Author Archives: P. David Stockhausen

Back and kicking it!

Before venturing to Australia and The Permaculture Research institute this past January, I’d found myself answering the same query over and over again “……O.K, wait, tell me again, what is Permaculture anyway?” And now, since returning from the PRI to the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve encountered the same questions from friends and family though now with more of a peppered interest in where Permaculture might lead me. My answer is often less about where Permaculture is going to lead me, but instead us.

Being a trained observer of natural patterns, it’s pretty difficult not to notice an obvious dearth in awareness around the subject of Permaculture. Furthermore, I feel that it goes without saying that there’s an urgent need for permaculture education that is a direct conduit to action. Once one knows and deeply understands our global state of affairs and environmental situation through the educational lens of a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), it is difficult to not have a sense of urgency about permanent cultural repair. To me, it appears that this type of urgency isn’t often shared by those who don’t see the issues and the solutions through the lens of Permaculture and whole systems thinking.

While many of us are well-intentioned and passionate about change, we’re often at a loss to know how to tackle such large problems. As though many of us seem to be caught in the rapid current of a positive feedback loop, a lot of us have learned helplessness thus driving the problems deeper into the proverbial carpet. And as these problems become deeper and embedded so does our sense of frustration, confusion and ultimately apathy. Now the need for an interruption in this feedback pattern is evermore timely as an eponymous oil disaster in the American Gulf of Mexico sounds the environmental alarm. As each moment passes, the adoption of scaled design solutions, not only for disaster relief and aid work but for community organization and skills trading, become needed with increasing urgency. Though, despite this, It would appear that a lot of us are eager yet unprepared to make even the small changes that might set forth a pattern of positive change fueled by real solutions. And still, for so many Americans, it is easier to spend $20-$30 on an afternoon at the movie theaters than it is to spend hard-earned dollars on personal development. For instance, rentrack.com reports “Twilight: The Eclipse” generated nearly 70 million USD over July 4th weekend alone.

Well..” I asked myself “…how does one prepare for battle?”. “How do you get from couch potato to a sprightly spud?”. “You go to Boot Camp…Permaculture Boot Camp!” Actually, to be completely transparent, the design process didn’t exactly fall into place with such cinematic drama. In fact, the Permaculture Boot Camp at Hayes Valley Farm (HVF) in San Francisco, CA is an ongoing design project between myself and Chris Burley that aims to teach Permaculture to the masses in three short hours. The design for this class developed out of a design project for our Permaculture Design Certificate in 2009. Leaving the PDC we felt strongly that the needs of our community were expressed in its interest in positive change, but apparent lack of direction and cohesiveness to see results. Our desires to teach the lessons that were so powerful to us in our PDC experienced several evolutions before an opportunity aligned with our intent. Now with the Hayes Valley site, an experimental urban farm, getting deep community and media attention, we’ve found the it is the perfect platform for mass education. As the design continues to evolve, we’re getting indicators of success, full classes.

The real success has been in the timing. When Chris originally proposed the course as a one hour lecture, I almost thought he was mad. “Teach Permaculture in one hour? We’ll be lucky if we finish introductions in an hour!” Though after a few emails back and forth, we settled on the current format of two energetic 90 minute sessions. Feeling that it would be disingenuous to call in an “Introduction to Permaculture” we settled on Boot Camp. “Put em through the ringer!” we thought.

With the three-hour BootCamp, Chris and I offer a rapid-fire introduction to the basics of Permaculture. We begin with an active lecture on evidence followed by a Permaculture ethics and principles site tour where we demonstrate how HVF fulfills and acts on each of Holmgren’s principles and Mollison’s ethical framework . Teaching the course on site invites the students to activate their new-found perspective immediately. Our aim goes beyond the theory of Permaculture to introduce and actively forge a community through sharing and understanding the skills and resources of the people sitting next to one another. With interactive classroom exercises the students are encouraged to form quick bonds to leave empowered and active.

One of the biggest issues students mentioned as being problematic in their worlds is a feeling that their community has been lost. Our answer is part of the course design. The class is typically offered on Sundays twice per month just before the weekly public volunteer workday at HVF. By the time the class ends at 1:30pm the urban farm is buzzing with bodies from all over San Francisco digging, raking, sheet-mulching and planting.  The Boot Camp appears to be a perfect entrée to direct action; incentivizing community collaboration over more commercial forms of entertainment. As the students get to know their class and their classroom we remind them “Your lack of community ends here!” Moreover, because the Hayes Valley site has been almost entirely built with volunteer labor and community support, it quickly is becoming the community. It’s drawn hundreds of volunteers and visitors on weekends since January 2010 when its gates opened, and continues to need helping hands to make it truly demonstrate the capacity of Permaculture design solutions. The design of the BootCamp allows for people energy to be delivered to the site and ensures continued support for the site, not to mention a little revenue. What’s more, is that now with three BootCamps offered since May, we’ve taught nearly 60 students, 7 of which have gone on to take the Urban PDC with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody, and many more of which are now regular volunteers at Hayes Valley Farm.

