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Hello all,

First poster here.  I'm looking for some information on midwest permaculture communities.  My girlfriend and I are looking to move to an area to start a permaculture/greenhouse farm and want to find somewhere in the midwest (mostly looking at Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan) that has a permaculture presence or at the very least an acceptance of that lifestyle in the area.  I am ideally looking to be tied to the local community via educational resources, farmer's markets, sustainability events, etc. and be just outside of an urban area.  We currently live in Madison, WI and there is a permaculture guild based out of here, but we are looking to move to a smaller city/town (anywhere from 10k-250k metro pop).  Some of the places we've investigated so far are: Duluth, MN; Eau Claire, WI; La Crosse, WI; Rochester, MN; Muskegon, MI; Cadillac, MI; Petoskey/Mackinaw City, MI.  

Duluth seems to be the only one that has self-proclaimed permaculture farms in the area that we've found thus far.  Everywhere else has some organic operations but it seems the awareness of permaculture is absent in a lot of the Midwest, which is one of the reasons I want to move there to increase exposure to the ideas it promotes.  I plan on obtaining a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate), so access to teachers for that would be preferred.  

Any guidance is appreciated, we are ready to get out of the city and start moving on implementing these principles as soon as possible.  And we will be attending the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence Sept. 14-16th if anyone else plans on attending, we should meet up!  

Thanks,

Adam
 
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Hi Adam, welcome to Permies!  Until you mentioned Madison, that was going to be my suggestion...

I don't have a good suggestion for a place with established farms or communities of permies.  But we are hidden all over the place.  I met a lady 4 miles down the road who is a Geoff Lawton disciple so you never know.  

I'm guessing any place with a vibrant farmers market and a good number of organic farmers would be a good place to start (and would be more accepting).  I'd definitely look around the driftless area of WI.  I think there's a facility that does PDC's in that area as well.

Moving to a place that's already aware of permaculture is easier than picking a good looking place and becoming that hub for permaculture in the community.  Since there may not be too many places around here that are established, I'm guessing you could get it going.  Once you become visible, the other permies will show up and then the community blossoms.
 
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Adam Poch wrote:Hello all,
Duluth, MN; Eau Claire, WI; La Crosse, WI; Rochester, MN; Muskegon, MI; Cadillac, MI; Petoskey/Mackinaw City, MI.  



Not to offend those in Da-loot, but I think Duluth may be a bit on the chilly side if you enjoy the seasons of Madison.  Certainly up away from the lake it's easier to grow things than close by, but that area may be a bit of a struggle.  Eau Claire and LaCrosse you may already be a bit more familiar with.....can't really recommend one over the other.  Can't really thumbs up or down on any of these....just offering an opinion here.

My only reason for suggesting Rochester MN is somewhat obvious:  $$$$$ .    Living in Rochester itself would be too expensive (possibly not relative to Madison,....you'd have to do some comparison shopping), but some of the surrounding communities in and around the Root, Whitewater, Zumbro, and even up towards the Cannon Rivers would likely be affordable and aesthetically nice places to live.....amenable to solar and wind energy if desired and great soil in which to grow things.  I'm not sure if you will find a PDC bestowing mentor in that area, but maybe.  The best part is if you wish to turn that education back outward to the local community, either through education or sales of your own produce, the deep pockets of Rochester proper will likely be the gift that keeps on giving if you play your cards right.  I'm pretty sure they already have some CSAs and other entities taking advantage of local produce markets in that area.  As a bonus...***if*** you value mainstream health care, you will find few other markets that will provide better services.....at least for the time being.  Certainly worth a visit and only ~ 4-5 hour down the freeway from you (drove that route many times to and from the UW....). Feel free to Moosage if you wish for more details....mostly from memory at this point.

