Winter in Rhode Island means shorter days, naked tree branches, and blankets of snow and ice for miles – but there’s an oasis in North Scituate that serves as a beacon of greenery amid the frost-bitten land. Every year in October, Skydog Farm owners Katherine Fotiades and Mark Phillips bring their succulents and botanicals inside their 1,800-square-foot heated greenhouse for the year-round enjoyment and education of their visitors.
“I consider myself an artist. Botanicals and nature are the mediums I use to express myself,” Fotiades admits, though she resists assigning herself a label – she’s also an educator of mindfulness and creative expression, has been a gardener all her adult life, and worked with the community for 30 years, doing everything from bringing chicks to schools for young students to draw to leading guided meditations for the Ram Dass Fellowship that meets the last Sundays of the month at the farm.
“Everything we sell we have propagated and grown ourselves either from seed or from cuttings. We have an eclectic collection of a bunch of what I call the mother plants, which I take leaves from to propagate the new plants,” says Fotiades.
Though potted plants are available for purchase, what Skydog Farm primarily offers is experience. “We’re moving away from relying on the sale of agricultural products as our main revenue source and focusing on providing nature-based experiences here at the farm,” Fotiades explains, “whether it’s having students here or field trips with Rhode Island Farm to School Network or it’s adults looking to learn more about regenerative farming,” along with hosting botanical arrangement workshops and Sacred Sunday gatherings.
This season marks another pivot for the farm, too. Fotiades and partner Phillips – a longtime hydroponic farmer who has owned three of them over the past few decades – recently sold their hydroponic greenhouse to instead focus on consulting as more and more schools and businesses are jumping on the chance to grow their own leafy greens indoors.
Scaling back also lets them expand their programming, with a full schedule of workshops even in the colder months, when making connections with our perennial cohabitants seems more important than ever. “We really feel that the Wintertime Botanical Oasis offers a refuge to the cold and barren landscape that exists outside when you step into this greenhouse filled with all these green living vibrant plants,” says Fotiades. “When we tune into nature, we can see how resilient it is, and when we really connect with it, we come to understand through direct experience, we are nature itself. We are not apart from it. Once we form this awareness, it really helps us claim our own sense of resiliency.”
From herbal workshops to community events like a Winter Solstice Spiral, all of Skydog Farm’s December programming taps into the rejuvenating powers of the outdoors. It will also make way for the return of a land stewardship apprenticeship opening later in the year, as well as a seven-month intensive following the lifecycle of cannabis plants – Fotiades and Phillips are licensed medical marijuana caregivers who are all about teaching conscious use and removing the stigma.
No matter what you’re seeking, a visit to Skydog Farm this season is “an invitation to slow down and get a direct connection with the living force in the greenhouse that’s guaranteed to uplift your spirit,” says Fotiades, “and who doesn’t need that in the dead of winter in Rhode Island?”
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