New Soil-Economist. Interview with Charlotte Anthony, Victory Gardens for All, Eugene. By Willi Paul. Presented by Permaculture Exchange
During the winter season of 2012, participants will spend two weeks at Meadowbrook Farm helping to start up food production under the guidance of Charlotte Anthony. Projects include planting a food forest, hugelkultur, greenhouse construction, plant propagation, grafting, building a methane digester and energy conservation. While working together, Charlotte will share techniques for making useful farming observations, intuitive plant communication, smart ergonomic work habits and applying permaculture principles.
We are now accepting applications to join Charlotte Anthony for 2 weeks at Big Bend, California. Flexible dates by appointment, January – March 2012. Cost: $300 includes simple vegetarian food and shared room accommodations.
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Interview with Charlotte by Willi
What are the design & yield goals for the food forest?
We want to have yields such as fruit, medicinal plants, permaculture plants (dynamic accumulators, insectory plans, etc), as well as annual alley plantings (the space between the trees allowed for harvesting, when the trees are small there is a lot of extra space that they will eventually fill in) that can be sold, and as we are far from the beaten path, many of the food crops will need to be dried. The design would include a large diversity of primarily high income producing plants high income producing plants; some plants such as goggi berries produce a high income because of difficulty to grow, long time to harvest, etc. Many medicinal plants are the same. As far as nursery production goes many permaculture plants are at a premium as well as few folks are growing them. Also with an eye to a self-sustaining ecosystem which is an old growth forest is an example of a self sustaining ecosystem. Everything the plants need are provided from the ecosystem. Monocropping in agriculture is the opposite. Everything the plant needs is supposed provided by the farmer. This is actually not true. the microbes in the soil provide most of the nutrients to the plants. Breakdown of these microbes means more chemical fertilizer needed, more pesticide and herbicide needed until finally in places in the Midwest where genetically modified seeds are used the soil is becoming toxic and nothing can grow there.
In other words when choosing plants that balance out the ecosystem we would include high economic yields into the design. Ecosystem balancing is a term used to mean that as we attempt to initiate a self sustaining food system, there will be errors and these will need to be corrected. there are many places for errors in the system. for example, we might use a certain plant as a nitrogen fixer but the symbiosis we are trying to create does not happen. We may or may not discover the reason for this, but we can introduce another plant and it may very well work. You may be aware that it costs as much as a million dollars to put in sizable acreage of grape vineyard for wine making.
This has supposedly all been proven and so people with big bucks are spending them on grapes. In my awareness there is not a food forest that has had the kind of production we are talking about, so our vision is that once we have a working food forest, people with the resources will be willing to pay the set up costs. Another major problem here though is that creating a food forest is not a "paint by numbers" system. A consultant needs to come on site many times over a period of years to get the ecosystem balanced. either that or the person who is creating the food forest needs to acquaint themselves with the process.
The process that I am using includes communicating with the plants, so that they determine what they need to have the system work. This is based on intuition, heart brain connection to the plants, etc. This is primarily what we are teaching. Otherwise doing a food forest would take a thousand years. The process that i am using includes communicating with the plants, so that they determine what they need to have the system work. This is based on intuition, heart brain connection to the plants, etc. this is primarily what we are teaching. Else wise doing a food forest would take a thousand years. Communicating with the plants? Most tribal folk have learned from the plants themselves how to use them for medicine, how to use them in establishing their food forests. Stephen Bruener speaks of observing with the heart (or heart brain). This could be related to intuition.
Do you have labor help from PDC contractors?
We do have tom ward doing a design consultation for us, but I am the primary PDC contractor working on the site and I am not being paid, except in housing and a small stipend.
Helpers from the community?
We are engaging with the community to trade our experience and plants for their work, but this is not yet happening.
Who do you need to sign-up to do the work there in terms of skill set?
The primarily skill set needed is a farming or production mentality. We get up in the morning and work and creative problem solve. Farmers the world over construct greenhouses, repair broken down equipment, pay attention to what their plants need, we are not talking about the corporate farms that have sprung up in the last 50 years of course.
You relayed that you want to pay workers from the crops. Tell us about this ambitious vision?
We will have significant returns from our crops so that we can afford to pay the workers at that point. We cannot pay them at this point, because the returns are at least 2 years out, so we will use volunteer and student populations.
How can permaculture shift from the unsustainable - students and volunteers - to paid teams?
A lot of permaculture currently is research oriented. We believe as some of us start more productions based permaculture that it will be able to pay folks and be sustainable.
Do you know of other models or movements?
I know of Michael Pilarski, up in Washington, and he has significant yields from his 2.5 acres of land. I was speaking with a man last night who assumed that combining ecotourism with a school was the way to make money from permaculture and i realized that most of the folks I know would think that was the only way.
