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Archive | Permaculture

Stories, photos and podcasts about permaculture techniques, including information about healthy pollination tactics. Permaculture is defined as the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

Community Seed Network

For farmers and gardeners who practice the time-honored tradition of preserving seed and trading with neighbors and friends, the swapping circle just got a whole lot bigger.

Logo for Community Seed NetworkA collaboration between the Seed Savers Exchange and USC Canada has launched an online resource for seed savers of all experience levels known as the Community Seed Network (CSN). The website (communityseednetwork.org) is designed to serve both as a database with tools for seed savers, community organizers and seed librarians as well as a platform for users across the continent to connect and swap seeds.

In recent decades, community-organized seed preservation has resurfaced as an alternative to purchasing packaged seeds every year from major seed companies. Organizations like the Seed Savers Exchange and USC Canada have long supported grassroots efforts to take back seed sovereignty, but the internet affords a unique opportunity to vastly multiply access to vital skills for seed preservation and to develop community infrastructure. Continue Reading →

Planting By the Moon

The practice of growing food and raising livestock is a calling that urges us to become stronger and hardier. The variables present in natural systems can be overwhelming, and it is only those who are willing to face hard truths and adapt that can truly turn it into a lifestyle.

The top of a scarlet turnip in the ground

Scarlet turnips seeded on a root day develop robust roots instead of leaves, flowers or seeds.

From the outside, the natural world looks extremely chaotic and unpredictable, and to a certain degree, it is. Even the best laid plans can be nullified by unseasonable weather, accidents, disease and a deluge of other unforeseen obstacles and losses. It takes a willful person to persist through these challenges and adapt in ways that lead to success.

The overall effect of this persistence pays off in countless rewards of spiritual and physical importance. To tune oneself to the natural rhythms of this planet with dedication and discipline is to gain insight into how this seeming chaos provides for order and how ambient rhythms guide all life through a cyclical journey here on Earth.

Observation

One of the most important tools a grower can use to become more successful is observation. We must learn about the ecology of the land, in the soil, on and in the plants, in the water and in the air, all while also being able to take these individual pieces and fit them into a broad awareness of the greater natural system as a whole. Continue Reading →

Seedsman on a Mission

In 1979, a 25-year-old college freshman from Idaho stood over a bare garden plot in the backyard of his newly purchased home in Missoula, Montana, and asked himself, “Now where am I going to get seeds that will grow here?”

Bill McDorman smiles as he stands in his corn patch

Bill McDorman, shown in his corn patch in September 2018, has pursued a lifelong career of nurturing regionally adapted seed varieties and encouraging the people who save them.

Answering this question would lead author, speaker and educator Bill McDorman on a lifelong career of nurturing regionally adapted seed varieties and encouraging the people who save them. His quest to re-normalize seed saving motivated him to co-found the Down Home Project, Garden City Seeds, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens, Seed School and the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA), as well as to serve as the executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH and to author the book Basic Seed Saving.

Known by many in the seed saving community as a mentor, McDorman has personally trained over 1,000 seed savers through his Seed School (created by McDorman and his wife/RMSA Deputy Director and cofounder Belle Starr), including 13 students who went on to start bioregional seed companies.

McDorman is a refreshing advocate for the benefits of seed saving — not because growing seed was easy throughout his life in the Rocky Mountain West, but precisely because it was hard. The difficult climate and soil conditions led McDorman toward an ethos of seed saving that goes beyond the basic idea of finding and using open-pollinated seed varieties. He goes a step further to illuminate the values of local, regionally adapted seeds that will perform better in their unique bioregion. Continue Reading →

Principles of Permanent Agriculture

When we look at the great soils of the world, we can see these principles of permanent agriculture in action. The prairies have the grasses and clovers that together structure the soil and incorporate nitrogen. The grass roots finely divide the soil particles and then decay after the tops are grazed. The mobs of bison on small acreages of the Great Plains, for short periods of time ate a small percentage of the growth and trampled the major­ity of the carbon back into the soil. The heavy animal impact included manure, urine and tillage from their split hooves. It is fascinating to watch a bovine’s hoof split apart and literally plow the soil sideways, as the weight of the animal comes down on it.

Corn growing at Long Hungry Creek Farm in Tennessee. Photo by Kristina Rossi

Afterward, the land rested with no animals, and grew back up better than ever. This cycle produced phenom­enal soil humus.

This same thing happened in Northern Europe with wolves chasing reindeer and in the African savan­na, with lions chasing water buffalo. Everywhere you find great soils in nature, you’ll find mobs of grazing herbivores moved by predators. This is how humans will reverse climate change — by sequestering carbon with the use of grass, legumes and large herds of herbivores on small acreages for short periods of time. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 22: On Assignment, the Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belize

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh

This episode is a bit unique from the others, which are usually done in the comfort of my office back in Greeley, Colorado. For most recordings, it’s me, a microphone, an interview guest and my dog snoring in the corner. If you need the full picture, I even prop a sign up in my windowed door that says, “On Air.” But that’s really just for me – it makes me feel official.

But so does this scene where I am today. Today, we are broadcasting from Belize, specifically, Belmopan, Belize, at the inaugural Tropical Agriculture Conference. We first met one of the organizers, Beth Roberson, a Belizean farmer, in Columbus, Ohio, last year during our annual conference. Beth left inspired to start her own educational conference down here, picked our brains a bit, and recruited some of our speakers and former Tractor Time guests like regenerative poultry specialist Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin and Regeneration International’s André Leu, among others.

Continue Reading →

Daniela Ibarra-Howell on Bringing Eco-Farmers Together

Savory Institute Co-Founder, CEO Daniela Ibarra-Howell Shares Insights into How the Organization is Bringing Like-Minded Farmers and Ranchers Together

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

It is not often that someone who is not a billionaire decides to take decisive steps toward solving a global problem. It is even less common for anyone, even and perhaps especially billionaires, to have ideas about how to do it that not only work but point the way for others of like mind. Daniela Ibarra-Howell is one of these rare people. She is a co-founder and the current CEO of the Savory Institute, the nonprofit wing of the Savory operation based in Boulder, Colorado, (her husband, Jim, heads the for-profit wing). Beginning in 2009 and now boasting over 8 million hectares (19,768,430 acres) under holistic management in every continent except Antarctica, the Savory Institute is becoming a force to be reckoned with. As scientific evidence accumulates, adding to an enormous fund of narrative accounts, holistic management’s value becomes ever more undeniable.

As Ibarra-Howell recounts here, she declined to follow the well-worn paths offered to her as a girl in Argentina. She wanted to make a difference. Between meeting Allan Savory in 1994 and the beginning of the Institute, she and her husband devoted a number of years to consulting and running a notably successful ranch near Boulder. Ibarra-Howell will be keynoting at the Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in December. Continue Reading →