In agriculture, sometimes even the simplest of concepts can encourage better practice and dramatically improve the qualities of your produce. Back in June 2014 I decided to hop on the bandwagon after a good friend of mine (and much better agriculturalist), recommended I start to save seeds for the benefit of both myself and my customers.
Now over the years I have grown a wide variety of food, so I was sceptical at first as to whether it was really worth the time to start ‘brownbagging’ and collecting seeds for reproduction. It’s more common these days to purchase seeds directly from a supplier on an annual basis, which many of you will know, isn’t cheap at all. Hence, saving seeds is similar to saving money – A seed saved is a seed earned!
You might, like I was, be pretty keen to get started on a little project of your own, so that you can see first-hand the pros (and minimal cons) of protecting and reproducing the seeds you already own for generations to come.
This march on a hot Saturday, I had the chance to plant a diversity of plants in 2 swales with a total length of 200 meters. The swale systems was implemented by Tom Kendall from PRI Sunshine Coast together with an excavator driver and 3 practical training students at the property of Tom’s client near Noosa.
Afterwards Jason Davis from Permaculture Noosa Group and myself planted together 54 different species of trees and also a few vines and bushes.The climate there is subtropical which means it supports a very high diversity of plant species from many regions of this planet.
One of the swales before planting with the trees still in pots
foodwatershelter incorporated (fws) is a not-for-profit, non-denominational, non-governmental organisation that builds and runs eco-friendly children’s villages with education, social and health facilities for children in developing countries. We have bases in Australia and the United States of America.
This course will be presented 100% in Kiswahili, led by qualified permaculture trainer Nicholas Syano of PRI Kenya, together with a local team of presenters that includes representatives from one of Tanzania’s foremost agricultural institutes, staff of local NGOs and businesses, and foodwatershelter’s own staff and farm workers.
Recently I was interviewed by Jen Wilton, a UK journalist and researcher, on the subject of degrowth. What follows is the transcript of our phone interview, originally posted here.
Q: What would a degrowth society look like?
SA: A lot of mainstream environmentalism still clings to the idea that we can dematerialise our ways of living without giving up what is essentially an affluent consumer lifestyle. One of the provocations the degrowth movement offers is whether true sustainability, one planet living, actually implies a rejection of the affluent consumer way.
Degrowth distinguishes itself from some of the philosophies of voluntary simplicity (VS) that have come out of the US in particular. VS in its first phase was an attempt to reduce consumption from within the capitalist way of life. Degrowth recognises that downshifting or living simply within growth, capitalist structures isn’t going to solve many of our problems and it tends to be limited to a privileged few.
Different models for creatively delivering the standard 72 hour Permaculture Design Course (PDC) curriculum have surfaced over the years to better equip the student for the life long learning journey that permaculture inspires and demands. I have always wanted to move toward a longer term, hands on mentoring PDC where students are immersed in a thriving farm setting in small groups. This happened last year at our family’s Casitas Valley Farm and will happen again this summer.
How does this month-long permaculture Design Course and Farm Apprenticeship look like with myself and over twenty guest facilitators at Casitas Valley Farm from July 5th to August 2nd, 2015? Here is the thumbnail list of subjects that make up our curriculum for the twelve students we accept into the program:
A multi-species, leader follower grazing system has recently been implemented here at the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI). Multi-species grazing has been shown to improve pasture quality, control weed growth, and enhance pasture utilization (getting the most out of every blade of grass). All of these are achieved while increasing the carrying capacity, enabling more animals to thrive off the same plot of land, continuing the cycle of land restoration. This style has been added into the already productive rotational grazing system currently thriving at PRI. The rotational method was originally employed to prevent a common problem for most farmers known as overgrazing while maintaining the property. The overgrazing of animals is one of the biggest challenges we face in animal agriculture.
Overgrazing can be caused by the overstocking of animals, too many, or under-stocking, too few. Overstocking usually extracts too much from the land and prevents proper regeneration of pasture before the feeding animals return. Under-stocking works differently, and takes a longer period of time generally. The process is pretty simple, the grazing animal eats its favorite food for as long as it can. If too few animals are on a paddock, only the favorite food will be consumed until ultimately it is reduced to a insignificant portion of the pasture. As nature does, this favorite is replaced by a less appealing plant based on selection pressure from the cows, sheep, goats, whatever your animal may be. Eventually the plants not eaten by the grazing animal will be the only ones left. The pasture diversity and health have now been significantly reduced without ever being consumed at an extravagant rate. A very easy way to avoid the understocked problem is to finish mow an area whenever the grazing period has ended. Overgrazing can and will ultimately lead to desertification as the end result of continual land degradation. This all too common problem can be avoided simply by the proper management of animal systems.
Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “all children, all species, for all time.”
William starts out by describing the design of a child toy duck that has the warning – This product contains chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
He then turns to trees and asks the audience to imagine this design assignment – Something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distils water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colours with the seasons and self replicates.
Williams tempers the TED Talk with a positive point for each negative point raised.
Tips and case-studies for re-vegetating and pioneering large system.
Live-stake cuttings are a type of hardwood cutting taken from mature, woody material from certain deciduous tree and shrubs that root very easily.
Live-stakes cuttings are generally taken during a period of dormancy (AKA winter), with the long stake material being “staked” directly into the ground where they will grow long term.
A rucksack full of cutting, ready to be planted.
Because of being relatively inexpensive to use and simple to install under the appropriate conditions, live stake propagation is commonly used in large scale ecological restoration and ecological engineering (using ecological principles or living organisms to achieve engineering related goals).
In Windward’s case, we’ve been employing live-staking to pioneer multi-functional hedgerows, and provide quick soil building wind breaks for developing ecological agriculture systems.
They say that if you do a PDC course you are undergoing a big change in your life. And we couldn’t agree more.
Even a little before we did the actual PDC course, while we were already inspired by permaculture principles, workshops in agroforestry with Ernest Gotsch, a visit to the forest garden of Martin Crawford and many videos of Geoff Lawton, we got ourselves a job as designers.
This is still our daily job, working in the vegetable garden of Areias do Seixo charm hotel, very near the cost of the atlantic ocean. To be more exact, one hour North of Lisbon in Portugal.
The already existing organic garden of the hotel needed new gardeners and that is where we came in. Although we had big plans since the beginning we felt that the implementation of our design should be blending in smoothly as the hotel was open and its visitors where frequently coming by to see what we where growing for the dinner.
“We never feed the plant. We feed the soils. Soils are the crucible of health from which all things spring.”
“It’s not the soil itself – it’s the soil life that is the most important element.”
– Geoff Lawton
We’ve all seen environmental problems highlighted everyday in the media. Now comes the solution. From the man who said,
“You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden”
comes Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils Film. 137 minutes of Permaculture soil creation strategies that really work! Even if you have never built a garden or got your hands dirty before, you will learn the secrets of real soil creation – partnering with the life in the Soil!
Geoff will take you through every step of the process and explain in detail how to do it yourself. From Compost creation to larger Kitchen Gardens and then to broad acre farming – this is the future of biological agriculture.