The course costs anywhere between $60-$75 dollars with scholarships available for eligible applicants. What’s really encouraging is that there are a great number of people willing to spend that money on a weekend learning to help save their community. In a city known for its love of hedonistic options for ways one can spend a dime, it is nice to know that there is a growing number of hedonists turned activists. The next BootCamp is being offered at Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco on Sunday, July 11th. For more information or to spread the word about what’s happening in urban permaculture visit hayesvalleyfarm.com.

David Stockhausen

Bon Voyage!….For now.

” The use of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult” -Wendell Berry

The time has arrived, dear readers, to venture again into our own version of the wilderness to explore things more intimately, more vividly, more extremely.  As we might have mentioned before, 2/3 rds of the Amyitis crew have decided to temporarily leave our beloved city of San Francisco to re-vision our path in agriculture.  While the adventure of Amyitis has been an education in itself, we see the value in revisiting some more classical types of experiential education.  For better or for worse, we hope to bring back  a new insight to our practices here in the city by taking an intensive peek at green thumbs the world over.

After my recent journey into permaculture with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody (who begin their winter PDC next week) my inspiration drove me to dive more deeply into the world of holistic thinking and design.  Permaculture had its origins in Australia out of necessity in the 1970’s.  Brackish soils and paralyzing drought were some of the issues dooming Australian farmers and landowners everywhere. A, then, slow-moving idea (or more accurately a group of ideas) called permaculture housed a group of time-tested, environmentally conscious, and highly productive strategies and techniques under one set of clear principles.  Nearly 40 years later, permaculture has now become a fast growing and ever-more widely accepted design strategy having communities, courses and certifications available globally.  One of these communities is the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia run by Geoff and Nadia Lawton.  Designers using permaculture’s design lense strive to create and encourage systems that are beyond sustainable; regenerative.  People like Geoff have spent a lifetime training them.  I have decided to spend 10 weeks on Geoff’s farm to learn to see through this lense a bit more and gain a mastery of some of the more popular techniques made famous by permies. I hope to return empowered and inspired to see Amyitis through to its next phase.

Katie Conry has taken advantage of her work situation to explore S. E. Asia and beyond willingly working on organic farms in places like India, Malaysia, and Nepal.  I feel encouraged and inspired that Katie’s interest in food has driven her forward both in the world of the blogosphere and into the garden.  I trust Katie will also come back inspired and ready to apply her energy with a new lense.  We wish her well and await her safe return.

Eben Bell will be here to take care of your Amyitis queries, comments, and collaborations.  Look for him at the Free Farm Stand on Sundays in the Mission, or perhaps you local Mission street corner.  Keep posted as Katie and I will be sending posts from the Southern Hemisphere.

Until then, Happy Gardening!

-David

Better late than never

Out of Reach (Dec 2-8, 2009) SF Bay Guardian.

I meant to post a link to this article when it came out about two weeks ago and well…forgot.  It is a really well-written article that highlights a really big concern with the food movement world-wide; how do we make good food accessible to everyone?  Amyitis’ initial mission was to provide produce to Boogaloos restaurant as a reaction to this very issue.  I thought, “get a restaurant employee (me) to grow local organic produce for a greasy-spoon style diner= affordable prices for priceless food, violla!”  Well, for those that have been following our story here at Amyitis, you know that, while we made some waves, nothing quite worked out as planned.

