Communities seeking to grow 100% of their own food

I am highly interested in the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, herbalism, healing through food, food as medicine, plants as “co-creators” and cohabitants with us on Earth and how we can connect with ancient and new wisdom through nature. I have nomadic ancestry and still feel a strong nomadic nature.

I know that seems strange to talk about on a digital forum, because digital forums are kind of the opposite of getting deeply internal, reaching out to ancestors, interacting with nature, listening to nature or even gardening!

But basically I thought I would put this ideal of mine right up front because may as well “aim for the stars” right? I feel it is a really important value to me so just the opportunity to voice this value alone is rewarding. (Thank you IC.org and Neil for the invitation to test run the forum).

I would love to connect with any community seeking to grow 100% of their own food, even if all they have accomplished so far (or all they will ever accomplish) is 10% or 1%. 100% local isn’t precluding trade, barter or long-distance treats, but I feel a close relationship to Earth is an important value for me. So yeah, who else is interested in this? I want to weigh it in myself, learn how to make it realistic and whether I feel capable of making it realistic.

I love gardening but I don’t want to do it alone. I really loved the East Wind model where Richard basically coordinates how it goes and anyone can jump in and do weeding or planting according to a plan that serves the community well.

I also want to gain necessary sensitivities on the debates around “English” words and concepts that are a result of colonization and wrongheaded thinking. I have heard for example that “wildcrafting” can be a controversial word because responsible harvesting is not just “if you see it take it” (stealing from Earth or Earth caretakers) but rather an extreme awareness of a network of interrelationships (anarchy).

Does anyone chat on the permies.com forum about related topics?

Would anyone be excited to create community together based on all the most amazing, green, bio-diverse and regenerative ideas that can be found in ethically sound ways (i.e.; not just appropriating everything we see)?

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I think @m.frankit.t spends a lot of time on permies!

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Cool, thank you for the connection tip! I may just have to reach out and see where they are at in their permaculture view. :slight_smile:

Watching the topic. Love the trajectory. I’m mobile, and currently in AZ, but will be heading up the PacNW in a month or so…would love to cross paths at some time.

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I’m very interested in growing a percentage of my own food as well. I feel that as long as we give back to the earth, we can wildcraft our foods. By give back I mean continue to grow more and give back to the wild what we don’t eat, or turn into compost.

Having access to the digital world, in this lifetime, gives us access to “hunting seasons” and other notices in the area we might otherwise not know about. It also connects each for advice or any assistance other communities might offer; any members that still travel or would be able to help in hopes to barter.

I’d love to learn about [plant] grafting and what plants are compatible and what foods I can [naturally] come up with! I’ve barely started reading about it recently and am very curious.

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Yeah, this makes sense to me. Grow more than you need and let the trees thrive, let birds and nature thrive, and bonus — you can kind of have a “back up” during struggling years. Grow in lots of places, lots of ways, and maybe this will avoid problems of monoculture, etc.

They say diversify economically, but maybe the initial impetus in us is diversify food sources ??? :slight_smile:

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My experience here at NOESERC is probably pretty atypical but perhaps it can help in some way.
First some background on my specific circumstances:

  • I live in a northern region, zone 3 or 4 depending on the year, which only guarantees 2 solid months of growing, often, but not always 3, and never 4.
  • The soil here is a heavy clay that does not permit moisture to move much at all which means wet soil acts as a bathtub to drown your poor plants, and dry soil turns as hard as rock.

Now my observations:
Hunting and Gathering:
These are both problematic for sustainability for two reasons. The first is the variability of harvest is too great from year to year. The second is the rule of universal consequences (what would happen if everyone did it) means that if everyone in this area depended on hunting and gathering there would soon be very little left to gather or hunt. As a result my efforts are primarily in trying to grow in 2-3 months everything that is needed for a year and using hunting and gathering (more like fishing and picking) as a treat. I actually do not hunt because I usually get such a delight out of seeing animals, with some notable exceptions, that I am loathe to harvest them. For instance I recently had a lynx attack a turkey I have raised from a day old chick. I managed to get there in time and chase it off but I would bear the lynx no hard feelings even if it had succeeded. I would rather lose my turkey and have to replace it than lose one of those majestic animals.

Growing
It has taken me years to come up with a growing strategy that is simplicity itself. What I do is I dig a trench about 1 meter wide and half a meter deep and 20 to 30 meters long. I pile the clay that comes out of the trench on the sides creating a trench that is about a meter deep. I put a nice thick layer of sand at the bottom, then compost, then soil, then sand, then compost, then soil, and finally a layer of sand or gravel as the top mulch layer. The row winds up being a nice long hill that is easy to plant in on both sides and is highly resistant to frost while also doing an amazing job of composting quickly and preserving water. Weeding is quite easy as any weeds that do try to start are fairly obvious and also have roots in the mulch so very easy to remove. I use this strategy to grow a wide variety of fast growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs. I even have some perennials like asparagus, currants, gooseberries, honeyberries, and etc. I currently have 3 active garden trenches and plan on adding another every year until I am finally producing more than can be consumed in a year. Each trench produces somewhere between 5 to 15 percent of a years supply for 2 people. (I expect to get that number dialed in a lot closer in the coming years but the data is erratic at this point.)

