Farming in C3Po Part I: Permaculture in Practice

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Sunday brunch, featuring our own eggs, arugula, tomatoes and mushrooms.

Buying food represents a large portion of Trinity Yard’s budget, for we feed our students both breakfast and lunch, and our live-in staff and volunteers receive full room and board. Thus, we are working hard to implement a simple, sustainable ag program that can be passed on to the next leaders and that will guarantee TYS a continuous food yield. Ultimately, we are striving to become more self-reliant to insure our food security and considerably reduce those expenses.

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Patrick and Eric planting cassava west of the girls’ dorm. New, composting toilets in background. (east end of zone 4) August 2014.

To accomplish these objectives, we have opted to apply permaculture principles as well as some more conventional, organic, row cultivation. Both of these approaches are part of our science curriculum.

Simon interplanting corn in the pineapple patch.
Simon interplanting corn in the pineapple patch. (zone 5) June 2014

Respecting permaculture practices, we consider our land to have five zones, each of which is planted in consideration of:

  • frequency of care
  • distance from the kitchen
  • space available
  • micro climate and
  • soil characteristics.

TYS Farm Land Mapping of Zones

In general, most of our soils need drastic and frequent amendments. Thanks to our compost piles (of kitchen waste, repurposed thatch, and collected seaweed), we have some deeply mulched beds.

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Headway! Plus, we are about to fetch a load of cow manure, which in Ghana is free for the taking. All we need is a mode of transport, and time will take care of the rest.

Farming in Cape Three Points (C3Po) is the polar opposite of gardening at home in New England. The sea breeze and the beating sun (always at our zenith here) are tough on many of our tender vegetables. Using existing hedges and creating some new ones have been key allies for blocking the sea breeze.

 

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The Round Garden (zone 2) late June 2014
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No bare soil. No pesticides. Cabbage is being protected from bugs by old mosquito netting.

And, to provide some well-needed shade, we established garden beds around our banana and plantain trees when possible.  In general, all our zones are densely and diversely planted for companionship, shading, soil and moisture retention, and reduced weeding time. Embracing permaculture practices, we have a “no bare soil” policy, which runs contrary to local habit. Education, of course, happens outside the classroom with staff and students alike.

More farming news in a few weeks!

P.S. A big shout out and many thanks to Sophie Viandier of Pay it Forward Farm for her instruction, mentorship and inspiration. For more about permaculture, visit Pay it Forward Farm on Facebook.

 

Inspiration comes in many forms.  One of ours is in the form of our daughter, owner of Pay it Forward Farm.
Inspiration comes in many forms. One of ours is in the form of our daughter, owner of Pay it Forward Farm.