Permaculture: permanent agriculture that seeks to replicate nature in a food producing farm, so people are better cared for (by having more and varied foods), the planet or environment in an area becomes healthier (by reducing chemical usage and returning valuable nutrients and water to the soil), and to have enough left to sell for a profit.
Mainsprings’ permaculture transformation started in August of 2012, when long time supporters within the Reed J. Oppenheimer Foundation brought permaculture consultant Mark Sheppard to our campus. Before this, Mainsprings used a common method of farming called mono-cropping, where entire fields would be filled with the same type of produce. But now, the landscape is filled with a variety of trees, shrubs, plants, and vines. We even strategically use our livestock to improve the soil! All of this works to replenish the richness of the soil that was slowly depleted over time, helps prevent erosion, and ultimately, makes a much more productive farm.
These techniques have definitely born fruit! In 2017, Mainsprings averaged two tons of produce each month from the farm. This drastically reduces the amount of food that needs to be purchased off campus. Any excess produce helps to provide additional income for the organization, while the farm continues to produce more and more year after year. Perhaps more importantly, this example of what’s possible on a relatively small piece of land is already being used to help local farmers and organizations better utilize their own land, and protects them from the seasonality of mono-cropping. These techniques are enabling subsistence farmers, who once struggled to grow enough food for their families, to turn a small profit, and benefit the planet at the same time.