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Urban Permaculture Day Two – A Model is Worth a Thousand Pictures


The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
~ Bill Mollison

We are now in the second day of Urban Permaculture with Toby Hemenway and we are reviewing zones and the city foodshed.

What are our Permaculture “zones” in the urban area?

  • Zone I – Your own garden, balcony or backyard
  • Zone II – Your neighbours and community’s backyards, community gardens, etc.
  • Zone III – CSAs, farmers markets
  • Zone IV – Local stores
  • Zone V – Chain stores

What type of land access do we have in the city?

  • Community gardens, shared backyards, balconies, vertical gardens, indoor cultivation, rooftops
  • Urban orchards, urban forests, school gardens, vacant lots leased, public land, city land, the commons
  • Forage, hands-on-farms, shared farming and farm incubators

Problems we may encounter in the city?

  • Potential toxics in the soil such as lead (potential solutions include using fungi to break down and “eat” most of the toxins)

Some resources contributed by attendees (mostly for schools):

  1. BC “Agriculture in the Classroom” foundation: http://www.aitc.ca/bc/
  2. Mobile Dairy Classroom experience: http://bcdairy.ca/dairyfarmers/dairyclassroom/
  3. Poultry in Motion: http://bcchicken.ca/index.php/kids-and-education/poultry-in-motion/
  4. Can You Dig It! http://cydi.ca/ (for community gardens start support)

We then reviewed some concepts from both Gaia’s Graden (Toby Hemenway’s book) and Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/

I’m not going to go into detail as most of this info is explained much better in both books, but forest gardens are mainly composed by five pieces of structure: vegetation layers, soil structure and ecology, vegetation density, pattering and diversity (now I recall all my studies from the Organic Master Gardener course I took last February) and are distributed among seven layers (or even more, if we consider the fungal layer)…all this info allow us to start thinking on how we will re-create this into our edible urban forest, that can have hundreds of species in areas as small as a college classroom, if well designed and organized.

We explored different patterns and guilds and how to use strategies such as decreasing height to allow for more sunlight exposure, etc.

Some good resources from this section:

In the afternoon, we talked about guilds in Permaculture:

More info on guilds:

“A guild in Permaculture landscape design is a harmonious assembly of species (plant or animal) physically associated with a central plant or animal species to provide it with some benefit” (http://foodgrowsontrees.blogspot.ca/2010/02/permaculture-guilds.html )

Also can be defined as a “group who synergize among themselves for mutual benefit” (and this concept can be applied to plants, animals, other design elements and even to human relationships, business, etc.)

We reviewed how guilds can be created or organized:

  1. By structure (plants that fit physically well together, i.e. tomato-basil-pepper or peas-cabbage-lettuce)
  2. By function (each plants has a function that benefits the others (i.e. the “three sisters: corn, beans and squash or apple tree and comfrey)
  3. By elements: central element, insectaries, mulch makers, nutrient gatherers, nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators, soil busters and barrier plants (isn’t this the same as by function? I’m confused…)
  4. By analogy (sorry, I think I went blank here)
  5. By evolution: similar species who evolved together or from each other may form a guild, although the “functions” may be lost here

Other resources:

  1. “Designing and maintaining an edible landscape naturally” by Robert Kourik: http://www.robertkourik.com/books/edible.html
  2. Alan Kapuler website and blog “Peace Seeds”: http://peaceseeds.com/
  3. More on guilds: http://www.neverendingfood.org/b-what-is-permaculture/permaculture-guilds/

We closed the day after working on a group exercise to find guilds created by different people, as a big “business model” where each one of us would provide for and need some input to and from others in the team, showing how Permaculture concepts go way beyond the garden and food production and can be applied to almost anything in life.

We talked about the different challenges we were facing in our area (Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland) to apply Permaculture projects and people came up with some that I list here:

  • City and neighbourhood by-laws and regulations
  • Invisible barriers such as self-isolation done by ethnic groups
  • Busy lives
  • People not being totally aware of the challenges ahead or not totally on board
  • Physical barriers and challenges imposed by the structure of the city
  • Feelings of isolation: not being supported or not finding like-minded people
  • Did I miss any?

Toby Hemenway closed asking us to act, to go out and apply what we learned and seek the company and support from others, teaching by example with our own lives and actions…

Lead by example, as Toby quoted from a (friend?): “A picture is worth a thousand words, but a model is worth a thousand pictures”

Or like Toby signed in my Gaia’s Garden book: “To Silvia: Grow a great garden”

Emerging at the other end, we will not be the same
as we were; we will have become more humble, more connected to the natural world, fitter, leaner,
more skilled and, ultimately, wiser
.”

 ~ Rob Hopkins,Originator of the Transition Town movement

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