Permaculture on the JBFC Farm

March 2, 2016 8:58 pm Published by
Editor’s Note: JBFC is turning 10 this March! Over the last decade, we have harvested more than 14.5 tons of produce on the JBFC Farm. Our permaculture re-boot in 2012 is a big part of those production gains. Blogger Seth Diemond tells us more about Permaculture and its impact on the JBFC Farm.
People care. Earth care. Economic opportunity. These are the basic tenants of permaculture, the system of environmental design that JBFC began to implement on our campus in 2012 with the help of E.J. and Sophie Oppenheimer and Mark Shepard.

They also happen to fit in pretty nicely with JBFC’s four central pillars of refuge, healthcare, education, and economic opportunity through rural agriculture. With more than 330 students, 48 residential girls, a staff of 70 workers, a 70-acre campus, a healthcare clinic, and a hotel/restaurant, JBFC has a lot of people and a lot of Earth to take care of — all while trying to create self-reliance for our community.
The impact of JBFC’s permaculture project has been far-reaching across all of JBFC’s pillars; more variety and more nutrition means improved health for all, increased farm production means more economic opportunity, and experiential learning on our farm means a more well-rounded education.
JBFC’s permaculture farm has seen massive growth since its inception in 2012. What was once a small-scale traditional agriculture project that produced 100 pounds of food per week, now provides our family, our staff, and our students with more than 300 pounds of food every week. Eggplants, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale, cumphry, papaya, banana, plantains, passion fruit, pineapple, black beans, and hibiscus juice, as well as other fruits and vegetables, are now common sightings along the sides of more traditional fare like rice, beans and ugali.

With our first sights of avocados on campus and increased production of other perennial food producers like pomegranate, papaya, banana, plantains, and breadfruit, we are going to push that production towards 400 pounds per week in 2016 and increase production yearly regardless of unreliable local weather patterns and unpredictable rainfall.
While 2014 and 2015 saw us surpass 300 pounds of food per week and while we have transformed our environment by planting more than 3,000 trees since 2012, our permaculture development is far from finished on our own farm.

JBFC’s hill, which hosts our pigs, chickens, donkeys, and sheep, and was once an unusable rocky landscape, is starting to show signs of transformation. By combining terraces purposed to hold soil and water with increased soil production from livestock and grazing animals, we are preparing to plant additional trees along our hillside terraces which will soon become forage for our livestock. In addition to the two- year-old Mulberry trees, which have already taken on the hill, we hope to plant Moringa, passion fruit, and macadamia nut trees this spring. These trees will continue to prevent soil erosion, help retain water, and feed our livestock. Mulch from these trees along with fertilizer from our animals will continue to build a healthy layer of topsoil capable of supporting food rather than rocks.

 Throughout our campus, we will continue to redevelop and improve existing parts of our farm while introducing new projects and ideas. Just this week, we were able to harvest our first batch of fish from our aquaponics fishpond. We will be adding new gray-water systems, like the ones at our girls’ home, to utilize water from dish washing, hand washing, and laundry to help irrigate new gardens.

By using what would otherwise require costly septic projects, we are reusing water to increase food production, improve health through a balanced diet, and reduce waste. We will plant new trees to replace unproductive trees, start a new tree nursery, and continue to adapt our planting strategy based on observations and lessons learned since 2012.
In addition to increased food production, we are expanding our permaculture efforts in other ways in order to better take care of our people, our world, and our economy.

In 2016, JBFC is doubling its outreach efforts with the hopes of hosting at least four permaculture seminars to teach local farmers, neighboring organizations, and local church groups and schools the basics of permaculture. Through these efforts we will potentially multiply the overall impact of our permaculture program many times over.

Our first permaculture seminar of 2016, led by E.J. and Sophie Oppenheimer and Mark Shepard, hosted 25 members from our Kitongo community representing local churches, a public school, small-scale farmers, neighboring NGOs, and students from our school, taught the basics of permaculture over four days and enabled each participant to start a small permaculture project of their own. It is our hope that with continued technical support from JBFC these participants will implement small-scale projects of their own to improve the lives of their families, their churches, their schools, their Earth, and their economic opportunities.

As JBFC’s permaculture roots grow deeper on our campus and in our community, the fruits of our permaculture project are reaching more and more people and will continue to transform lives. Through permaculture, we will continue to improve the health of our JBFC family, educate our community, repair our environment, and continue to become more sustainable.

JBFC would like to extend a big thank you to Mark Shepherd and E.J. and Sophie Oppenheimer for sharing their expertise with us. We would also like to thank the Reed J. Oppenheimer Foundation for supporting JBFC’s Permaculture initiative.

You can join in JBFC’s Birthday Celebration by Dining Out for JBFC.  Join us for a special birthday party on March 6th, from 5-8pm at 

The Tropical (8125 E. 49th Street) has pledged to donate 10% of the proceeds from the celebrations that evening. That money will go directly to support JBFC’s Farm!

We’re celebrating our 10th Birthday all month long in Tulsa. We’re partnering with Tulsa-area restaurants to Dine Out for JBFC on Tuesdays in March. Click here for more details on how you can join the fun. 

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This post was written by Mainsprings