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An Okanagan Permaculture Showcase

RCF Geese
Canadian Geese in Rasa Creek Farm's Pond
Rasa Creek Farm has teamed with Vernon's premier permaculture design company, Element Eco-Design, to create a stunning example of applied Permaculture in British Columbia. Workshops and Classes will be held at the Farm and participants will learn firsthand how to assess and execute a permaculture "Master Plan."
Some features of the Rasa Creek Farm Master Plan include:
  • A series of 1/4 km long swales and catchment ponds
  • Extensive Food Forests
  • Water harvesting using Ram Pumps and rainwater catchment
  • Aquaculture ponds
  • Compost Tea brewing & application over large acreages
  • Terracing
  • Keyline plowing in various of the farm's fields

A Much Needed Paradigm Shift

Permaculture is far more than just another way to farm or garden. To truly grasp the fundamentals of permaculture is to experience a profound paradigm shift... a shift away from "abundant scarcity" and toward "sustainable abundance." Below is a brief description of the basics:
BeeWhat is Permaculture?

"Permaculture is a design-science that aims to create sustainable human habitations that provide food, shelter, energy and economic stability for its occupants. Permaculture principles apply a holistic approach to design that identifies beneficial relationships and incorporate seemingly unrelated functions into integrated systems that focus on the efficient use of energy, resources, time, water and waste.

Simply put, Permaculture looks at all existing elements that are in a system and links them together to get the most efficiency/effectiveness out of them. This provides the user with simple solutions to everyday problems.

Weather Vane
Permaculture design works with naturally occurring patterns, mimicking existing ecosystems, to maintain a balanced, diverse landscape that integrates seamlessly into the existing land structure. When applied to food growing systems, Permaculture can cultivate high yielding, disease resistant, low maintenance gardens that actively regenerate and improve soil, air and water quality. Landscapes, once established are allowed to grow and evolve into mature systems that become stronger as time goes on.

Often overlooked is the social aspect of Permaculture. The word "Permaculture" has two meanings: "Permanent Agriculture" and "Permanent Culture." The cultural aspect of Permaculture is meant to foster a sense of community where people see the value in creating meaningful relationships with the people around them. A greater sense of the natural world and a greater sense of community allows individuals to recognize we are all part of a greater system that benefits from all aspects of living in cooperation with each other. This revelation will lead people toward living together in harmony as a part of nature, not separate from it."

A Story of Community Cooperation & Spirit

One of the most compelling aspects of Permaculture for us is its acknowledgment of human interdependency. The attitude of "going it alone" and trusting no-one but ourselves can isolate us from the world, nourishing our sense of scarcity and
competition rather than our sense of responsibility and generosity. We received our initial Organic Certification through the North Okanagan Organic Association (NOOA), and discovered a large, local community of helpful and sincere people. Now we're certified through PACS (so that we can sell inter-provincially) and enjoy an even larger community of like minded farmers. Every certification body works through the Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC) and so our resource base is very substantial. Rasa Creek Farm is blessed to sit amidst a thriving culture of farmers and citizens who deeply care for one another and the land.
For instance, as part of our effort to employ as many Permaculture methods and soil building technologies as possible we began hunting for a used Spader last summer; one that we could either share the expenses of or purchase cheaply. A Spader, for those of you who don't know, is a PTO driven tractor implement that digs the soil up in large clods, up to 19" deep, and turns it over leaving the complex living web of mircro-organisms intact. In Europe Spaders are heavily used in place of traditional roto-tillers, which literally "beat" the soil and destroy the web of micro-organisms. During our Spader search and while purchasing some produce bins from Tom Ouchi at Ringo-En Orchards my wife and I happened to mention the Spader hunt and Tom said, "I know someone who has one of those!"
Loading the Spader
Loading the Spader
Half an hour later we were standing over a sturdy old Spader with Jamie Kidston at the equipment shed beside his apple orchard. Jamie is a third generation land owner and prominent figure in the area and his warmth and sincerity was of a rare quality. Standing beside him made my mind slow down and my body relax and I was thinking how grateful I was just to have met him, regardless of whether or not we ended up with a Spader.
He explained how effective the Spader had been at working the soil between rows of apple trees. We described to him our Permaculture plans for the farm and he immediately liked the idea of his Spader being a part of this vision, but when we tried to make a rental arrangement for its use Jamie got a twinkle in his eye and said, "Why don't you just take it for the year. I don't need it for quite awhile and I'll let you know when I need it back."
Interactions like this are profound lessons in humility and trust, and inspire me to pass the gift on to others. They confirm what is possible for us all, if only...
Jamie helped us load the Spader onto a trailer and we drove it to the farm. The first thing we did was purchase and replace the six "shovels" (blades that do the digging and which get worn down to nubs over time) in our deep appreciation of the free loan. Six hundred dollars and four hours later (and with the invaluable physical help of Gordon and Jana from Element Eco Design who threw in their labor just to learn more about Spaders) we had a freshly oiled and good as new Spader at our disposal.
Ian & Deb's Kubota
Ian & Deb's Kubota in our field
We only have a thirty-four horsepower tractor at the moment and the Spader demanded a bit more oomph, so we needed to find something larger. Again in the spirit of community and mutual care our neighbors down the road, Ian and Deb, were delighted to loan us (no charge) their ninety horsepower Kubota to tackle the job. We have a working arrangement with them already in which they borrow our haying equipment to hay their field and we borrow their tractor to pull our haying equipment to do ours, but this extra loan is above and beyond.
Generosity is an enormously inspiring quality. It fills both the giver and the recipient with good will. We always strive to return that Kubota in better shape than when we picked it up; an oiling, a wash, and certainly with more diesel in the tank! Ian works long stretches away from home and during one of his trips I undertook to repair the winch mounted to the front of his tractor which had been broken for a while and was sorely missed. A ten dollar part and forty-five minutes later, voila. The winch was fixed. So much more gets done in the world when we aim to serve others.
I would tell a story or two about our dear friends and closest neighbors, the Jensens, but that would require a novelette. The tone of the relationship was set when we returned home from a trip during our first winter here and Brian had spent hours in the sub-zero chill using his snow-blower to clear our eighth kilometer driveway so we could get to the house. He saw the need, and simply did it. There's a well worn path over the hill between our farms.
We've also enjoyed the friendship and generosity of Peter and Judy Stockdale who own an organic farm in Enderby. Stockdale Farm has essentially provided the beginnings of our food forest for free. Seabuckthorn, Damsen and Italian Plum, Goji Berries, Strawberries, Choke Cherry, Elderberry, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Black Currants, grapes... and I've probably forgotten one or two! A visit to the Stockdales is always a joy. The conversation is stimulating and the warmth is rejuvenating.
Permaculture Tour
Visitors on a Permaculture Tour
And probably the most touching relationship we've developed is that with Sonia Stairs and Henry Caron at Boundary Farm in Southern BC. They operate perhaps the most reputable Seed Garlic farm in Western Canada and yet have been exceedingly generous with their time, wisdom and help in getting us started. What to many would have been seen as competition, was to them an opportunity to make new friends and contribute to the success of others. We were glad to have the chance to share with them our discovery of the Spader, which has inspired them to pursue one of their own.
Stories like this are good to keep in mind as we set our sights on serving the earth and the land beneath us. The earth is just as much inspired by our generosity and service as people are. Permaculture is a stand for the shift from self-obsession and fear to thinking and acting for the benefit of the Other. 
Not The End