Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

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The following profile has been excerpted from Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement.

The scene when we pulled up to the Minto Island Growers’ farm stand was one of happy activity. A food cart was prepping meals, several picnic tables were filled with diners, a couple of farm hands were planting and watering flower starts, and a cashier was adding up the total for a woman buying vegetables. I was convinced we had arrived at a successful farm, because there was simply too much going on for it not to be so.

Chris Jenkins and Elizabeth Miller are the farmers making all this activity possible. They’ve been farming for seven years now, and they’ve jumped wholeheartedly into virtually every opportunity that’s come their way. In fact, there’s so much going on that I wonder how they manage to get it all done… and whether the workload has any impact on their outlook.

When asked, both express confidence they’ll be doing this work for the rest of their lives, and when they take the time to think about it, they’re pretty sure they still love it. But they are tired. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Seven years of running as fast as they can to take advantage of every door that opened has taken a toll. And now, as we sit at a small wooden table in the corner of a metal warehouse large enough to park a few trucks in, they almost seem relieved to have a reason to sit down and reflect for awhile.

When they got started as Minto Island Growers back in 2008, they were carrying the ideas and ideals they had developed during some fairly radical ecology and economic studies abroad coupled with a one-season internship at a free-thinking California farm. But it’s not like they were coming into this adventure blind. Elizabeth grew up on this farm, and in her mind, she had never really left. She came back most summers during college to help out her dad, who specialized in native plants, traditional poplar breeding, and mint leaf production. In a sense, Elizabeth’s path to having her own farm was more like taking a sabbatical for a couple of years, during which she found her own style and developed a context for agriculture that came from the world beyond her father’s farm.

Though Chris didn’t have any direct ag experience growing up, he spent as much time as possible exploring the Ohio countryside of his family’s 150-acre country home, where his physician father escaped the pressures of his profession. Chris became enamored with nature to the point of eventually studying biogeochemistry in college, doing urban ecology work in New York City, and working for a California-based restoration and living architecture firm that used plants functionally within the built environment. But as he found himself spending more time in front of a computer than outdoors, he knew he needed to come at his love of plants from a different direction.

It was in this context that Elizabeth and Chris came together to spend that single season at the California farm doing something completely new to both of them. Growing vegetables. They fell in love with it. And vegetables, it turns out, more or less defined the launch of their own farming operation.

“When we got started here, there were opportunities for us to carry on some of the work my dad was moving away from, like the native plant nursery,” said Elizabeth. “But we were more passionate about vegetable production. We both just love growing vegetables. And especially for me, it was also about bringing to Salem, which is my hometown, the community value that fresh organic vegetables represent. Organics are thriving in Portland and Corvallis and Eugene, but there aren’t a lot of organic farms in this area. And here we are with this large land mass ten minutes from downtown. We saw this farm as a huge community asset just waiting to be developed.”

It didn’t take long for Chris and Elizabeth to get a vegetable-based CSA up and running. As they were kicking off their own CSA, Winter Green Farm, an established biodynamic farm located in Noti, was wanting to eliminate it’s Salem drop. Picking up that drop enabled Minto Island to begin with a substantial foundation they’ve just continued to build on.

Part of what they’ve been building is the farm’s relationship with the community of Salem. To help with that, they added a farm stand where locals could pick up a CSA share or simply buy vegetables and fruit. The stand also provided a base for the farm’s u-pick blueberry operation. And though the farm stand was performing okay on its own, Chris and Elizabeth felt it needed a bigger drawing factor, so they decided to add a food cart that could provide meals for anyone wishing to come out to the farm.

From CSA to u-pick to farm stand to food cart. It seems like these young farmers haven’t been able to stop themselves from continually looking for ways to make each aspect of their operation more successful. And this is all on top of the “other opportunities” they took over from Elizabeth’s father, which included a native plant nursery that supplies various environment restoration projects, a poplar breeding operation that provides plant stock to an eastern Oregon timber operation, and a business growing mint plugs for Oregon mint leaf producers.

