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Review: The Resilient Farm and Homestead - An innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach
Ben Falk, 2013 Chelsea Green Publishing
Permaculture Book Review
Many who have been part of the “back to the land” movement over the last fifty years have found their dreams of “self sufficiency” challenged by the realities of maintaining a productive farm or homestead without a steady stream of increasingly expensive inputs from off-site. Climate instability and resource depletion will only complicate things further for those wishing to build a resilient lifestyle on the land.
Some of us have found hope in the promise of permaculture design, but have been thwarted by the lack of well-researched and documented examples that apply to our northern temperate climate. Enter Ben Falk and his new
book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead. In it, Falk chronicles the transformation of a typical worn out Vermont hillside farm, into a permaculture-inspired, experimental oasis of biological diversity and ecological resilience on the human-scale. His approach is to regenerate the land while developing robust and redundant systems to supply perennial needs while reducing inputs of both labor and materials over time.
A trained landscape architect and practicing permaculture designer, Falk not only writes passionately about his philosophy and the broad range of experiments that he and his colleagues develop on the landscape, but brings them to life through finely crafted drawings and photographs in a way that makes them accessible to those not necessarily steeped in permaculture terminology.
Much of the research that Falk has undertaken at his Whole Systems Research Farm is based on his travels across the world to study enduring agricultural systems in areas with similar landscapes and climates to northern New England. One such trip found him in northern Japan where he realized that paddy rice could be a viable crop for his farm and our bioregion. His experiments have yielded good results and a photograph of the paddies graces the cover of the book.
Falk also profiles dozens of other crops, especially perennial food plants, with the emphasis on nutrient density and the ability of food to act as medicine. Falk builds on the work of many permaculturists before him, including the recent work of David Jacke and Eric Toenesmier. In functioning “guilds,” small fruits such as elder and seaberry take their place alongside various edible fungi, tree fruits and nuts, groundcovers and herbaceous perennials to provide extreme nutrition, build soil, and create beneficial habitat. There is also much information on integrating sheep, goats and foul into the system to generate fertility. The connection between healing the land and healing ourselves is made clear.
Backing up a step, his chapter on “The Design Process and Site Establishment,” with its illumination of the permaculturist’s mantra of “observation before action” might be the most valuable section of the book. Also discussed are water and earthworks, (Falk sees the vast potential of New England as a terraced landscape), Fertility Harvesting and Cycling, and Fuel and Shelter.
While I question Falk’s love affair with the gas chainsaw for bucking up firewood, (I prefer an electric) and fear he mischaracterizes my beloved Yacon as a replacement for the potato, this is a great book and must-read for anyone serious about reclaiming our beleaguered agricultural landscape and creating an enduring legacy of human-scale development.
-Review by Scott Vlaun, Moose Pond Arts+Ecology
Falk chronicles the transformation of a typical worn out Vermont hillside farm, into a permaculture-inspired, experimental oasis of biological diversity and ecological resilience on the human-scale.
The connection between healing the land and healing ourselves is made clear.
This is a great book and must-read for anyone serious about reclaiming our beleaguered agricultural landscape and creating an enduring legacy of human-scale development.
Stay tuned for more Permaculture-related book reviews!
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