Streams of resistance from many points on high lead us into the heart of this quandary when we started growing for The Corner.  We started out aiming to make healthy food cheap and accessible as we thought possible (and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but even eating out at a diner isn’t cheap anymore) but instead ended up growing exclusively for the most upscale restaurant in our fleet.  Why?  Well, for so many reasons, not the least of which being, menu, client volume, and product consistency, the upper-crust Corner was the only establishment truly equipped to handle the produce.  We were well-intentioned but foiled.  Why?  Frankly, the roots of the issue go deep and touch on many different sources.  The blogging world nor I are prepared (or even interested) in the type of diatribe I could go on about food, accessibility, and equal share to all parties concerned.  For the record however I will suggest that the heart of this issue is that our cultural movement around food has caused us to open our hearts and minds but not always our wallets.  Though a generalization, it is clear that developed nations (primarily the US) don’t value the true cost of our food, that which sustains us.  Why, I ask, do we live in such a way where being a farmer is a dead-end job?  Better yet, how do we change that?  If we all understood and supported with our mouths and our wallets the true costs of food, what would our world look like?  What would our schools look like? I want to live in a world where the local hero is the woman who grows my tomatoes and our national heros are the suits who are figuring out how to make access to good food the rule not the exception.  Here at Amyitis, we are scheming for ways to bring fresh food to people who need it and pay our rent at the same time.  While we don’t have all of the answers, we know the issues.  Maybe with your help we can all make some headway.  Read the above article and make some waves with us.

Happy eating,

-David

Jack Frost.

Around the gardens here in The Mission, we’re packin’ up for winter.  As I write this, record low temps are due for the entire Bay Area tonight that dip below 30*.  This frost is most certainly a game-changer for our greens.  While there are many ways to prevent frost damage, luckily Amyitis doesn’t have all that much to protect at the moment.  Most of our space is now occupied by frost-hearty cover crop or planted deep with garlic and potatoes.  Some of these root crops have sprouted and I am curious to see how the frost affects them, the garlic shoots in particular.

In Vermont, November garlic plantings very quickly faced low temperatures and light.  This didn’t allow them time to sprout before the snows of winter; they lay protected under the ground until spring.  Here however, all of the garlic planted in November has seen the light of day due to our easy climate…. and now BAM!  An edge event like this frost can be quite destructive for a region unprepared for such weather.  I guess I’ll see tomorrow morning.

Frost occurs when a (deposition) surface temperature falls below that of the dew point of the surrounding air.  Plants not protected by a thermal mass or with exposed foliage quickly fall below dew point temperatures on these extremely cold nights and begin to collect ice crystals.  These ice crystals can destroy cell walls of many vegetable plants turning them black and rendering them “compost” within an hour.

Above and below are a couple of pics from a potato planting day.  The cut halves of the seed potatoes are dipped in ash ( highly alkaline) to prevent seed rot.  Tomorrow I will be experimenting with potato towers to examine the difference between methods.

Until next time,

Happy gardening.

-David

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Class act.

Now I plant more Fava beans and use more mulch. Find out why

For those of you that enjoy my blogging voice, I apologize for its absence.  It has been a small while since I have posted.  And as you may already know, my good friend Katie has graciously taken the helm in my stead.  But, it is my “stead” that compels me to write to you now. The subject at hand is one of drastic importance for me and for all of us.  If you are not interested yet, keep reading anyway.

The reason for my sparse blog presence has mostly because I have been immersed in my recent permaculture class with Permaculture SF. It is not for the fact that the class kept me too busy to blog, but more that I was (and still am) completely inspired and changed by this class, its teachers, and my fellow students; so much so that I have since dedicated my time, thought and effort to the principles and practices I gathered there.  In fact, with no offense intended toward my favorite UVM professors, I feel downright comfortable saying that it may be the single most rewarding class I have ever taken to date.

A good class doesn’t just transmit information, it changes the way you think.  While I am tempted here (with all of this empty white blog space beneath me) to convey some of the specific lessons from my experience, I would rather say that this class and my cohort transformed the way I see my environment, my world, and my community.  And now I see that this new lense as the most valuable tool I walked away with.  I now look at Amyitis differently.  I see our mission, my mission, as transmogrified.  You see, permaculture is not simply about learning techniques and strategies but about, what my teachers David Cody and Kevin Bayuk like to say, “overstanding” the issue.  To translate, to overstand is to interpret the whole system, understand more deeply.

I learned that, Amyitis has been utilizing some permaculture strategy since its inception, but its scope has maybe been too narrow, its berth too wide.  What I write now is to urge anyone and everyone to take a permaculture design certification class in your neighborhood or city.  If you are an engineer, a foodie, a home gardener, or even business strategist, this class will change your life.  If you are luck enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can be lucky enough to take a course with Kevin and David, HERE. They also have a blog you can follow if you like.  Don’t waste any time.  The Spring PDC starts January 13th 2009 in Potrero Hill.

Hey you may find yourself in a picture like this one, smiling your little face off.

