SUSTAINABLE FAMILY FARMING
Ma&Pa Permaculture is made up of Sophie, Troy and their little Indy, from their Instagram account they show the evolution of their home-based permaculture farm on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.
We talked to Troy about his project, which began as a restlessness after watching the film «The garbage warrior» and that every day is giving shape to this project of life with his wonderful family.
A typical question although necessary to understand you, where did your inspiration came from?
I first developed a serious passion for Permaculture in the summer of 2012 when I saw the movie ‘The Garbage Warrior’, a documentary following architect Mike Reynolds and his environmentally conscious «Earthship» houses on a flight home to Australia from Spain.
Reynolds is a crusader for sustainable living and building structures, which are almost made entirely from discarded materials and waste products including car tyres rammed with earth, aluminium cans, bottles and a range of other funky ‘junk’.
It was through this amazing film that I ended up stumbling into Permaculture. It vastly altered my values to create a life based around resilience and to build a community of friends whom hold communal sufficiency at its core.
Over the last years inspiration has been drawn from Permaculturists work such as David Holmgren (Retrosuburbia), Brett Cooper (Limestone Permaculture), Ben Falk (Whole Systems Design), Hannah Maloney (Goodlife Permaculture) and local friends such as Scott Wilson (Seedpod Permaculture), Permie Pete (Wormbiz), Joseph McGrath (Guyung Farm) & Rachel Altenbacher.
Most recently I was introduced to ‘Syntropic Farming’ which I believe is a complete regeneration science/philosophy based around creating an absolute abundance of food by mimicking natural forests systems. The aim is to produce vegetable, fruit, nut, protein and timber yields for both firewood, lumber and high end furniture.
This approach truly caters for the long term needs of the human being, whilst sequestering carbon, enhancing the amenity of your land and has also proven to be highly profitable from an early stage with its intercropping of market garden style crops in between tree rows.
This is a family project so we guess all of you are involved on it, including your little kid. How has this experience transformed you as individuals and family?
When I have a shitty week at work and touch the soil I feel grounded, healthy and in control of my life. I get the same feeling from my loved one Sophie and our son Indy (another baby on the way who we’ve been nick naming ‘Dos’ at the moment). Combining the 2 just feeds every fibre of my soul and essence. Although in saying that, it is not always a smooth ride.
Through experience things function and flow a lot nicer and are much more productive if we have planned for our farm works rather than just getting out there and winging it. I’m no doubt at my most productive when I’m powering away without Indy in between my legs, but he value adds to any experience and it builds memories and most important life skills for him built around a foundation of resilience and sustainability.
I was pretty well raised with my Polish grandfather whom I use to follow and help around the yard and veggie patch too and same with Sophie and her grandparents. So I guess we have positive memories and hope our son one day appreciate these experiences and lessons as much as we do.
Do you plan to consume all the production or maybe planning to sell and run your plantation as a family business? Do Australian individuals value eco food?
In Australia like the rest of the western world people are sick of the bastardisation of food and industrialisation of our food and if not growing, they are beginning to be more conscious of what they consume and where and who they buy from.
At this point in time we are just growing for our own consumption and to honour the ‘fair share’ ethic of Permaculture by sharing excess with friends, family or animals on our farm. We will have some steers for slaughter around Christmas time so we may look into sell the meat from one of them to cover some costs.
Are you a self taught learner? What would you suggest a person that has just discovered about permaculture?
We both put a high emphasis on self-development, acquiring new skills and upskilling through workshops and further education. I did a Permaculture design certificate with Brett Cooper of Limestone Permaculture.
This course really empowered me to make educated decisions and implement elements and food systems giving them the best chance for survival. I finished the course with a site sector analysis for our farm (assessment of all energies from strong winds, available sunlight, bushfire threat, frost, predatory animal threats for livestock etc) and a detailed plan for our homestead.
This has been fundamental in our success so far as when a project is coming up we both know what we are working on, skills, tools and resources required.
Sophie is currently doing her Permaculture design certificate and permaculture teacher training with Morag Gamble through an online platform which is extremely flexible with its delivery which suites her as a mum.
