Category Archives: Growing

Spring Awakening and The “Magic” of Seeds

Springtime delights our senses!  Birdsongs and the sweet scent of soil after rain fill the air.  Colors of white, purple, pink, and yellow canvas forest floors, burst in the trees, and are popping up in flower beds. These magnificent blooms attract hundreds of species of pollinators, creating a joyful buzz of activity.  The warmth of the sun invites us out of our houses, too, alluring us to breathe in the fresh air and participate in the coming of new life. It’s a wondrous way to wake from the dormancy of winter slumber!

One of the best ways to engage in the rebirth of Spring is to sow seeds.  In this recent Tower Power blog post, To Sow or Not To Sow, I outline the benefits and drawbacks of direct seeding or transplanting.  Either way, whether you start seeds in trays or sow directly into the ground, planting seeds places you at the intersection of death and new life.  For within a seed lies the story of the previous plant’s life (native homeland, genetic blueprint, preferred growing conditions) paired with the stored nutrition to support the coming of the next generation.

SeedsinHandsWith seeds in our hands and commitment to nurture life’s
regenerative power, it is not difficult to sense the magnitude of creation and our responsibility to take part. Your act of putting seeds into soil and tending them to life is a promise and gift for the future.


Annual Review

2775011897_19b6365f4f_o2015 was a fantastic year for LBEAD! Long-time projects in Central Indiana came to fruition while new ones began to bud promising to branch from domestic to international in 2016. Here’s a glance at the year’s activities from LBEAD Director, Amy Rhodes.


In early February, I received an unexpected phone call from Garden Tower Project inventor Colin Cudmore asking me to demonstrate the new Garden Tower 2 in a series of instructional videos for GTP’s YouTube Channel.

GT2 City HallAt first, with only a camera as the audience, this felt like a move away from the typical land-based, immersive programs typically designed by LBEAD. But as an educator with years of experience developing hands-on, experiential learning programs connecting people to the lessons of the land, I quickly embraced the Garden Tower as a gateway to rebuilding human relationships with the natural world.  I am thrilled to share the message about this beautifully designed product through as many channels possible!

With the majority of the world’s population living in urban areas and predictions for continual growth, access to nature or even a bit of earth to grow a garden is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. The Garden Tower 2 is a vertical garden with a vermicomposting system that provides users the ability to grow 50 – 130 plants in just 4-square feet! This makes it ideal for urban dwellers and community gardeners to increase volume of production in less space – a beneficial strategy when challenged with food access and security issues.

The first step through the Garden Tower gate is digging your hands in the dirt to produce healthy, organic food. This is successfully being done throughout the United States and Canada in urban settings and locations where soil erosion and infertility are an issue.

In the process of growing in GT2, first time gardeners, school teachers and children, commercial growers, folks of all ages are led down a multi-disciplinary path to participate in acts of:

  • Empathy (Watering and feeding plants and worms)
  • Problem-solving (Companion planting and pest control)
  • Innovation (Building trellises, irrigation systems, growing indoors)
  • Conservation (Less water, fewer petrol-produced veggies purchased, decreased food miles)
  • Entrepreneurship (Worm casting or farm market business)

Most importantly, when utilizing this first-of-its-kind container garden and composting system, Garden Tower users understand (consciously or unconsciously) the deeper levels of Reciprocity.

IMG_8242 IMG_8250 IMG_8599

Each time food waste is added back into the system a human participates in capturing and feeding the nutrient-cycle. With the potential to grow and recycle nutrient in Garden Towers just about anywhere on the planet, millions of people have access to engage with the fundamental cycles of life right outside their door on a balcony or patio. Imagine the impact!


LBEAD began its seventh year booking and leading interpretive guided tours of Traders Point Creamery (TPC) – 100% grassfed, USDA-certified organic dairy farm located in Zionsville, IN.  IMG_8778Since 2009,  LBEAD has provided guided tours for over 30,000 visitors of this nationally recognized, artisanal Creamery.   School groups, parks and rec summer camps, senior citizen groups, chartered tour and travel groups, and national FFAIMG_8530 convention attendees are examples of visitors interested in learning about sustainable agriculture and local food at Traders Point Creamery near #Indianapolis.


Tracing the award-winning dairy products pasture-to-table, in less than a mile walk, is an extraordinary experience. Tour participants learn about the “salad bar” TPC’s brown swiss cows like to munch on in a rotational pattern and visit the parlor to view daily milking at 4:00 p.m.

And, on occasion, visitors are stopped in their tracks for an impromptu lesson on the “Power of Poo”.  Oh, how they wished I was talking about Winnie-the-Pooh on this hot day in July.

