PERMACULTURE: Isaac Smith and partner Maigen Scarlet have worked hard on the garden.
PERMACULTURE: Isaac Smith and partner Maigen Scarlet have worked hard on the garden. Adam McCleery

Nothing like food from your own garden

ISAAC Smith and his partner Maigen Scarlet have continued their work on the permaculture garden they are cultivating in their yard.

Since first visiting Mr Smith and Ms Scarlet, their self sustaining agricultural system has gone from strength to strength with new additions.

"Back then most of this was only starting to grow," Mr Smith said.

"Now everything has grown up high and really well."

Mr Smith was raised in a household that valued the importance of home grown agriculture and the impacts wide spread agriculture can have.

"In the beginning I was just a really passionate food gardener but after a short time I realised it is a big part of my life," Mr Smith said.

"The gardening ties in with my viewpoints hugely.

"One of the biggest contributors to green house gases is actually agriculture."

 

GOOD GROWTH: A high view of Mr Smith's back garden.
GOOD GROWTH: A high view of Mr Smith's back garden. Adam McCleery

Mr Smith felt it would be good to do his part and continue to build on his self sustainability.

"Agriculture makes up around 30% of total green house gas emissions," Mr Smith said.

"It's a huge amount, we grow all of our food in remote locations like Gayndah and we grow it with a tiny percentage of people.

 

PRODUCER: Mr Smith overseeing his plants.
PRODUCER: Mr Smith overseeing his plants. Adam McCleery

"Then subsidise that with machinery and chemicals and then combined with having to transport it long distances on trucks and other freight. It's very fuel intensive."

Mr Smith uses foresight and sees it as a long term approach to sustainability on a micro level.

"Permaculture in of itself is a response to environmental destruction and climate change," Mr Smith said.

"It's not solely about climate change but a whole range of different issues.

"But the two big ones are you can't just degrade farmland and consume fossil fuel resources on and on and never see repercussions for it, if you continually degrade farm land you will inevitably run out of it."

Mr Smith continues to conduct research and trial and error approaches to permaculture which is an ever changing and improving method of gardening.

"One of the keystone concepts of permaculture gardening is an idea called the food forest," Mr Smith said.

"It's about trying to mimic natural food productions.

"The man who coined it saw forests producing a wide variety of edible substances from all different species and after seeing that wanted to try and mimic that in a way that could link with human activity."

The idea is a simple one in theory but has presented more difficulties in practice.

"He found that it's a fairly simple concept which can get really complicated in practise, but basically there's certain types of plants and animals that add fertiliser and some that produce it," Mr Smith said.

"So the idea then was to set up a forest with the goal of feeding people."

 

AFTERNOON SUN: From seed to bloom the garden is gaining height.
AFTERNOON SUN: From seed to bloom the garden is gaining height. Adam McCleery

Mr Smith also raises poultry on his property which he and Ms Scarlett say is fulfilling in its own right.

"I think it's great being able to grow and raise your own food," Ms Scarlett said.

"And being able to know where the produce you are cooking comes from and knowing the poultry was well treated is good too.

"In a way it's an empowering feeling to be a part of that process."

The process is one that starts small and requires steps to build into self-sustainability.

"So you start out with what are commonly weeds, nitrogen fixing plants that fertilise the soil and create a sort of shade layer," Mr Smith said.

"They're really fast and then taking them out at certain percentages and replacing them with food production plants at different levels.

"From apex canopy plants which are usually large fruit trees, then you have under story ones, bush layers, ground covers, vines and roots."

Ms Scarlett has seen good examples of this overseas.

"Maigen has seen some great examples of food forests in the Amazon from the native people there who have been doing this sort of agriculture for along time," Mr Smith said.

"It's something that westerners kind of gave up on a long time ago or went down the path of monoculture which has been working really well so far," Mr smith said.

"But we've tried to apply monoculture to the whole world and it doesn't really work that well.

"It has some huge benefits for sure but it also has some big repercussions."

A permaculture garden offers a number of advantages and one of them is being able to adapt to the conditions being presented at any given time.

 

SLOW COOKER: Mr Smith and Ms Scarlett purchased a solar oven.
SLOW COOKER: Mr Smith and Ms Scarlett purchased a solar oven. Contributed

"It's been a bit hard since we first had coverage of the garden we have pretty much had 18 months of drought which hasn't be very conducive to growth," Mr Smith said.

"So we are planting a handful of Australian native food plants along with Indian and African native food plants.

"They are highly adapted to drought and those specific varieties have thrived despite incredibly hot and dry summers which is a real silver lining."

Beginning a permaculture garden is a difficult and costly prospect at first but one that pays off down the line Mr smith said.

"Starting things out does present a host of issues to overcome and it does take a while before the garden starts to become sustainable," Mr Smith said.

"But once you get things up and running and the garden is taking hold, it really does pay off the investment in time and money.

"However it's allowed us time to build the soils to add in a lot of compost and mulch to maintain a lot, which will pay off when it rains and with the El Nino having broke there's a chance of it moving into a La Nina with more rain."

Mr Smith said one of the most fulfilling aspects of permaculrure was being able to mix modern technology like solar with ancient farming techniques.

For more information on how to start your own self-sustaining garden you can visit Mr smith's website gayndahpermaculture.com.



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