newspaper article about me and permaculture
a pretty sweet article written in my hometown newspaper about ryan and I. apparently i am a permaculture guru…… if only corey hadn’t pulled the “obesity epidemic” card.
UMass permaculture gurus to be featured Saturday
For three Andover High graduates, digging in the garden is producing a bounty beyond the food for their tables.
Ryan Harb, a 2004 Andover High graduate, and Nathan Aldrich, a 2006 grad, will be featured on “Real Green TV” on Saturday at noon, on ABC affiliate WMUR, locally channel 9. They will primarily be featured for their roles in creating a permaculture gardening movement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the last couple of years that, for Aldrich and Harb, has led to new careers at UMass.
Creating the garden started last year as Harb and Aldrich, working in conjunction with around 150 volunteers, established a 12,000 square foot area for the garden on a university-owned lawn that was not being used. “Real Green TV” will capture their efforts this weekend, but what brought them to this point goes back much farther.
INVESTING IN THE COMMUNITY WITH PERMACULTURE
According to Aldrich, permaculture isn’t about gardening or agriculture. It’s about building a community.
“It is a tool for community development and community empowerment,” Aldrich said, adding that the term could also be used for building construction and more.
The original idea for creating a permaculture garden at UMass Amherst came up a couple of years ago when the university was preparing to make use of an empty lawn. Aldrich suggested the idea of creating a community garden, which the university liked. But ultimately, it decided to create a parking lot instead.
When the paving never materialized, Aldrich brought the idea of the garden to university administrators. Meanwhile, Harb was completing his thesis by using a garden at his apartment that used no machinery, no power-dependent tools and a multi-layered approach to growing agriculture and preserving the eco-system.
At the end of the season, Harb grew so much food that he had to start giving it away, he said. The project was a success, he received the master’s degree in green building he had been pursuing and the university gave him a job with its own new title, Sustainability Specialist.
Now, he and Aldrich — who will graduate from the university next week with a degree in sustainable agriculture and a similar career at UMass waiting for him — are expected to create a much larger permaculture garden.
Creating the garden is time-consuming but worth the effort, according to Aldrich and Harb. It begins with soil preparation, where a corrugated cardboard layer protects the soil, topped with a layer of compost that provides growing plants nutrients and, on top of that, a natural layer of leaves, straw or mulch keeps what is outside from getting in.
“Soil preparation is about layering on top of the earth and grass,” Harb said. “Instead of killing the soil, which interferes with the biological community, we’ve built on top of it.”
From there, a garden covering the 12,000 square foot area of lawn was designed to best utilize the space. Vegetables are now being planted. In the planting process, the gardeners will cut through the natural layer, compost and cardboard to get to the plantable ground beneath.
“The cardboard is really moist and easy to cut,” Harb said, adding that because of the extra layers, other weeds and unintended plants will not grow in the garden. “It’s a low-maintenance system. There will be less work in the long run.”
Among the estimated 150 volunteers is Corey Colbert, another Andover High grad from the class of 2008. Colbert, a junior at the university, is set to graduate from UMass in two years with a degree in operations management, and there may be something more waiting for him as well, Harb said.
“There’s going to be two of us from Andover as paid staff in Amherst,” Harb said. “Who knows, maybe Corey will graduate in two years and they’ll have a job for him too.”
For Colbert, permaculture gardening is about educating people about their diet.
“It gives students a chance to be educated and really understand how all the food gets on their dinner plate,” Colbert said. “We have obesity issues, and we’re eating processed food. Being more involved and engaged with this has really opened my eyes.”
CREATING A SUSTAINABLE GARDEN AT HOME
Local residents can create similar permaculture gardens at home. It is something Harb encourages.
“It is taking care of the earth,” Harb said. “The earth will take care of you back. It is working hand-in-hand with nature more than against nature.”
For local property owners, the estimated cost to creating a permaculture garden is around $50, given that many of the materials needed to create it — compost, discarded leaves and more — can be found for free.
For creating a cardboard layer, use corrugated cardboard only. Corrugated cardboard is most commonly used as shipping boxes.
Getting soil tests is also helpful, according to Harb.
“You will know what you are lacking in terms of minerals” in the soil, he said. “From there, you should mulch and figure out a design that you want to put in there. Your soil test will tell you what will work well.”
The process to create a permaculture garden, which works best when moving from one year to another but can also be micro-executed from one season to another, takes only a couple of weeks with the help of a few individuals.
For more information on permaculture gardening, visit umasspermaculture.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a permit for obtaining growing materials such as compost and leaves from town composting sites, contact Andover’s Plant and Facilities department at 623-8280. Permits are available to Andover residents only and issued on a per-calendar year basis.