I went to the opening weekend presentation at the Huntington Ranch, and I'm so glad I did. It was a great presentation, although only parts of it were really about permaculture/food forests. There were presentations by an urban cut-flower farmer (Silver Lake Farms), the authors of The Urban Homestead and writers of the Homegrown Evolution blog, representatives from Food Not Lawns, and fabulous keynote speech, complete with beautiful photos, from Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping. (Google any of these to find out more info about them.) There were smaller break-out sessions on beekeeping, chickens, composting, cooking with what you grow or find, etc. The emphasis on the community aspect of growing food was awesome and heartwarming.
The most permaculture-minded speaker was Darren Butler of ecoworkshops.com, who was good at giving a big picture overview to an audience with a lot of people unfamiliar with the permaculture/food forest concept. He also noted that the work being done at the Huntington Ranch is groundbreaking in that there are no known, established food forests in a Mediterranean climate such as ours here in L.A. For that reason, he said, throwing out seeds to see what grows and experimenting with plants is a good way to go, since we don't really know what grows well with whatever else in our climate. The multiple microclimates (dry chaparral versus moist coastal, etc.) also make it really hard to come up with particular guilds that will always work in this area.
A tour of the ranch area showed very newly planted grounds, with multiple fruittrees in some holes with varieties intended to produce a succession of fruit. There was a hedge of citrus, and some things planted in rows with plants intended to dissuade insects' interest in the edibles. Some of the trees had been transplanted from the South Central Farm (which was a huge community garden in L.A. planted and maintained for a long time by people who lived in the area before the landowner decided to build there). It will be very cool to see the ranch as the plants grow in.
If anyone is interested, the Huntington said it intends to keep up information on the blog about what does well there, what doesn't, etc. It could be useful information for those of us working on permaculture projects in a Mediterranean climate. Here's the blog: http://huntingtonblogs.org/theranch/