There is a farm called 7 Seeds Farm in Williams, Oregon - Don Tipping's place - where he sell seeds and I presume vegetables, I notice that he pays his workers only a stipend, and they work long hours, but learn a lot.
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Charlotte Anthony Bio -
Charlotte Anthony has been organic and biodynamic gardening for over 45 years, most recently having spearheaded the volunteer organization, Victory Gardens, which installed 650 gardens in Eugene in the past 4 years. Charlotte has recently moved to Meadowbrook Farm in Big Bend to start-up food production for the emerging eco-village. Charlotte's philosophy is that most of us long for connection; "I live with the earth, the plants, the trees, the animals around me. They tell me what they need and, by providing it as I can, I receive a sense of belonging."
Charlotte comes from a long line of Danish peasants, and has gardened since she was a child. In 1967 she did her first major garden while living in a back to the land community in New Hampshire. She picked and pruned for several commercial orchards, and converted a long abandoned 15 acre apple orchard to the first organic apple orchard serving health food markets in Boston. During this time she studied biodynamic methodologies, and was asked to present on organic apple growing at several events of the New England Apple Growers Association and the New Hampshire Extension Service.
In 1970 she was asked to join an aspiring biodynamic farm in New Hampshire where 15 acres of vegetables were grown and marketed through the natural organic farming association which she helped to form. Due to her natural farming ability, including knowing when to plant, when to harvest, how to observe the plants and the soils, and what to do when they were not growing well, she soon was asked to manage the farm.
In 1974, she planted a biodynamic fruit orchard at the farm in New Hampshire. The owner of the commercial orchard came to observe the new organic orchard. Soon after working with Charlotte on her organic orchard, he became one of the first commercial apple growers to use integrated pest management.
In 1975 she decided to diversify her skills by attending chiropractic school and learning to work with humans. In 1980 just before she started practice as a chiropractor, she had a landmark project at a farm in New Hampshire where she fed 5000 people with most of their food including tomatoes, corn and beans in July after starting just that spring. Having all this food ready in July was so unheard of that they wrote about it in the Concord newspaper, the big city more than an hour away.
Charlotte started her chiropractic practice in 1980 in Oregon. She had great success rates in chiropractic, receiving referrals from doctors in the surrounding 5 states for chronic problems including cancer. However, she had a strong sense that patients would do better if they learned to listen to their intuition and not yield authority to a doctor.
In 1985 she again grew a major garden for her meditation retreat in New Hampshire, and in 1986 she moved to Minnesota and began another career, buying and remodeling old homes. In 2002, her mother died after a relatively benign stroke and 17 medical errors. She started an advocacy program so that people might know how to claim their own health and advocate for their loved ones.
In 2002, Charlotte went to Colorado to do a large CSA, and then in 2004 to New Orleans to serve after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to working on a bioremediation project, she became the on-site coordinator for the permaculture gardens which had been severely damaged after Katrina, where she worked with as many as 80 volunteers a day who had come to help after Katrina.
In 2007, Charlotte began the Victory Gardens project in Eugene, Oregon. “We bring 4-6 volunteers and start a 10 x 16 or larger garden, complete with soil amendments, compost, and plants in 4-5 hours. We use a no till gardening system. The folks who receive gardens help on the next gardens. Through November of 2011, we completed 650 gardens in the Eugene area. Folks pay $75.00 for their new garden. The gardens are as sustainable as we can make them, including dynamic accumulators, medicinal plants, either in the garden space or near the garden space, connected with mycorrhizals."
“Victory Gardens for All grows all the plant starts for the program. We added food forests to the victory garden program in 2010. We have 2000 fruit trees growing on several different properties which we have grafted onto root stock with volunteers from the community. The intention for these plants is to start food forests and to plant in people's yards and in places with public access. The food forest is a very diversified orchard with fruit and nut trees, and companion planted with dynamic accumulators, medicinal plants, and all types of perennials including vines, root crops, and berry bushes. We also plant some self seeding annuals such as potatoes, summer and winter squash, kale, and arugula.”
Charlotte has written two books: Surviving Health Care in America and 101 Ways to Supercharge Your Energy.
Charlotte: “Times may be coming when if you do not grow your food, you will not eat. This course is geared for folks who want to learn to grow their food. The life of a good farmer is that you are always working trying to keep ahead of the curve. As a good farmer you know what needs to be done and find a way to do it. I am 67 and I change jobs frequently enough so my body can keep going. There are lots of jobs that need doing, so our bodies can bend one way for a while, sit for another while, stand for another while, find and use the right tools. At Meadowbrook, we are about more than just getting the job done. We want to work smart; we want to love working so much that it is in fact play. We have a vision of working for 5 hours a day and then having time to be connected with the natural world, with spirit and with each other in ways that most of us have never known. So if you join us here for the program, you can learn to work smart and play with us or on your own the rest of the day. We’re planning to have a lot of fun.”
Victory Gardens for All
Victorygardensforall at gmail.com