Local permaculture group to create communal tool shed on the grounds of Dawn Farm with A2Awesome grant

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation today announced the award of two $1,000 grants, one of which was given to Ypsilanti’s Jesse Tack for the establishment of a communal permaculture tool shed on the grounds of Dawn Farm, a local treatment facility for addiction. Here, with more on the project, is a quick interview with Jesse, the founder of AMPY (Abundant Michigan Permaculture Ypsilanti).


MARK: You just won an Awesome grant. How do you intend to use the $1,000?

JESSE: The AMPY community has partnered with Dawn Farm to help develop 7.8 acres of mono-cropped farmland into what’s called a restoration agriculture model. Restoration agriculture is the development of staple crops using perennial trees and shrubs with mixed annual crops and animal grazing. As such, the tools needed to make this system perform optimally are pruners, compost tea sprayers, hand saws, scythes, berry rakes, and other low-tech, human-powered tools. We’ll use the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award to purchase as many of those items as possible to start our resilience tool shed at Dawn Farm.

MARK: What kinds of trees and shrubs are we talking about, and are there plans for what will happen with the crops that will be produced? Might we, for instance, see the folks at Dawn Farm, in partnership with AMPY, selling nuts in a few years, in order to raise money for their programs?

JESSE: We’re planting chestnut, hazelnut, walnut, pecan, cherry, plum, apricot, apple, elderberry, goji berry, persimmon, pawpaw, lilac, red osier dogwood, willow, black locust, mulberry, sea buckthorn, and siberian pea shrub. We’re also inoculating logs with mushrooms. And we hope to rotate grazing animals between the tree rows. As the trees get taller and stronger, we’ll also plant grapes and hardy kiwi to climb up and provide additional stacked crops.

As for what will happen in the future, I can also imagine many small AMPY businesses arising from this initiative… selling, processing, offering value-added products from these many niche crops.

AMPYdawn1MARK: Do you envision the tools being used beyond Dawn Farm?

JESSE: Yes. The tools will be stored at Dawn Farm, and primarily used to manage the restoration agriculture system in development there, but they’ll have uses beyond Dawn Farm. The greater AMPY group will be able to access the tools through a tool sharing system. The tools will need to be checked in and out by myself, or one of the other co-managers of the Dawn Farm project, but they’ll be available. Some tools, like the scythes, are skill-based, and would need specific training to operate properly. And teaching how to use these tools, by the way, is another way for AMPY to contribute to the greater reskilling effort of our local human culture.

MARK: If folks are interested, how would they go about joining AMPY?

JESSE: Anybody can join the Facebook group. Just visit our page, and ask to join. The same goes for our email list. It doesn’t matter if you live in Ypsi or not. Just email me at jessedavidtack@gmail.com, and I’ll add you to the list. Both keep people up-to-date on upcoming events.

MARK: How did your partnership with Dawn Farm come about?

JESSE: Shortly after AMPY was founded, and began holding monthly events, Monica King connected Grace Yoder to AMPY’s work. Grace is the garden manager at Dawn Farm, and she’s always graciously inviting the local community to engage with Dawn Farm… growing food, raising animals, growing flowers, setting up beehives, and the like. She invited myself and AMPY to come out, and my first thought was restoration agriculture. My interest in permaculture is on the broad-acre, and, as Dawn Farm is a 65 acre site, I figured, if we could do anything there, it would have to demonstrate locally how to manage large-scale food systems regeneratively.

AMPYdawn2MARK: Have you seen such restoration agriculture projects executed successfully elsewhere?

JESSE: As far as the system of plants and animals, restoration agriculture here would mimic the biome that existed in Michigan since the last ice age – the Oak Savanna. So, in that sense, we have no doubt that these systems will work and persist, even without human tending. We are also aware, however, that the climate is shifting and, as such, we’ll be planting experimental crops that will thrive in both colder weather patterns and warmer.

When it comes to the human managed landscapes and their economic potential, Mark Shepard, who has a model 110-acre farm in Viola, Wisconsin, literally wrote the ‘Restoration Agriculture’ book. His farm demonstrates the key principles of restoration agriculture – managing water using keyline design (which is why these farms do not plant in straight rows), mimicking the local biome, planting en masse for genetic diversity, mixed production with perennials and animals as essential partners, and stacking many economic returns and enterprises onto one site.

On Mark’s farm, they have separate businesses to manage… they raise and sell ruminating animals, the grow apples and sell hard cider, they manage and sell nut crops, and they grow oil crops (sunflowers and hazelnuts) to run their machinery. The potential is there in the marketplace for these niche crops to support numerous small enterprises.