IMG_8547 #2 best LBEAD pic of 2015


Summer brought the continuation of Kids Grow Green at South Circle Farm in Indianapolis. The fourth year of the LBEAD program was again a success. Designed for 2nd – 8th graders from the nearby Concord Neighborhood Center, KGG annually involves 30 to 40 inner-city kids in growing, tending, making and sharing healthy delicious food. The after-school program begins in May, followed by a summer program June – August, and returns to an after-school program September – October. Check out these kids growing green smoothie mustaches…10389329_859845150728258_4077701119204120687_n

Assistant Director, Emily TeKolste, championed the Kids Grow Green program again this year while also managing tours and Summer Farm Camp at Traders Point Creamery. Farm Camp had a record number of 24 campers in one session this year! Emily, along with 3 camp counselors, kept the Growing Farm Hands and Eco-Ag Stewards busy doing farm chores, feeding pigs and chickens, working in the garden, and milking cows.


Emily announced this Summer that she will be leaving LBEAD in 2016 in pursuit of a different career.  She has provided tremendous encouragement and steady support over the last three years as LBEAD has grown. Wishing you a bright future, Emily! You will be missed.


The closing cycle of the year was bittersweet as the long-time contract with Traders Point Creamery came to a close while exciting new projects simultaneously developed with Garden Tower Project and Oakwood Center.

Here’s my #1 favorite LBEAD photo of the year marking the last tour at Traders Point Creamery. (You know you’re on the path of right livelihood when children connect arms with you around 300+ years of living history…and thankfully give it a hug.)

Arms around 300 years+
Burr Oak along Eagle Creek Trail at Traders Point Creamery

September was exciting as I spearheaded GTP’s connection with the International Living Future Institute and the pursuit of the Living Product Challenge. I attended the first LivingLiving Product Challenge Product Expo in Pittsburg, PA and had the honor to display two Garden Towers in front of the main stage where world-renowned sustainability influencers such as Jason McLennan, Arlene Bloom, Jeffery Hollender and John Warner spoke to innovative architects, designers, scientists, builders, manufacturers and educators on the cutting edge of the materials revolution.

GTP is now working to have the GT2 certified as a living product,  that is, being net-positive (generating more resources than it takes to produce it).  Read more about the Challenge here.

Fall also brought forth two new programs at Oakwood Center, Being At Home On Earth and The Baby Picture Project. I assisted in developing and launching these adult community education programs designed to facilitate new perspectives and ways of relating with the fellow inhabitants on our home, this planet. Oakwood Center is a wonderful gem in Central Indiana restoring this core connection, serving as a host facility for multiple arts and ecology retreats throughout the year.

So there you have it! 2015 was a full and exciting year. 2016 is already showing great things on the horizon…Beginning with a Garden Tower Project trip to Nicaragua in January and the release of DIY compost heat recovery videos on YouTube in late-Spring.

Stay connected @listentotheland and on Facebook.

All the Best,


Listen To the Land Internship

Providing mentorship and immersive learning opportunities for aspiring environmental educators is one of Land-Based Education & Agritour Design’s objectives. We have hosted four interns over the last three years from Butler University and Indiana State University. Receiving feedback from our interns about their experience is a vital component of our program’s success.

We had the joy of collaborating with Jordanna Bilyeu from ISU during the summer of 2014. Jordanna is majoring in elementary education with a minor in sustainability. L-BEAD directors, Amy Rhodes and Emily TeKolste, along with Dr. Tom Steiger, Professor of Sociology and Director of ISU’s Center for Student Research and Creativity, began working with Jordanna last May to help her design project-based research to support her learning goals. The primary focus of her project was evaluation of L-BEAD’s educational programs at Traders Point Creamery and South Circle Farm.

Jordanna’s enthusiasm for L-BEAD’s programs and her support in collecting data helped take our evaluation processes to a new level. The following interview with Jordanna provides insight into the intern experience working with L-BEAD to provide place-based, environmental education programs on small farms in the Midwest.


Jordanna presenting at ISU’s Student Symposium

Internship Interview with Jordanna Bilyeu (J) conducted by Amy Rhodes (A)

November 2014


Thanks so much, Jordanna! We wish you success on all your endeavors!

Oakwood Community Vision Meeting

Thanks to the eighteen visionaries who participated in Oakwood Center’s community meeting last weekend! Saturday afternoon began with conversations during a gallery walk as participants viewed Ball State landscape architecture student design proposals. A delicious lunch, created by Jessica Burns of Barn Brasserie, was enjoyed while folks continued to mingle and discuss Oakwood’s strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and desired future achievements. Focused visions took shape as the group divided into three teams and were prompted to design the cover of a magazine, featuring, you guessed it…Oakwood!


