Permaculture class to teach long term agriculture methods

David Broyles

February 3, 2014

DOBSON — A continuing education class offered by Surry Community College seeks to have participants thinking not only of the coming spring season but spring for generations ahead. Intro to Permaculture has been slated to begin next week.

According to Surry Community College the class is tuition free for North Carolina residents through the Project Skill UP grant and the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Introduction to Permaculture will be held Tuesdays, from Feb. 4 to March 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the SCC Dobson Campus in the J-Building, Room 213. The instructors will be Crystal Cook and her husband, Edward Marshall of the non profit group We Are All Farmers. Out-of-state tuition for the class is $71. North Carolina residents may attend tuition free through the Project Skill Up grant.

According to Wood who operates “Pocker Chicory” farm near Union Grove, the essence of creating permaculture culture or “permanent agriculture” involves combining ethics with hands-on sustainable practice. She said Permaculture focuses on the means to improve urban or rural land, farm, or garden management through recognizing and integrating systems and more efficient management practices which later reduce labor, conserve land and energy, and produce higher yields.

She explained permaculture is a way to approach farming as systems design, where long term goals are supported by a strategy with additional benefits. It’s methods can be used for both urban and rural agriculture.

“Like many people to be the first in a region to do something,” said Cook. “Our first attempt in the 1990s had us working 90 hours a week and barely paying the bills.” She said they had heard about permaculture methods but the cost of the ten day course ($2,000) was too much for the budget of a farm family with two children. Marshall sold the farm and they moved on to other employment.

Cook said two years ago they had an opportunity to buy the property back and did so and knew they had to do something different. They used the time in between to learn more about their interest in agriculture.

“One way to look at this is culture as we know it was brought about by permaculture ( and agriculture),” Cook said. “We feel it is the foundation of modern culture as we were able to move away from being hunter gatherers. It’s not new from the view implementing a goal can be multi faceted. We use a lot of guilds like the Native American ‘three sisters’ approach.”

This system relies on plants which are grown together because they benefit each other. The three sisters approach is where corn is sown first and beans are planted later so they may use the cornstalk for support. The final plant in this guild is squash which provides ground cover at the base of the corn and keeps weeds away.

“One of the key things with permaculture is it follows a set of ethics,” said Cook. “One of the tenants is earth share, people share, fair share.” An example of this train of thought would be someone considering how solar panels they install will be replaced 50 years from now. Cook said permaculture planning thinks about how to regenerate land 50 years and beyond.

She said one example of this old notion is trees specifically grown at Oxford University to replace the beams in the school’s dining hall. The founders of the university knew how long the beams would last and planted the trees so they would be ready in time for replacement.

“What if we could get back to that kind of planning instead of a disposal frame of mind,” Cook said. “We are at a time when our country is not looking at inexhaustible resources.” She noted the practice of nurturing nutrient producing forests hearkens back to when chestnut forests produced food for people as well as livestock. Cook said they will include topics such as food preservation, chicken raising, medicinal plant ointments and animal butchering in the course.

Interested persons my go to the web site to find out more information about We Are All Farmers Permaculture Institute. The class sizes are limited. Registration is required by calling Surry Community College at 336-386-3229.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.