Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Economic Projections for Ecological Agriculture

Over the past 2 years I've been developing an economic design tool for ecological agriculture enterprises.

It creates ten to fifty-year profit and loss projections based on hand-collected & collated hard research data on the following ag enterprise areas:

• Permaculture food forests, forest gardens & agroforestry areas;
• Mixed-fruit orchards;
• Small fruits, berries & hardy kiwi + grape vineyards;
• Organic annual & perennial vegetable production w/ no-till beds & greenhouses;
• Rotational grazing layouts & keyline patterns for larger livestock
• Chickens, ducks, bees and other micro-livestock;
• Composting, worm composting, and aerated compost tea production;
• Short-rotation coppice biomass production for heating & biofuels;
• Gourmet and medicinal mushroom production;
• Wetland agriculture, aquaculture & pond polyculture systems.

Pilot farms using the tool's projections are being developed in the Hudson River valley, integrated with residential and institutional developments. For an example farm prospectus created with the tool, click here.

Anyone interested in collaborating? Contact me: ethan[at] and

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All Permaculture Principles!?!

Ever notice that there seems to be a plethora of permaculture principles? And that every permaculture teachers tends to use a different set?

How could this have happened? Is this a lack of consensus in the permaculture movement? Is there a definitive set of permaculture principles?

To understand these questions better, I started to collect EVERY PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLE that I've ever seen anywhere. I've created a first-draft graphic collection of all the principles that I've found so far, organized by originator/lineage -- take a look below!

You can download a .pdf of this first draft at here.

What do you think? Is this useful?

Have you encountered a principle that's not on this map? Let everyone know in the comments below!

(Thanks to permapower for the post that encouraged me to post this!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Financial Permaculture & Ecosystem Investing

Yesterday, Greg Landua of BooyaCacao and Nemawashi Venture Altruism presented at the Green Ventures Conference. Our slideshow, which presents ground-breaking work on the new realm of Ecosystem Investing, is posted on and below:

The summary of ecosystem investing is as follows:

Would you like to invest in any of these businesses? Or have us give this talk elsewhere? Or, do you think this is all crazy? Comment below.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Permaculture Earthworks in the Hudson Valley

Yeehaw! Working with permaculture water-harvesting principles, we dug a small pond and connected it to more than 400ft of rain-capturing-forest-garden-watering contour swales. I worked with Tristan Vis (a past PDC student of Geoff Lawton's and mine) and a local earthmover Dick Stokes for 8 hours yesterday to get everything in the ground, cleaned up, and seeded with a mix of nitrogen-fixing groundcovers.

Dick skillfully operated an 8-ton CAT D4C Bulldozer in concert with a 4-ton excavator to dig the swales and excavate the pond. We calculated the water catchment on top of the ridge to be approximately 19,000 gallons per month (average), and the 400ft of swales (3 ft wide at the base, 4 ft wide at a height of 1.5 ft) have capacity to catch and infiltrate approximately 18,000 gallons into the ground when full.

We seeded the swales with red clover (Trifolium pratense)& Alfalfa/lucerne (Medicago sativa).

Here's Tristan & I in front of the lower swale.

Interested in permaculture earthworks for your property? Contact me over at

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

PDC Apple Tree Surgery

Young apple tree bark stripped off by rodents! Oh no! What can we do?!? Ethan Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture attempts a bridge-grafting technique (basically a skin-graft!) to heal the tree -- connecting the root system back to the living bark further up the tree. This is at Jason Kass's place in VT during a Permaculture Design Course. For more on bridge-grafting, see here:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Directives for Architects

So what's the role of architects in all of this?

Architects often become the de-facto landscape designers, because the majority of money in any development budget is spent on the buildings. Any landscapes design, much less integrated landscape design, is a often a tired afterthought. To go beyond sustainability, we need to step past this paradigm! The following notes are from a talk I gave at the University of Massachusetts in September 2008

As architects for a resilient & thriving future, here are your tasks:

• OBSERVE - prolonged at thoughtful observation instead of protracted and thoughtless action

• DESIGN the simplest, most functional, and most vital built 'environments' possible.

