Juliette Hermant in the THCG Garden. Photo by Patricia Heal.

Second nature

The Upper Delaware region is naturally beautiful, but there are some people who help it along
"My garden is alive. Alive for human need, and alive for what the pollinators need."

Interior designer, artist, permaculturist, beekeeper, founder of Fish & Bicycle pop-up and owner of the antique shop Maison Bergogne—Juliette Hermant wears many hats.

Though she’s usually, literally, wearing just the one: a vintage gentleman’s Swiss Alps felt piece, fashionably paired on the day we first meet with a pair of dark blue overalls. Her style, much like her aptitude for design and gardening, is classic.

The Tusten Heritage Community Garden, which is also run by Anie Stanley, is just downhill from her ivy-covered warehouse and the small plot next door. Both gardens are now in Hermant's hands and home to numerous pollinators she has welcomed. Along with acting as the secretary of the Narrowsburg Beautification Group, Hermant raises bees on the roof of Maison Bergogne and participates in efforts to get local children involved in gardening and nature. 

Nearly all of the materials she uses—in her interior design work and her gardening—are natural. Maintaining the integrity of the environment and the space from which we build is integral to the way Hermant approaches community-based projects. “The style is genuine. For me, it’s from function,” she says. “When I choose materials, it’s based on function, and the longevity of those objects... within the world and in the environment," she said. By virtue of her interests and work in Narrowsburg, Hermant is connected to a number of ecological projects in the Upper Delaware region. Here, she acts as a guide to investing in local agriculture and supporting efforts to keep the beauty—and the bees—around. This interview was significantly edited for space. 

 


Juliette Hermant. Photo by Gentl & Hyers.

The River Reporter: How did your personal interest in nature blossom?

Juliette Hermant: I think it’s part of my upbringing... being French and having grown up in France in a relatively small town, not a village like here by any means, but having spent all my summer in the fields. We were going to a summer house in Auvergne, a stone house. We were tripling the village population, by just arriving the five of us… there was like, a stone bread oven and four houses. And, of course, as many barns. I was known to be at the tail of the cows. I was following around the farmers, the girls...  we’re just, you know, falling from bed and just running to the farm.

My mother is a homeopath... So, she has always been [favorable] to soft medicine... I was cared for in that mindset, which is to think differently, and to think in natural ways. I was going to the market every week or twice a week, reading labels on the back of the products at the supermarket, which takes a long time to shop [laughs].  

TRR: How did that personal interest shift into learning about bees and butterflies?

Hermant: I have always been very attracted [to] and resonate with old-world asthetics. They inspire me to be resourceful in the region I live in. The school bus garage brick building [Maison Bergogne] has such a large print on the property, it felt natural to claim the roof to host my honey bees, while collecting water from it to support the pollinator and herbs side garden. That was my first contribution to the Narrowsburg Beautifi cation Group and inspiration for a medicinal hamlet garden, where you can pick your native herbs necessary for simple health... all while benefiting native pollinators and honey bees.  

My garden is alive. Alive for human need, and alive for what the pollinators need.


The Tusten Heritage Community Garden in fall | Photo contributed by Juliette Hermant

TRR: How did you become involved with the Tusten Heritage Community Garden?

Hermant: Andrea Reynosa is the community garden founder... She designed the community garden and then I just kind of came in at the beginnings and inherited the garden when it was time for her to move onto other projects. So, it was built basically as a youth project. That was how it was framed. We were having a crisis with drugs… maybe the garden was three years old. So that was a moment when we were having… a bunch of teenagers around and she was really just wanting to harness their attention into food and community building. 

The Tusten Heritage Community Garden (THCG) is located behind the Western Sullivan Public Library Tusten Branch in Narrowsburg and was founded in 2012 by Andrea Reynosa. The THCG provides the community beds and plots for organic edibles & flowers. Today, the garden is a non for profit dedicated to permacultural exploration, with 24 raised beds, an orchard and multiple pollinator gardens at its entrance. This season, the garden is hosting the first Youth Master Gardener Program initiated by THCG board advisor Adrianne Picciano aka the "Dirt Diva" and the WSPL children's programer Kristen Dasenbrock. The THCG advisory committee includes many of the people mentioned on these pages including Ed Wesely, John Gorzynski and Tannis Kowalchuk.

To volunteer or join the garden, email tustenhcg@gmail.com or follow on Facebook: @tustenhcg.  Visit Maison Bergogne to pick up a hand-bound guide to the THCG and go check the garden out 6 a.m. to sunset.

TRR: It’s tough to get teenagers involved in projects like that.
Hermant: Absolutely. She even put up a farm stand [The Big Eddy Farm Stand] which was right, you know, on the side of the building here. And we had, every weekend, the teens just selling produce. Some were growing, some were purchasing bulk. So they had like a hands-on experience about, what [it means] to think about healthy food. 