Shameless plug:  If you decide to take the drive and are a fan of the frommage, you won't be disappointed in a stop at Carr Valley Cheese in Mauston.....     http://www.carrvalleycheese.com/
 
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Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Greetings, Adam! Sort of a newbie here, too, but my son and I have 100 acres of horrible clay just south of Superior. Haven't got much started yet ourselves because he's building the house. There seems to be some "permies" in Wrenshall, MN. GOOD LUCK!
 
Adam Poch
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Thank you for the replies so far, good information to help me refine the search!  

@ John - Interesting thoughts on Rochester.  We were of the mind Rochester would probably be the most marketable for what we want to do, so it's nice to have some more depth to that area.  I appreciate the insight into potential river systems to look into!

@ Mike - Yeah I thought Madison would be the best choice for this region but after living here and talking to quite a few landscape architects, urban farmers, ecological gardeners, etc. it's put me off from the idea of doing it around here.  For the sake of others into why that is, it's mostly due to property value, property tax in Dane county, large scale industrial farming in the surrounding area (and the environmental degradation that goes along with it), and the surrounding natural areas being largely oak savanna and prairie.  I'm leaning towards more of a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest ecosystem largely because of how/where I grew up and my affinity for expansive forest systems.  

@ Mary - Have you started planting pioneer/succession plants to help with the clay?  I'm curious what your first steps will be with that other than observing it in different seasons.
 
Mike Jay
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I can see those issues with Dane County (where Madison is).  Most of the farming areas of WI will be monocrop conventional ag with tiny pockets of organic.  Maybe Organic Valley Coop has a map of their members which would show you some points of "happy" in the region.  

If you want expansive forests, northern WI has plenty of that.  My area has high ground with maple/oak/birch/pine and low areas with spruce/fir.  Lots of water and hardly any industrial ag.  If you pick your spot well you can be a fair way away from any paper mills.  Plus cheap land.
 
Mary Beth Alexander
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Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Adam, we've been held up by more than a year since the original 1921 house was totally lost in  a fire last Nov - the renovations were 1/3 done and the solar system installed - he had just taken possession in July/17. Suddenly, my son had to plan and build a brand-new house and couldn't begin building at that time of year. We've both been studying soil remediation for some years and are planning on cover crops, charcoal, comfrey, etc. in small areas to start - but nothing really yet. The 105 acres were mostly used as pasture in the past, but not grazed for probably 15 years. Too lumpy to cut hay in the old days - the old farm had many more acres of hay ground which has been sold off. We are planning to remediate with rotational grazing of pigs/chickens to start. He's working on giant compost piles of manure, hay. wood chips, shredded cardboard, and worms to create something for me to start a smallish raised bed/grow-bag garden next Spring.
In this mid-May, we did plant a 27-tree orchard + honeyberries + 9 grapes + asparagus into the old "lawn" in front of the house. We used an excavator to dig large holes/trenches, removed the clay, and replaced it with a mix of purchased sandy topsoil, 2-yr-old manure, and wood-chips. We used mycorhizia  on all the tree roots, planted 2 comfrey with each + horseradish, tansy, garlic chives - and threw in some night-crawlers!
I'm still living/working in Florida, so I haven't been able to assess the progress, but he tells me everything is doing well except for one apple tree and possibly some honey-berries which were planted in a VERY soggy spot. We did not have soil testing done, though I did get good results from careful DIY tests. Just gettin' started - glad to see some things growing well!
BTW - I mentioned Wrenshall, MN. It is quite near to us but DOESN'T have horrible clay. Best of luck to you and yours, Mary Beth.  
 
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Hello adam!

My wife and i used to live in madison, but i still work there. We Moved to the country by edgerton. A permie community in Dane would be difficult as was mentioned. We have some acquaintances that have worked at troy gardens, but i dont think its a permie farm. There are some permie educational places in stoughton (terra simpla) and cooksville ( low tech institute). We have friends in the driftless area, and there are some eco village esque efforts i have heard, but we have a lot of green/community people that i would like to start something up with possibly in the viroqua/la farge area.

Anyways, small world!
 
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