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Nissa Gadbois

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since Jun 24, 2015
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We own a 300 acre farm in central Massachusetts. We are working to restore an abandoned farm and farmhouse. We're also starting a permaculture project in Bulgaria.
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Recent posts by Nissa Gadbois

My family and I have a farm-scale permaculture project in central Massachusetts.  Over the past year and a bit, the local food security vulnerabilities have been laid bare.  I know that's now a phenomenon specific to our area.  We lost all of our restaurant business - which is to say ALL of our business.  So we pivoted to serving the community of families in our area with the food we grew.  We gave it away.  Almost all of it. I think we took in less than $1000 on the season.  But it shifted our focus to making our own community more food secure.  We live in a rural food desert.  I started a group to connect local farmers and the folks in our state - we're small, only about 500 members.  We offered CSA shares and got 5.  We planted 1.5 acres in veg again this year.  We're starting a food co-operative that features foods grown or produced in our area.  But raw milk is a sticky wicket here in Massachusetts.  It can only be sold on-farm.  We can't bring someone else's raw milk to sell here.  And we happen to have a tiny herd of dairy goats...  So we thought to convert the old cow dairy building for goats and later, sheep.

And we thought maybe we could help other folks in the meantime by offering a way to get plans and instructions and reports on how it's all going.  We figured that if we're on the ball, we can make a decent course out of our experience and get the support of our local community as well as other permies.  It's kind of a regenerative thing, you know?

So, I set up this fancy-looking site to try to help us raise the monies we need for the dairy.  (I did it for almost free because this is what I know how to do.)  You can check it out and the perks we're offering.  We'd be tickled to have folks share it around, contribute if you can.  I hope we can help some other folks start their own raw milk dairies for their own communities in the process.


Thanks everyone!
1 week ago
It's not yet established.  It's a project I've been planning for about three years.  I'd be happy to talk to you more about it, you can  email me.  nissa_@_renaissance-farms_._com Where in Bulgaria are you?

If you're the sort who wants to combine service and learning, then this might just be the PDC for you!  I'll be leading my first cohort in Bulgaria next May.  We will be working in a small village in northeast Bulgaria, on the south bank of the River Danube.  Like, walking distance from the Danube.  Our design work will be focused on developing an ecovillage project on the site(s) that will serve at risk youth leaving the social care system, village elders, and eventually serving marginalized populations (Romani mainly and Turks) in BG.

Read more about it HERE

Thanks everyone!

Renaissance Farms
I'm planning a PDC on our farm in Massachusetts August 12-September 3.  It's a long one - three weeks instead of two.  I decided to give my folks some down time and also build in more hands-on time here.  You can check out more details HERE.

Hope to see you here!

Renaissance Farms

S Bengi wrote:The county, I plan on moving to is like that, I am allowed to do my own electrical work and plumbing, etc. I can cook/ferment my food however I want for my home use. But once I open a restaurant, they now have alot of regulation, even my sink has to have the right certification and they want dimensions, even though it is the exact same live free or die county. It gets even worse when #1 of tiolet per worker/customers and parking regulation and such is factored in their decision to give out a permit.

35,000 cubic feet volume or 3,500 sqft assuming 10ft walls. Even 4,400sqft with 8ft walls doesn't sound too big.

I wonder what your motel rooms look like?

Yep, so we're already anticipating the BoH inspections and regulations.  We're very familiar with food services regs.  Less familiar with those governing overnight accommodation.  My main concern is actually the building itself and the types of materials and construction we may be limited to.  I'd like to be able to say "here is the technical/scientific information on this thing we want to use"

I know that CalEarth has done a lot of this work on earthbag construction.  Where can one find that type of informaiton on other natural building materials and techniques?  
1 year ago

Anne Pratt wrote:I’m quite sure that there are no counties in Massachusetts where the OP can built whatever she wants. It’s not that kind of state.

It might be, though, the kind of state where sustainability might bring some interest from the Commonwealth, and possibly even funding.

Massachusetts is pretty regulated in every regard.  No carte blanche here.  But, yes... Massachusetts is very interested in all things 'green', so perhaps I can find some funding.  I'm not at all sure where to look.  NRCS touches on that, but it would be a stretch.  MDAR doesn't have anything that I can think of.  And I'm not sure what other agencies or NGOs I might investigate.  Maybe I'll have a rummage around over the weekend and see what I can turn up.
1 year ago

John C Daley wrote:At 35,000 sq ft the structure is enormous.

35000 cu. ft. No shopping malls on the farm. :D
1 year ago

S Bengi wrote:Architect fees is 10% of the final price, so thats a big chunk of money. I feel your pain.

If you are building it just for your privater personal use then I support less regulation.
But if you are building for the public (my grandma) to come visit, shop and even sleep(motel). Then yes I think some public/government bare minimum standard makes sense.


S Bengi wrote: DMYS, mostly cares about roof, bond beam, 4 weight bearing post and the foundation. They dont care about non-load bearing walls, and that is your ticket to doing creative stuff. They normally dont mind if you use strawbale for insulation.

I'm anticipating that they are going to push back on some natural building that we might wish to employ, but perhaps not.  I'm pleasantly surprised that Massachusetts is OK with strawbale fill.  I wonder how they feel about earthbags and cob and thatch roofing.  I'm also wondering if they will allow a certain amount of the work to be done by our own hands.  Obviously, things like plumbing and electrical will have to be done my qualified professionals.  Those are things I wouldn't feel competent to do in any case.

I'm hoping we will find an architect that can help point us in a direction and also know where to get all of the official information about whatever building methods and materials we'd like to use so that the planning and zoning boards will be happy, thus making me happy.  Because we all just want everyone to be happy.

1 year ago

John C Daley wrote:Do you need an architect or a building designer or a draftsman to simply draw the plans etc?

We do. The finished building will (eventually) be over 35000 cu. ft.  
1 year ago
I have a farm in Massachusetts.  I want to build a kind of multipurpose building in three phases.  The purposes of the building are intended to bring members of our community into the space to shop, to learn, to eat, to sleep, perchance to dream.  And this is where I anticipate that the Department of Making You Sad is going to come in and, in fact, make me sad.  Because we are a permie kind of place, I want to use natural building methods, and I want to use - as much as possible - our own 24 hands (big family).  The DMYS, I anticipate (and not without reason) does not understand such things.  So here I am, hoping that someone speaks both languages and can help me think or plan through this process so that everyone will be happy.

Based on the final dimensions of the building and Massachusetts building regulations, we're going to need an architect for a start.  And there will go a not insignificant sum of money, making me sad right at the outset.

Has anyone built a permie commercial/institutional use building on their site?  Please share your experience.  Or just reach out and hold me, tell me it's going to be alright (lie if you have to).
1 year ago