“To be honest, a sense of responsibility has driven a lot of what I’ve done on the farm,” said Elizabeth, “but I’m starting to understand that no matter how much of a strong ethic and value system there is behind a dream, you have to be able to live a balanced life in order to fulfill that dream. And that’s very challenging in agriculture.”

“And there’s also the tea,” injected Chris. At which point Elizabeth visibly drooped. In recounting for me the multitude of businesses they’re trying to juggle, she had forgotten the one that is currently generating the most buzz and about which they both are most excited. Half an acre of 24-year-old tea plants.

“Elizabeth’s father, Rob, planted the tea in the late 80s with a partner,” explained Chris. “Not much happened with it initially, but we’re now working with a processor from Chehalis, Washington. He went to China to learn a very specific style of oolong processing at a village there and is really passionate about it. We’ve been through a number of trials and now we’ve got a product we feel like we can really stand behind. But, of course, developing this marketing opportunity doesn’t do much to solve the problem of doing too much.”

Elizabeth adds, “The economics of the tea project are really challenging because all the tea leaves have to be picked by hand, and there’s no cultural expertise here for that. On the other hand, this opportunity is simply too unique and too promising to walk away from. So the logistics and the work load is something we’ll have to continue to work on.”

Click here to read Part 2.

Get your copy of Planting a Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement today!

Top photo by Lisa D. Holmes. Elizabeth Miller and Chris Jenkins, owners of Minto Island Growers, standing in their tea plantation.

Middle photo by Lisa D. Holmes. Native plants were part of the farm operation Elizabeth and Chris took over from Elizabeth's father.

Bottom photo by Lisa D. Holmes. A food cart with prep and seating area was added to the Minto Island farm stand. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Enjoying your organic corn harvest about now? Corn is usually a July or August crop. At House in the Woods Farm, we plant our corn early. We harvested our corn in late June and were offering it to CSA customers for Independence Day weekend.

We grow our own organic corn because we want organic corn. I wouldn’t want all my efforts at organic corn tainted by a genetically modified variety. It’s an issue for those of us surrounded by GMO feed corn crops in particular. Cross-pollination with feed corn will take the sweet right out of your sweet corn.

We are beating the likelihood of GMO cross-pollination by being the early corn. It is a simple solution to a complicated problem. Be the early corn! Corn is wind-pollinated and our corn is blowing in the wind way before feed corn, commercial corn, and in particular GMO corn breeds. So they aren’t as likely to tango with our corn, when we arrive at the dance early. It is a clever way to evade cross-pollination. And as a bonus, you get a wonderful, juicy cob of corn, just in time for Independence Day.


How do we plant corn early?

We start our seeds in trays under cover of our hoophouse and then transplant to outside rows. It seems like a ludicrous thing to do for acres of corn, but that’s not what we’re growing. Planting out corn seedlings like any other row crop has benefits when growing on a small, diversified farm scale. We start the seedlings in trays about the second week of April and plant them out in early May. Our seedlings have a jump start ahead of weeds since they are transplanted a few inches tall. The weeds have some catching up to do, providing a much needed head start for a typically weedy crop. In a cool year we protect the transplants in the field with row cover for a couple weeks.

What variety works well?

We love the hybrid variety we tested this year! It is called Luscious. For organic production, we need protection from the worms that can sneak into corn. Luscious features a closed husk that keeps bugs out. I wonder if our early season was too early for the worm too. Luscious is particularly cold tolerant, which is ideal for early planting soil conditions. We also tested an heirloom variety called Painted Corn, a blend of a sweet corn and an Indian corn so it blushes pink in some kernels. This corn variety wasn’t as successful as Luscious for us. In fact, I believe we had some cross-pollination of the Painted Corn into the Luscious. It took some of the sweetness out of the occasional Luscious ear and I saw hint of the blushing color. It was a reminder to plant only one variety at a time, due to that same cross-pollination tendency.

