A Veganic Ecological Permaculture Perspective:
Shifting the Paradigm & Creating a Bioabundant Future of Peace
“I believe regenerative gardening is one of the most dangerous occupations on Earth because you’re in danger of becoming free.”
Take a moment to consider that 50% of Americans were farming in 1880. Now less than 2% of the nation is employed in agriculture. From another perspective, in 1945, Americans grew 45% of their food in their backyard gardens. Now we grow 0.1% of our food in our backyards.
We created this era of chemical mega-farms that has led to the destruction of our soils, water systems, oceans, and human health. By the same reality, we can transform this planet into the most verdant and regenerative ecosystem that has been in many millennia.
We live in a time on planet Earth where many are questioning whether there is another way to live. Here at The Living Centre (est. 1983) in London, On. Canada, we believe the Earth is asking us to shift our ways of living and tend to the landscape. Each of us looks at how we move through our day in a peaceful and in harmony with our environment. A permaculture is a solution-based approach to many of the challenges that are happening in the world. One aspect of permaculture is looking at what plants to grow that will nourish us, sustain us and support the regeneration of the landscape. Our approach uses a veganic practice that we have implemented for 40+ years, and it works! Our bio-abundance is truly a gift!
Imagine a landscape that requires no fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides, or tractor cultivation, and produces highly nutritious, tasty foods. Now imagine the food and medicine that have been grown or wildcrafted. The food is also incredibly delicious and dehydrated crackers made from the nutty, sweet edible grass seeds, covered with a sauce made from sun-dried elderberries and decorated with strips of juicy nopales – prickly pear pads. You begin your meal with a green salad of chickweed and lambs’ quarter greens and follow with a dessert of high-protein plantain seed flour cookies. To drink: a tartly sweet pink “lemonade” made from dried sumac fruit from last year’s harvest.
While this may sound like an exercise in food fiction, creating such a culinary cuisine is all in a day’s work for wild nutritionists, ethical foraging herbalists or forest gardeners. Here is what we are exploring and implementing even more this year in our gardens.
What is a Veganic Permaculture Garden?
Gardener and researcher John Jeavons asked the question, “What is the optimum way to grow enough food for one person on the smallest amount of land possible in a way that is self-fertile and ecologically sustainable in the long term?” After decades of research and testing, he developed the biointensive approach. Biointensive is veganic by default, as raising animals takes up too much space and resources.
The veganic permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden. Yes, an intelligent design system uses free, sustainable energies and resources. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimize the impact of a site on the surrounding environment. Good design has great potential.
What is a Permaculture Plant?
A permaculture plant is usually a perennial or a biannual. If it is a native plant, it even adds further to its nutrient potential. The benefits or values that native vegetation uses are four main headings: economic value, ecological value; social value; and aboriginal heritage value. In some instances, native vegetation has been clear cut, leaving a few individual trees scattered across the landscape. They use fewer resources, and wild native plants have more nutrient density potential.
What is Wild Intelligence?
For a long time, we have known that the trees in a forest are connected by mycorrhizal fungal. Fungi live symbiotically with the roots of forest trees. The forest trees can’t grow without them because they haven’t got enough access to the minerals in the soil, and the fungi can’t grow without the trees because they have no chlorophyll and, therefore, can’t manufacture sugars. It’s a beautiful symbiosis in which all trees are involved. It’s a partnership that supports a nutrient flow, a cycle that promotes nutrient-density to occur from one to another to create great harmony.
We know now that the mycorrhizal fungi don’t surround just one tree. By using radioactive trace elements, the researchers were able to show that the fungi were passing nutrients between different species of trees over a large area. The trees that were not so good in the winter, like aspens, were being given food manufactured by the conifers, which do much better in winter, and vice versa. Thus the fungus is helping to distribute food amongst forest trees so that they all benefit at the right time.
Why a Perennial Polyculture?
A perennial polyculture is a dynamic, self-organizing multi-species community. Designed and tended to by the grower to produce food or other yields. While annual crops sometimes are included in the mix, perennial species predominate those that live for more than one year. It is much more comfortable a three-meter diameter perennial polyculture would be approximately one hour of work a year. Grow nutritious food through this fantastic and effective way of growing healthy food. That stands a chance with the changing climate and folks who want to increase local organic diversity of food crops. We are currently building data sets to present our models to provide healthy and nutritious food while promoting increased biological diversity in the growing environment.
The challenges of our annual monoculture:
1) Soil Loss and degradation
2) Energy input requirements
3) Inefficient nutrient and water utilization
The Advantages of Perennial Polyculture
1) Mixed Fruit and Nut Orchards
2) Perennial Vegetables, Berries and Cane Fruits
3) Perennial Seeds and Grains
A Local Wild Living Design – Embracing Native Foods
Restoring native plant habitats is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating an edible native plant garden, each habitat patch becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals. Most of our wild natural landscapes have many native plants, perennials – delicious native foods. Native plants are a savvy choice for enriching your yard or business landscape. There are hundreds of hardy and eye-catching varieties to choose to grow. Native plants – be they fruit, nut trees, delicious berries, herbs or colourful wildflowers – are well-adapted to the local climate and have natural defences to ward off our region’s pests and diseases.
Our Permaculture Forest Gardens Bioabundance
2017 Goals & Harvest
The Living Centre in 2017 harvested and foraged 886 kg (1953.3 lbs.) of fruits, berries, vegetables, wild edibles and medicinal herbs from June to December 1. Many of our leafy greens or sprouts and many missed foods did not get recorded. In 2017 we did not keep track of our work hours, but taking a rough estimate, we would say we put in full 40 hour weeks times 24 weeks/6 months, which would make it about 960 hours. We intend to increase our tracking method of harvest time and the full operation from planting, pruning, maintaining to harvest in the upcoming years as our first year of launching this research program – keeping a record of our yields.