 A team of Oakwood visionaries in attendance on Nov. 2, 2014.

It would be impossible to recapture the inspiration that soared that afternoon or the fun the groups had creating, but here are a few of the great ideas generated during the rebranding project.

Cover Story Ideas

Living Fully in the Season: Embracing its inconveniences

Oakwood Arts & Ecology Center: Best of all possible worlds

Intergenerational Nature Immersion: Local center opens its heart to the larger community

Featured Articles

Maker Village: It takes a village of doers

Farm to Table: A case study

Workshop: Solar and wind for everyone

Open House: 1914 barn art studio restoration complete!

Retreat Diaries: Confessions of true transformation

Gardens: Sacred space

Other fantastic ideas for the mock-up publication included a tree of the season centerfold, commentary on Oakwood’s community education academies, and great quotes that could be found inside the issue…”Best conference center in the Midwest!” “Where boundaries slip away…” “I built a fire and used a knife at survival skills camp!” and “We love Maker Village! We came home with freshly churned butter and a ukulele.”

It was a wonderful day building community as we celebrated what Oakwood has been and what it is becoming. The unfolding will continue as our ideas become reality and the community expands by collaborative leadership. Spread the word and get involved! The next gathering will be November 16th. We will be reviewing themes from the visioning workshop and discuss ideas for crowdfunding. New participants welcome. Stay on the lookout for details about our next gathering!


You can join the Oakwood Center group page on Facebook at

Permaculture Course Inspires Transformation of Community

Amy Rhodes, Owner/Director of Land-Based Education & Agritour Design (LBEAD), is one of 14 students who completed a two-week Permaculture Design Course, offered in July at Weber Retreat and Conference Center in Adrian, Michigan.

Amy hopes to use the knowledge, experience, and human relationships acquired through the course to broaden services   offered by LBEAD. Reflecting on the experience, she stated, “The course inspired me to look deeper into site analysis and improve ways of bringing invisible structures, such as power relationships and social contracts, into the conversation of place through physical and educational designs. Adding the tools required of a permaculture design consultant, I feel more equipped at reading and listening to landscapes designed by Nature. I now have a clearer vision for integrating interpretive, non-formal education programs with holistic self-reliant, skill-building activities for community members of all ages.”

The course was directed by Peter Bane, author of Permaculture Handbook and Garden Farming for Town and Country, and the editor of Permaculture Activist magazine. Peter and the faculty are specialists in permaculture, a contraction of “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”. Permaculture focuses on designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. Permaculture is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities.

“The students had time to learn and then apply permaculture values and design principles on a specific site,” the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse campus, explained Sister Carol Coston, OP, in the Permaculture Office for the Adrian Dominican Congregation, which hosted the course.  Rhodes remarked, “This experience really pushed me to ask, ‘What are the lessons to be learned about this place? What relationships exist here, human and non-human,  and how can they be celebrated?”

Sister Carol said the students learned to consider such factors as the “ecological and social context of the major building elements of the campus, emergence of the water system, the shaping of the land into major subdivisions, the movement and use of water and winds through the system and its effects, solar influences and outdoor living spaces, the food handling and campus recycling, major and minor opportunities for cultivation, current and possible harvesting from the environment.”

The three overall values of permaculture work are Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share. These factors can also be considered in the design of permaculture for your home, farm, and/or educational site. Land-Based Education & Agritour Design offers services and programs for clients in Indiana and surrounding Midwest states. Contact Amy at to arrange a site visit and consultation.

Bridging Cultural and Environmental Perspectives

Discovering, recovering and reconstructing ourselves and our communities in relation to the places we inhabit is the goal of place-based education. It is the ultimate educational challenge of our time to learn to listen to the complex relationships that exist between humans and the non-human world. Programs created and implemented by Land-Based Education & Agritour Design (LBEAD) provide a bridge for participants to explore, learn and celebrate these relationships on farms and natural settings in Indiana.finding strawberries We work in partnership with eco-friendly farms and education initiatives to design program curricula specific to the place of operation. These programs promote sustainable living practices and a bioregional economy. Contact us to learn more on how LBEAD can help you design your interpretive tourism program.hidden nature

Set up a time to visit one of programs listed below.

Traders Point Creamery, Zionsville, Indiana  Farm Tours  click here.

Farm Camps at Traders Point Creamery, Zionsville, Indiana

Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, Fithian, Illinois  Farm Tours click here.

Interested in sustainability education. We are always on the lookout for volunteers, interns, and educators to help! Visit our contact page for links to connect with us.