Many thanks go to our very good friend Jeff Rutherford for organizing a visit for a group of international students from Singapore Management University and their business ethics professor, the awesome Dr. Stephen. It was a very good day for us and we felt very fortunate to have had this opportunity to meet all of them.
We receive a steady stream of visitors, from groups of small farmers down to families with young children, but this was the first occasion where we prepared and delivered a somewhat coherent short speech about what we do and why we do it.
We have read in many different contexts about the benefits of conducting lessons outdoors, but we never really thought of ourselves as a demonstration site. This visit and the very positive reaction of the students showed us that the current set up of the garden offers many opportunities, not only for the sharing of farming techniques and strategies, but also for discussion of various issues.
A presentation about sustainability and uncomplicated living seems to possess a louder and clearer resonance, when it is delivered in a context where some of the ideas and methods discussed are actually put into practice. We talked about some aspects of our activities here, focusing on our efforts to achieve a level of sustainability while at the same time generating a basic income that we can live on.
Self sufficient living.
We are working to achieve some level of self sufficiency in food, medicine and shelter, we grow a sufficient amount of our staple grain for our own consumption and there is a regular production of fruit and perennial vegetables, as well as herbs and roots that provide the basic ingredients for a number of natural remedies. In addition we grow annual vegetables and we have started harvesting home grown bamboo and planted a number of hardwood trees for future use.
The three R’s and permaculture design
Our choices are informed by the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, and we aim to show that most of the unnecessary consumption can be done away without suffering great hardship on anyone’s part, with the help of some conscious design. In our garden as little as possible goes wasted. We try to integrate our plant and animal systems to reduce waste but also labour, we compost all our excess biomass and any excess food goes to the animals, from the dogs to the worm bin. We design to keep the use of pumps and petrol powered equipment to the absolute minimum.
The social aspect
Community living is a necessary path to follow as we try to reduce our use of non renewable energy, it also happens to be a very happy and easy way to live, sharing our time and effort with people we love and respect. On another level, meeting like minded people and sharing knowledge and experiences, like we did on this occasion, is one of the most rewarding by-products of our work here and something that we truly cherish. We also host a small number of volunteers/interns and run a lazy schedule of workshops about natural farming and earthen building.
The business model
We are focused on being as flexible as possible, so as not to be dependent on any one source of income, and to be able to incorporate other activities by future residents. We currently receive a small regular income from long term residents, organize the odd workshop, at times host interns who pay a small contribution and families with children for stays of various lengths. In addition we sell some of our excess and have begun making a small quantity of high quality organic jams and sauces from our own grown produce. We have made a conscious decision not to use mainstream tourism as a source of income.