Every Neighborhood Needs a Farm

Can publicly owned farmland be a catalyst for improving suburban community health & vigor?Suburban Farmland Permaculture Reuse

AppleSeed Permaculture and Milone & MacBroom, Inc. are collaborating on a project with the town of Hamden Connecticut to help envision potentials for reuse of a former farm. Agriculture has deep roots in Hamden, with orchards in this location appearing on maps since 1852. The former Maselli Farm remained in agricultural use even as neighboring farmland was rapidly developed into suburban communities. Now this 33 acre tract of land is one of the last remaining open spaces in the community.

Residents of the neighborhoods adjoining Maselli Farm have tenaciously pursued maintaining this land as open space. A community meeting drew a large crowd to offer their ideas about what Maselli Farm should become. Most people advocated for either a public open space, a working farm, or a blend of the two. Our role is now to reconcile the most popular ideas into a plan that makes sense socially, ecologically, and financially.

Maintaining open space and farmland in our towns and cities provides many benefits. Recreational opportunities positively impact people’s physical health, while contact with trees and living systems has a profound impact on mental well-being. Children who spend more time in “green” settings have reduced symptoms of ADHD and higher test scores. The living systems provide numerous “ecosystem services” such as cleaning the air, infiltrating water and reducing runoff, cooling the community, and bolstering local biodiversity. The land base can also be utilized to grow food to be consumed locally in a way that builds local economic resiliency and improves food security.

Wouldn’t your neighborhood benefit from a productive community green space? We believe that every neighborhood needs a farm. Contact AppleSeed Permaculture if you want to support making a project like this happen in your town.


Connor Stedman at NOFA Summer Conference

Connor Stedman, consultant and designer for AppleSeed Permaculture, will lead a pre-conference intensive at NOFA’s Summer Conference. He will be providing an overview of farming practices that can help stabilize the global climate by sequestering atmospheric carbon in soil and perennial plants.IMG_0740_smallThis will be the forty-first annual Summer Conference and will be held from August 14-16 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

For more information and to register go to : http://www.nofasummerconference.org/

Organic Farming in Kazakhstan

In February, Ethan Roland was interviewed by Kazakhstan’s Astana Times for a feature article on organic farming in Kazakhstan. The full article, with additional photographs of the wild apple forests, is included below. It originally appeared at http://www.astanatimes.com/2015/03/concept-of-organic-farming-planted-growing-slowly-in-kazakhstan/.”


Draft law on organic farming awaits vote; private initiatives work to support organic development

ASTANA – As Kazakhstan pushes to develop its agricultural sector with increased funding for farming even in times of belt-tightening, organic farming and permaculture experts are hoping the concepts maintain a foothold in the country.

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Ethan Roland Soloviev overlooking wild seaberry shrubs, apple forests, walnut groves near Alma Arasen, Almaty.

Though overlooked in recent decades, the practices are part of the country’s not-too-distant past, and today, Kazakhstan is working toward exporting its own ecologically “clean” products under its own national brand, Vice Minister of Agriculture Yermek Kosherbayev said during a seminar on supporting the development of organic agriculture and institutional capacity-building in Kazakhstan in Astana on Feb. 27. However, Kosherbayev said, a lack of legislation is slowing the process down.

“Until less than 100 years ago, all Kazakh agriculture was organic,” Ethan Roland, head of the nonprofit Apios Institute of Regenerative Perennial Agriculture based in Massachusetts, told The Astana Times in a Feb. 27 interview. “And it sustained itself for literally thousands of years. … In my opinion, the current ‘development’ of Kazakh (and most other global ‘green revolution’) agriculture towards fossil-fuel-dependent industrial monoculture is highly unsustainable. This alone will drive a shift to more climatically and culturally appropriate agriculture.”

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Wild rose hips in apple forest area.

Moving Away From a Destructive Past

A Nov. 24 roundtable discussion organized by the Astana Centre of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the ULE Coalition for a Green Economy and the Development of G-Global brought together government, business and nongovernmental organization representatives to discuss the state’s role in supporting organic farming, including providing incentives, as well as specific agricultural technologies.

“The current methods of farming in Kazakhstan are leading to the destruction of natural vegetation that protects the land from erosion and accelerate the process of soil mineralization, which result in drastic decline of its fertility, crops yields and harvest as a whole,” said head of the OSCE’s Astana Centre Natalia Zarudna at the roundtable, as reported by the Times of Central Asia on March 14. Organic farming practices could contribute to solving the problem, she said.

