Beginnings all the time

I don\’t remember the first time I heard the term permaculture.  But as with most things I hear about, I dove in head first.  My foggiest recollection brings Joel Salatin to mind.  I probably saw him in one of the emergent food documentaries that can be viewed from online streaming services.  Maybe a public screening of such a documentary.  In any case, he may not be considered one of the forefathers of permaculture but he knows what it is and he knows that some of what he does overlaps with Permaculture\’s tenets.

I currently farm my backyard and have a polyculture of many plants going on but mostly annuals.  Over time we\’ve nursed some native trees, planted elderberry and oregano bushes and so many other inclusions including chickens.  In fact, I felt a bond with Mr. Salatin when our municipality descended on us for raising backyard chickens.  We fought and we won with the help of some community members and my in-laws as benefactors and supporters.  I\’m not sure what that means other than the fact that we have some personal experience with the legal struggles involved in food-sovereignty.

Looking back, I\’ve always felt at home in the woods.  I was involved with scouting as a young boy and spent my summers camping for weeks.  I\’d call my father an outdoorsman who loved being outside even if it was a pretend camping trip in our backyard.  He attempted as I do to identify plants and he taught a respect for the outdoors.

It wasn\’t until speaking in depth with two friends on separate occasions that I started to understand that there was more to the understory than the canopy.  Wilson Alvarez told me about his philosophies on a need for re-wilding, integrating with nature and what disturbances meant.  Jon Darby, a friend and formerly farmer from whom I purchased a CSA taught me that I had never seen a mature woodland.  These concepts intrigued me and overwhelmed me at the same time.

My wife and I have a dream in farming on the land her mother owns which is 16 acres on a hillside in Southern Lancaster County.  We love animals and have decided that raising animals for meat or products should be part of that enterprise but also love vegetables.   We came to two conclusions.  One is that the hillside land is more suitable for animals than plants and two is that you have to choose one.

Later, through research and through snippets of conversation with the local permaculture and regenerative farming community, I concluded that animals alone was a monoculture and the inputs were great and scary.  I started developing a business plan and really laying out what some of this would mean and at some point, I discovered the idea of Agroforestry and Silvopasture though I didn\’t know what they were called at the time.

I invited Jon Darby to lunch to share my business plan with him and invite him into what was until this point a private conversation between my wife and I with a lot of obsessing on my own part.  Jon was impressed with the level of detail I had gone through and told me about his own experiences and education and what was happening at Horn Farm Center.

I invited Wilson Alvarez to another lunch to do the same and discuss a handmade dining room table he was going to make for my family.  He demanded I read Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers\"\" by Mark Shepard.

We had Jon visit the property one day with his wife and children to enjoy the outdoors and we casually inspected the recently disturbed hillside forest.  As I explained to him my conclusions and synthesis of everything I was taking in and processing, he told me about a Forest Eco Design class the Horn Farm Center was planning and hosting.  He looked at me with very sober eyes in such a way that I knew this class was providential and I must attend.  Resources came together including money and time off of work and it happened.

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