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Polyculture Market Garden Reasearch

Paul Alfrey
Posts: 103
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Can we provide nutritious affordable food whilst enhancing biodiversity? Would you like to be involved in finding out?
​For 2016, we are delighted to be offering an educational experience with a difference. At Balkan Ecology Project we are committed to developing models for wildlife friendly gardens and farms that produce a diverse range of seasonal fruits and vegetables, are low cost to establish and manage, and can be replicated easily in any temperate climate. Over the last few years, we have conducted studies in our gardens to gauge how productive our models are ( for last years results read more here and here ). 2016 will be the second year of our market garden study and we are calling for a crew of enthusiastic people to take part.

for webpage visit here http://www.balkep.org/the-polyculture-study.html

What are we doing ?
We'll be continuing the development of a 1/2 acre (2000m2) market garden consisting of herbs, vegetables and perennial fruit and nut polycultures, and looking at set up and running costs (in terms of finances and time) and outputs in terms of produce and income derived from sales.
Our approach to market gardening goes way beyond "organic". We design biological systems that rely on the native ecology to function as opposed to external manufactured inputs, and as a result our gardens service not only our needs but the needs of other organisms too.

Site Development 2014 - 2015 (photos by Huma)

The main questions we are asking during this study are:

Can we provide nutritious affordable food whilst enhancing biodiversity?
How productive can polycultures be?
How economically viable are intensive polyculture systems?
How much time does it take to establish and manage such a garden?
What income can be expected ?
How bio-diverse can our food producing systems be and how can we measure this?

This year we will start to record biodiversity levels in the garden focusing specifically on model groups of invertebrates. Among these groups are snails, spiders ,insects - bugs, flies, moths and butterflies.
Peter Alfrey will be undertaking entomological surveys during April, July and September.​

Why are we undertaking this study ?
The demand for local, biologically cultivated food appears to be on the increase, as is a general desire to promote and preserve biodiversity. As far as we understand, small scale biologically cultivated polyculture gardens seem a practical, accessible and realistic way of providing food for humans whilst preserving and promoting biological diversity in the environment. With what appears to us to be a high demand and low supply situation, we ask why are there not more of these enterprises around? To explore this issue we are undertaking a multi-year study looking at the economics of running such a garden, and how productive it can be in terms of yields, income and biodiversity.

Our Goals

To develop functional market garden models that are both productive for humans and wildlife
To provide a unique and comprehensive learning experience to the participants of the programme
To undertake a detailed study of our activity providing a valuable reference for anyone considering to develop their own gardens
To provide a template for further research that can be used by others

Why should you take part ?
​This is an excellent opportunity for anyone seriously considering starting such an enterprise and for anyone who is passionate about finding solutions to the problems we currently face regarding affordable healthy food and biodiversity.

As a participant of this study -

You will gain valuable insight into what it takes to actually run a market garden. As well as the practical skills you will develop, we'll dedicate time each week to cover essential theory, including site design and implementation, plant propagation, polyculture management, basic botany, record keeping, harvesting, irrigation, marketing and advertising, and budgeting/financial planning.
Enrollment to the 6 month program entitles you to participate in any courses and training events that take place during the program.
You will be contributing to an area of research where little information exists i.e the productivity of polycultures and associated biodiversity dynamics. This study will be published online and freely available to all for future reference and all participants will be credited in publications.
You will be spending time in a truly unique area of the world working as part of a dynamic team of fellow enthusiasts in an inspiring environment.

Where will you be?

The project is based in the town of Shipka, Bulgaria on the foothills of the Central Balkan mountain range in the Rose Valley. It's an area of high biodiversity, beautiful countryside and historical sites of global, cultural and scientific significance. The project site is located on an abandoned piece of agricultural land on the western outskirts of the town that we call the Paulownia Garden. See Map for Paulownia Garden Location.

You'll also be learning from our existing garden, a 10 year old residential property with a highly productive and well established forest garden composed of over 400 species of plants. Our central garden is a good example of small scale intensive ecological design and includes examples of rainwater harvesting, grey water reed beds, wildlife ponds, multiple composting facilities and hosts a small plant nursery. We practice various methods of biological vegetable production including guild planting and crop rotation, and rear pigs, chickens and rabbits from this property.

What will you be doing?

You'll be working closely as a team producing food from the market garden for yourself, local markets, and food coops and will be recording all aspects of the process including how long it takes to develop, maintain and manage, the associated costs, the fertility requirements, the returns in produce weight and income derived from the sale of the produce.

Specific activities include the following:-

Developing the site
Propagating the crops
Growing the polycultures
Recording the results
Harvesting and preparing the produce for market.
Managing, studying and developing nearby beneficial habitats.
Learning from the rich biodiversity unique to this region.
How to take part?
The programme will run from March 19th - September 20th. Ideally, participants will be able to commit to the project for the full duration of time. We understand it can be difficult to find long periods of time out, so this could be negotiable if the participant is well matched to the programme.

We believe the valuable work participants will bring to the Balkan Ecology Project is a fair exchange for the educational experience they will receive. We are dedicated to teaching the skills that are needed to build and run a great market garden. We do not and have never received funding for our project and operate on limited finances. This being the case we ask participants of this project to cover their own living expenses.

Accommodation is provided a short walk away from the project site. The house is basic but comfortable. It's a spacious house and has its own garden. There is wi-fi internet.

Rent per month is €100 (including all bills) €180 per month couples price. Purchasing food and cooking meals will be your responsibility. Fruits and vegetables produced from the garden will be available for some of the period and high quality products such as eggs, milk, cheese, honey and meat are available from local producers. An estimate of living expenses based on the experience of previous participants is around €100 - €140 per month.

Once we have received your registration we will contact you and arrange a Skype meeting to talk through the process and answer any questions that may arise. Following this, if you decide you would like to take part, 50% of the monthly rent for the duration of your stay should be paid to secure your place. Payment can be made via Paypal (processing fees apply ) or bank transfer in £,€ or BGN and is non refundable.

Registration is now open, we look forward to hearing from you!
Roberto pokachinni
Posts: 702
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
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Sounds like a cool and very worthwhile project, Paul. If you are looking for people to be drawn into the fold of the project, you might want to re-post this thread with a title stating in some way that you are looking for participants to come to Bulgaria.

Example: Participants needed for a Polyculture Market Gardening project in Bulgaria!

Good luck with it.
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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