Permaculture Gardening Growing Fast

Although a fringe movement elsewhere, it’s booming in Maine.

By Tom Atwell (Originally published in the Portland Herald Press)

Permaculture design – landscapes developed to be useful, to sustain both the gardener and the land – may be a fringe movement, but it is the fastest-growing segment in the plant industry, according to Dale Hendricks, founder of North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania.

He compared the status of permaculture today to an eccentric-seeming gardening push in the 1980s that touted the cultivation of more native plants. At the time, many gardeners summed up that movement as the ideas of “a few crazies,” Hendricks recalled in a February lecture in Boston for New England Grows. “But now that fringe group has become almost mainstream.”

Similarly, “Permaculture…may be on the fringe now, but it is coming into its own.”

In Maine, the permaculture boom is already here.

The Resilience Hub, a nonprofit group in Portland promoting permaculture design, has 1,700 members, holds 50 to 60 events a year and helps people translate the principles of permaculture design to their homes, said Lisa Fernandes, the director who helped found the group in 2005. For one annual event, the “permablitz,” Hub members and others spend a day transforming someone’s property into a permaculture site.

Fernandes defined permaculture as “a design method based on ecological patterns. It is something you use rather than something you do.”

Ethan C. Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture in Stone Ridge, N.Y., who also lectured at New England Grows, defined it a little differently. “Permaculture design mimics the diversity, stability and permanence of natural systems,” he said.

What do these definitions mean in practise?

Permaculture, which is a contraction for “permanent agriculture,” attempts to minimize the outside elements brought onto a property, such as energy, water and raw materials from distant places. It also works to minimize the waste that leaves the property. It encompasses composting, rooftop solar panels, rainwater collection and vegetable gardens. A favorite vegetable garden mix among permaculture practioners is the so-called “three sisters,” the combination of crops that native tribes taught the Pilgrims to plant – corn, pole beans, and squash. The plants work together, and they make efficient use of space; the beans climb the corn, and the squash keeps the weeds down and the roots cool. These three happen to be native plants, but users of permaculture are more interested in how useful plants are than where they come from. They will grow native fruits, such as blueberries, elderberries and the paw paw tree, and non-natives, such Chinese chestnuts, which are resistant to chestnut blight; apple and peach trees, which have been grown in America for generations but are not native, and the Siberian pea shrub, which produces in a small space and improves the soil. Animals have a role to play in permaculture, too. Chickens, for example, provide eggs (and perhaps meat) for eating, as well as manure to fertilize the soil. They eat ticks that can spread disease and help mix up ingredients in the compost pile.

“When you walk into a well-designed permaculture garden, all the elements clearly work together,” ” Fernandes said. “There is biological diversity and a really heavy yield, whether that yield is food, flowers or herbs. There is a palpably different level of energy.”

Roland believes the Earth is sick, with climate change causing ever more storms, and many species going extinct or disappearing from their traditional ranges.

“Sustainable is not enough,” he said. “We have to go beyond sustaining to increasing the health of ecological systems. We need to heal the damage that has been done.”

You can start on that important work yourself by employing the practices of permaculture at your home. And you could well be part of the next big trend.

To schedule a consultation with AppleSeed Permaculture and get started, contact us now.

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.

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CONTACT

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

Edible Landscaping in New York’s Hudson Valley

This month, AppleSeed Permaculture was featured in the Hudson Valley Magazine article, “Landscaping and Gardening with Edible Plants and Fruits.” Owner and Project Manager Dyami Nason-Regan was interviewed for the article alongside gardening guru Lee Reich. This is a great step towards a resilient local food system for the Hudson Valley of NY – if you haven’t got your edible landscape designed for this spring, call us today!

You can read the whole excellent article here: www.hvmag.com

AppleSeed Permaculture Interview: The New Eco-Social Economy

AppleSeed Permaculture SignClick here to download an mp3 of Rebecca Collins (Sustainable Agriculture Examiner) interviewing Ethan Roland and Dyami Nason-Regan of AppleSeed Permaculture. We discuss wild food forests, do-it-yourself universities, local regenerative agriculture, and the creation of a cooperative eco-social economy. Enjoy!

AppleSeed Permaculture Interview

General Resources

Local Resources

Plant Resources

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…

Continue reading

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

Permaculture for Farmers: Crops, Patterns, Polycultures

Every time Benneth Phelps (Mosaic Farm) and I prepare to give this talk (this time at the 2010 Northeastern Organic Farm Association Summer Conference) we end up tearing it apart and redesigning it completely. Here’s a sample polyculture from the talk:

This time, Benneth drew on her recent experience creating a complete business plan for her venture Mosaic Farm in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachussets. We articulated a new design permaculture process for farmers, who need to focus on specific marketable crops along with the larger landscape patterns necessary to support and maintain them.

For a summary of our new design process, Continue reading

Young Farmers Conference 2009 – Permaculture for Farmers & Ecosystem Investing

Young Farmers Conference 2009:

Permaculture for Farmers & Ecosystem Investing

Below are the slideshows and handouts for the two workshops I presented last week at the Young Farmers Conference, held at the incredible Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Let me know what you think in the comments – and Enjoy!

Permaculture for Farmers

[slideshare id=2669780&doc=pcforfarmersslideshow09-091207175232-phpapp02]

Download the handout by clicking on the image below.

Permaculture for Farmers Handout

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Ecosystem Investing

Download the handout by clicking on the image below.

Ecosystem Investing Handout

First Ever Permaculture Design Course in the Virgin Islands

Permaculture Seeds Sprouting on St. Croix

VISFI_View

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.”

VISFI_Gaia_Garden

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.

VISFI_Learning

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

Collaboration

ecr_elderberry

DNR

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.

VISFI_Compost

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.

VISFI_Class

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.

VISFI

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

VISFI_SAA

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.

VISFI_Harvest

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

VISFI_Hibiscus

…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.

VISFI_Teams

Project teams returning from an afternoon of design work.

GU_logo

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.

VISFI_Participants

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:

www.gaiauniversity.orgwww.visfi.orgwww.appleseedpermaculture.com