An OSCE report on the discussion said that the group noted that developing organic farming and implementing Kazakhstan’s transition to a green economy depend a great deal on the development of appropriate legislation and government regulation, as well as using domestic and international experience effectively.

Participants called for active policies to stimulate innovation and gain experience and offered 12 concrete recommendations. These included bringing the Ministries of Agriculture and Energy together with the roundtable organizers to draft regulations based on international experience and increase awareness of the green economy transition and organic farming in Kazakhstan; creating an online exhibition of Kazakhstan’s innovative, organic products for EXPO 2017 in Astana; involving Kazakhs more deeply in the organic agriculture category of G-Global’s annual EXPO 2017 competition and passing a draft law on organic agriculture. (The draft law sets out the provision of state support for organic agriculture, including setting rules for labelling organic products from Kazakhstan.)

At a media briefing on March 12, Zhibek Azhibayeva, secretary of the Trade Committee of the Kazakhstan’s National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, said Kazakhstan’s organic products market had been estimated at more than $500 million and that plans were in place to introduce an organic products production chain, the Times of Central Asia reported.

According to Azhibayeva,150,000 hectares of farmland in Kostanai oblast have been certified as eco-friendly. At the Feb. 27 seminar, the Kazakhstan Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (KAZFOAM) reported that 25 farms in Almaty, Kostanai and North Kazakhstan have 296,000 hectares of certified ecologically clean fields.

However, the country’s legacy of environmental damage can be felt today. According to the NP.kz report, the Agriculture Ministry said 21.4 million hectares of land were used for agriculture in 2014, which should be increased to 22.5 million hectares by 2018. However, according to Deputy General director of the Kazakh Research Institute of the Agroindustrial Complex and Rural Development Vladimir Grigoruk, “according to our calculations, it is possible today to grow on only 11.5 million hectares of arable land, as the rest of the area, almost half, is polluted by industrial waste, various chemicals, buried animals or radioactive waste.”


Wild apple forests at site with grapes, hops, licorice, and other economically useful species.

Replanting Organic Roots

Roland is working with the Kazakh Research Institute of Fruit Growing and Viticulture (KazNIIPiV) in Almaty and the Institute for Ecological and Social Development (IESD) in Almaty. They work primarily on preserving and regenerating the biodiversity of Kazakhstan’s apple forests, but also plan to branch out into other areas of biodiverse farming.

“This work is just beginning,” Roland told The Astana Times. “Some of my colleagues … have been working on different aspects of this – e.g. IESD promoting sound agricultural practices within the matrix of the existing biodiverse apple forests. Going forward, we intend to offer workshops on the benefits of biodiverse farming and explore research projects.” He expects to find a receptive audience. His Kazakh colleagues are also enthusiastic about developing organic agriculture, Roland said, especially as its products will likely demand higher prices in local and export markets.

Raul Karychev, laboratory chief at KazNIIPiV, told The Astana Times on March 10 that his institute is studying and implementing elements of organic fruit growing, including identifying varieties most adapted to local conditions and which don’t need chemical treatments and studying adaptive orchard design and crown formation systems, drip irrigation, high-technology farming, organic fertilizer and more.

With international partners including the Apios Institute, the institute has established wild fruit ecosystems in the Zaili Alatau region, Karychev said. He also noted that the Horticulture Master Plan of the Agribusiness 2020 Programme provides for a phased increase in orchard areas in Kazakhstan. “The Kazakh government has embarked on the green economy, so the area of organic orchards and the demand for environmentally friendly products will only grow,” he said.



Wild apple forests, cultivated orchards, overlooking Almaty.

From Wild Apples to Sustainable Traditions

“The wild apple forests of Kazakhstan are part of one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots – it is one of the centers of origins of many fruits, and could potentially hold the keys to a sustainable agriculture of the future,” Roland says. But beyond apples, Kazakhstan also has an important agricultural tradition, and one which is beginning to be recognized and supported.

“Kazakh food production has a fascinating and beautiful history, with two interwoven threads of livestock-focused semi-nomadism and advanced mountainside and outwash valley horticulture,” Roland explained. Now is the time to look back to the country’s early food production methods.

The country’s grasslands and forests would be particularly well-suited to organic and biodiverse agriculture, he said. “Modern ‘organic’ agriculture often does not do much more than change the sprays and offer a bit of focus on soil health. If the overall framework is still industrial-scale tillage, then ‘organic’ alone isn’t much of an improvement.” He proposes instead regenerative agriculture, permaculture and carbon farming.

