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"Permaculture, Community & Home" by Josh Trought, published November 2008

It was in 1997 that I moved to New Hampshire as a member of a team of individuals with a desire to implement a permaculture inspired model of small-scale vegetable farming. Since then, the farm has evolved into the non-profit education center known as D Acres. The farm offers workshops and events to the community while also providing for the education and livelihood of a cadre of staff, residents, interns, apprentices and volunteers. There are ongoing onsite demonstrations of cottage industry, food preservation, photovoltaics, solar hot water and greywater systems, composting toilets and earthen construction. Our Hart & Kourik inspired gardens host over 100 species of naturalized and perennial edibles, medicinals and apiaries. The activities and infrastructure create one of the region's best-known permaculture sites.

However what I want to convey about D Acres is not the bricks and mortar, all of which is available through farm visits and the organization's website. Instead I wish to share my personal revelations regarding the manifestation of this organization. When I arrived at D Acres, I was intent on the physical infrastructure of the project. I saw the farm as the sum of its potential parts: gardens, dwellings, woodlands, and technologies. My reality was a black & white approach that analyzed infrastructure and organizational potential in linear terms. I had the drafting table perception of permaculture as a design system that employed various parts & patterns operating in a sterile medium. My prior experiences promoted the perception that personnel would rotate interchangeably utilizing the resources at hand. I associated permaculture with control, intended results and top-down design.

Nevertheless, ten years of experiences has infused that black & white reality with a myriad of colors. D Acres taught me two things: evolution is perpetual; people are the essential ingredient. Realizing the evolutionary process with a cadre of people willing to work towards perpetuating a sustainable culture has been essential to the success of the D Acres project.

The Farm Evolves…
D Acres evolved from plans stylized on typical Willing-Worker and CSA scenarios. In that model a small core group (usually a patriarchy family) accepts short term workers to help provide salary slave families with weekly baskets of produce. The CSA model we hoped to deliver that first year was a bust. The 90 day growing season, flea beetles, soil quality, and uninterested clientele all resisted our imported model. Willing workers were also challenging. Although many WWOOFers had enthusiasm and idealism, work experience, expectations, the challenges of outdoor living, short duration stays, and our own inexperience with volunteer management resulted in unrealized potential.
The group of five that initially founded D Acres intended a transient existence that would allow mobility, monetary rewards, and negotiable commitment. The realities of New England Appalachia farming rewarded us with frustration and uncertainty that led over 3 years, to the dissolution of the founding members. Surviving on the landowner's goodwill and offsite income D Acres began a metamorphosis.
From the existing farm resources and infrastructure we embarked on a transformative process. We began listening to the land and neighbors, hearing their needs instead of forcing a conventional model. We discovered agro-tourism and the synergy with our educational goals. Our woodland trails that highlight at risk plants became a recreational & educational destination. Food events such as the monthly all you should eat breakfast, soup and pizza nights, and potlucks became opportunities to sell valued added ag products and connect with the community. Our forested landscape taught us to pursue woodcrafts and mushroom cultivation as viable cottage industries. Our pigs are nurtured by food waste provided by relations with local merchants and institutions. Through our study of marketing & promotion we have enhanced local art co-ops and strengthened a regional food producer cooperation by producing an online farmers market (www.lfp.dacres.org).
The project grew wings by evolving into a niche that was presented by the circumstance of nature. Instead of imposing a strict imported model that project is blossoming organically. A dynamic and fluid organization mimics nature and provides the opportunity for an evolution towards sustainability.

People with a capital P
The energy and attention of many hearts and hands have fueled the fire of this evolutionary process. People provide D Acres with its power. Throughout the existence of D Acres people have participated in creating the organism. Everyone from the random visitor to the property owners have contributed to the whole. Founders & financiers both learned that the strength of the organization is derived from an inclusive circle of participants. The process involves a contradiction of allowing individual pursuit of interests while retaining the organizational mission. It is towards this goal that staff, residents and interns have communally and continually defined their roles & objectives as members of this community.

Kevin is a resident and Board member who brings forest stewardship and youth education to our group. Sarah works offsite at the Audubon while lending a hand with yoga instruction & plant knowledge. Bill is a farm manager who specializes in the vegetarian food production and grant writing. Lauren is a farm manager whose expertise is medicinal plants & beekeeping. Louis utilizes his southern hospitality and love for animals to provide guest services and animal care. Morgan turns his focus on the energy crisis towards collection of waste vegetable oil fuel for the farm. Joe is the resident blacksmith providing outreach to the community and essential expertise for onsite infrastructure. Tyler serves as the youth education coordinator & endurance athlete extraordinaire. I focus on forestry, woodworking, construction and intra-organizational coordination. In addition onsite interns & apprentices provide the people power and enthusiasm in pursuit of our goals. An extensive "family" of locals collaborate with us as participants, educators, funders and friends. There are also irregular visitors from near & far that provide inspiration and strengthen the web of people working towards the mission of perpetuating sustainable human culture.

These stewards are the flesh & blood infrastructure that have shared laughter & tears, songs and muscle pains, nourishing food and dirty laundry in the pursuit of a permaculture reality. People ensure that the sum of our efforts is far greater than the component parts. From the stale black & white of a permaculture design, the humanity brings a strong, diverse, rainbow.

In closing, as a founder of a blossoming, "popping" permaculture site, I acknowledge and thank everyone who has participated with us in the pursuit of this vision. I also acknowledge the uncertainty of our collective paths, realizing that uncertainty is an integral part of the process. Accepting that the future is uncertain while pursuing a dream provides clarity to evolutionary vision. I encourage everyone to follow their heart.

Enjoy,
Josh Trought

Josh tries to listen, and regards treehouse accommodations as superior to any five star hotel.
www.dacres.org


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