In August of 2012, I received a Permaculture Design Certification in Moretown, Vermont. Since then, I have been experimenting with small-scale gardening and earthworks projects at home and on the properties of family and friends.
With a constantly growing market for local, organic, sustainably grown products, I decided to take this opportunity to the next level. In 2016, I obtained an acre of land leased from the Peconic Land Trust through their Farms for the Future Program with a goal to build on the sustainability movement and focus my efforts on regenerative agricultural practices.
The mission of my forest farm is to establish a perennial agricultural system that will provide quality food, herbs and other resources as well as serve as an educational site for the demonstration of regenerative agricultural practices. The farm will produce yields of food, herbs, and other crops, and all plantings will be designed to restore and sustain the health of the ecosystem in which the farm is located. This regeneration will be accomplished through the implementation of permaculture techniques that aim to improve soils, ecological habitat, water quality and cropping systems. The promise of resiliency delivers an opportunity to create a new cultural paradigm in providing resources while restoring and improving degraded or underutilized landscapes. The farm will serve as a valuable community asset in demonstrating various techniques that can be implemented by local farmers as well as smaller-scale gardens on residential and commercial properties.
Purpose, Principles and Design
Perhaps the most valuable asset of the farm will be its serving as a demonstration site on the East End to highlight various techniques that can be implemented by local farmers to help reduce water usage, tilling and fertilization as well as promote diversification in our local food systems. The farm not on only aims to produce yields of food, medicine and other useful crops, but a major goal is to restore the health of the site in which it is located. This model primarily implements a holistic management approach that utilizes permaculture principles and techniques.
Permaculture encourages the conscious design and co-creative evolution of human cultures that have the stability, diversity and resiliency found in natural ecosystems. Redundancy built into this design provides adequate backup systems for all crucial elements including crops.
Ecosystem health is the foundation on which our land-human community is built. Permaculture design allows for creative integration of human and natural systems that are based on observations learned from the natural structure, function and processes found in ecosystems. The productivity and vigor of an ecosystem (and in this case the forest garden or farm) is largely determined by the health of its soil. The main focus of this model is to continuously increase organic matter in the soil and biological diversity throughout the site.
Cooperation is the basis of a healthy ecosystem, and the role of successful design is to create a self-managed system with a great diversity in species, structure and function. Beneficial relationships will be achieved through the creation of guilds or groups of cultivated plants that are arranged in such a way that beneficial relationships and yields are maximized.
Thoughtful observation, planning and timely intervention are keys to implementing this strategy. Existing elements such as landform, soils, microclimates, existing species, access and water resources will be assessed and observed, and patterns will be documented throughout the seasons. The use of any intervention (disturbance, grazing, species selection and plant placement, etc.) will be carefully crafted to guide successional changes in the landscape.