Composting
A critical issue is composting. What does one compost? In short, EVERYTHING that can be broken down by bacteria and worms. Peels, and other food wastes, into the compost. Sweep the dirt off the floor, into the compost. All humanure, also into the compost. This is very important because that circle needs to be completed. Sitting at the bottom of half a meter or more of dirt allows the humanure to be worked on by worms and bacteria and they do a phenomenal job. Even in our harsh climate, after 2 years all you find is nice black, well fertilized soil that the plants love.

Food Preservation
This is also an essential step to take. In areas that produce for longer periods of the year this step may often be overlooked, but here I do need to be able to preserve food for a full 12 months. Relying on a freezer is expensive and problematic if the freezer stops working. Drying is quite time consuming and does not work for all vegetables. Same with smoking. What I have been doing that has been working brilliantly is lacto fermentation through brining. For reference you take a 5 gallon pail and fill it with produce that you wish to preserve. Next boil a kettle of water, pour it into a bowl with half a cup of salt, mix until the salt dissolves, pour into the bucket. Repeat until the veggies are covered (usually about 4 kettles and 2 cups of salt). Cover, and store. After a month you have wonderfully mixed flavors. I always try to add onions, dill, and peppers to every batch because I love how they make everything taste. If you have beets in the mix, they will turn everything purple. A year later you open the pail and the veggies are crisp and imbued with so many flavors. If the fermented flavor is too strong for your taste, they can be added to a soup instead. If you have access to salt water then you should be able to boil that instead, but I have only calculated that, not actually tried it.

Summary
These techniques will get you a garden you do not need to fuss a lot with but which will be highly productive, even in an area that has a very dry year. Food that you can eat for at least a year afterwards that will be highly nutritious. In case you are wondering, this technique can also be used with meat and right now I have a turkey brining with jalapeno peppers and onions. After a month it will be amazing and you have never tasted white meat that was so moist and flavorful.

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Do you have plans to build a greenhouse/structure around those trenches? You’d be able to grow foods year round and increase your stores and more than enough for bartering/sharing. I really love this idea and will keep this in mind for my future grows!

As far as your veggie fermentation, you’re very close at making your own kimchi!:drooling_face: I definitely would LOVE to taste that turkey!!

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I have a pit greenhouse that I am going to complete this year. That type of greenhouse is optimized for northern environments but even so it will not produce year round.
The temperatures would be too low and the light the wrong spectrum for 6 months of the year.
What it can do is give me another month on each end of the growing cycle, which is huge to go from 2-3 months into 4-5 months, and it will mitigate any freak frosts. For instance last year we got a hard frost on July 8 while most of the rest of North America had a heat dome. The year before we got frost on June 10,11,12, while just north of here they got 30cm of snow. That effectively wiped out a lot of the gardens in the area. When you only get a few hours of daylight and most of that in the red spectrum, plants do not tend to do well, even if it is warmer. You can certainly make it work if you try hard enough but it is not worth it. For instance, there was a local fellow who built a 365 day greenhouse. His energy inputs were far too large to be able to do it sustainably however. It was more of a vanity project.
What I am considering, however, is for 6 months using the greenhouse as a massive bird coup so that they go in all winter, dig up the earth, eat all the weeds, fertilize all the soil, then kick them out end of March and start planting. Finding ways to have synergy like that is more important for sustainability than forcing an outcome. An important principle is that when you find yourself fighting nature, stop and see where you went wrong. :wink:

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Your 6 month grow plan sounds more feasible than trying to burn more energy than necessary. I was going to say something along the lines of not knowing what your electricity source/situation is and mention LED lights for grow houses. Your plan gives back almost more than you take for yourself. I also don’t exactly know how far north you live; as well as not reading enough into your solar availability. Nature always prevails, and share the benefits when you work with it instead of against.:green_heart::green_heart:

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Wow @NOESERC what a great write-up! Thank you for the VERY high-quality post!

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Maxeem, in the right climate, it’s easy to grow most of your food if you’re into veggies and fruit and you know how to cook.

Unfortunately, most people THINK they can cook, but I had the pleasure of hosting Mark, a REAL cook, for a few months and it was amazing. My partner was vegan, so that’s all he cooked except for the Xmas goose. Usually, I need to eat meat once a week or so, and everything had to have cheese for flavor – not while Mark was here. If I ever have more time, learning how to cook is way up on my list.

Started with permaculture in 2009 after watching Lawton’s Greening the Desert. Stupidly, didn’t get that the high desert is about as far from Jordan’s climate as it gets even though I’ve BEEN there! I didn’t realize how much SLOWER everything grows when you get single digit temps every few years and teens every winter.

We got out the shovels and dug our first little swales, just tiny trenches. We abandoned all of our efforts after the gophers invaded and in 2014 got the adjoining lot and started over. STILL struggling with gophers, but despite numerous setbacks, things are finally looking up.