I might try planting a batch of trays every two weeks for a few weeks to have three harvests of fresh corn. Starting early will allow me that luxury of time. But I will still make sure that my corn is ahead of the neighboring crops so that I can be the early corn.

I wrote more about how we plant corn in another blog and another about preserving corn.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and House in the Woods, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to House in the Woods.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


onions at harvest

There is a lot to know about onions. The varieties and planting times are specific for each region, so you might want to spend some time learning the ins-and-outs about onion growing to have success. Assuming you have done that and have had an abundant harvest, here are some tips of what to do next. If you harvested your onions when the tops were starting to bend over, but while they were still green, you are on the right track. If you put the onions in an airy place and let the tops die over the next several weeks you will have material to braid with once the tops are dry.

There are about as many ways to dry onions with their tops attached as there are people drying them. If what you are doing is working for you, and your method is different than mine, that’s okay. I have settled on drying my onions on 2”x 4” welded wire fencing bent around into a circle measuring 2’ wide and 3’ tall. I either set the fence circle on two cement blocks or attach baling twine to each side and hang it from the rafters in the barn. My goal is to increase air circulation.

The onions hang from between the 2”x 4” spacing in the fence, with the bulbs on the inside and the green tops on the outside of the circle. It looks pretty packed when you do that, but the tops soon dry, allowing air to the bulbs. You could leave the onions like this for quite some time, but you should really inspect them after a few weeks when the tops have dried. There are always some that are beginning to go soft and need to be used first. Those will go directly to your kitchen for summer cooking and canning.

Onions can be cut up and easily dried in a solar or electric dehydrator. For long term storage for my best onions (no softness anywhere) I braid them. You will find directions for braiding and photos of my drying set-up at Homeplace Earth. If you don’t have the tops still on your onions, which would eliminate braiding, you will need to store the bulbs in an airy place. Wire racks or net bags would be an option. Do not pack them away in box in a closet. Think air circulation.

Onions are a health food that should be in everyone’s diet. In the article Onions Can Help Prevent Inflammation by Linda Richards, found on the website for the Arthritis Foundation, onions were praised for their help in reducing inflammation. Quercetin, found in higher amounts in shallots and yellow and red onions and lesser amounts in white and sweet onion varieties, is the ingredient in onions responsible for easing the inflammation of arthritis, as well as reducing heart disease and helping to prevent the spread of cancer.

I already knew about all that, but found some new-to-me information in this article. According to a study done at the University of Berne in Switzerland and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, onions could be good for your bones by helping to reduce bone loss. Thoughts are that it would work the same way as alendronate (the generic name for Fosamax) in treating osteoporosis! Granted, this Swiss study was done on rats and more research is needed for confirmation in humans, but all signs point to great benefits to be had if you increase the amount of onions you eat.

With all these health benefits in mind, wouldn’t it be comforting to have braids of onions hanging in your food storage areas to feed your family throughout the year?

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


Lettuce Flowers and Herbs 

Permaculture is creating a synergistic garden; one that is symbiotic and supporting. It includes enriching the soil, planting for nutrients, planting for shade, planting for food, landscaping for water, planting to attract beneficial insects, planting to repel bad bugs, planting to optimize your harvests. It is all of this combined to create a self-sustaining garden and yard.

You can go big and do it all or start small and work your way into a full permaculture yard.

If you are just getting started, the first step is planning. For planning, I would join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to find out what grows well in your area and what you like to eat that can be grown locally. You will get fresh nutritious food while supporting your local farmer. It was amazing how well we ate and how small our grocery bill was when we first joined a CSA! We also discovered many vegetables that we loved but had never eaten.

Before placing your garden bed, look at how your water drains. Create small swells/berms to move the water to where you want it to go-like your vegetables. Utilize rain barrels to capture water. There are some quite attractive rain barrels available on line and even at big box stores. Together these will significantly reduce your watering needs.

