A dome grows in our garden

Growing Spaces has been an integral partner in preparing Shumei Natural Agriculture garden in preparation for expanding from homestead scale to production ag scale. The first 22-foot Growing Dome® greenhouse has been so successful in our Natural Agriculture garden, we agreed a larger dome was a necessity for the farm-scale project. We’re pleased to welcome Growing Spaces CEO and Co-owner Puja Dhyan Parsons and staff member Richard Miller as they explain the newest installation at Rodale Institute.


A letter from Growing Spaces

It is such an honor to have this project underway at Rodale Institute, as our vision started in the same era, carrying the same voice for the planet, and sharing the importance of organic growing.  Words like “sustainability” and “green business” were hardly understood then. Our alignment with the mission and vision of Shumei Natural Agriculture is also a source of gratitude, as we are here to teach people how to replenish the Earth and see beauty as a way to the Divine. Giving people a way to afford healthy food is a revolution as well. All of it requires personal responsibility and a learning curve. We are all educators in this regard.

As an Aikidoist who studied for decades under the expertise of an enlightened Japanese master, Morihei Ueshiba, I am aware of the gifts of vision from Shumei’s founder Mokichi Okada. According to the Shumei website, “When Natural Agriculture’s founder conceived of these ideas, he was not just looking for an alternative food source. He was responding to larger themes in the world, particularly to the way human beings treat the environment and each other, to a culture that leads to disregard, conflict and violence.”

Growing Spaces is our vehicle for bringing peace and beauty as well as the lessons learned by relating to Nature as teacher to the world. Our Growing Dome demonstrates that we can “do more with less” because of its off-the-grid potential to sustain year-round growing with minimal use of fossil fuels. Our motivation is the sustenance of people and planet as well as the profit needed to grow as an example of a business engaged in creating solutions for our time. More than a greenhouse, it’s a way of life.

We send our thanks to Shumei and to the volunteers who are making this Growing Dome possible for Rodale Institute. We hope that it will be a living laboratory for all who come to learn there and an experience of Beauty and Peace for all who enter.

Puja Dhyan Parsons
CEO and Co-owner of Growing Spaces, LLC


The Build

By Richard Miller, Growing Spaces Staff

What do Growing Spaces, Rodale Institute, and Shumei Natural Agriculture all have in common? A 33-foot Growing Dome greenhouse! Janet and I began installing a 33-foot Growing Dome at Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA for the Shumei Natural Agriculture project this April. It’s been about three and half years since the existing 22-foot Growing Dome was installed by Rodale Institute, Shumei staff, volunteers and myself.

The 22-foot Growing Dome built in 2009 at the Rodale Institute Shumei Natural Agriculture Garden.

Site of the NEW 33-foot Growing Dome greenhouse going up this week.

This is a special project and we are honored to be part of it. The science behind Rodale Institute, the exquisite art of farming by Shumei and a greenhouse product where life thrives all teamed up to provide a working model of a way to grow and think about our life and our food!

Friday, March 29: When we arrived at JFK Airport the Shumei farmer at Rodale Institute, Kenji Ban, met us at Delta airline arrivals and we were off. Little did we know it would take us an hour and forty minutes to travel 6 blocks before Kenji could turn out of traffic and get us out of there. Finally, after dark we arrived at Rodale Institute.

Saturday, March 30: I’m sitting in the formal living room of an old, circa 1827, house at the Rodale Institute looking through Our Roots Run Deep, the story of the Rodale family. We are waiting for Kenji to pick us up for the new Shumei House party. Shumei just purchased an 1868 old church in Lyon Station, near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Janet and I had a GREAT time and the pictures explain some of it.

Going in to the Shumei House for their Open House.

Violinist Mika Maki at the Shumei Open House.

Monday, April 1: APRIL FOOLS, you thought we were starting construction on the Growing Dome! The pictures show our progress with digging holes/trenches for electric and looking for water lines. Next we can get to work on the actual greenhouse.

Digging trenches for electric and water.

Tuesday, April 2: The weather has been the main reason for not having the foundation ready,  and guess who is in the hot seat so to speak (that would be me). Anyway, the pictures of us working on the piers and digging trenches for water lines tell the story.

Wednesday, April 3: One week left! Today, we basically worked from 7:45 am to 5:30 pm and I don’t recall working on the Growing Dome. Oh, that’s right; we were still finishing the Sonotube foundation. Once again the pictures tell the story. We pour concrete first thing tomorrow morning, let’s see…

Thursday, April 4: Concrete, and can you believe it, some people actually got to work on Growing Dome pieces, at least the stem wall and pentagon assembly. Check out the photos. Thanks for interns and Shumei volunteers!!