Love building with adobe / cob, am off grid, and am fascinated with design for minimal power use. Even when it’s 113 F day after day, I still only use USB fans for cooling. And of course opening windows when it’s cooler outside than inside at night. It rarely gets over 90 F in the house and then there are wet towels …

I’ll never understand why the natives on the rez live in toxic firetraps (trailers) instead of building their own adobe homes and growing food like they used to. It’s so sad to see them in the stores in Kingman, diabetic from all that white people food, loading up their carts with poisons. So much poverty, crime, alcoholism, drugs. Frustrating.

Was a lot at permies.com and spent several hundred dollars on Paul’s kickstarters until Lawton decided to get in the ripoff business and launched his online PDC for … $1,000! His marketing rivaled Alex Jones. False. Misleading. Fear mongering. Unreal.

I posted at permies.com that it was outrageous that he didn’t offer the course at a much lower cost to people who didn’t need the PDC, but I got kicked out. Paul wanted his affiliate commissions …

Even back in 2009 I thought that permaculture was a scam, nothing but expensive courses in Costa Rica and wherever rich people like to go. Then I so respected Lawton, and finally came full circle, back to despising all the money-grabbing BS.

I wish I could come up with a different name for permaculture. To me growing food is just one small part, it’s a lifestyle!

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Isn’t this what most communities ideally want? :slight_smile:
It’s great if that is so, truly aiming for the stars and gaining knowledge gradually to figure out how to do this. it is interesting how it can be done differently depending on the climate of the world. I am certainly very curious about the idea myself and would love to join or create a community like that. I have been starting to grow my skills and knowledge on the topic. Although I am still at the very beginning, here’s where it starts.
I would like to keep an eye on any macro (e.g. new literature) and micro (posts from people like you) developments in this regard.

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Cool! I am glad to hear from everyone, and from people like yourself; I like to get a feel for how realistic it can be, how much we are collectively dreaming about it, envisioning it, manifesting it …

I spent a lot of years living at Twin Oaks Community, a community of roughly 100 people, which, between its gardens, herb garden, orchards, dairy/meat, and chicken programs probably produces around 50 - 60% of its own food. There’s also typically a lot of food processing/preserving, as well as baking . Even with the benefit of economies of scale, even just 50% is a monumental undertaking. The kinds of things the community doesn’t produce are things like grains, beans, flour, oils, spices, nuts, pasta, and of course some amount of supplementing of fruits and veggies during the winter months. In terms of getting to 100%, you either need to dramatically simplify your diet, or have food production occupy a massive proportion of your time, which may not be feasible unless your income needs are very low or you’re also doing food production as an income source.

Personally, while I think growing some amount of your own food is definitely important for a number of reasons, I think its more useful to think about food self-sufficiency and sovereignty from a local or regional perspective. Sourcing 100% of your food not just from your communities land but from all local, organic producers within, say, a 50 or 100 mile radius feels like 1) a more realistic goal, 2) leaves capacity for other kinds of activities, including other mission-driven or service work, and 3) is a way intentional communities can avoid the insular/isolationist pitfall, build local community beyond their property line, and support their local areas moving towards more cooperation and resilience.

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Thanks Sky, that’s a great way to think about it. And although I didn’t say so before, I think that definitely fits within the ideal I’m talking about. After all a community of communities (“intentional” or not) is a very special ideal.

Hi, Maxeem,
I’m in the Appalachian Mountains in VA. I haven’t listed this community on IC yet, but may soon. Don’t know where you are looking.

I’ve just started posting in the IC forum, see Looking for New Members.

I’m a fan of Permies dot com and post there often under the name “Cimarron”. See Newbie Starting Intentional Community

Wow cool Cimarron. Thanks for mentioning that. That’s a really important question.

So many different terrains and social dynamics in each area. I will have to give that question “where are you looking” to myself and think a long time on it.

I’ve been thinking rather magically about it. Like I will be drawn in the same way that spirit/fate/self-searching draws people to different religions, sciences or “careers”. Through meeting people, feeling belonging, having some natural draw …

My life partner is extremely drawn to the Southwest desert here of Turtle Island. Particularly the Sonoran which is the indigenous home of these lovely Saguaro cactus forests. I am more of an “oceanside” person by default. Luckily there are places where the desert and ocean overlap and so I think that would be a healthy compromise. Or else, we do nomadic things (very much my type of people) and go between desert and ocean when that seems sustainable. We’ve also lived happily in Flagstaff. So the mountains feel possible.

However, they say “life is funny” and you don’t always “end up” where you intend. So yeah, I will have to give it all some thought.

Right now I’m in a sort of mourning that my culture doesn’t have a proper shaman role for people to step into at a very young age (EDIT: not that everyone can just become one in all cases; it seems there are important selection processes and not everyone qualifies). You may ask what that has to do with growing community food. To me, food and medicine are extremely linked, which are in turn linked to the land. Since we have become progressively more frugivore, the responsible thing to do may be to focus on the tropical fruits we’re eating and stay South in the sun.

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I’m still in the planning phase of doing anything on my property which is in Southeast Mohave Co, no Saguaros but they are close. My plan is to host nomads so maybe you and your partner would like to talk sometime.

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