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100 acre family farm conversion  RSS feed

 
T Sousley
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Hi my name is Turner I'm a student at Hampshire College studying sustainable organic agriculture. Currently I'm taking a year off an am back at home in Kansas City and hoping to convert our family farm in Versailles Missouri into a sustainable permaculture homestead. The first thing I've done is make a map on paint from screen shots of google maps .the pictures are from a few years back when we had a terrible drought. My uncle still cuts hay so I will have to do some convincing.. I'm also hoping to visit Greg Judy's farm with my dad and uncle, I would like to implement a mob graze system similar to his. Wondering how many cattle /sheep or goats I could have on 100 acres..or more like 70. I'm going to try and color code some areas on the map so I can explain some of my project ideas. But here is the map so you can get some ideas
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Heidi Beckwith
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In the book Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard there's a chapter on how to transition from normal farm to a more permaculture ideal. I would read it (the main ideas are silvopasture, alleycropping and things that allow you to make money while establishing perennial plants.) He's actually not that far away from you either, so if you can spare the time to take a trip to southern Wisconsin I would recommend it. The people there would probably be able to give you great ideas, and teach you a lot of strategies to harvest water, plant and plan for the future, and do mob stocking etc. He also has stocking rates for various types of livestock and advocates for a multi species system. I don't have enough land to try these things out on, but I did recently visit his farm and it seems to be working quite well.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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This video gives a good overview of the little things you can do. Keyline with a subsoiler and 1 or 2 bottom plow can make a huge difference in water harvesting, even before the alley cropping and silvopasture.

Also look into grazing cover crops--things like turnip and forage radish that are good for livestock AND building soil. They can make a huge difference in how much meat you can grow on your acres.
 
Andrew Millison
Instructor
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
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Turner,
Great to see a map of your site. Thanks for posting.

A short answer to stocking rates on a particular piece of land is the ubiquitous Permaculture answer of "it depends"

I live in sheep country here in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and most of my experience is in visiting my friend's 1000 acres where he runs sheep in a mob grazing pattern over 3 properties. Three main variables here are the ability to irrigate pasture because of our dry summers, soil drainage and quality and it's ability to grow pasture and maintain animals during our soggy winter and spring, and shelter from extreme wind and rain during lambing season. In order to design a system for these 3 factors, we look to the element of the Permaculture design system called "scales of landscape permanence", where we look first at climate and landform to understand the bigger seasonal and topographical influences we are working within. Then we look at design for water flow, then access and circulation, then vegetation and on to the detailed placement of all the elements of our homestead: structures, fencing, specific soil treatment.

So for your property, we start by zooming out and seeing how it sits within the watershed and greater landform. Where is water flowing onto and leaving the site? How does the shape of the land and the flow of water clue us in to how soils were formed and are distributed in the area? How does the landform interact with the sun to create areas with different solar aspects, hence varied water and soil conditions?

The design of a property of your size becomes somewhat formulaic when using the keyline system. Placement of ponds for storage and the gravity irrigation systems, cultivation patterns to enhance absorption of water and hydration of the land, and placement of shelter belts to create a perennial plant infrastructure that helps with soil fertility, breaks wind, absorbs water and creates potential for multiple yields.

Here is a picture from one of my student's designs that illustrates the potential patterning of water and vegetation that may be applicable to your site:



and here is a google earth image of one of the original keyline farms in Australia developed by PA Yeomans in the 1950's that shows the integration of water catchment and storage and tree belts:



So with the approach of designing from patterns to details, we look at the macro influences on a site, and zoom in to placing particular design elements to maximize stocking rates by increased irrigation potential, increased soil fertility hence nutritious abundant pasture, and shelter from the elements and browse from trees and shrubs.
 
T Sousley
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Thanks everyone for getting back so quickly... I'm posting from an iPad so I won't respond to each of the posts quite yet but I did want to ask one question about irrigation and so forth... It seems like a lot of the designs rely on hills but this land is mostly flat all though I'm sure not as flat as I think... I guess so far I had only started to think about projects for zones one and two... I'll update with a color coded map soon...thanks again
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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100 acres ... take a PDC! You really need that kind of comprehensive info. I didn't think I needed to take one but I just finished geoff lawton's online PDC and now I'm looking around at all my mistakes. If you really don't want to take one or do the design yourself then hire it out.
 
Andrew Millison
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
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Turner,
One of the Permaculture design principles articulated by David Holmgren is "Design from Patterns to Details", so you'll definitely want to look at how the site fits into the larger hydrological system: watershed, soils, vegetation before you get too far down the zones 1 & 2 design road.

It's hard to tell the slope from your photo. If you posted the coordinates or address I could look at the property on google earth or the terrain feature of google maps to get a sense of the elevation changes. There is no flat land, but economic water storage in ponds is helped by some elevation changes. There are specific flatland strategies in the keyline system, but there seem to be far fewer working examples there than for hilly terrain that I know of.

But the basic principles of working from water to access to vegetation to buildings to fencing to soil applies regardless of slope. the particular tactics just differ on steeper or flatter land.

Looks like a great spot with lots of potential!

Andrew
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3729
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Check out Geoff Lawton's videos, they're awesome!

His starting points are:
Water
Access
Structures.
 
T Sousley
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Does this help?
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Andrew Millison
Instructor
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon
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Here's the site in google earth, with a view looking to the south, "uphill". Looks like there's already some contour plowing, as well as ponds. The branching drainage pattern is evident in where they left the trees (not the property lines, but the riparian area). It looks like the property has a ridge running through, and then drops off into different catchment basins in the NE and SW "corners". There is certainly a bit of topography to work with, moving water from the lower valley areas out to the ridges, in the keyline pattern. Lots of possibilities!

 
T Sousley
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So I'm back, this is the year I begin to transform this non working farm into a sustainable , and hopefully profitable farm/ranch. I found out that the land is already "terraced" so my swales and berms are already built form me. Now I just need some help with what to do next. Where do I start?
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Welcome back T, it has been a couple of years so I am wondering if you have been reading any permie books or watching any permie videos etc ? What kinds of things are you planning to do?
 
T Sousley
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Finished Gia's Garden, also reading Bill Mollison's Permaculture Designers Manual. Watched many videos, I really like Salatin and Greg Judy, but because I'm back and forth animals aren't as easy, and my uncle or grandma have to care for them. I lost a bunch of bantam chickens to a skunk a couple years ago when I wasn't down there. I like the idea of plants both trees and vegetables, nuts etc. I didn't finish school, and haven't had any employment, so I'm looking to make profit also. I like the idea of diverse income streams, and selling or trading abundance. Also we like to hunt (and shoot) and fish , so wildlife (not just for hunting, I also love nature). I guess I'm at the point I was last time, overwhelmed by the information, not knowing where to start, and then problems implementing in an effective manner (ADD, poor organization, and a split time schedule didn't help) . Other issue is my dad is basically on board and will let me do what I want, but isn't down there to help. My grandma, and especially my uncle are set in their ways, so trying to get my uncle to go along with the vision is another obstacle. One of my biggest concerns is a junk yard dump spot my uncles been using, I think you can see it on the map. Also he burns the fields and then cuts hay every year. I just don't know what to do or where to start.
 
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