To read about Henry Braverman’s experience with the Big Eddy Farmstand as a teenager, click here.

TRR: How did you meet [local monarch butterfly expert] Ed Wesely and what have you learned about butterflies and the ecosystem of the Tusten Heritage Community Garden from him? 
Hermant: I met Ed at the end of the day at the birch garden—with the white birch trellis. He had already walked the community garden in preparation for the fall Honeybee Festival and the release of the monarch butterflies for our children’s program and engagement. 
We just started speaking about what he was observing, which pollinators that I didn’t know I had invited in that new garden. It was just truly like the gate of discovering—of having someone telling you what you’ve been doing. 

Basically, you know, you have that urge of [planting], but you’re not, you’re not exactly conscience of what it’s going to be creating. 
I learned that [the THCG] was a much bigger picture than just planting milkweed for the monarchs; that it was so many more pollinators and insects actually participating in the whole eco-system: enjoying, benefitting, eating, sheltering, you know, having their whole life there. 

Ed Wesely is a longtime contributor to The River Reporter. He’s also a naturalist and local butterfly expert, along with Barbara Yeaman, the founder of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy and the former nature center, the Butterfly Barn, located in Milanville, PA. You can find a dedication to Yeaman’s work, and information on butterflies along the Route 97 Scenic Byway.

Speaking of, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway awards grants to groups that will enhance the mission of promoting butterfly habitats—like pollinator gardens!

In the last 20 years, the Monarch Butterfly population has dwindled from more than a billion to just 150 million, a nearly 82% drop. The Delaware River is a flyway for the annual migration of Northeastern Monarchs from their summer breeding grounds to their wintering roosts in central Mexico.


The seed library at the library in Narrowsburg. Photo contributed by Juliette Hermant. 

TRR: Where should people start if they want to grow an organic garden like the THC Garden? 
Hermant: The seed library [at the Tusten library]... was a share project that actually I designed with Anie... I think three years back now. That allows you to grow your own non-GMO seedlings… It’s about people saving their own seed, knowing the particularity of what they’re growing and sharing knowledge. 
That’s another project where the beautification group is joining us, doing the plant swap twice a year. Our next swap is right after Memorial Day, Saturday, June 1.

 Hermant also suggests checking out The Wild Yarrow Farm in Cochecton and Tannis Kowalchuk and Greg Swartz's 12-acre Willow Wisp Organic Farm in Damascus, PA. John Gorzynski's Ornery Farm offers a seasonal farm walk through the THC Garden as well as produce.

TRR: What else is the beautification group working on this summer? Should we expect to see any beauty springing up from your efforts in the near future?
Hermant: The NBG received a Community Beautification Grant from Sullivan Renaissance this year for the maintanence of our town gardens. This season, we have initiated a pilot program using two goats to help with Japanese knotweed remediation.  

The Narrowsburg Beautification Group was created to beautify the hamlet and the town, while promoting environmentally sustainable practices. The group has received a community maintenance grant for 10 existing garden sites including the historical and three town gateway signs. to volunteer, email nbgtusten@gmail.com.

TRR: How did you become involved with the Ten Mile River Baptist Church? Did you just walk up and ask if you could plant a garden?
Hermant: I just fell in love with the church, and I searched who was caring for her, because she looked like she’s cared for. It’s nondenominational, but it receives one ceremony on Memorial Day weekend, the only one of the year. 
So I just called up and said ‘Hey, you know, I would love to visit the church. Doreen Kraus… was very happy to show it to me in the dead of the winter—that was very brave and lovely of her. And I started making plans for how I could contribute to it. 
So there is a  whole pollinator garden on the right side of the handrail going up the steps… and we’ve been very happy noticing that plants have been surviving the winter and nothing has been devoured by the deer yet… [which] is always a big moment of like, ‘Everyone’s survived? Everyone survived the deer?’ 

The Ten Mile River Baptist Church, or the Tusten Church, is located on Route 97 toward Port Jervis and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

TRR: How can the average person, or a busy family, commit to growing organically?
Hermant: It really has to become part of your life values. Because the garden is part of your life. So you should consider the garden being just a time of family bonding, for meditation as well, and for yourself. 
Also hold the respect for the time it takes to do things. There’s a reason why it’s healthy to take time, and to stay on the rhythm. And the garden is a beautiful way of feeling that rhythm.

 

Editor's note: Greg Swartz is not a member of the THCG advisory committee and his name has been removed. The question about the Ten Mile River Baptist Church is phrased differently than it appears in the print version of this story. 

 

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