After reading about D Acres Community Permaculture Farm,
I was excited to have the opportunity to visit for their monthly Farm Feast Breakfast and farm tour. Permaculture has become a strong interest of mine, since it brings together many of the concepts and values that I believe are important. This was a great chance to meet the people of D Acres and see the farm infrastructure, and to taste the fabulous food produced there. Here's a little about what I learned…
Creating a sustainable, regenerative community involves continuous evolution.
D Acres was started about 20 years ago and has become an important part of the community around Dorchester New Hampshire and beyond. The folks of D Acres are doing the hard work of creating a locally reliant system that supports people, other species and ecosystems. Decisions on the farm are made by grappling with difficult questions about what true sustainability means, by considering unseen inputs of nonrenewable energy and resources, and according to the interests and talents of volunteers and staff. I recommend you check out their book The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm if you'd like an in-depth account of the development, evolution and operation of this visionary and hard-working farm community.
Great local food can be enjoyed year round in cold climates!
While D Acres purchases some food items, such as coffee and flour, from other regional sources, they have honed systems to provide a delicious supply of nutritious food year round. Preservation techniques include storing vegetables in bins of sawdust in the cellar where the temperature remains cool; drying fruits and vegetables in a solar dehydrator; making canned preserves with fruit; curing meats with salt and spices; drying beans; and drying herbs for use in tea and medicine. They also use cold frames and start seeds inside to extend the growing season in the cold New Hampshire climate.
Animals can be partners in the farm landscape.
At D Acres, pigs are used to help clear fields for garden areas and orchards. Pigs remove brush and other vegetation, and they fertilize the ground with their droppings. The pigs are fed non-meat food waste that D Acres staff pick up from local restaurants, dining halls and supermarkets. All of this food waste is thus kept out of the landfill, and better yet it's used to produce healthy food and soil. While they eventually become food themselves, the pigs have quite a life. They forage outside during the day, have comfy pig houses to sleep in at night, and are treated with respect and appreciation.
Composting toilets don't have to smell!
An absurd amount of treated drinking water is wasted in the U.S. and other countries by being flushed down the toilet. Furthermore, the useful organic waste resource is also flushed away. Composting toilets capture the waste without additional water inputs. After it composts in the system, the organic material can be returned to the soil. D Acres uses a Clivus Multrum aerobic composting system. Since the D Acres system gets heavy use due to their many public events, they have a separate enclosure outdoors where the composting process is completed. This is a great way to stop wasting waste!
Renewable energy powers the farm!
Wood stoves, solar panels, geothermal heat and a wood boiler are used at D Acres to heat the living spaces and water. One of the principles of permaculture, and common sense, is to have redundancy in important systems. In case one system fails, backup systems are in place to prevent a breakdown. Furthermore, having a variety of methods for carrying out important functions can improve efficiency and create synergistic effects. The wood boiler at D Acres uses a huge hot water tank to absorb and retain the heat. This enables the system to be used very efficiently, so the boiler does not need to be fired up every day. The hot water is circulated through the building and back to the tank to distribute the heat.
And a quote for inspiration…
There are many inspiring quotes on the walls of the D Acres community kitchen. Here's one I especially liked: Well said.
For an introduction to permaculture
and links to more information, see our recent post here. There are many ways to work on the challenges of creating socially and ecologically sustainable systems. Feel free to share your thoughts on what inspires you or on ways you find to be involved!