Farmscale Permaculture Course at MOSES Conference

This year at the MOSES Conference I decided to take one of the full-day courses offered before the regular conference started. It was a tough decision. It came down to “Resources to Empower Women Farmers”, “Profitable Fruit Processing”, and “Farmscale Permaculture”.

Because I’ll basically be starting from scratch on my future farm I decided that an overall big picture of farm design would be best at this point. The teachers, Grant Schulz and Mark Krawczyk, were very knowledgeable and packed in a lot of information during the day.

I also wanted to experiment with taking notes in the form of SketchNotes — kind of a combination of artful doodling and note taking. See what you think….

Ecology affects the economy; the economy affects ecology. Permanent culture is a bit of an oxymoron - cannot be truly permanent. Culture is not permanent - nature is ever changing. Permaculture design is composed of: 1) concepts, 2) strategies, 3) techniques, 4) materials. Farmscale permaculture needs to pay its' way to be sustainable. Care of Earth, Care of People, Fair Share. The surplus in reinvested back into the system.

ven diagram with 3 components: Care for Earth, Care for People, Fair Share. Surplus is used to reinvest and build the system. Good design is based on relative location, having elements perform multiple functions, having elements suported by multiple elements, use energy efficient planning, incorporate diversity.

Design from FIRST observing - for as long as possible. Observing for a full year cycle is best. Start with overall patterns, then look at details. Agroforestry systems: 1) Ally Cropping - annuals in between woody crops, walnuts with soybeans, chestnuts with squash, 2) Silvopasture - mimic the savanah, 50 percent shade over pasture PLUS rotational grazing, 3) Shelterbelts and Windbreaks, 4) Riparian Buffers, 5) Hedgerows, 6) Forest Farming - woodland medicinals, mushrooms.

Catch and store energy. Storing water higher up on the farm is a great example. Within the problem is the solution. Slope can be an asset for terracing. The Holzer method - hugelculture is piling up dead wood in rows and covering with soil. Have these rows follow the contour of the hill with a one percent slope (to prevent pooling and stagnation).

Elements of the landscape that are least changeable and most permanent TO readily changeable. Climate, Landform, Water, Legal Issues, Access & Circulation, Vegetation and Wildlife, Microclimate, Buildings and Infrastructure, Zones of Use, Soil Fertility, Aesthetics and Experience. The things that are least changeable require the most time, and the ones that are readily changeable involve the least time. Start by asking where the heart of your landscape is. Where is the circulation - of every/movement/materials/water?

Drawing of different plants at different levels to show how different niches are utilized. Large trees, small trees, shrubs, brambles, with vines and grasses in between. All bear fruit or nut. Plan for resiliency - different species and different varieties. Yet don't go overboard on bringing in too many species - which equals a management headache.

Recognize the tradeoff of less feed cost and inputs versus longer finish time. Less inputs is definitely nice, and a longer time to maturity MAY be an acceptable tradeoff. YOU have to decide where you are on this spectrum. When seeking a grant or loan use the term agroforestry to describe your plan, NOT permaculture. Permaculture is not accepted by the larger ag community and ag lenders. Value Chain maximization: 1) fresh consumption, 2) marketing time extension (refrigeration, drying, etc.), 3) state change (fermentation, canning, etc.).

New crop considerations. Opportunity Matrix: Niche = small markets. Niche = high dollar value per acre. Midlevel opportunities = regional variation, Commodities = price taking. Growth opportunities. Direct Marketing: 4-10 times higher margins, stability, potential for pre-sales, necessity of processing, time-to-market. CoppiceAgroForestry.com for info on coppicing and pollarding trees to control growth.

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