 

2009 Fall Urban PDC Graduates.

-David

 

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Say Hello on Saturday

twitterbanner#1Join us for ARTasting 2009! Saturday, November 7th, 9pm – 2am

Amyitis will be participating in this event with giveaways worth up to $200.  Come check out our display and raise money for a good cause.  Details below:

“ARTDEEZINE IS HOSTING ITS FOURTH ANNUAL ARTASTING PARTY AND 2010 CALENDAR RELEASE PARTY ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2009 AT 111 MINNA GALLERY IN SAN FRANCISCO.12 SAN FRANCISCO NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE BEEN FEATURED IN A 2010 CALENDAR CREATED BY LOCAL ARTISTS. THE ART FEATURED IN THE CALENDAR WILL BE SHOWCASED AT THE EVENT AND THE CALENDAR WILL BE FOR SALE FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE EVENT FOR $12. PROCEEDS FROM THE CALENDAR WILL BENEFIT SLOW FOOD SF AND WOMEN’S INITIATIVE.

YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS EXCITING COMMUNITY DRIVEN EVENT IN SUPPORT OF LOCAL ART AND BUSINESS AND IN CELEBRATION OF OUR BEAUTIFUL CITY THAT INSPIRES ARTISTS OF ALL MEDIUMS TO CREATE ART EVERYDAY.

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
– AFFORDABLE ART AND PRINTS FOR SALE BY LOCAL ARTISTS
– FOOD DEMONSTRATIONS
– ARTS & CRAFT DEMONSTRATIONS
– LIVE MUSIC BY DJ HUNGR AND HIS STARVIN’ FOR BEATS CREW, THE CHRIS SULLIVAN TRIO, AND HEADLINING SISTAS IN THE PIT

TICKETS ARE $15 IN ADVANCE AND $25 AT THE DOOR. TO PURCHASE TICKETS, GO TO:WWW.BROWNPAPERTICKETS.COM/EVENT/83035. EMAIL QUESTIONS TO INFO@ARTDEEZINE.COM.

IF YOU HAVE EVENTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE AMYITIS TO PARTICIPATE IN OR HOST PLEASE CONTACT US:

AMYITISGARDENS@GMAIL.COM

415-602-2696

THANKS,

THE AMYITIS TEAM.

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A little bird told me…….

davidworms

“We’re not just farming veggies, we’re farming a community” is my latest catch phrase.  It’s true, nothing fosters a greater sense of gratitude within me than getting to work with the land and the people who are connected to it.  Each day that we at Amyitis move forward through the seasons, we’re connecting with more and more people eager to share the experience, knowledge, and passion that comes with working with food and community.  And, this week has been no exception.  We’ve seen such a dramatic and beautiful response to this Huffington Post contest.  Amyitis would like to send out a huge thank you to everyone who’s been voting for us and to all of the contestants who are participating.  Our fellow contestants are our nation-wide heroes; what a fun way to share information about our National Farming Community! We have no idea when HP plans to close the contest so you might as well keep on voting for us. Help us spread the national word about SF backyard farming!

Prep School

IMG_0850 While I’ll never stop missing Vermont Fall trees, smells, and colors, I have come to appreciate what the Northern California Coast has to offer in terms of its relative seasons.  There is just enough of a fall feeling in the air to keep me going at this time of year.  The air is crisper, the sun lower, the dreamy light more dreamy, and the tasks around winter preparations are….well…similar.  This past Wednesday we had a couple of volunteers at the gardens helping us with our garlic planting.  For those that don’t know, garlic is often planted in the fall to “over-winter” like many spring bulbs.  It is then allowed to grow usually through July in most cases when it is harvested and “cured” for several weeks before processing.  In our case, because of our backyard city scale we’ll likely not allow 80% of our garlic to mature.  We’ll harvest a great deal of it in the spring and sell it as green garlic.  Green garlic has an earthy, hearty flavor that is coveted by chefs everywhere.  It works for us too because it frees up some much-needed space for spring planting.  IMG_0854IMG_0852 While we were on a roll, we took some time to re-mineralize the soil that’s served us so well all summer long.  With some rock dust from a local quarry, volunteer Stephanie Haney adds a light coating of essential minerals to fortify our soil and prepare for some winter planting.

In Other News.

We have an upcoming event on November 7th here at the 111 Minna Gallery in SOMA.  We’re happy to be a part of an event supporting Slow Food SF and the women’s Initiative.  We’ll be there with bells on giving away free seeds and a raffle prize worth over $100 dollars! For more info go to our events page and mark your calendar. Also, our fans can now follow us on Twitter.  Catch updates, news, and the latest blog posts with our tweets. Simply go to http://twitter.com/amyitisgardens. and follow us!

Happy Farming,

David

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