Friday, April 5: Life after a hot shower – reflecting on this past week, it’s interesting how my perspective can change. Gratitude – that’s what I’m feeling. Think of the short list of people on this planet that can take a hot shower and how your body feels afterwards. Gratitude – one of the basic principles in Shumei. Please don’t let me forget that! The weekend is soon at hand. This morning started with two end dumps full of gravel to fill up that 33-foot Growing Dome middle. We worked on some structural components and leveled gravel, and leveled gravel, and leveled gravel…. The backhoe operator took out one of the piers, so we had to fix it, shoot it in with the others, and re-pour. Life has its adventures. Anyway, tomorrow with volunteer help we will start to assemble the greenhouse structure.

Saturday, April 6: Cold morning, mild afternoon. We finished cladding the stem wall and started to assemble the wall on the piers. We entered the dimensional shift game, moving the Growing Dome to get its sweet spot. I know because the Growing Dome told me so!

Sunday, April 7: Good day with good friends and good help. We got the first level up. We still have the final three sections of leveling and then on we go to installing the door pentagon.

Monday, April 8: Great weather, more like summer than spring. We finished the structure with the help of, as you can see from photos, a proud and hardworking crew. Tomorrow, we have vent installation and are also covering the structure with the polycarbonate glazing panels. You’ll feel like you’re right there with us!

Tuesday, April 9: First, I checked rechecked hubs for tightness. Then it was time to install the vents. With that out of the way we could get to the exciting part of covering the Growing Dome with the polycarbonate glazing panels. We knew it would be tough because of the gravel floor in varying degrees of thickness, even though we leveled it to the best of our ability. Plywood underneath ladders is awkward! I thought it went well considering the challenges of this particular build and the experience level of our crew. It must have been because we had so much great enthusiasm! The pictures tell the story.


Wednesday, April 10: Our last day is supposed to be today. If it had been just the greenhouse, we would have been there, but the weather and the unanticipated foundation work put us behind. Our schedule is set though and we have to leave tomorrow! So, today I couldn’t work, my sinus infection had got the best of me and I was down for the count. Shumei staff took the day off from the build to plant their potato crop. Then, overnight, it rained and watered all the seed potatoes! The timing was great.

Thursday, April 11: So, my wife Janet and I have decided she will stay on and I will leave for Colorado. After all, what the crew needs is experience and a leader who knows how to do it right. She’s the one for the job! To be continued…

Janet Miller stays on to help finish the project.

Monday, April 22, 2013: From Pagosa Springs, CO: I’m finishing off my vent making at the Growing Spaces manufacturing facility in SW Colorado so I can zoom back to Pennsylvania and help complete the Growing Dome. Jan and I missed each other too much, and she needed someone to tape the very top of the greenhouse and the vents. Did I mention how nice they look? Shumei staff members Kenji Ban and Chisako Fukushima have been taking the pictures you see and Jan has added some shots also in between running the show. Thanks to all the interns and volunteers, even with rainy days they have made great progress. I should arrive in beautiful downtown Newark, NJ the afternoon of the 24th.

Thursday, April 25, 2013: I love round tanks, especially when it comes to leveling. Today we were busy finishing the tank. Don’t you love Janet’s pleats in the tank liner? Other tasks included finishing the fans, final odds and ends at the door, and leftover parts.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013: Finished! Thursday and Friday passed with more of the above tasks and we were left the weekend for taping the seams of the greenhouse. Just Jan and I and one lone extension ladder! Don’t attempt this at home. You really need two extension ladders with outriggers to do a Growing Dome this size. So as not to be banned from taping again, we didn’t take any pictures and have changed our names for security reasons, HA! HA! We were so fortunate to have perfect weather for taping—mildly warm and no wind. Then Sunday night it started to rain and rain. That put us off until Tuesday afternoon, don’t you just love it, when we could work a little on the project. We had enough time remaining to explain to the totally competent interns and Shumei staff how to assemble the few parts of the Growing Dome that were left for completion. And then we were off, back to Colorado, back to our forest home.

4 Responses to “A dome grows in our garden”

  1. Anne E. Lamadrid

    Beautiful!!!! I love it!!!
    ….and it’s
    Sensei Chisako Fukushima…

  2. Roger Beeman

    What a fantastic project. Congratulations on all of your hard work. Please keep everyone updated on your progress.

  3. Felicia Luburich

    The dome looks to be opaque. What is it made of? Very odd.

  4. Felicia Luburich

    What is the advantage o such a tall dome as opposed to a “regular” greenhouse?


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