WILMINGTON — Back to the Land founder Bill Olenick says he excited to see how this summer goes.

He just finished up spreading a fertilizer of his own creation across his property Sunday morning.

"A quarter of the mix is from carefully selected seed from here," he said, referring to his plot of land in Wilmington behind the River Valley Market on Route 100. "I'm thankful for the rain."

Seeds for purple radishes, field turnips and kale were part of the mix. All of the vegetables are meant to rot into the ground in order to build the organic matter of the soil, according to Olenick. Altogether, the investment was estimated to cost $450 to $500.

Olenick describes the property as "very fertile" but said parts of it are sandy. He started farming there in 2013.

"You can't just take. You got to give," he said. "Same goes with farming. But not with pesticides, chemicals or heavy, continuous tractor use."

Last fall. Olenick returned to Europe where he farms in the Piedmonte Alps of Northern Italy. He said he was working on linking schools and farmers from the United States with those in Switzerland and Italy.

A project in the spring brought Olenick to a rural and agricultural college called Ministero Pubblica Istruzione in Croda, Italy, where students collaborated on planting different seeds. He said there was a trial run with 15 varieties of medicinal plants. Stefano Costa, a professor at the college and a politician, also participated in the project. Gardens in nearby locations in Italy were used for similar experiments.


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Olenick will go back to Italy again this week. His goal is to "combine the best knowledge" between the countries and share it for the benefit of all farmers.

The envisioned program would bring young people from Italy and Switzerland to America, and vice versa. Families would host visitors through arrangements with the Rotary Club International. And Americans could go overseas.

"I've made a deal with the Italians and Dan Yates of Brattleboro Savings & Loans," Olenick said, adding that Francois Lefort, a professor and politician from Geneva, Switzerland, is also interested. "You got to crawl before you walk or walk before you run, but I would like to see 10 or 20 students next year. We're just building the foundation right now."

He said he can have three college students come to Italy this summer. Interested people can e-mail goodfoodvt@gmail.com or send a private message to the Back to the Land LLC. Facebook page.

Back to the Land founder Bill Olenick (rear) takes on a project with (front) Alessandro Prina, professor at Ministero Pubblica Istruzione in Croda, Italy.
Back to the Land founder Bill Olenick (rear) takes on a project with (front) Alessandro Prina, professor at Ministero Pubblica Istruzione in Croda, Italy. (Submitted photo)

Olenick said he is hoping to turn his Back to the Land limited-liability corporation into a foundation with a mission to "bring young people into local-for-local sustainable agriculture with a very international focus" and ultimately create a college or center for agriculture in Vermont. He plans to return to Wilmington in the fall to harvest the seeds from his land here.

With the seeds, he said he would like to get about one ton of green fertilizer to share with local farmers.

"But it's an experiment. I have to see how it goes," he said.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Town Common at Heath, Mass., Back to the Land's potato grown last year will be sold.

Olenick said he had given potato seeds to the Twin Valley Elementary School for its community garden. He had invited members of the school's garden club to his property last school year to get a glimpse into his operation.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.