• INTEGRATE your buildings with the landscape so that they functionally interconnect with as many living systems as possible

• REGENERATE openly seek out and heal the damage and oppression done to living systems -- both internally and externally.

• LEVERAGE your work to do the greatest good for the greatest number of beings for the longest amount of time by EMPOWERING people to design with you. Spread your energy and knowledge and excitement through the networks as fast as possible.

Ask yourself:
- What is the simplest solution? what's the most functional? and what will serve the interests of all life-giving forces on the planet and meet their needs in the most harmonious way?

Whad'ya all think? Do these directives resonate with any of you architects out there?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GEEK! Permaculture Computerizing

I get this question all the time:

"What are the computer programs you use every day? What are the most useful for your work as a permaculture designer?"

So, here we go...

• Omnioutliner Pro - incredible note-taking and organize-everything software. The program I use most.
• Omnifocus - the omnigroup's implementation of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system. beautifully simple and powerful.
• Microsoft Excel - iWork Numbers would work as well, I just haven't switched over yet.
• Mozilla Firefox 3.0 - advanced web browsing
• Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) - powerful cross-platform mind-mapping; a little quirky at times but really excellent.

• Wordpress - powers my website
• Blogger - runs my 7+ blogs
• Doodle - best web app for organizing meetings
• Gmail - rocks. best email ever.
• Google Docs - realtime collaborative editing.

• Vectorworks - $1800 professional Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) software. Awesome, and a steep learning curve.
• Google Earth - free and versatile. combines beautifully with...
• Google SketchUp - free 3D modeling - quick and easy to use

• Adobe CS - especially acrobat, photoshop & indesign
• Preview (Mac OSX) - quick and functional image & pdf editing
• Quickbooks - bookkeeping & invoicing
• Keynote (Mac OSX) - way, way better than powerpoint. seriously.
• Quicktime Pro - most of my video editing here, final touch-ups with iMovie.

AWESOME. Enjoy geekin' it out.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Permaculture Pancake Polyculture

Fresh off the press from a PDC in Vermont -- A PERMACULTURE PANCAKE POLYCULTURE.

Here's the species - function list :

Long-term overstory
• sugar maple (Acer saccharum) - syrup
• black walnut (Juglans nigra) - nuts, syrup
• shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) - nuts, syrup
• black birch (Betula lenta) - syrup, tea
• sweet-acorn oaks (Quercus spp) - acorn flour for pancakes! (see for a great selection)

Selected Understory
• chicken (Gallus domesticus) - eggs (for the pancake batter!)
• pawpaw (Asimina triloba) - banana custard-flavored fruit, shade tolerant
• gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) - tasty tart fruit, shade tolerant
• currant (Ribes spp.) - tasty tart fruit, shade tolerant

This arose from our discussion of mixed-species sugar-bushes. My research & experimentation this spring shpowed that black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees can be tapped and boiled for a DELICIOUS syrup, and friends inform me that Hickories (Carya spp.) can also be tapped. Add these to the traditional sugar maple (Acer saccharum), other maple species (Acer spp.), and birch (Betula spp., especially B. lenta), and we're looking at a significantly more diverse stand of locally-appropriate sugar production!

Let's step beyond the relative monoculture of sugar maples! And go even farther for some delicious perennial permaculture pancakes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

50% by 2015: A Perennial Agriculture Challenge

From Kevin Skvorak of Regeneration CSA to the Northeastern Permaculture Listserv:
"...What percentage of the calories in our diet (NE region) should we be getting from perennial crops?  How if any way should this influence the thinking of people involved in local planning, farmland protection, and smart growth issues?"
My Response:

Howdy Kevin and All!

I think the 'should' is difficult. It depends on who we are talking about, and what their goals are.