There is a lot of Permaculture educators out there. If you are even remotely interested in Permaculture I would strongly recommend investing in the time to do a Permaculture design certificate, it will change yours and the people around you’s life. Or volunteer in Permaculture based projects like Permablitz’s or on Permaculutre based farms.
The water management is vital within the permaculture. In which way do you manage water in your plantation? Do you recycle home used water also?
We don’t get water from any town source. All water used on our farm is captured from our roof and stored in water tanks. As a part of our Permaculture plan we will triple the amount of water storage within the next 12 months.
Along with this we are planning to do some major earthworks to build a network of swales on contour in an alley cropping/syntropic (agroforestry) system which will all link up to large dams. We want to make any energy coming onto our properties work as hard for us as possible and capture and harness this wherever possible.
Australia is experiencing its worst drought on record in an already extremely dry continent and water storage in tanks, dams and in the soil itself using water harvesting techniques like swales and soil improvement is fundamental especially for a future based around sustainability. No water = no life.
What criteria do you use when selection your plants, trees and vegetables? Any go local policy involved?
Vegetables; we plant what we like to eat in our 6 x bio intensive house garden beds. These will be surrounded by a garden bed which is full of medicinals, citrus, dwarf fruit species and bee/beneficial insect attracting flowers and frog habitat.
This will also act as a windbreak and protection from the harsh afternoon summer sun. So I guess criteria wise we hope things have more functions than just a yield. We have to consider the system as a whole and how certain elements within that system work to create a better environment (micro-climate).
We are blessed that one of our good local Permaculture friends sells all kinds of fruit trees as a business now who we barter tree mulch with from our tree maintenance company. We also have a really nice organic seed nursery 45 minutes away where some passionate friends of ours work which is also a fantastic resource not just for the product but also for their wealth of knowledge.
RELATIVE LOCATION PRINCIPLE
How did you face the design of your plantation? We imagine this is fundamental in order the edible forest to raise.
Well we have 20 acres here, so are very spoilt for space. You could easily get lost if you don’t have a proper plan and no doubt we made some mistakes early on and will continue to make mistakes but learn and improve our practices.
Making reference to Permaculture zones and using the principle of ‘Relative Location’ to have the elements we visit frequently closest to the homestead has helped a lot during the design process. We already had some fruit trees in place so we just worked with what we’ve had and built guilds around these trees and linked them using sheet mulching.
This encourages mycelium activity, root symbiosis, aids in water retention and most importantly building mineral rich living soil jam packed with microbes, worms and all the other goodies.
Recently I attended an introduction to Syntropic farming and was blown away at the large scale potential of this practise. The principles really aligned with what we want to create here and made a lot of sense to us and we look forward to completing further studies in November this year and beginning our Syntropic projects shortly after.
How do you imagine the space you are creating in 20 years time?
Well in my wildest dreams the food forests will have all the layers of a forest producing vegetables above and underground, fruit, nuts and harvestable timber. We really look forward to incorporating a broader acre Syntropic system hopefully running animals like a mixed livestock operation in between.
Our plantings will be made up of not only food for us but fodder for animals to supplement their feed which is becoming extremely expensive in our part of Australia due to our forever drying climate in which huge shortages for hay and lucerne is already a reality.
But as a whole the farm will provide us not only with nourishment but be a hub for education, a place to inspire other people about the benefits of this type of lifestyle, it will be a refuge for wildlife and support a plethora of animals and humans alike. It will make up our income through farm stay accommodation, nutritional cooking classes, sustainable wedding experiences, courses, workshops and general selling of produce.
Sophie is also passionate to set up a weekly work with refugees type busy bee on the farm so they have a safe place to grow food and build community. Like the garden bed, the more diverse our farm is with culture the more we benefit as a whole.
Many refugees come from rural backgrounds or have close ties to the land and have an absolute wealth of knowledge and willingness to share aspects of their culture from food, dance to little traditions which enrich our lives in ways which words can not explain.
At Ekohunters we believe that small changes drive big ones. Maandpapermaculture is an example that a personal project can benefit and enrich the community.