Next, determine how the sun traverses through your yard. You will want to put the sun lovers where they get southern exposure. Add shade to reduce your utility bills and give relief to your plants. In the spring, all of your vegetables love the sun. Come summer, many appreciate some shade and cooler temperatures, particularly greens. Even peppers get sunburned when temps get in the 90’s in full sun all day. Some relief from afternoon soon is appreciated.

When you are thinking of where to place those shade trees and bushes, consider adding fruit trees and bushes that you and the birds will enjoy. Planting trees and bushes provide shelter for birds that love to eat insects. Look for trees and bushes that also provide food for the birds, including winter berries. Birds help to keep the garden in balance. Don’t forget a water source so they can get a drink. Make sure the water stays clean or the birds can get sick just like we do from contaminated water.

Now you are ready to place your garden bed. For prepping the soil, a super easy method is to do sheet mulching which I outlined here: Easy ways to make a new garden bed.

You are basically composting in place, building incredible rich soil, alive with microbial and worm activity, which provide all the nourishment plants need to thrive. The great thing about this technique is that no tilling is required! Prepare in the fall and by spring, the bed is ready for planting.

When the garden bed is ready for planting, do a soil test, add the nutrients indicated. I also add minerals to the soil as most soil today is depleted of their minerals. After getting your soil in balance, you will be able to grow the right crops in the right rotational order and compost to keep the soil fertile and in balance without outside inputs.

Start ongoing composting to maintain your soil fertility after getting it established. Even if you live in an apartment, there are options for composting.  Here are some ideas: Composting in small spaces. Using mulch to suppress weeds does double duty, adding organic matter and building soil fertility.

Vegetables and Herbs 

Beneficial, pollinating insects love the herbal flowers and the ornamental flowers. The pollinators insure the vegetable flowers are pollinated to produce their fruits. If the flowers are not pollinated, they will just fall off. We garden organically and only use organic insecticides in dire times. Insecticides don’t know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug; it kills them all. If you can wait, the bad bugs will attract the good bugs that eat them. Then, you will have balance. The first year, I bought insects that feed on the bad insects (lady bugs, parasitic wasps, and preying mantis). It takes them a year or two to get established.

You can add beekeeping to your yard. Or if that is not feasible, just placing mason bee homes on trees will attract these natives to your yard for pollinating.

You can plant flowers that naturally repel the bad bugs like nasturtium and wild marigold (tagetes minuta). Even deer do not like the fragrance of marigolds.  Sometimes just surrounding your garden with marigolds and fragrant Mediterranean herbs is enough to keep the deer out of your garden.  I put nasturtium in pots and circle the garden bed with marigolds.

Interplanting vegetables and herbs that support others is a win-win. An example is placing “nitrogen fixers” next to plants that love nitrogen. You can also place nitrogen lovers in the spot the nitrogen fixers were.  Be conscious of how you interplant and succession plant your vegetables to keep the soil in balance and give each vegetable the nutrients it needs. Well known nitrogen fixers are peas and beans. Clover also does the job and it is edible.

Edible Daylilies Garden Bed

By having a variety of plants mixed in your garden, the bugs that prey on one type of plant will not be able to just hop next door for their next meal. This keeps uncontrollable infestations from occurring.

A couple of common plants that bring an assortment of nutrients up from deep in the soil are mustard and dandelions. If you want a larger leaf dandelion, cultivated types like the French dandelion is the ticket. You get great salad greens even in the heat of summer and an auto nutrient fertilizer.

There are even plants that are good for breaking up your soil. These are ones that go deep, like daikon, chicory, dandelion, and mustard.

This is just some of the highlights of permaculture gardening techniques to give you an idea of what it is about.

For more tips on organic, natural gardening in small spaces and containers, see Melodie’s blog at Victory Garden On the Golf Course.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Making your home garden productive is an in-depth and gradual process. Though you can work with a design professional to hash out a use plan and plant list early on, it still takes several phases and periods of acclimation for a garden to begin to really thrive.

