“We believe, in these troubled economic and environmental times, working horses offer a sustainable means of equine husbandry,” says Hansen, who holds a degree in history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “We hope to initiate new uses for working horses in urban environments, such as watering urban gardens, collecting recycling or making deliveries. We hope to expand the use of horses in organic agriculture.”
Rickenbach, who studied Organic Horticulture at the Nature Lyceum in Westhampton, NY, says, “We have developed a delivery system for our liquid soil conditioners that can be applied with the horses. The horses also help us move compost and tools around the farm. Last summer, we planted a spiral permaculture garden with students from the Pathfinder Vocational School. We taught the kids how to grow in a non-conventional, creative way, and how to heal soil and produce vital produce and flowers. We also taught them to hitch and work the horses, to move things around and get from one point to another. It was tremendously empowering to them.”
The farm’s resident permaculturist is Sam Kephart (aka Dr. Dirt), who grew up gardening in Troutville VA, before attending Julliard to study viola, then working in Bogota, Colombia. “There I developed a deep appreciation for indigenous culture,” he says. After returning from Colombia, he followed the work of Manusoba Fukuoka of "The One Straw Revolution" and began to practice no-till gardening and organics in general. “The most recent studies that have inspired me are permaculture, Terra Preta, biodynamics and vermiculture. I hope many people will come to walk our spiral...help us plant...and learn to create their own Garden of Eden.”
To learn more about Blue Star Equiculture’s workshops and clinics on organic farming, permaculture, or draft horse husbandry and driving, visit www.equiculture.org