November 10, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The 7-acre permaculture (permanent agriculture) site at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus benefits the eco-system and the climate while bringing special treats to dining room tables at the Motherhouse. Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist, explained the principles of permaculture and gave a virtual tour of the many aspects of the Congregation’s permaculture grounds in a recent presentation.
Permaculture is a “land-based design” for agriculture, in which practitioners learn from the rhythms and ways of nature and follow the principles of “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share,” Elaine explained. Unlike traditional agriculture, which focuses on cash crops, permaculture aims to “revitalize the eco-system” so that the system is “not only productive for us, receiving the food, but it’s also productive for the Earth system,” to bring about land restoration.
In her presentation, Elaine explained various beneficial aspects of the Congregation’s permaculture site, from a rain catchment system that allows the Motherhouse to rely on recaptured rainwater for irrigation, to berms and swales – depressions and raised land to help in water retention.
Elaine also spoke of ways that permaculture can offset some of the damage of greenhouse gasses and climate change caused by the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon farming uses the soil as a “sink” to store the carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. “The carbon sink in the soil is a partnership between plants and the sun and the soil,” Elaine explained. Plants take in the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their roots and exchange the carbon with soil organisms. “The organisms have that carbon in their bodies, and then they decompose and become part of the soil life cycle … so that it doesn’t come up into the atmosphere.”
On a more practical note, Elaine spoke of the community garden, kitchen garden, and edible food forest that help put food on the tables of people in the Adrian area, including those in the Motherhouse. This year, she said, the permaculture site produced 650 pounds of large tomatoes and 70 pints of bite-sized tomatoes, which were used in the Motherhouse salad bar, along with a variety of vegetables and assorted herbs used in preparing meals.
“One of the benefits is that it gave our diners more of a variety of vegetables, such as chard and root vegetables,” said Susan Kremski, Director of Food Services. She added that the blueberries and blackberries were plentiful and a “real treat” for the Sisters, Co-workers, and guests.
“This is the first big year for permaculture,” Susan said. The kitchen staff will work with the Co-workers from the permaculture site to evaluate this year and determine how to improve on the partnership for next year.
For more information on the permaculture site and how the many areas have been designed after studying nature, watch the video of Elaine’s presentation below.
May 5, 2017, Washington, D.C. – A number of Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and friends braved the heat and crowds of Washington, D.C., to express their commitment and concern for Earth and her inhabitants. The group – along with students from Siena Heights University in Adrian – were participating in the People’s Climate March on April 29.
The crowd was estimated in the tens of thousands, and some say up to 200,000 people took part in the march, which was organized into eight blocs of activists. The march coincided with the 100th Day in office of President Donald Trump – and of the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, great Dominican mystic and reformer.
Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, and Patty Gillis, an Adrian Dominican Associate, were among the staff members and supporters of Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ), an interfaith network of people who care for Earth. Their group marched as part of the Defenders of Faith bloc.
“I wore my Dominican scarf in honor of the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena,” Patty said. “I felt her energy in all the caring people taking their concerns to the seat of power, much like Catherine did in the Middle Ages.”
Patty said she was uplifted to be among the indigenous peoples who took part in the march, and among people of so many faith traditions. “They reminded us all that Care for Creation is a moral and spiritual issue.” She was also pleased to see the influence of Pope Francis on many participants through his picture and quotes from his encyclical, Laudate Si, on banners carried through the streets of Washington, D.C.
“The People’s Climate March was very impressive, with many, many activists,” Sister Janet said. “We stood in respect as the indigenous communities and Protectors of Justice prepared to lead the March. They were followed by the immigrants, water keepers, and Creators of Sanctuary.” In all, Sister Janet said, her participation in the Climate March was “a meditative, powerful, and hopeful experience.”
Members of the group from Adrian – marching with the Defenders of Truth group – also found the Climate March to be a hopeful experience, in spite of the urgency of the climate change issue and challenges such as the 90-degree heat, crowds, and the difficulty of traveling to the march site.
“It’s so hopeful, because you are out there with all these people and you think, ‘Wow, these are all people who care about the same things I do, and there are so many of us,’ ” explained Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP. She is the Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. “How can [the March] not make an impact?”
Sister Kathy – along with Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Holly Sammons, Dominican Volunteer – were impressed by the kindness of the people they encountered, whether at their hotel or among other participants, in spite of the discomfort and inconveniences.
“Everyone is so peaceful and kind,” Holly said. She noted that the atmosphere of peace among the participants made parents feel secure enough to bring their young children to the march. “It’s kind of cool to see people being introduced to this [activism] at so young an age, and parents feeling it’s safe enough to bring their kids, too.”
They were also impressed by the commitment of so many people, not only at the People’s Climate March, but the weekend before, at the science march and at a May Day demonstration in Chicago. “Week after week, the crowds continue to come out,” Sister Kathy said. “The energy hasn’t lagged.”
Sister Maurine saw the interconnectedness of issues represented by many of the marchers, from Black Life Matters activists to indigenous peoples who carried signs such as “Don’t Break Treaties.” But the various agendas “all fit under the same category – respect for our world and respect for the inhabitants of our world,” Sister Maurine said.
In general, the participants from Adrian came away from the People’s Climate March with a renewed commitment to caring for Earth – and a greater sense of a culture of respect. Sister Maurine said the message she would like to bring to others after her experience of the march is that “people desire to respect the Earth and everything in the Earth and on the Earth.”
Feature photo (above): Staff and supporters of Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ) took part in the Climate March: back row, from left, Karen Clarke; Patty Gillis, Associate and Director of VEJ; Sister Janet Stankowski, OP; Marian Gillis; and Laura Gillis. Seated in front is Nate Butler, Laura’s husband.
Sisters Kathleen Nolan, OP, third from left, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, front row, right, with a group of Co-workers, friends, and Siena Heights University students, take part in the People’s Climate March on April 29.