Permaculture is a complex and evolving philosophy that uses nature as a model to develop sustainability and balance in all aspects of one’s life. An important aspect is food production. Through my past work on the board of the Frederick County Consumers Cooperative, I have tried to develop approaches that help local farmer’s preserve their place in Frederick County, Maryland. One approach melds permaculture and medicinal plant farming. This method would stimulate farm land conservation, provide value added diversification of locally adapted crops, increase wild land networks, and help protect endangered plants.Jeanine David has done some very interesting work developing local herbal growers in western North Carolina as part of the Medicinal Herbs for Commerce Project at North Carolina State University. Farming would be done in forested settings and at the edge of differing ecologies.
Some of the main ideas from permaculture that need to be considered:
Can every plant in your system yield more than one use (stacking functions)?
Can the system meet every need in multiple ways (repeating functions)?
Can the yield from one plant meet the needs of others in your system (reciprocity) – shade or nitrogen fixation or soil water retention?
Can you create resilience by building diversity?
Can you keep the soil structure undisturbed?
Did you plant in guilds to create a food forest – a perennial agricultural system?
Central over story nut or fruit tree or slippery elm for the demulcent properties of the inner bark.
A leguminous ground cover such as red clover.
Deep-rooted accumulators such as burdock or echinacea, which bring deeper soil nutrients nearer the surface for other plants to use
Plants, such as yarrow and lavender that attract beneficial insects.
Climbing vines, such as wild yam.
A first step is to bring a range of local stakeholders together for a conversation. Local groups that may have an interest include:
Catoctin Water Shed Alliance
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Forest Stewardship
Frederick County Forestry Board
Natural Resources – Western Maryland
Agriculture Extension Agent – Frederick County
Catoctin Land Trust
Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies
United Plant Savers
A great place to learn more about permaculture in our region is the Heathcote Community.
Share the abundance!
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