Case Study: New York State

A portion of the permaculture plan showing fruit orchards (on contour planting) and an infiltration basin utilised in the site’s residential lots water management scheme.

I am currently working on a large design for a 52 acre site in New York State. The goals for this design very much adhere to each of the central ethics of permaculture. The broad goal was to maximise the capacity of the land in question to sustain wildlife and people, while minimising negative impact on the local and global environment through the establishment of the project and while it is in use long-term.

The property experiences an enviable climate, with a productive growing season, with a frost-free season of between 140 and 240 days. It is therefore ideal for agricultural production. Mean rainfall is 36 to 71 inches each year and mean air temperatures annually are 39-55 degrees F.

The soil, too, is ideal for farmland, with a Paxton fine, sandy loam predominating over around 86% of the site, at various degrees of slope. The water retention of this free draining soil can be improved through judicious application of surface mulches, planting of ground cover, and re-establishment of under-storey planting. On steeper slopes, soil and water can best be managed through planting along on-contour swales.

The Goals

Specific ecological/ environmental aims for the site include:

  • Regenerating the native foliage and restoring more natural woodland and shrub cover.
  • Preserving and enhancing the vegetative cover at and around existing wetland areas.
  • Effective water management through vegetative swales, infiltration basin and rain gardens.
  • Boosting biodiversity and strengthening ecological systems with agroforestry and mixed agriculture, agro-ecology plantations (rather than mono-crop forestry and agriculture).
  • Organic control of invasive species to protect and regenerate native plants (and wildlife). (Installing deer fencing around the property to allow lower vegetative layers to regenerate is recommended.)

Specific goals relating to human use of the site include:

  • The creation of six multi-generational eco-friendly and sustainable homes. Each with garden utility and functionality which enables a greener way of life.
  •  A community barn and farm stalls to serve the needs to these residents, and also the wider local community.
  • Restoring agricultural activity on site to protect the rural nature of the community, boost food resilience and provide organic, fresh, sustainably grown products for the people of the site and the surrounding area.(Through the creation of mixed forestry, agroforestry and mixed agricultural field systems. Incubator plots of 0.1-0.5 acres are to be leased to aspiring farmers/ growers for field growing, fruit production, for non-timber forest products etc..)
  • Recreational access to the site on a trail a nearby brook. Along the trail, the general public will be able to learn about and experience nature and wildlife, and learn more about sustainable farming as the systems develop over time.
  • Further public learning opportunities will abound in the outdoor learning zone and demonstration garden adjacent to the community barn.This site should, over time, grow to produce healthy food, healthy natural systems, and healthy people. Like the trees and plants on site, the community can slowly but surely flourish and grow. They can live in harmony with nature rather than fighting it, and make our world a better place for future generations.

Of course, the finished design will include much more information and detail.

If you are interested in a design of this type for your property, please do get in touch.

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