James Samuel's blog

Stefan Sobkowiak – Beyond Organic

This two hour interview makes for an important addition to the knowledge shared in the Permaculture Orchard film. In it Stefan talks about the next piece of the puzzle, soon to be released from Miracle Farm.

The podcast which has just come online, would have gone longer if Stefan hadn’t excused himself to join a scheduled conversation with John Allan of APW and myself. We needed to talk about the Masterclass Stefan will be leading at Unitec Auckland next year, as part of the Beyond Organic NZ Tour.

Stefan looking seriousFor New Zealanders the survivalist concepts that are promoted in the lead-in may seem foreign, and you can of course skip them and jump to 8m:40sec, or you may wind up asking, what’s happening in the USA? What’s being expressed there is an expression of people responding to the increasing uncertainty and rapid change that is underway across the world – we’re just each experiencing it differently.

Now, onto the interview on The Survival Podcast with Jack Spirko.

Up front we hear about Stefan’s background and having a Masters degree in both Biology and Landscape design, before learning what got him inspired to set up a Permaculture Orchard. We find a man with a deep desire to maximise the positive impact he can have on the world around him, and as the minutes turn into hours, we start to appreciate the gifts he’s offering.

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Ripples from the Occupy movement

It's been nearly three years since the Occupy movement burst onto the stage and made it's splash. It highlighted global inequities and the failures of big power and money to ensure we attend to the well-being of all members of society.

One of the ripples has come from of a small group of people in Wellington, who have focussed on building tools to facilitate the discussion and consensus decision making process across groups, without them having to be in the same place at the same time.

From a foundation of several successes under its belt, that include the tool being translated into multiple languages, www.loomio.org launched a crowd-funding campaign a month ago, with a goal of $100,000. It has just closed and the total given is over 123,000 so they will now go on to make the next version of the software, which includes a mobile app. Loomio is commited to keeping the tool open-source and free, while inviting support from users who can afford to give and support its ongoing development.

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Transitioning to sustainable and regenerative food production

Enormous opportunities are opening up as we transition from an unsustainable industrial food production and distribution model, to one that regenerates the very soil and land that supports life.

Thankfully and not before time, this topic is receiving increasing amounts of attention.

A rising chorus is now coming from UN agencies on how food security, poverty, gender inequality and climate change can all be addressed by a radical transformation of our agriculture and food system.

Here in New Zealand we’re playing our part.

Food Forest Design course

The application window is still open for the first intake of the Food Forest Design course. On Feb 17th the fun begins when a small group of keen learners meet at Koanga Gardens in Hawkes Bay with James Samuel, Jon Foote and Kay Baxter, to begin the first block course of the inaugural Food Forest Design course.

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Scaling up Transition - Accelerate Aotearoa anyone?

I innocently pressed play on this video on Tuesday night and did not expect what followed. This 30 minute video is in Rob's words "his favourite talk" from the recent trip he did to the US, after breaking his vow not to travel by plane.

This is by far the most impactful, energising, inspiring video I've seen in some time. It's meaningful, thoughtful, humorous, delightful and real.

Here's the link to the thoughtful article which summarises the ideas.

www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-01/5-factors-will-enable-transition-scale

Rob is suggesting five factors to help the Transition movement scale up in a way that's proportionate to the challenges of our time. They are:

 

  1. Create a learning network
  2. Support and resource core groups
  3. Bring forward investment for Transition enterprises
  4. Become better storytellers
  5. Build an evidence base
He explains these beautifully in his article.

Building community like a forest

The first New Zealand Food Forest Hui, held in Auckland last week was a high energy and over-subscribed event (we had sold out and had people in a waiting list). Here are some of the highlights and outcomes. If you missed it, stay in touch, there’s sure to be another!

Building community like a forest

Lucia Pic 2 - lunch on the deckWhile we spoke at the Hui, about food forestsand forest gardens, we also modelled living like a forest – each playing our part in an intricate eco-system of exchanges.

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Our forest layers were represented by age, stature, flexibility, stores of knowledge, experience, wisdom and more.

We celebrated what is, embraced the possibilities of what could be and committed to practical actions to support the vision.

Imagine food forest projects popping up all over the country, on public land, on private land, for community benefit, for individual food security and well-being, and for commercial gain. We were united around this vision of building New Zealand’s food self-reliance through resilient, multi-layered, mostly perennial food systems, all the while remaining grounded and caring for each other.

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A one acre food forest in Waihi

I got alerted to this project by Carl Pickens, while in the final weeks leading up New Zealand's first Food Forest Hui (Sep 26-28). More information on the Hui.

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Transitioning Surfdale Orchard to a Food Forest

We moved 18 Cu M of mulch around the 5 year old trees in the Surfdale community orchard yesterday.

This is a step in replacing the grasses (such as Kikiuyu) with ground cover plants of our choosing (some edible) - to be followed by other (mostly perennial) food plants in the families of root crops, herbs, shrubs and bushes and flowers for the pollinators and our pleasure.

This will result in a multi layered forest garden requiring minimal maintenance, and producing free food for the public who frequent it.

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Food Forest in a box

Andy's FF in a window sill

Have you ever wondered how many plants you might need for a food forest? Well take a look at this, and you’ll get a good feeling for the numbers.

Andy Cambeis is spending some time on Waiheke and we got together on the weekend to go over the wording of his “Manual for creating a Food Forest on Public Land“. We did this because of a couple of bright young women – a publisher and a graphic designer – who are working to turn this into an app for iPhone and iPad, and which I hope we’ll get a preview of at the Food Forest Hui at the end of September.

While I was there Andy kindly allowed me to shoot this video which shows the volume of plants he is raising in a window sill in the house where he’s staying. While he has a few more canopy trees than would be included in a 700SqM ‘pod’, and there are no climbers represented, this is the essence of the plants needed for a temperate food forest pod.

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Food Forest Hui – September 26-28

Ten of the best permaculture designers from around the country, are converging on Auckland from September 26th-28th to offer New Zealand’s first three day Food Forest Hui and Training.

If you hold a permaculture design certificate (or have extensive experience in this area) and are interested in learning more about how to design and implement food forest systems, and to help create short courses to share with others, then don’t miss this event.

Register your interest now and we’ll be in touch.

Why forests of food

The logic of moving from the practice of turning soil to grow annual crops is becoming compelling in the face of more extreme weather events. While moving slowly around the country over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in dialogue on this subject with over 200 people at public meetings and in small groups. It’s clear that there is a tremendous increase in the number of people wanting to know more about how to put these food forest ideas into practice.

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Public food forest talks and new discoveries

Three well attended talks to appreciative audiences in Taranaki and Manawatu, resulted in a lead on a hidden 20 year old food forest in the Central Plateau.

Public talks

It was a short lead time, but this didn’t seem to matter, in these days of being able to share information rapidly through the networks. Kama Burwell, a very competent and active permaculturalist working at the Hive Taranaki Environment Centre, spread the word and drew in 40+ people on a chilly Monday night, aided by an interview on Access Radio Taranaki that morning.

One of the highlights for me was meeting Ché Rogers and seeing the tagged Facebook photos of his forest garden, taken with his daughter in the pictures for a sense of scale. He let me download them andadd some graphic tags of my own.

Food Forest Garden with names

The following night 30 people came out in Marton, from the efforts of Lorraine Bartlett who invited us to meet in the Marton Arts Centre. It was a particularly warm and generous welcome, and the talk was followed by an abundant pot luck meal, which kept the conversations going for some time until we had to leave to head over to Fielding.

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