Permaculture designer and farmer Shawn Jadrnicek is a master at engaging the free forces of nature to create sustainable food production systems. He weaves water, wind, sunlight, convection, gravity, and decomposition into his projects, showing us how to create sustenance in our landscapes with little effort or work on our part.
The Bio-Integrated Farm is a must-read, twenty-first-century manual for managing these natural resources and brings system farming and permaculture to a whole new level.
A bio-integrated greenhouse, for example, doesn’t just extend the season for growing vegetables; it also serves as a rainwater collector, a pond site, an aquaponics system, and a heat generator. The Bio-Integrated Farm offers in-depth information about designing and building a wide range of bio-integrated projects including:
- Reflecting and water-storage ponds
- Multipurpose basins
- Compost heat extraction
- Pastured chicken systems
- Aquaculture, hydroponics, and hydronic heating
- Water filtration and aeration
- Cover cropping
- Innovative rainwater-harvesting systems that supply water for drip irrigation and flushing toilets
Jadrnicek focuses on his experience as farm manager at the Clemson University Student Organic Farm and at his residence in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He created permaculture patterns that simplified the operation of the 125-share CSA farm while reducing reliance on outside resources. His landscape requires only the labor of harvesting, and the only outside input he buys is a small amount of chicken feed. Jadrnicek’s prevalent theme is using water to do the work. Although applicable in many climates, his designs are particularly important for areas coping with water scarcity.
If you are interested in spending less time maintaining your farm or homestead, if you want to increase productivity, if you want to decrease your dependency on outside resources, or if you are curious about how to inexpensively extend your growing season, then this book is for you. The process is simple—put nature to work through intelligent design. ( From: ChelseaGreen)
This book opened a world to me on water, making me think differently even on aspects I already knew. It does not speak only of water, let’s make it clear, but around this design element it builds a fine example of practical solutions to stacking functions and setting every component in the correct way to make them connect. It can be simple sometimes to discover an easy way to really connect elements and move towards abundance.
Shawn Jadrnicek has years of experience in permaculture design, along with his wife Stephanie they have lived and worked in different climates, building up their knowledge of the best way to integrate systems to achieve the most.
I believe this book really proves they have done a lot and rightly have decided to share their designs. The designs shared in the book come from different projects, from house to farm, scaling up in complexity.
Shawn has fine-tuned his design creativity working in the last years at Clemson University, at the sustainable agriculture program where he is the manager of the Student organic farm. Here the possibility to really collect data on many solutions, doing thorough research, has been invaluable, and has gone in the book.
First why speak of Bio-integration, and what is, in the authors view, to be intended with the term. Bio-integration is a perspective in design. It is a concept that grows from the foundational principle of Stacking functions taking it to the next level of connecting components to make the functions multiply.
In Shawn’s words bio-integration is achieved “when a component within the design exceeds seven functions. Once the magic odd number of seven is breached, the design takes on a life of its own. For a component to perform seven functions it must be so connected with the surrounding environment that it takes on a new autonomous, lifelike quality. I refer to this quality as bio-integration, to represent the new life born into design once seven functions are breached.”
Thirteen chapters outline thirteen different designs that can be seen separately but wanting to get to the base of bio-integration it would be crazy not to connect them together to envision a complete range of possibilities. As I said water is the focus from which nearly every design takes off, water is connected in very creative ways. Water alone could do little in a design if we didn’t work with the landscape, and slope is really something that the author has worked around a lot.
Studying the effect of locating a greenhouse on a one percent south-facing slope, the author has put together interesting data on how to passively gain heat and then build up even more integrating this component with a pond. From pond excavation to greenhouses, and compost or chickens, or rainwater harvesting or specific case studies, every chapter is a clear example of design, implementation and practical solutions.
I found very interesting the integration of the chicken coop with a flush system for the manure under it, that using rainwater and a idversion channel takes fertility to a set location. Simple solutions that make us work less with shovel and wheelbarrow.
The designs presented in the book may be replicated or even read as examples of functional analysis, building the readers confidence in this design toolset. Every chapter has an initial box that outlines the elements, and a final one that sums up the functions of the system.
In many cases the reader is led step by step into implementation, and a lot of text boxes highlight specific topics. Tables and diagrams break down the data when it is available. The authors suggest online resources to the reader for help in design, and in implementation.
The way the book is written makes it a manual and maybe Shawn’s professional experience in college has helped in this sense. It is clear that the book has an educational perspective, it is not only the description of a personal experience.
It can be read from front to cover or specifically in some parts. Every chapter has reference to other chapters or paragraphs that connect together on a topic or subject, this helps the reader follow specific tracks throughout the book.
THe author shares historical reference to solutions that are used in permaculture, recalling the historical context of these solutions is something I really enjoyed. From Chinampa’s to the “three brothers” garden, kin to the more known “three sisters”, we get the sense of how a lot of ideas often used in permaculture are really connected with our history from different regions. Sometimes remembering this is important, a bit of research on our past is always appreciated.
I think this book is an interesting read, we must bare attention to integration always more if we want to create stable systems and the Bio-integrated farm takes us in that direction.
This is something I'm definitely interested in and Lorenzo I thank you for these reviews.
I'm looking at a 2 acre property(1.86 after required border space and culverts) and design is the concept I struggle with most. I know what I want to do but putting it all together in a viable and user friendly concept is what I need to learn first.
Love the write up and topics. I am building towards this. I have been on my land for almost 4 years. It was raw forested land with mostly pine trees. I hope to balance the forest with native plants. For now we are thinning the trees out so they can get more sun. Property was logged 25 years ago. Clear area of trails to put in deciduous trees and herbs, flowers and many edible plants. There is water off the mountain only in the spring and I hope to build a pond one day for this water to run into. Of course I am just a noob and just learning permaculture. I need to apply myself more to understand stacking, growing together based on root depth etc so one can get away from mono growing( think that is the right term)
Our land is just shy of 9 acres. Off grid so we can not use things that need power. 5 acres flat at the base of a mountain. Almost 4 acres on a slope mountain, between gently and steep in some places but all walkable. I shall learn as I create, as I go along and your book would be a nice addition for learning. For me this land is all about balance and sustainability. This will be a life time journey for me. Thanks so much for your reviews and advice.
I was skimming this book last night, and looking at some of the designs. It seems mostly geared toward a climate with excess water, since the ponds are fed by roof-runoff. That wouldn't work here, because we don't get enough rain. But perhaps some of the ideas would work with ponds or tanks filled with well water. I think in spite of not being in a similar climate, I can probably adapt some of the ideas.