RECAP AND PHILOSOPHY:
There are some agro-ecological farm education programs, courses, and certificates that can be expensive. I think there are plenty of people out there, just like me, that want to a see paradigm shift in our lifetimes.
I think it is incumbent upon us, then, to try to create more accessible farm education opportunities.
I get that farmers are busy and permaculture teachers need to eat too. All I am saying is that if we want to see thousands and thousands of more people on the land, they will need to be able to learn in ways that don't break the bank.
The 2017 Badgersett/EFN Nut Tree Planting Collaboration was an attempt at just this. Badgersett was in need of extra hands to plant more trees and do other on-farm work (like coppice, moving sheep into new paddocks, etc.). Philip Rutter (founder and director of Badgersett) has a whole lot to teach about growing hazelnuts and chestnuts. I am an organizer that knows a lot of people in the sustainable farming world. My thinking was let's get a group of people there, charge them the cost of food for a communal kitchen, and all the on-farm work and education lectures by Philip even out in the wash.
In fact, one of the recurring critiques I have heard from people about permaculture courses is that they are not hands-on enough. So we were actually able to offer something that was more affordable and more tangibly hands-on.
This is just one example in one place: it is not going to replicate everywhere.
If the cost for the program had been $1,000 or more, I know there are people that participated who simply would not have been there, and that to me is a victory.
There are things to improve on and learn from, but by and large the program was successful.
I don't have anything else like this on the horizon at this time, but something may emerge this year.
Maybe you have an idea for something like this? Go for it! Post it in our website and we will do what we can to help get the word out.
If you are curious, below is the full project description:
Badgersett/EFN Nut Tree Planting Collaboration
An Experimental Farm Network Advanced Work/Education Exchange
We will be planting 10-15 acres of hazelnuts, chestnuts, and hickory-pecans. We may also be building a pole shed, and potentially even a small cabin. In addition to learning and doing the tree-planting process, there will be deeper lecture and discussion on growing and selecting these perennial, staple tree crops.
People can arrive on June 3rd or 4th and get settled in, with a hard Monday morning start on June 5th.
The full program will go through Wednesday, June 21st, capping everything off with a big solstice bonfire celebration.
Wanna stay for the rest of June and keep helping out and learning? You are welcome to do so.
Number of participants:
15-20 (possibly more than 20 can come if there are some people that are ONLY working on the building the structures)
****Half of the tree-planting participants need to be there for the full 2.5 weeks. Since some people have jobs, half of the tree-planting participants can stay for the first six program days (Monday through Saturday) and leave on Sunday. Please notify Dusty what your time commitment is.
The idea is that the work and education are an even trade. However, participants will need to cover the cost of their own food. We plan to cook community meals, and we may have a primary chef (with line chef rotations). We will ask for the approximate cost of your food in advance, so we can make bulk purchases and streamline things.
You will need to bring your own gear to camp.
-We are really looking for people that are serious about growing these perennial, staple tree crops. This is a unique opportunity to learn from a man that has been at this a long time. If in the long run, you are not open to the idea of growing these tree crops on a larger scale (say a half acre) or at a homestead, this is not the program for you.
-Some farming or gardening experience would be nice, though not a requirement.
-In reasonable physical condition.
-Teamwork-oriented, good attitude.
We implore you to buy and read Philip’s book, “Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts: The New Resilient Crop for a Changing Climate,” before this program starts. It is available used on Amazon for $20. This will give everyone a base level of knowledge, and allow for the greatest development of participants during the program.
Work and Education:
Badgersett’s planting method involves 4-month-old “tubeling” trees, which they start in their off-grid greenhouse. They do not plant these tubeling trees in the ground until after 3 PM.
So, you can expect we will be doing lots of tree planting in the afternoon and night. Earlier in the day there will be time devoted to education, which will generally consist of Philip giving a talk. Upon our arrival, the most critical thing we will need to learn is the planting method, but there will eventually be time for deeper discussion on long-range care and breeding of the plants on such subjects as coppice and selection.
We are in contact with a skilled builder (he has built tiny homes and works as a carpenter) that is interested in building a pole shed and a small cabin at Badgersett, using wood from the property. These details need to get worked out. It is unclear at this point what exactly may be done on this front during the program, but some participants may be able to get involved with the building, which is another solid learning opportunity.
IMPORTANT. Please specify to Dusty:
-If you are only interested in planting and learning about the trees.
-If you would be open to working on building one or two days a week.
-If you are only interested in building the structures and not interested in the trees at all.
Philip Rutter completed his coursework for a Phd in evolutionary biology from the University of Minnesota in the 1970s. Instead of writing a thesis, he bought a 160-acre farm in southern Minnesota and began his life’s work of breeding and growing hazelnuts, chestnuts, and hickory-pecans. This farm is named Badgersett, and so is the business: Badgersett Research Corporation.
He foresaw the unsustainable nature of annual corn and soy agriculture long ago, before the word “permaculture” existed. And he decided to try to do something about it.
His vision is to replace corn and soy with these perennial, staple tree crops. With the proper economy of scale, harvesting machinery, and processing equipment, he believes hazelnuts could replace soybeans today. It will take an army of small farmers organizing and rallying around each other to make this happen.