“In the long term,” Roland said, “I believe that truly sustainable economic and ecological growth will come from Kazakhstan focusing on its ancient agricultural history and incredible resources.”

These include biodiverse food forests and vast grasslands, which can produce useful yields with little to no input, Roland said. “Mimicking the natural Kazakh ecosystems could produce a new form of mixed perennial agriculture, with many opportunities for unique value-added products.” Among these products could be fruits like pears, plums, peaches and many more; nuts; a variety of berries; vegetables; herbs; honey and maple syrup; plus some smaller livestock. Most of these, Roland said, have been part of Kazakhstan’s indigenous ecosystem for years.

Kazakhstan’s grasslands, if managed holistically, could be systems adaptable enough to withstand changing climates, weather and politics and that could produce enough meat for domestic and export markets, Roland said, sustaining horses, sheep, goats, deer, elk, buffalo and other smaller animals producing cheese, yogurt, kumis, leather and fur.

“The Kazakh people are brilliant and resilient,” Roland concluded. “Despite attempts to crush nomadic culture and massive apple forest biodiversity, Kazakhstan’s ecosystems and organic farmers can hold the key to a sustainable and regenerative future.”

Permaculture Cohousing in Connecticut

AppleSeed Permaculture LLC is proud to join Centerbrook Architects on the design team for Green Haven Cohousing, an exciting project in the West River watershed of CT. In collaboration with the people of Green Haven, the Bethany community, and the local ecosystem, we look forward to bringing permaculture to Connecticut!

Sustainable, low-impact neighborhood planned for Bethany.

Bethany, CT—June 6—Green Haven, Inc., a group of area residents, has obtained an option to purchase a 31 acre parcel on Meyers Rd. in Bethany, where they hope to build a sustainable neighborhood of modestly priced homes.

Green Haven members, some of whom are long-time Bethany residents, plan to live in the community. They will be working closely with the architects, engineers, and contractors to ensure that the development is in keeping with Bethany’s rural character and community values as well as being consistent with the town’s Plan for Conservation and Development. Initial response from neighbors and local citizens has been positive.

The property was previously approved for a 48-unit senior affordable housing development that would have occupied the entire site with suburban-style homes, lawns, and driveways. Green Haven’s vision is for fewer, smaller units clustered around a large common facility, the activities hub of the community.

The multi-generational, family-oriented community will feature private and community gardens as well as small-scale farming, in a pedestrian-friendly layout that encourages healthy interaction. The shared common house may include amenities such as a large kitchen and eating space, children’s playroom, craft rooms, and a woodworking shop, allowing individual residences to be comfortable yet small and inexpensive to maintain.

Centerbrook Architects—nationally known for their beautiful, sustainable, energy-efficient buildings—will be the project architects. They will be working with AppleSeed Permaculture on the plan, with most of the site to be kept as open space for farming, conservation, and recreation.

There are more than 200 cohousing neighborhoods nationwide, but Green Haven’s will be the first in Connecticut. Cohousing is a form of intentional community in which families own private homes and participate in the community’s consent-based self-governance and, if they choose, in community activities.

The Green Haven group has been working for several years to find a site where they can develop their community, and securing the option on the Meyers Rd. property is a major step forward. Their intention is to live as sustainably as possible, with a low carbon footprint, low-impact design, and significant on-site food production. They intend also to participate fully in the wider Bethany community as good neighbors.

For more information on cohousing, visit www.cohousing.org. For more information on Green Haven, visit www.greenhavencohousing.org. The group hosts community dinners twice a month at which newcomers and future neighbors are welcome. The schedule is posted on their blog, newhavencohousing.blogspot.com.



Green Haven Cohousing – Jack Nork, jack@nork.com, 203-500-2688

AppleSeed Permaculture LLC – design@appleseedpermaculture.com, 845-594-4518

AppleSeed Land Managers: Beyond Property Management

Dear Farmers, Permaculturists, and Social Entrepreneurs,

Are you interested in finding a piece of land to steward, manage, farm on and grow with for the next 1-10 years? Would you like to start an agricultural enterprise or educational farm without the challenges of purchasing land? Appleseed Permaculture is glad to announce our new project, AppleSeed Land Managers.