Our design plan is to continue creating abundance and share our passion, demonstrate and inspire a whole new generation and as Benjamin Franklin stated, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” An abundant forest garden will always require robust planning and a vision of biodiversity into a beautiful future that deep down our hearts know is possible.
2018 Goals & Harvest
Then in 2018, we harvested and foraged approximately 1200.00 kg (2645.54 lbs.) of fruits, berries, vegetables, wild edibles and medicinal herbs for the year. Imagine 170 kilograms of fresh sprouts, microgreens and baby greens grown indoors in our kitchen and passive solar Earthship greenhouse. Approximately 27% of our harvest of food and medicine were wild and native foods. In 2018 we kept track of our harvest hours, a rough estimate we would say we put in about 120 hours in 36 weeks/9 months. We intend to increase our tracking method of harvest time and the full operation from planting, pruning, maintaining to harvest in the upcoming years. W second year of launching this research program of keeping a record of our yields.
Our Future Goals: From Organic to Veganic & Beyond
Our goal for 2022, from March 21 to December 21, – 2,000 kg (4409 lbs.)
We are excited about finding-tuning our record-keeping and sharing our practices and results in the future. We will begin this record-keeping process on March 21, 2022, for the first spring day. We are sharing this project’s development with all of our student’s mentees – we will continue to be post as we go through the seasons. We love sharing our journey and passion for creating a way of life that sustains and nourishes us. Our experiment thus far in how to grow and forage the nutrient-dense food of this landscape – being of the wild and native plants. We feel this is one of the most ecological ways possible and a model that can carry us into a post-carbon future through decades of living and exploring. Our goal is to produce fresh, organic and local food, wild edibles and plant medicines this year, including a bioabundance of thousands of kilograms of peace – for all beings to live in happiness and joy!
What is the optimum way to grow enough food for one person on the smallest amount of land possible?
John Jeavons has demonstrated that a person on a balanced vegan diet can grow all their nutrient-dense food on as little as 700 square feet?
- Modelling a living system
- Practicing organic veganic methods
- Using only hand-tools
- On-site fertility mulch, compost and making our weed tea
- Forest gardening practices
- Using a no-till approach
- Growing in All Seasons
- Perennial Plants, Wild Plants
- High-Density Polyculture Planting
- Utilizing our Earthship Greenhouse
- A Change of Scale – Small is Beautiful
Decades before the terms “eco-friendly” And “sustainable growing” entered the vernacular. Shantree has been practicing and demonstrating that small-scale, high-yield, all-organic methods can yield bountiful crops over multiple growing cycles using resources for almost 50 years.
An Organic Regenerative Biointensive System
“An entire balanced diet could be grown at intermediate yields on as little as 1,000 square feet per person in an 8-month growing season.” ~John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables (and fruits, nuts, grains and other crops) than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine
Using regenerative biointensive techniques have the potential to:
- Use 67% to 88% less water than conventional agricultural methods.
- Use 50% to 100% less purchased (organic, locally available) fertilizer.
- Use up to 99% less energy than commercial agriculture, while using a fraction of the resources.
- Produce 2 to 6 times more food at intermediate yields, assuming a reasonable level of the gardener’s skill and soil fertility (which increase over time as the method is practiced)
- Produce a 100% increase in soil fertility.
- Reduce by 50% or more the amount of land required to grow a comparable amount of food. This allows more land to remain in a wild state, preserving ecosystem services and promoting genetic diversity.
To determine how much a market forest gardener working 1000 square meters of land might earn. The final report as of 2015 shows that during the last 12 months of study, 1600 hours were performed in the garden, and an additional 800 hours were consumed with related market forest gardening tasks, for a total of 2400 work hours. The value of the product sold was $59,497. These results confirm that one can earn one’s living on a tiny piece of land without mechanization using permaculture forest gardening methods. They also confirmed that it is possible to engage an extra-paid worker if the workload demands it. ~Ferme du Bec Hellouin
Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
Vegan: 1/6th acre (674.4 sq. meters)
Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan (1/2 acre) (2697.9 sq. meters) (0.2 hectares)
Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan (3 acres) (12,140.6 sq. meters) (1.2 hectares)
~Cowspiracy & Earthsave
The Miracle of Veganic Forest Gardening:
Toward a Bio-Abundant Future
My invitation is for each of us to rethink our role within nature. To embrace a bioabundant future and “take the best of the many traditions of humanity, and the best of modernity, to shape a world that has never existed.”
This future is what veganic forest gardening permaculture offers, both a science and art of living. We are at the very early stages of this adventure. The rest of the story remains to be written, and each can contribute to creating.
The foremost challenge is not technical; it is inside us – just as the solutions are. We all tend to endorse limiting viewpoints: The past is past, development is always proper, the West is better than the rest of the world, and intellectual occupation is better than a blue-collar career. Dare to imagine a new way. Consider the question of the future we are creating with a higher perspective. Now step back from the mental formatting that we all matter. Take the best of the many traditions of humanity, and the best of modernity, to shape a world that has never existed a brand new world. Become voyagers of the future. To create peace is to be peace.
Creating Foraging Gardens of Peace
Gardens are also sanctuaries of peace. When we step into a garden – that is abundant with beautiful harmony and filled with songs from all the living beings. We partake in shifting our culture’s paradigm to wholeness and true healing and peace.