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Paradise Permaculture Institute—Who Are They

 

“We are only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.”

—Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

 

Permaculture simply means “permanent agriculture.” It is the principles of ecological design that work with, rather than against, nature to create edible landscapes, to construct efficient shelters, and to meet your energy needs. The permaculture principles stem from a set of ethics: Caring for the Earth, caring for each other, and reinvesting the surplus that this care creates.

“We are only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.”  —Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

Ten years ago, Mona Lewis and her husband, David, sought a property on which to apply the principles of permaculture. Fueled by her hands-on, public-education background and the spark ignited by her research, Mona had a clear vision. She wanted to use permaculture to grow food and restore the land. She found a 5.7-acre parcel that was an overgrazed horse pasture—a blank slate in need of restoration. The former alfalfa-field-turned-pasture had bare spots that were dry and cracked, with patches of thistle and dandelion, and scattered native grasses. With some serious transformation, it became the nonprofit Paradise Permaculture Institute (PPI) that thrives today.


PPI contributes to the sustainability of our local food supply and economy through research, teaching, and demonstration of regenerative agriculture and permaculture methods. It focuses on creating abundant food in cold-climate regions, plus providing plants and produce.


Here are some of the classes and workshops they offer: Water use irrigation and ponds, earthworks, building soil, composting, increasing crop yields, property and garden design that works with nature, food forests, growing mushrooms, orchards, poly-cultures, plant companions, energy-efficient garden houses, beneficial weeds, medicinal herbs. They also offer consulting and site design.


They are not just educational—they grow vegetables and greens in an uninsulated, rolling, high-tunnel greenhouse. This structure can cover one of three separate 30-by-48-foot sections and operates on a linear track. It is moved progressively as plants mature and are ready for full sun exposure, allowing nearly year-round productivity. Cold-weather greens, like spinach, arugula, and kale, are planted first. Then, when the cold-hardy greens are thriving, they roll the greenhouse to the next section to expose the greens and protect delicate tomato, cucumber, and basil seedlings.


The bulk of their produce is sold to local restaurants and markets like FoodWorks, Woods Rose Market, as well as Campione, the downtown Italian restaurant. Any surplus funds raised go to the scholarship fund for grants to students who are interested in greening our community.


Paradise Permaculture also sells starter plants in the spring, such as comfrey and Jerusalem artichoke, as well as young berry bushes like raspberries and goji.

While the Lewises relied on extensive planning to develop the property, Mona says the principles of permaculture are relatively basic and can be applied to create what is known as a food forest. Distinct from a more conventional backyard garden, a food forest is intended to be self-sustaining. Referencing expert Richard D. Walker’s book, Food Forestry North of the 49th, Mona says, “He keeps things simple, which is what I like to share with people. It’s doable and it works.”


In the next ten years, Lewis plans to create a children’s garden, a larger learning center, and a 3-by-6-foot, sunken, geothermal greenhouse with the goal of growing citrus fruits.

PPI is a nonprofit 501c3 that serves the community and beyond through education, demonstration, and implementing sustainable design. They provide information, networking and news as well as organize classes and workshops on sustainability-related subjects and projects. For an updated list of events go to ParadisePermaculture.org. Contact them by email mona@paradisepermaculture.org.

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