R Scott wrote: Most permaculture answers are to make it zone 4/5, but they are missing the yields like medicinal flowers or mushrooms that only last for a few days and are gone.
Mathew Trotter wrote:I have 93 acres that I'm stewarding. Money is the major bottleneck that slows development out here since I have to propagate or trade for the plants I need to expand outward, but the goal is to eventually have the property developed enough to feed everyone in my small town, in as much as that proves feasible.
I've been thinking a lot about managing a project on this scale.
Access is one of the major considerations I've had to make. My current thinking is to combine my need for access with my need for water harvesting. By installing a series of wide, shallow swales up and down the slope and then filling them with woody mulch, I effectively create roads across the landscape which also sequester water and nutrients. They may need to be dug out as the mulch breaks down to keep the swales functioning as swales... Or they may just gradually turn into terraces over time, depending on what seems more practical and effective. For connecting roads, I imagine that heavily mulching the spillways between swales could be effective, and creating the spillways on the ridges (rather than the valleys) would create the most even distribution of water across the landscape. (And the spillways would need to be below the level of the mulch to keep them accessible during heavy rain events.) This plan isn't set in stone, and since the pace of the project is glacial, I'll be able to put in the first swale or two and observe how effective they are as a means of navigating the property. But since I won't be planting out further than my swales, it also means I won't need to access anything that I haven't already created access to.
Another thing I've had to consider is harvest timing. Like others have mentioned, I love using social media as a way to track harvests year after year, but that doesn't account for annual variation. The first part of the strategy is to have a good map of where things are. That is made easier by creating well-defined guilds and planting blocks of each guild so that you're not running to the four corners of the property to harvest each of your four pear trees (as an example.) Design so that you can focus your attention in one section of the property at a time as much as possible. AND in zones 1 and 2, you'd want representative species/varieties that will provide an indication of when your larger guilds, further out on the property, are getting close to harvest time (there might be some variation on account of differences in microclimate, but that will provide a good indication of when to start checking.) You might have one fig in zone 2, for example, along with whatever other species you grow in that guild, and when that tree ripens up, you know to check the larger fig guild with multiple trees further out on the land. Or better yet, use your zone 2 to discover which species/varieties ripen at the same time and develop your guilds around ripening time. You might have varieties of apples, pears, peaches, etc. that are all harvested about the same time, and so you could plant those in a block so that you can focus on harvesting that section of the property in one go.
The last major piece to figure out is how to harvest enough. My primary goal is not to sell the harvest; my primary goal is to feed as many mouths as possible. That ultimately changes my perspective on things going unharvested. Unharvested produce is not lost revenue; if it doesn't feed human mouths, then it feeds wildlife and/or the soil. It would be unfortunate that it didn't make it into the hands of people that need it, but it wouldn't be a waste. It isn't feasible for one person to harvest 93 acres, so I more like to see my approach as some weird combination of WWOOFing/CSA/farmstand/gleaners/upick/grocery store/etc. Because I am one person, labor is more valuable to me than dollars. Having people trade time, skills, or resources (tools, propagation material, etc.) for food (in my case) provides more lasting value than a fiat currency which is in decline anyway. I can have people build or repair things, plant things, maintain things, etc. Things that I would have to pay someone to do if I couldn't do them myself. Money is a middle man, and eliminating the need for it is more efficient than getting more of it. The next is to consider people that simply can't afford food. Well, the "pay what you can" model has worked in many industries, so why not the farm? So now you create a system whereby the people that have money but not time can contribute financially to the project, the people that have skills or resources can contribute those in place of money or general labor, the people who have time but not money can do harvesting and planting, and people who are disabled or otherwise can't contribute will still have access to food, free of charge. Now you treat the farm like something between a grocery store and a gleaning group. People come out to pick their groceries (literally), and you have them pick two or three times more than they need for themselves (or more, depending on how the specifics shake out.) They take home what they pick for themselves for only the cost of their labor, and the excess that they pick goes to feed the others for their financial contributions, their contribution of skill, or to cover the needs of the disabled. This is how berry farms I grew up picking at already operate; you pick a share for yourself and a share for the farm and then your share is either free or discounted. And because my goal is to put food in mouths, I can have the option to call on local non-profits, church groups, boy scout troops, schools, etc. to come help with the harvest. Some for them, some for the needy, and some to keep the farm operational. And because you're taking for plants and tools as much as possible, and because you're trading for labor, the amount of money that you need to make is greatly reduced. Basically just property taxes and pocket change for whatever conveniences, vices, and major expenses which can't be avoided (but hey, Rob Greenfield traded for dental work, so you might be surprised by what you can get without any money at all...)
Louis Fish wrote:
I'd love to do something like this but I'm only working with 20 acres and our town is probably bigger lol. Still, I would love to have a program maybe for getting free food to kids and low income folks.
R Scott wrote:What are the design thoughts/questions you use to balance the health/diversity of the ecosystem and the ability to harvest time sensitive yields?