Assessing Your Various Microclimates

Assessing where the best sun is and where different microclimates lie can begin to help define use areas.  As each exposure and conditions create a different microclimate, you may have three to four distinct areas at your home, each with their own strengths and setbacks — even in a small urban lot. Best to work with the forces of nature to create plant groupings that reflect the microclimate of each area.

For example, if you try to grow your micro-greens in a hot,south-facing front yard, they may quickly become stressed from the sun’s intensity. Likewise, should you attempt to grow your heirloom tomatoes under that giant Italian stone pine in the backyard, you may become frustrated as it appears to stay stunted despite the loads of fertile organic compost you added.

As for a commercial example, if you were to try to grow two acres of carrots on a parcel of land, but only 3/4 of that land is in full sun, you may have trouble with carrot yields in the shadier area.  Would it not make more sense to work with the lay-of-the-land and plant something more shade-loving in that shadier area?

By working with nature and taking the time to assess the nuances of microclimates on our land, we can most affectively develop a polycultural system of diverse, healthy foods.


Consider Sun and Shade

A great quote from pioneering polycultural designer Bill Mollison is “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Take the time to observe how the sun crosses over your property. By doing this, you will know in your bones the way the arc of the season’s sun arrives across your land. This will let you see what areas receive the best and longest sun during the crucial fruit-making hours of 11a.m. to 3p.m. These areas will be your choice areas for fruit production but is not the subject of today’s blog post.

As for the rest of the property, work with marginal or shady areas by assessing plants that don't mind the shade. Many greens and culinary herbs originate in meadows and forest under-stories where the light is dappled. Because they do not have the pressure to produce fruiting bodies, greens are able to stay healthy in less than full sun.

Of course, they will grow larger and faster in full sun with ample water, but in limited scale, we can save the full sun for crops like fruit trees and tomatoes and squash, leaving the greens for the less-desired light shade. In this way, we create a crop that requires less daily water uptake than when in full sun, while taking advantage of a marginal shade zone.

Planting at the Margins

So, greens are now in the shade and our choice full-sun zone is now completely planted; how might we continue to add surplus crops to the remaining margins?

One simple addition that I love is to plant hearty annuals in the basins at the base of each fruit tree. Particularly when using drip irrigation, there is already a water source at each fruit tree. In this way, the secondary understory crop is acting as a green mulch for the fruit tree, reducing weeds as well as slowing evapotranspiration.

I have had success particularly with beans, peas and arugula. These crops are bonuses and when you direct-sow with bulk seed, it costs pennies on the dollar to add these to your existing food system.

Finally, what to do with those unused margins? Perhaps there is a rocky patch at the edge of your production zone that simply is not ideal for agriculture. Or perhaps there is that upslope area that is difficult to irrigate.

My solution for these marginal margins is to plant native plants and drought-tolerant Mediterranean species. In each case, these plants have evolved to adapt to local conditions and require far less water and nutrients than wet, lush food crops.

Here in California, one can create much more edible abundance by shifting even some of production crops to more drought-tolerant perennials such as pomegranate, persimmon, fig and olive.

As for the natives, they can provide insectary zones adjacent to your crops, which will ensure that your food crops get regularly pollinated. Think of these native flower zones as apartment complexes for beneficial insects. It is my great joy to return to a garden I have designed and see resident bee populations able to stay in the vicinity due to year-round pollen on-site.