We match land owners (individuals, families, land trusts, retreat centers, schools, companies etc.) who want to
  • Grow food
  • Build community
  • Regenerate their local ecosystems
With land managers (individuals, couples, and families) who want to
  • Grow food, community, & local ecosystems
  • Build their skills and experience with land management  & eco-agricultural  enterprises
  • Develop long-term relationships with the land and local professional network

Essentially, we build symbiotic relationships that put people on the land and generate multiple forms of capital for everyone involved.  Land managers will receive compensation for their services, and land owners will achieve returns on their investments in financial, material, living, social, or cultural forms of capital. We are building this match-making service to meet the parallel unmet needs we’ve encountered among our design clients, our students, and our colleagues in the permaculture and organic farming communities. We invite you to be among the first people who try a new approach to meeting property management and development needs by engaging in the AppleSeed Land Managers process.

The types of people we’d like to engage as land managers are bright eyed, bushy-tailed, self-starter, situationally aware, go-get-‘em, positive, grateful, dependable, perseverant, clear-communicating, whole-systems thinking, and committed to personal growth and development. They have specific experience in permaculture, organic farming, or social entreprenurship. As of Spring 2012, we are looking to find one couple or family and two individuals (one farmer and one farm educator) to fill specific positions in the northeast USA.

Here’s what will happen if you meet the criteria above and would like to get involved:
  • You submit a resume and online application
  • We conduct a preliminary phone interview with you
  • We conduct an in-person interview with you
  • We invite you to join Appleseed Permaculture for trial work day(s)
  • We give you specific feedback and ask you to re-apply in the future
          • OR
  • We invite you to join our Land Managers Network!

Once you’re fully enrolled in our network, we will work with you to discover and outline your specific wants and preferences regarding land and a relationship with a land owner. From then on, we will pursue contacts with land owners on your behalf until we find a prospective match for you!  Finally, we will support you in the process of forming new relationships with the land and the land owners. This includes:

  • Understanding and developing a well-articulated vision and plan for the land
  • Business planning for eco-agricultural enterprises
  • Creating clear written legal agreements between land owners and land managers
  • Receiving continued mentoring from AppleSeed Permaculture staff

As the first wave of applicants to our Land Managers Network, you’ll have the opportunity to help us streamline and grow our new process.

We look forward to meeting you and networking on your behalf,
The Appleseed Team

Download the application questionnaire here: Land Managers Application

Permaculture Orchard Renovation

(Note from Ethan: This post is a final design report by the 2010 AppleSeed Permaculture Interns Brandy Hall (Ashevillage Institute & owner of Shades of Green, Inc) and Evan Schoepke (Gaia Punk Design Co-op & Punk Rock Permaculture E-Zine). The full design presentation is included as a slideshow at the end of the post. AppleSeed Permaculture is currently accepting applications for our 2011 Internship program – click here to learn more.)

Design Challenge

We set out to address the challenges of an existing five-acre orchard which had not been managed in five years…

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Can Agriculture Regenerate Damaged Land?

Darren Doherty keyline cacao agroforestry in Viet Nam

Keyline Agroforestry, Viet Nam

I am seeking actual examples of properties where regenerative agricultural practices have restored damaged land and increased their property values. Specifically, projects that used permaculture, holistic management / planned grazing, organics/biodynamics, soil foodweb / biofertile soils, and other regenerative agricultural practices. I want to find examples to support the growth and acceptance of these tools as potential means to create resilient, just, and sustainable human communities on the planet. To see some examples, keep reading below the fold.

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Why Edible Landscaping? Top 30 Plants

Would you like to turn your lawn or garden into an abundant edible oasis? The following slideshow will offer you the basic reasoning, principles, and plants to transform your home or workplace. AppleSeed Permaculture is also available for consulting so that you can choose the appropriate plants and plant communities for your particular site.

Ethan Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture presented this slideshow in September 2010 for two incredible organizations: The Kismet Rock Foundation in North Conway, NH and The Alchemy Juice Bar & Mama-lution in West Hartford CT. Both organizations are doing excellent social and ecological world-change work, and we highly recommended that you support their projects… Continue reading

First Ever Permaculture Design Course in the Virgin Islands

Permaculture Seeds Sprouting on St. Croix


Birds eye view of the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute. Thanks to Google Earth - download the place file here.

St. Croix, a 6 x 20 mile island in the Caribbean, is exploding with positive action. Led by the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute, locally grown food and ecological agriculture are seeding in with island people and travelers across the island. Now, in collaboration with AppleSeed Permaculture and Gaia University, the US Virgin Islands are being innoculated with the empowering principles and processes of permaculture design.

The Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute (VISFI) is a 7-year old working farm and educational center designed with permaculture principles. The founder and executive director Ben Jones of VISFI reports, “The seed of inspiration for VISFI was born from the permaculture movement – and 7 years into the development of our farm institute, we are nurturing our first regional permaculture students. We are happy to come full circle with the vision of sustainable design, using scholarships to bring in the local community to learn with North American participants in a lush tropical farm paradise.”


Chicken tractor in tropical vegetable & forest garden

“This course marks an awakening of the permaculture movement into the Virgin Islands, and we’re really happy to be working with neighbours, former students, musicians, activist, farmers, and hope they leave our living campus full of new ideas to spread the fine ideals of permaculture around the wold.” The course also includes a true diversity of participants: from a St. Croix  conscious-reggae artist to a Certified Public Accountant from Pennsylvania, from a new Gaia University associate to a northeastern United States market gardener, and from an international agricultural development consultant to a Puerto-rican indigenous Jibara woman.


Participants from St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and mainland United States.




The lead teachers of this first-ever Virgin Islands permaculture design course are Ethan Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture and Dyami Nason-Regan of Starberry Farms. They connected with Ben Jones through the transformative action-learning degree pathways of Gaia University, and share his vision of global abundance through their permaculture design and teaching work. After training with Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute in 2005, Ethan started AppleSeed Permaculture to spread permaculture through professional consulting and teaching work throughout northeastern North America and around the world – Ethan has since taught permaculture in Menominee, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and beyond.


Participants preparing for an 18-day hot compost.

Working with the VISFI staff and the deep permaculture design process developed by Dave Jacke (www.edibleforestgardens.com), the teaching team delivers the standard 72-hour permaculture design course as a complete immersion in permaculture design and action. Participants are mentored through a full 2-week permaculture design process, including standard hands-on activities (compost-making, food forestry, gardening, natural building) and learning in a diversity of living classrooms.


Permaculture pattern understanding: Edge class in the tidal pools.

The mission of the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute is to provide a working educational farm enterprise that integrates sustainability in education, environment, and community through quality instruction in Agroecology and related fields.


…combines experiential learning, outdoor lecture, field laboratories, personal and group research projects, leadership development, and local environmental awareness into a comprehensive educational experience.


Participants present design site analysis drawings in the field.

…encourages personal growth, self-awareness, and community development in each student relationship with agriculture and the environment.  We promote healthy agriculture through intelligent, sustainable farm design coupled with environmentally conscious practices and principles.

…seeks to forge an economically productive link between the organic revolution and modern agriculture systems.  It is our aspiration that family and community based agricultural enterprises will prove sustainable for generations to come.


Harvest from the VISFI Farm - sugar apples, papaya, passionfruit, limes...


…staff, through years of academic study and disciplined agricultural experience, have developed a progressive curriculum that encompasses Sustainable Agribusiness, Tropical Organic Farming, Tropical Agroforestry, Permaculture Design, Cultural Mentoring, and Agritourism. A synergistic approach to agricultural learning will produce students with the skills and knowledge to survive in a modern world as small and medium-sized farm entrepreneurs.

VISFI sets the benchmark in advanced experiential education with our agroecological curriculum.  Our program is essential in today’s increasingly environmentally aware society. VISFI is confident that our blend of talented staff, natural farming practices, unique location, and progressive curriculum will help mold and create tomorrows farmers and agricultural leaders.


Project teams returning from an afternoon of design work.


In collaboration with Gaia University, VISFI is working to create a global network of small farm and educational farm campuses to facilitate the sharing of information, ideas, and sustainable agriculture and resource management technologies. Gaia University will host its first orientation in Integrative Eco-Social Design at VISFI in December 2009, kicking off programs for its accredited Bachelors, Masters and post-Graduate degrees.

Even though we’re only a week into the course, it’s clear that the teachings of permaculture are spreading on the island. Local participants have brought their friends and family to visit the VISFI, taking home seeds and cuttings from the vast array of fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables on the farm. They carry with them the priniciples and ideas of permaculture, to plant and nurture in their own communities.

The long-term effects of Permaculture Design Courses are always difficult to predict. But here on St. Croix, an island with a painful history of slavery and devastating agriculture, the practices of permaculture are already beginning to heal the ecological and social landscape.


Permaculture: meeting human needs and increasing ecosystem health.

May our work in the world continue to create abundance, joy, and positive action for these uncertain and quickly-changing times.

To learn more: