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Help Me Plan a 1-Acre Nonprofit Farm

 
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Hello friends!

I hope you are all hanging in there as 2020 comes to a close.

I need your help!

After long soul searching, I came to what I want to do next with my life and I started a nonprofit.

The nonprofit is called Kindness Farm and is based in Portland, Oregon.


What is Kindness Farm?

The farm is a year-round, beautiful, serene organic permaculture / regenerative ag farm that will serve our community in a multitude of ways —

1. Feeding our houseless neighbors fresh, alive foods (via Kindness Kitchen)
2. Serving as a permaculture / regenerative ag educational center where one can learn how to grow food and restore land inline with the cycles of nature, in sustainable and regenerative ways...
3. Helping our students launch decentralized Kindness Gardens that can donate to our Kindness Kitchen to feed those in need...
4. And so much more.

(If you'd like to read / learn more, you can do so here: https://www.thekindnessmodel.org)

//

Currently, I am in the process of getting land for the farm. I am in talks with one potential place that looks promising. This would give me 1 acre within Portland city limits. I am basing my calculations and estimations for everything I am doing based on 1 acre, as I figure I can scale or reduce from there if needed and I end up getting more or less land.

I have been an avid permaculturist for a long time. I have my plans and ideas, but I envision this as a community project, and I want to make sure I do this right...and thus, I'd like to consult as many people as possible who have experience with this and also in areas where I don't. For example...I've been able to feed myself and my partner (produce-wise) all growing season on not a ton of space...but I've never farmed on a space as large as an acre, so I would like to learn in areas where I am not as experienced.

//

These are the current questions I have that I would love your help and input on:

1. As I have 3 goals wrapped in one here (feed as many people as possible nourishing foods year round, create a place where people can learn how to work with nature and not against it, and restore the land it will be on) - I am open to being flexible and innovating where necessary. I know permaculture focuses heavily on perennials, but I don't think if I do it that way it will fully meet all my goals. I was planning on using many methods like sheet mulching, composting, hugels, chop and drop, rainwater harvesting, swales, interplanting, mulching, polycultures etc... using some heavy producer perennials like tree collards for example, and many annual crops.

I wonder if anyone has experience with adapting permaculture to also a lot of annual crops and intensive food production that would work with what I am trying to do here.

2. I wonder if anyone has experience that could help me budget and calculate the amount of resources that would be needed for a 1 acre farm. For example, how much compost, how many seeds, how much cardboard to sheet mulch, how many people are needed to work this amount of space, etc. In addition, some time estimates of how long it would take to do certain tasks like sheet mulch etc.

3. My original goal was to build the farm around circular pathways (the watercolor drawing on the website https://www.thekindnessmodel.org is more of a "feel" representation vs actual pathways). Someone I respect greatly told me circular pathways are not efficient compared to rows and will add a huge amount of time and labor. I wonder if there is a way to marry the two? For example, are keyhole gardens practical for a 1 acre farm? And by practical I mean - will they add a ton of work? Will they improve things? Is there a way to make a more structured circular design with rows integrated within circles?

Any ideas / thoughts / experience there would be much appreciated.

4. I would like to have one greenhouse or high tunnel on the farm, which will also have composting in it, to generate heat. I wonder what is the appropriate size of a tunnel or greenhouse for one acre?

5. Which annual fruits, vegetables, and perennials would you grow to achieve all the goals above? In particular consistent and abundant food production?

6. How much carbon can I expect to sequester in 1 acre of land?

//

Something else I would ask you to consider:

Would you, or anyone you know, would like to be involved with Kindness Farm beyond just this post? I will copy and past here what I wrote on the website, as it really describes it best...

For Kindness Farm to have the greatest impact possible and flourish for all of us, it humbly but proudly requires a community of kind individuals and businesses coming together and giving what they can to make the farm come to life and move the world in a kind, sustainable direction.

In the Kindness Model, we believe that true giving does not require sacrifice. True giving nourishes and invigorates us right back, making our giving and receiving flow in a continuous, harmonious cycle.

There are 4 ways to contribute:

1. Monetary contribution - Financial support for Kindness Farm.

2. Resource contribution - Includes anything from seeds, organic compost, mulch, vegetable starts, flower starts, fruit trees, irrigation materials, and more.

3. Time / skill contribution - Spend time growing yourself while tending to our beautiful farm in multitude of ways! (Covid-safe!)

4. Connection contribution - Spread the word about Kindness Farm far and wide.

All four can be either one-time contributions, or on-going ones. Every drop in the bucket counts, and only together we can form strong, unbreakable connections that heal this world, each other, and ourselves.

//

Thank you all in advance for your time, thoughts, and feedback. I very much look forward to hearing from this community and making this come to life in the best way possible

In gratitude,
Lou
 
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2. I wonder if anyone has experience that could help me budget and calculate the amount of resources that would be needed for a 1 acre farm. For example, how much compost, how many seeds, how much cardboard to sheet mulch, how many people are needed to work this amount of space, etc. In addition, some time estimates of how long it would take to do certain tasks like sheet mulch etc.
All of those questions have "it depends" answers. but lets say you took the entire acre and turned it into an intensive garden based on permanent beds and using minimal tillage but using some mechanisation in the form of 2 wheeled tractor/s for crop residue removal, seeding etc. Then for 1 acre I would want 2-3 people to take care of it including harvesting but not including any cooking.

3. My original goal was to build the farm around circular pathways (the watercolor drawing on the website https://www.thekindnessmodel.org is more of a "feel" representation vs actual pathways). Someone I respect greatly told me circular pathways are not efficient compared to rows and will add a huge amount of time and labor. I wonder if there is a way to marry the two? For example, are keyhole gardens practical for a 1 acre farm? And by practical I mean - will they add a ton of work? Will they improve things? Is there a way to make a more structured circular design with rows integrated within circles?

Another it depends, if you are doing everything by hand any shape is ok, if you want to run any machinery lines are best. wheel hoes and even hand hoes are MUCH faster to run down straight rows than bent ones. I know this from experience of my own wiggly sowing! In my experience edges are work the less edges you have the better. so lots of small beds are much more work than a few large ones.


4. I would like to have one greenhouse or high tunnel on the farm, which will also have composting in it, to generate heat. I wonder what is the appropriate size of a tunnel or greenhouse for one acre?


This depends on what you want to use it for, just seedlings? heat loving plants? overwintering perennials? salad production in winter? However I would say get the biggest you can afford, you can in my opinion never have to much greenhouse space.

5. Which annual fruits, vegetables, and perennials would you grow to achieve all the goals above? In particular consistent and abundant food production?

You also need to think what people will eat, as you will be cooking it you can go a bit further off the path than if they had to cook it. Are you looking at providing calories or just interesting fluff? In my climate (cool wet and short season) I would go with lots of potatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsnips cabbages, celeriac and winter squash for winter use and beans, broccoli, chard, tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash for seasonal use and preserving. I wouldn't do much lettuce unless your area really likes salad. For perennials I always start with Trees, so Apples, pears whatever grows in your area really. after trees I want Rhubarb, then berries (red and black currants, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries) These are for jams and juices to make winter food more interesting!

 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:In my experience edges are work the less edges you have the better



I know where you're coming from, but isn't valuing edges and margins a key permaculture ethic? The "edge effect" of higher productivity at the edges of fields or beds is also well documented.

Also, while I certainly can't speak for Lou's intentions for the space, I think you may be giving salad greens short shrift when you refer to them as "interesting fluff". Calories are exceedingly cheap in our current industrialized food system--part of why many food pantries give out loaves and loaves of sugary wheat bread. Grains, tubers and legumes can be purchased extremely cheaply almost anywhere in the US, because they're so compatible with large scale agriculture. Fresh tomatoes or nutrient-dense greens, on the other hand, can be prohibitively expensive.

if the goal of the project is to provide improved nutrition for food-insecure individuals, I think the limited space would be put to better use growing crops that are nutrient-dense and expensive to buy.
 
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If you are a 501c3, try to get land donated.  The most likely candidate would be land owned by a wealth individual or corporation that has been on the market for a long period of time and not sold. I know of a Not for Profit that picked up a bank building that had sat on the market for years.  What did the bank get out of the deal? They dont have to worry about repairs, heat, security, taxes, insurance ....and they got a picture in the local newspaper of the bank president shaking hands with the CEO of the NPO ....and a bronze plaque thanking the bank.  At some point, the trade off makes sense.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Lia MacLellan wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:In my experience edges are work the less edges you have the better



I know where you're coming from, but isn't valuing edges and margins a key permaculture ethic? The "edge effect" of higher productivity at the edges of fields or beds is also well documented.

Also, while I certainly can't speak for Lou's intentions for the space, I think you may be giving salad greens short shrift when you refer to them as "interesting fluff". Calories are exceedingly cheap in our current industrialized food system--part of why many food pantries give out loaves and loaves of sugary wheat bread. Grains, tubers and legumes can be purchased extremely cheaply almost anywhere in the US, because they're so compatible with large scale agriculture. Fresh tomatoes or nutrient-dense greens, on the other hand, can be prohibitively expensive.

if the goal of the project is to provide improved nutrition for food-insecure individuals, I think the limited space would be put to better use growing crops that are nutrient-dense and expensive to buy.



In my experience the edges of beds have much lower yields, and much higher pest issues than the centers. To the point that my outside rows of strawberries suffer 60-80% losses from various pests that come in from the wild lands beyond. Calories may well be cheap but industrial farmed calories are empty calories. Homeless people are not (in my experience) going to want a artsy farty bowl of micro-greens and lettuce, and that goes for most low income people as well, I live and sell vegetables in a poor area, I cannot even sell different coloured vegetables from "normal" My customers do not have the money to try things they may not like, and they do not want to eat things that do not fill them up. Since the OP specified houseless then they are not going to have anywhere to cook these "cheap" calories anyway and the farm I assumed would be trying to produce full meals.
 
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This sounds like a great project, Lou.  I'd be interested doing some pro bono design work, particularly buildings and any other structures.  Some concepts and work samples are at http://ehrlum.com/port/archdes/restoration.htm
 
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Lou Le wrote:
3. My original goal was to build the farm around circular pathways (the watercolor drawing on the website https://www.thekindnessmodel.org is more of a "feel" representation vs actual pathways). Someone I respect greatly told me circular pathways are not efficient compared to rows and will add a huge amount of time and labor. I wonder if there is a way to marry the two? For example, are keyhole gardens practical for a 1 acre farm? And by practical I mean - will they add a ton of work? Will they improve things? Is there a way to make a more structured circular design with rows integrated within circles?



One thing you might do is have the circles in the "zone 1 and 2" of your property, with the rows farther out. So, you might have circular and keyhole garden beds where people enter the farm, and curvy rows further out. Could you, perhaps, give us an aerial view of the land, showing where you want the entrances/exits to be? Where north and south is?

When I started my own garden, I didn't really have too much of a plan. I've more worked around what areas have the most sun (those are where my fruit trees and gardens are) and where there's more shade (my wild/foraging area, with lots of berries and natives). I have a little keyhole garden and a little herb spiral, and some curvy beds that surround giant rocks or existing raised mounds. And, aside from that, most of my garden beds are relatively straight, though I don't think they're really inorganic, because they come at different angles and are broken by rounder fruit tree guilds and the curvy garden beds and structures.

I try not to make the angles too sharp on anything. I try to keep the paths at least wide enough for a lawn mower (reel mower or riding lawnmower) to go between. Grass is and bramble are, by and large, my largest "enemies"--it's super handy to be able to just mow the paths down every few weeks.

I do have small paths--usually made by putting down big stepping stones or logs, to cross long beds. These aren't hard to maintain. I also like to edge my garden beds with standing logs to sit on. This makes it a lot nicer to sit and pick food or weed!

Just for fun, I sketched out a picture showing how you can have rows mixed in with circular/keyhole gardens. This is by no means a good design, because it's not to scale, nor takes into account the lay of your land, etc, etc, etc. I love, love, LOVE what you're working towards here!
CCI_000105.jpg
A hasty illustration of rows mixed with circles
A hasty illustration of rows mixed with circles (I can't seem to make this go the right way--sorry!)
 
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For fruit trees I would suggest seeing what trees would grow that require little to no chemicals.  I am in the deep south so totally different environment.  I am growing Kiwi Fruit, Jujube, Pawpaw, Asian/American/Ukraine/Hybrid Cross Persimmons, Goumi, Fig and Elderberry.  Blueberry, Tayberry and Strawberry also.  I do not use chemicals on any of these but do use some JADAM Sulfur on my Asian Pears because of Cedar Quince Rust.  I am setting up a 0.6 acre orchard with these trees and will plant Goumi in between.  May also include Burdock to control weeds.
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