Start utilizing the margins in your garden and beginning yielding more for your community.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



It has been nearly 10 years since my husband and I began selling our excess produce to restaurants and retail establishments within our community. This small leap of faith took us from backyard gardeners to full time farmers at our current farm, Tierra Garden Organics. Oftentimes, on-farm enterprises take root because there is an excess of abundance above and beyond the gardener’s own personal needs. Once the deep freeze is overflowing, the canning is done and the dehydrator is full to the brim, it is time to consider finding a market for your extra produce.  Sometimes, you may only have an excess of one or two crops. In this situation, jumping through the hoops of joining a local farmers market does not really make sense; especially if your bounty is ephemeral in nature (like an excess of beans or peas). However, many local restaurants are keen to start exploring the option of buying local and your overproduction may be the windfall that they are searching for.  Working with restaurants can be tricky for the uninitiated. If you haven’t worked in a production kitchen, you may not be familiar with the pressures or pace of a busy restaurant. Understanding these constraints will ultimately put you a leg ahead when diving into the world of farm-to-table.

Here are a few tips to building a strong relationship with your local restaurants:

Don’t Sell Shake- First and foremost, it is important that the produce you are looking to sell is high quality. This translates into a crop that has been harvested at the correct time of day, has been kept properly hydrated, is relatively blemish free, is of consistent size and color and is as fresh as possible. If you have picked too many beans and are looking for a home for the extra, the time to start calling restaurants is immediately after harvest, not a week after they have been sitting in the fridge. This can take some practice, but it is possible to ‘cruise’ your garden pre-harvest and begin to determine which crops are producing in excess. If you can see ahead of time that you are going to be harvesting way too many zucchini, start calling ahead before the zucchini are ready to be picked and begin to make connections with restaurants that may be interested in purchasing your excess.

Keep It Clean- Busy chefs do not have time to wash away your garden dirt. Properly clean your produce before delivering. Some items are best left unwashed to maintain freshness. Be sure to communicate this with the kitchen ahead of time to see if they have a preference for how the product is delivered. Salad mix and cut greens should be triple-washed and free of weeds. Root crops should be topped and power-washed to remove excess soil.  Spent blossoms should be removed from squashes and cucumbers. All items should be put into a clean container for delivery. Delivering a dirty, raw product is the easiest way to prematurely end a budding farmer-to-chef relationship.


Price Accordingly- If you aren’t a high-end boutique specialty farm, then don’t price your produce like you are. Ultimately, you are looking to form a long-term relationship with another business. Mutual respect is key. Ask for pricing guidance. Many restaurants are willing to share their price sheets from large distributors. Do your best to match or beat the pricing they are receiving until you have established a relationship where the quality of your produce is no longer in question. By contacting a restaurant, you are asking a busy business owner to go out of their way to work directly with you rather than placing a wholesale order through a major distributor. It is up to you to prove to them that the effort is worth their time.

Deliver in a Timely Manner- If you say you are going to deliver Friday morning, then deliver Friday morning. If you are going to be late then call ahead and give the kitchen a heads-up. For the sake of other local growers who are also looking to establish farm-to-table relationships, it is up to you to set a good example and prove to your client that you can be reliable. Oftentimes, restaurants have planned meals based off of your delivery promises. If you don’t deliver on time, they cannot prepare your produce as part of their menu.


Be Prompt With Invoices- Whether you like it or not, selling produce is a business transaction. The restaurant you are working with will need an invoice for their taxes. Use a numbered receipt book to track and itemize the produce you have delivered. All restaurants have a different style when it comes to payment; some pay on delivery, some pay weekly, every two weeks or monthly. Your job is to be sure you create a proper invoice so that you can be reimbursed for your products.  If your restaurant client accidentally loses your invoice in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, it will be up to you to produce a replacement.

Working with local restaurants is one of the most rewarding parts of growing produce. It has always been exciting for me to see how the food we grow can be turned into culinary masterpieces to be enjoyed by others within our community. Local food culture starts by incubating this trust relationship between growers (both backyard and professional) and consumers.  Farm-to-Table is the keystone to building a strong, local food economy.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


A Neighborhood Permaculture Convergence

If you Google search the words "Permaculture Convergence" you will find links to dozens of permaculture convergences over the past year up to the present. They are scattered all of the country. Northeast, Florida, Colorado, Ohio. Northern California, Wisconsin, So Cal, Australia. Last year there was a North American Permaculture Convergence in Minnesota. There may be a convergence close to where you live.

A convergence is a great opportunity to connect, teach, learn, have fun. It’s all about living in a more people- and planet-friendly way. Permaculture is an important banner that helps bring people together in ways that are positive, uplifting and empowering. A permaculture convergence energizes. People are reminded and updated about all the great work being done on behalf of a more peaceful and green planet.

This post will be the first of four describing the Northwest Permaculture Convergence to be held in Eugene, Oregon August 28 to 30, 2015. The author is the coordinator of the event. The Convergence will be at our neighborhood recreation center, seven minutes away by bike.

Permaculture Convergence 

A Short History of Permaculture Convergences in the Northwest

Permaculture convergences have been happening in the Northwest for at least twenty years. Lost Valley Education Center hosted several permaculture convergences in the mid 90s. That batch of convergences moved into Eugene for a number of years around 2003 then out to a friend's farm in a filbert grove for several years, and then they stopped about 2009.

Meanwhile, another set of convergences started in Washington State. This year's convergence in Eugene is the 8th of this lineage and the first south of Portland. This current grouping of Convergences has become larger than ones previously in and around Eugene. There is now a nonprofit board that oversees the convergences from year to year. The locations alternate between Oregon and Washington State.

Each year's location is determined by who is willing to take on the coordinating task in the state that is up to bat. This year, a proposal was made for Eugene and the decision was made. Some organizing tasks require locals while other tasks can be done remotely.

Converging in a Suburban Neighborhood

For the first time, this year's convergence will be held in a suburban neighborhood. The event we are planning goes well beyond other convergences I have been to, heard about or read about. The 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence has been designed as a model to be adapted elsewhere. Not only for other permaculture convergences but also for neighborhood-scale eco-fares, site tours and special interest tracks embedded within a convergence. These expansive event features can be powerful outreach tools whether they use the word permaculture or not.

One outreach event is called the Expo which will be free and open to the public. The Expo will include a kid zone, presentations, vendors, ten or so nonprofits, exhibits and artifacts that show and tell of green living tools and technologies and a neighborhood fruit and veggie swap.

Site Tours and Open Houses

Also free and open to the public will be site tours. One of the main reasons for hosting the 2015 Convergence here in River Road is because there are many properties in the neighborhood and nearby with many different features of interest for living more local, green and resilient. There are other sites in Eugene we also want to visit.

Lost Valley, Aprovecho and Fern Hill Sanctuary, within 20 miles of Eugene, will all have open houses to show and tell those important places of education for the new paradigm.

A Summit to Mainstream Green Neighborhoods

Another new feature or interest is the “Green Neighborhood Summit.” The Summit is an embedded track specific to people whose focus is greening their neighborhoods. The track will include several presentations, caucus time and a site tour that will be particularly interesting to neighborhood leaders, resiliency groups and Transition Towns advocates.

Organizing these outreach parts to the Convergence all require local know-how. We have had monthly potlucks for fun and team-building, and now we are moving into creating the game plan for set up and managing the event as it happens. The excitement is building!

The next two blog posts will go into more detail describing the program, Green Summit, Expo and site tours. There is a lot of “behind the scenes” work so we will touch on that as well. The purpose of the “Convergence Blogs” is offer encouragement and some useful pointers to others so they might take on organizing a neighborhood scale event for greening the neighborhood and the community.

Overall, the Convergence is to show and tell “evidence” of a preferred future. We want to identify the bits and pieces of the kind of world many of us would like to live in that are already here. Moreover, we want to go beyond description to describe how to take these great ideas further into the mainstream.

Please be looking for the next blog. If you have attended a convergence, please share it in the comments below and describe how it was for you. If you have helped organize a convergence or something similar, please share your experience.

Visit the Convergence website for more information. You can connect with Jan Spencer on her personal website, Suburban Permaculture.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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