One last thing to mention regarding Mark’s work is that he uses the STUN method. STUN stands for Sheer Total Utter Neglect. And we’re following the same method at Dawn Farm. This means we really overstock our farm with young trees and we refrain from babying them, and instead allow those weaker plants to die, and propagate out those plants that survive and demonstrate the genetic characteristics that we desire – drought tolerance, early producing, quality of the fruit, and pest resistance. This lowers establishment costs with trees as we buy them at less than $1 per tree and plant them at 2 foot spacings, with the understanding that many will die, but those that live will be suited to our particular site.

AMPYdawn3MARK: What’s your background?

JESSE: I grew up in Lapeer, Michigan, as a happy, nature-loving kid. I experienced a sort of death process throughout my late teens and twenties wherein all of my cultural beliefs fell into dissolution. I began to live in an anarchical, and even nihilistic, manner. Eventually, finding no positive actionable steps to take in politics, philosophy, or rebellion, I discovered permaculture as both a positivistic mode of being and a new operating system for living on Earth. I’m also trained as a musician and a music therapist, and currently work as a music therapist, as well as teach meditation and mindfulness practices.

MARK: How’d you hear about the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation?

JESSE: Through an AMPY member last year. She had suggested applying for a grant at that time, and we just didn’t have the ability at the time. This year, with the Dawn Farm project moving forward, we certainly have the need for the extra support that this grant offers.

MARK: When did AMPY begin, and how’s the organization evolved since that point?

JESSE: In 2012, my good friend Travis Childs and I hosted a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in Detroit at a ridiculously low price to help serve the city which we both love. In the aftermath of going broke and crazy trying to pull all of the pieces together for a world-class PDC, I realized how little I had organized, energized, and activated in my own town of Ypsilanti. It was September of 2012 that AMPY started after meeting with a few local sustainable-type folks and seeing a need for a permaculture-focused action group.

Our evolution includes moving past the largely failed design application of the formation of guilds, which, in hindsight, doesn’t seem to make sense unless there are significant numbers of motivated people to enliven and energize the guilds. Our successes have been built upon in a slow and steady fashion.

One slow and steady success for AMPY has been maintaining a commitment to hosting monthly meetings to share knowledge and experiences on the first Monday of each month. Those meetings have become the nexus of sharing ideas with community members and regular community building engagement.

We also host numerous workdays throughout the warm months… And we’re developing a resource list of people, skills, tools, and abilities within Ypsilanti… And we encourage and organize group purchasing and group working parties as both make light work of otherwise arduous projects.

MARK: Where else are you planting?

AMPYdawn4JESSE: We’re in the process of developing three to five sites within the city of Ypsilanti to act as demonstration sites for neighborhood associations and individuals to replicate with good sustainable practices for food, water, energy, and fiber sustainability. And, in doing this, we’re are building an incredibly valuable skill set within the AMPY group, from edible landscaping to restoration agriculture development, from fermentations to growing perennial seeds, from building resiliency in our local landscapes to building resiliency into our homesteads.

MARK: Any parting words?

JESSE: As the current cultural designs continue to erode and fail, the average family/individual, permaculture and other sustainable systems will continue to proliferate locally. And AMPY will continue to ‘hold the space’ as the need for self-reliant communities and neighborhoods continues to come more into focus for individuals in Ypsi and beyond… Blame no one. Expect nothing. Do epic shit.

[Those with great, inspiring ideas who wish to apply for an Awesome grant, can do so here.]

This entry was posted in Agriculture, Ann Arbor, Environment, Food, Health, Local Business, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted May 11, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    That’s Jesse getting his grant in the top photo. He doesn’t generally fan himself with money, at least so far as I know.

  2. Nuv
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    We are all vulnerable. Addicts perhaps moreso than any others. But we are all vulnerable. Humanity if vulnerable. We are not destined to make it too much further. But projects like this make the passing better. This project has heart.

  3. anonymous
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Selling roasted nuts downtown during the winter would be an awesome fundraiser.

  4. Eel
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Awesome all the way around. Mono-crop for high-fructose corn sweetener to a real, living, healthy ecosystem improving the lives of people struggling with addiction. Bravo.

  5. 734
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Epic shit, indeed. One hopes our great grandchildren are still picking nuts on the property 100 years from now.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Ypsilanti (AMPY) and Bike Ann Arbor. While I shared quite a bit of information at the time about what the AMPY team was hoping to accomplish on the grounds of Dawn Farm with their grant, though, I didn’t tell you much about the Bike Ann Arbor project that was funded. Well, in […]

  2. […] Maynard has an interview with Jesse Tack, who was just awarded a grant to support AMPY’s project at Dawn Farm. The […]

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