Permaculture taking root on Mary Mowry Estate

By Glenn Laxton

On a large tract of land, just off Farnum Pike in Smithfield, vegetable gardens are growing, planted by anyone interested in what has become known as permaculture, or natural farming. Located at Mowry Commons, part of the estate of the late Mary Mowry, these public grounds provide space for folks to grow their own food, explore trails along the Woonasquatucket River and socialize with family and friends.

It is part of the Revive the Roots organization, a non profit group, headed by a small band of local people who leased 23 acres of land from the Smithfield Land Trust in 2010, through the Mary Mowry estate, which included her eight bedroom farm house, built around 1730, and which the group is now restoring.

“It’s about bringing our community together to take care of our eco-system,” according to Greg Sankey, Jr. one of several members of Revive the Roots. There is no head of the organization, just volunteers, all experts on some level of permaculture.

“We operate in several ways, growing food or promoting environmentally friendly choices, like walking and cycling instead of using an automobile,” Sankey said.

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.

The main focus for the local group has been growing food together and providing space for the community to grow food with them.

Two years ago, Rivive the Roots built a 30-foot by 72-foot high tunnel greenhouse, financially assisted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Zach Murdoch provides material to build structures on the land.

“A year ago we bought a mobile sawmill, and we’ve been using that to build our own materials, using natural and reclaimed materials as well,” Murdoch said.

Brad Allard said, “We also have walking trails where we can work on conservation in the woodlands and working on the river (Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council) where there are workshops and classes.”

“This is a place where the community can come and do things that aren’t traditionally done in other places, “ said Sam Ogden.

“My specific interest is bringing arts to the property.”

A large field to the back of the land is perfect for outdoor concerts as well.

Anyone wishing to start their own garden or becoming involved in Revive the Roots is invited to e mail, Garden Manager@Revive the or phone 401-305-0539.