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Building Resilient Communities the Permaganic Way

How can we educate our youth to build strong communities that THRIVE? The month of September is named National Preparedness Month, with last year’s national day of action on September 30- America’s PrepareAthon! This reminds us to find opportunities to support community preparedness and resilience.

fruit trees at permaganic urban garden

Permaganic Co. is one example of an organization that strives to build resilient communities with the creation of an urban garden located in Over The Rhine, an urban historic neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This is a place where inner city youth gain new job skills, and a deeper understanding of food systems and environmental stewardship. Under the leadership of Luke Ebner and Angela Stansbury-Ebner, the garden is full of native plants, vegetables, and fruit trees.

They also offer a Permaganic certification program (with foreword by Dr. Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist at the Rodale Institute). This permaculture-based farm certification rewards growers who strive for a high level of community outreach. Permaganic emphasizes the need for all people to learn the basic survival skills of knowing how to grow their own food.

Permaganic urban garden

Permaganic combines biodynamics and permaculture methods to create a diversified, balanced garden design based on nature’s patterns. This sustainable design produces a self-supporting system that generates fertility and health as much as possible from within the farm.

Permaculture garden

Biodynamics is not only a holistic agriculture system, but a movement for new thinking connected to food and agriculture. Many biodynamic farmers work in partnership with schools, medical facilities, and other creative organizations. Community supported agriculture (CSA) was pioneered from this movement.  Biodynamic initiatives grew out of the work of Rudolph Steiner, who also founded the Waldorf schools where education is transformed into an art that educates the whole child.

Permaganic also offers curriculum combing arts, science, business, and service learning to the youth interns.

At the end of each working day, the interns come together in unity and respect to share peaceful moments of their day.

Peace Cirlce at Permaganic

When the young workers have fulfilled their commitment at the garden, they hang up their working shoes in memory of their hard earned efforts.

Permaganic urban garden work shoe display.

A wood-fired pizza can be enjoyed from the cob oven as they learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare meals with vegetables from the garden.

permaganic wood fired oven

The health of the farm depends on each part functioning together as a whole. This regenerative farming practice relies on the symbiotic relationship among the plants, crop rotations, and natural inputs such as compost to create an almost free-growing garden with little maintenance. Food desserts that can often be found in urban areas with little access to fresh produce can move towards the idea of a self-sustaining food forest.

Pemaganic urban garden

Yes, you can make a compost bin out of old jeans!

Permaganic compost bin

The permaculture design elements of growing plants on top of raised garden beds and companion swales cut out the need for irrigation or synthetic fertilizers.

This year, Luke decided not to water the garden and only depend on rainfall and these design elements. The mounds are rich with organic material and air pockets for the roots. This nutrient-rich, stable soil continuously feeds the plants and helps retain water.

Permaganic urban garden

The swales are dug out to be flat ditches so that rain water is slowed down to a standstill. This infiltrates the surrounding area with water, prevents erosion, and recharges ground water. These swales also create walk ways for easy access to the garden beds.

permaculture design

There is also a rain garden that captures storm water runoff from the building next to the urban garden. The rain garden can help filter out pollutants that are often accompanied by urban development.

Impervious surfaces-like roads, parking lots, and rooftops don’t allow rainwater to penetrate into the ground. Instead, the surface water picks up sediments and pollutants from cars and industry, and gets washed into the sewers and streets, eventually ending up in the nearest waterway.

This water filtration design can also reduce flash floods and  areas with impaired drainage. So the rain garden acts as a buffer and protects the urban garden from pollutants and frequent storm events that could create erosion.

The teens that come through this program can become inspired to be future leaders of the community as they think about sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. They can focus on the 3P’s: People, Planet, and Profits motivated by the combined principles of economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

vegetables from Permaganic urban garden

Swiss chard, carrots, enormous patty pan squash, and the best tasting cilantro I’ve ever had. Hand picked from the urban garden.

We can interact with the community on a whole new level and make a collective impact by reconnecting to our local food system.  The quality of the soil dictates the flavor of the harvest, which feeds our souls.

If you ever wanted to learn about permaculture principles, food forest design, or bee keeping, you can set your own pace with online courses from the top organic growing experts at Organic Life Guru.








For more details and pictures of permaculture design and swale-building, see Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2 by Brad Lancaster.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web-Dr. Elaine Ingham

The Soil Will Save Us – Best selling author Kristen Olsen talks about not only healing and rebuilding the soil, but also turning atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon—and potentially reverse global warming.

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