In The Beginning

The Island Micro Farm is an experiential project based on the established system of Permaculture.

It's an experiential project because until recently, very little Permaculture was in use on this one-acre property. I admit I've always been basically a "gardening hack". That is, while I love to garden, and have been gardening on this property for over ten years, I haven't retained many plant names. I have gone about my process just planting what I liked the looks of at Lausier's Family Gardens, the local island purveyor of perennials, shrubs, tress, annuals, etc., or from plants from my sister in-law's, (Jane) perennial plant business, the Maine Accent in Hallowell, Maine.

Both Jim and Jane have beautiful gardens, are very knowledgeable and have formal educations in "matters of the plant." I on the other hand, am not and do not. My whole gardening education is based on trial and error here on Peaks Island. Some things have done well, some things have suffered. Some plants I've moved from one to place to the next to see if they might be happier. Jim and Jane have both been wonderful resources for me, in as much as I can retain anything they tell me. I suppose one could say it's been more of an "experience" for me rather than an "experiment", but I've thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

In the fall of 2010, I participated in three weekend workshops at Lizzy Derecktor's home in East Boothbay, Maine. Lizzy is a wonderful musician, (one of the founding members of the women's percussion ensemble, Inanna-Sisters in Rhythm), mother, wife, friend to many, enviro activist and concerned citizen extraordinaire, not to mention an extraordinarily skilled artist, creating hand-painted silk clothing, as well as other beautifully rendered artistic creations, such as the Sunflower World in the logo for The Maine Island Micro Farm.

So here I am at the first of these three workshops, An Introduction to Permaculture, where I meet Julia and Charles Yelton. To describe them as inspiring is a huge understatement, because you see, they have learned, lived, breathed and taught Permaculture for twenty years. Most of the people in Maine have been taught by them, and it's no coincidence that the largest Permaculture Meetup Group in North America was established and is managed by Lisa Fernandes, one of their students. Lisa is also an amazing Permaculturist and is responsible for carrying the Permaculture torch to a whole new level here in Maine.

I attended the three weekend workshops and now I'm fully hooked. As Charles is fond of saying about certain things, "Once you go down the rabbit hole you can't ever go back." And that is certainly true for me and my love of Permaculture. I didn't just go down the rabbit hole, I shot down it like my last meal was in there somewhere.

I traveled to Sicily this March to help the Yelton's prepare their newest effort, Villa Francesca (another story) for their first design certification classes in Italy, held on their property there. I was in Sicily for five weeks and took the Design Certification course myself. Now I'm down that rabbit hole in a big way, because the Yeltons are doing the three weekend workshops here at The Island Micro Farm this June, plus conducting the Advanced Design Certification Course here this fall.

We are beginning the process of turning this acre into a Permaculture Demonstration Site, so that my friends, community, family, naysayers and yaysayers can see first-hand how this system is created, how it works, it's amazing viability, and how they might apply this system to produce food on their own patch of earth.

Permaculture is a part of the growing "Localization" movement, a return to when all our food came from "just down the way", was far more nutritious and tasty, and produced using practical and sustainable methods. All the workshops offered will be full of practical knowledge and hands-on experience, taught be people who believe in the concept sustainability, or as Julia and Charles say, thrivability.

I hope you will join me in the development of The Island Micro Farm, and in the process find yourself shooting down a rabbit hole of your own.

Be Well!

Mark Shian