Noth­ing like food from own gar­dens

Per­ma­cul­ture is pay­ing off

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE - Adam McCleery adam.mccleery@cnbtimes.com.au

ISAAC Smith and his part­ner Maigen Scar­let have con­tin­ued their work on the per­ma­cul­ture gar­den they are cul­ti­vat­ing in their yard.

Since first vis­it­ing Mr Smith and Ms Scar­let, their self sus­tain­ing agri­cul­tural sys­tem has gone from strength to strength with new ad­di­tions.

“Back then most of this was only start­ing to grow,” Mr Smith said.

“Now ev­ery­thing has grown up high and re­ally well.”

Mr Smith was raised in a house­hold that val­ued the im­por­tance of home grown agri­cul­ture and the im­pacts wide spread agri­cul­ture can have.

“In the be­gin­ning I was just a re­ally pas­sion­ate food gar­dener but af­ter a short time I re­alised it is a big part of my life,” Mr Smith said.

“The gar­den­ing ties in with my view­points hugely.

“One of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors to green house gases is ac­tu­ally agri­cul­ture.”

Mr Smith felt it would be good to do his part and con­tinue to build on his self sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Agri­cul­ture makes up around 30% of to­tal green house gas emis­sions,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s a huge amount, we grow all of our food in re­mote lo­ca­tions like Gayn­dah and we grow it with a tiny per­cent­age of peo­ple.

“Then sub­sidise that with ma­chin­ery and chem­i­cals and then com­bined with hav­ing to trans­port it long dis­tances on trucks and other freight. It’s very fuel in­ten­sive.”

Mr Smith uses fore­sight and sees it as a long term ap­proach to sus­tain­abil­ity on a mi­cro level.

“Per­ma­cul­ture in of it­self is a re­sponse to en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion and cli­mate change,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s not solely about cli­mate change but a whole range of dif­fer­ent is­sues.

“But the two big ones are you can’t just de­grade farm­land and con­sume fos­sil fuel re­sources on and on and never see reper­cus­sions for it, if you con­tin­u­ally de­grade farm land you will in­evitably run out of it.”

Mr Smith con­tin­ues to con­duct re­search and trial and er­ror ap­proaches to per­ma­cul­ture which is an ever chang­ing and im­prov­ing method of gar­den­ing.

“One of the key­stone con­cepts of per­ma­cul­ture gar­den­ing is an idea called the food for­est,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s about try­ing to mimic nat­u­ral food pro­duc­tions.

“The man who coined it saw forests pro­duc­ing a wide va­ri­ety of edi­ble sub­stances from all dif­fer­ent species and af­ter see­ing that wanted to try and mimic that in a way that could link with hu­man ac­tiv­ity.”

The idea is a sim­ple one in the­ory but has pre­sented more dif­fi­cul­ties in prac­tice.

“He found that it’s a fairly sim­ple con­cept which can get re­ally com­pli­cated in prac­tise, but ba­si­cally there’s cer­tain types of plants and an­i­mals that add fer­tiliser and some that pro­duce it,” Mr Smith said.

“So the idea then was to set up a for­est with the goal of feed­ing peo­ple.”

Mr Smith also raises poul­try on his prop­erty which he and Ms Scar­lett say is ful­fill­ing in its own right.

“I think it’s great be­ing able to grow and raise your own food,” Ms Scar­lett said.

“And be­ing able to know where the pro­duce you are cook­ing comes from and know­ing the poul­try was well treated is good too.

“In a way it’s an em­pow­er­ing feel­ing to be a part of that process.”

The process is one that starts small and re­quires steps to build into self-sus­tain­abil­ity.

“So you start out with what are com­monly weeds, ni­tro­gen fix­ing plants that fer­tilise the soil and cre­ate a sort of shade layer,” Mr Smith said.

“They’re re­ally fast and then tak­ing them out at cer­tain per­cent­ages and re­plac­ing them with food pro­duc­tion plants at dif­fer­ent lev­els.

“From apex canopy plants which are usu­ally large fruit trees, then you have un­der story ones, bush lay­ers, ground cov­ers, vines and roots.”

Ms Scar­lett has seen good ex­am­ples of this over­seas.

“Maigen has seen some great ex­am­ples of food forests in the Ama­zon from the na­tive peo­ple there who have been do­ing this sort of agri­cul­ture for along time,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s some­thing that west­ern­ers kind of gave up on a long time ago or went down the path of mono­cul­ture which has been work­ing re­ally well so far,” Mr smith said.

“But we’ve tried to ap­ply mono­cul­ture to the whole world and it doesn’t re­ally work that well.

“It has some huge ben­e­fits for sure but it also has some big reper­cus­sions.”

In the be­gin­ning I was just a re­ally pas­sion­ate food gar­dener but af­ter a short time I re­alised it is a big part of my life — Isaac Smith

A per­ma­cul­ture gar­den of­fers a num­ber of ad­van­tages and one of them is be­ing able to adapt to the con­di­tions be­ing pre­sented at any given time.

“It’s been a bit hard since we first had cov­er­age of the gar­den we have pretty much had 18 months of drought which hasn’t be very con­ducive to growth,” Mr Smith said.

“So we are plant­ing a hand­ful of Aus­tralian na­tive food plants along with In­dian and African na­tive food plants.

“They are highly adapted to drought and those spe­cific va­ri­eties have thrived de­spite in­cred­i­bly hot and dry sum­mers which is a real sil­ver lin­ing.”

Be­gin­ning a per­ma­cul­ture gar­den is a dif­fi­cult and costly prospect at first but one that pays off down the line, Mr Smith said.

“Start­ing things out does present a host of is­sues to over­come and it does take a while be­fore the gar­den starts to be­come sus­tain­able,” Mr Smith said.

“But once you get things up and run­ning and the gar­den is tak­ing hold, it re­ally does pay off the in­vest­ment in time and money.

“How­ever it’s al­lowed us time to build the soils to add in a lot of com­post and mulch to main­tain a lot, which will pay off when it rains and with the El Niño hav­ing broke there’s a chance of it mov­ing into a La Niña with more rain.”

Mr Smith said one of the most ful­fill­ing as­pects of per­ma­c­ul­rure was be­ing able to mix modern tech­nol­ogy like so­lar with an­cient farm­ing tech­niques.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to start your own self-sus­tain­ing gar­den you can visit Mr smith’s web­site gayn­dah­per­ma­cul­ture.com.

PHO­TOS: ADAM MCCLEERY

PER­MA­CUL­TURE: Isaac Smith and part­ner Maigen Scar­let have worked hard on the gar­den.

A mango tree with a pas­sion-fruit vine.

The be­gin­nings of a mo­saic path­way.

GOOD GROWTH: A high view of Isaac Smith and part­ner Maigen Scar­let ‘s back gar­den.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Isaac Smith and part­ner Maigen Scar­let bought a so­lar oven.

Isaac Smith over­see­ing his plants.

Isaac Smith has a va­ri­ety of flora grow­ing in his gar­den.

A pond in the back cor­ner al­lows for more va­ri­ety.

Some plants are housed in­side the green house.

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