If we approach this from the CO2 and climate change angle, and set a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by shifting to perennial agriculture, here's a proposed research track to answer your questions:

• What are the CO2 emissions resulting from annual ag. in the northeast?
• What are the estimated CO2 emissions (or sequestrations!) from perennial ag? We might look at some small-scale estimations (e.g. Martin Crawford's forest garden in the UK) and larger estimations (Badgersett Research Center's Woody Agriculture in MN, Carbon Farmers of America's Holistic Management grazing in VT)
• What might be the CO2 emissions resulting from transition between annual & perennial agriculture?

Personally, I think I can get to 5% of my calorie intake from perennial crops by fall 2010. And, I'm going to aim for 50% of my calories from perennial 'crops' (including animals!) in the next 5 years.

How about that? 50% by 2015? Anyone else want to give this a try with me?


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Congratulations Epworth PDC Graduates!!!

You all rock! Congratulations to everyone who presented their final permaculture designs and received their certificate! Here are some photos from the weekend.

Could someone post a photo of the whole class? And maybe an image of your certificate?

Go Ninja Turtles!

14 Things to do after a Permaculture Design Course

Here's a list of 14 things to do after a Permaculture Design Certification Course. This list came to me from Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, and Christian Shearer of the Panya Project and I added to it at the January 2009 PDC at the Panya Project.

1. Start at your own back door! Design and Implement!
2. Create or join a local permaculture guild.
3. Travel to other permaculture sites. (UK Permaculture database; PRI projects; Permaculture Activist Directory)
4. Take another PDC or focused course.
5. Volunteer or work in a related field.
6. Give intro talks about permaculture to groups in your area.
7. Practice making designs.
8. Host a course taught by someone else.
9. Apprentice or intern with an experienced designer or teacher.
10. Start a locally impacting enterprise.
11. Do a Diploma of Applied Permaculture Design (more info coming soon!).
12. Get an accredited permaculture degree through Gaia University.
13. Eventually become a permaculture contsultant or teacher.
14. Register as a Tagari-certified teacher.

Would you like to add to this list? Or reorganize it? Go for it the comments!

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Hi Ethan,
I'm doing a research project at Umass for my climatic change class. I want to do a case study of some different permaculture sites that are using permaculture to deal with and adapt to changes in the climate. My professor is skeptical and I really want to knock his socks off with my project. Do you know of any good sites/projects I could research? Also know of any good resources for finding more info on these projects?"

In Australia, look for Crystal Waters Ecovillage. And Melliodora on - one of the best-documented permaculture sites in the world.

And, Murrnong: A Permaculture Subdivision.

And look for Village Homes in California -- best example of a permaculture development -- there are several books about it.

Good luck!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Panya Project Smorgasbord

A slew of fresh photos from the incredible Panya Project in northern Thailand, where we're 9 days into a Permaculture Design Certification Course...

In the mud-pit, the class mixes up a fresh batch of adobe for brick-making & earth-plastering. Clay, sand, rice hulls, water, and feet.Geoffroy

Students pour adobe into 4x8x16" brick forms. On a good morning the Panya crew makes 150 bricks. Many of the structures on site are built from 1200-1500 bricks. These will sun-dry...
Everything you see in this food forest was planted 2 years ago. Incredible how quickly things grow in the tropics!
In the food forest, wow. Papaya. We just don't grow fruit this big in the temperate climate. Wait till you see the jackfruit.
One of the many fast-growing nitrogen-fixing shrub species -- a pioneer species to provide shade and improve the soil for the longer-term tree crops.
The fruits of tropical labor -- Parkie brews up a ginger-chile wine named "The Ginger Temptress".

More from the Panya Permaculture Course soon! Also check out for the ongoing COMPOST SAGA ---->

Friday, January 16, 2009

Permaculture in Thailand!

Howdy All! I'm blogging live from the Panya Project in Chiang Mai, Thailand -- an emerging permaculture paradise bursting at the seams with fresh bananas, passionfruit, garden greens, and joyful permaculture students of all ages!

Here I am with Ping Sodantha, the kinetic and bi-lingual 3-year old daughter of our head chef Kae.
For more of our adventures, check out -- I've just uploaded photos of the class building our compost pile.