The Linnaea Farm stand providing nursery plants and chicken eggs
During our last guild meeting Mike posed the question of “what will you do with your permaculture design certificate?” This proved to be a very hard question to answer. Permaculture has given me a new lens to view the world that has been slowly developing since the very first class in January. My vision of how I could use permaculture knowledge has evolved from simply designing landscapes to truly creating a life based around permaculture ethics. Being able to stay on Linnaea Farm for a week gave me the chance to fully immerse myself in a community that truly believes in providing care for the Earth and people while doing so in a careful and thoughtful way. One of the farm stewards Brent Howieson gave a very insightful walk around the farm discussing how he has incorporated permaculture techniques and principles into his own life. He talked about his many micro-businesses such as orchards, plant nurseries, and chickens. All of these streams of income also serve many other purposes in his life and on the farm. The orchard provides fruits that can be eaten, stored, made into different drinks or foods, or it could be put up for trade or sold. It’s also an area for the sheep to graze and the orchard trees provides stock for future grafting projects. The plant nursery not only provides stock for the upcoming growing year on the farm but the plants can be traded or sold. The chickens that Brent has provides eggs and meat to eat, trade, or sell. As well the chickens can provide tilling, nutrients or compost to different areas of the farm. Brent also uses different permaculture techniques in caring for his plants and animals in order to keep them healthy and resilient. Not everyone is going to be a permaculture design consultant but everyone can incorporate design techniques into their lives to make them more functional and Earth friendly. The permaculture lens is forever on and I’m truly blessed to be able to see where it takes me and everyone else from our graduating permaculture class.
Cortes Island is part of the Discovery Islands located within the Strait of Georgia and requires two different ferries from Campbell River to travel there. The geographic remoteness of Cortes Island makes obtaining resources from Vancouver Island or the mainland a timely and costly undertaking and because of this recycling resources becomes even more important. Different residents at Linnaea Farm stressed how travelling off island is not always possible in order to rectify a problem that may occur. All of the different guest speakers we talked with throughout the week were adamant that reducing, reusing, and recycling is an important part of living successfully on Cortes Island. On Linnaea Farm Adam McPhail was quick to point out how they use natural resources whenever possible but if materials are purchased they reuse them in different ways before finally recycling them. One good example he gave was how the hoop house coverings that are bought new are used as long as they can be on the hoop houses before being used on different larger greenhouses before finally being used elsewhere on the farm. Everything should have multiple uses before being returned to the Earth. Another example is the boxes that seeds are started in were made from scrap wood pieces found on the farm. These wooden boxes have many uses on the farm and can also be reused multiple times helping reduce plastic pots on the farm. Even the compost they use on the farm comes from different resources found on the farm that are reused such as manure, grass, or food waste. However possibly the most inspiring combination of reducing, reusing, and recycling came from Blue Jay Farm where we toured several small homes that were made by hand with the majority of materials being scavenged and reused. Mark Lombard showed us several different small yet gorgeous homes that were constructed almost entirely with recycled materials. He explained how construction projects are one of the main contributors to landfills in North America and that there is a bountiful supply of construction materials available if you look in the right places. I have found this too be true as I previously worked at a paint store in the industrial area of Victoria where I was able to scavenge a large amount of wood and other products that I have used for small projects. I would never have dreamed that if I continue and improve my reusing and recycling of products that I could create a home for myself one day. Truly inspiring and motivating. Everyone was taught to reduce, reuse, and to recycle by their parents or at school and many permaculture ethics and practices eco this. In permaculture systems energy or resources must be taken full advantage of before the end of their life span and they are returned to the Earth. Making use of by-products from one project and used on another is an important component. While some people on Cortes Island may practice these principles and ethics of recycling only out of necessity, all of the guest speakers we talked with described their recycling efforts as part of creating a better life for themselves and for the Earth.
Greenhouse on Linnaea Farm constructed from natural and repurposed materials
Linnaea Farm is a truly magical and inspiring place. There are so many different characters playing such amazing yet critical roles that combine to create the beautifully functional community that Linnaea Farm is. While I try not to think about the business or economic side my mind always has questions. How can this special place operate? While Linnaea Farm has had a very long history on Cortes Island of farming it has taken a huge amount of hard work and perseverance to achieve it. The annual general meeting for the Linnaea Farm stewards really opened my eyes and mind up to the value that is generated on the farm. It was great to see how happy the stewards were to learn that they had been able to balance the books and were able to turn a profit this year. Economically the farm is growing and becoming stronger. However when Tamara McPhail awarded a 30 year recognition certificate to resident stewards Liz Richardson and Brent Howieson, the true value of the farm was unveiled. Tamara talked about the breadth and depth of knowledge that has been passed down onto her and countless others who have stayed and learned on Linnaea Farm. It really occurred to me that the knowledge and community that has been created on this land is much more valuable than any dollar amount. Fiscally the farm may not be extremely wealthy but the real wealth generated comes from the community they have created by loving the earth and loving each other. Money may not buy happiness but doing what you believe in will. It’s truly inspiring to see.
The first day I arrived on Cortes Island I drove around a fair bit in order to try and get a sense of the area while enjoying the stunning west coast scenery. After relaxing on different beaches, doing a couple hikes and checking out the different shops I came to the conclusion that the island was very quiet with most people keeping to themselves on their respective properties. Within the first day of staying on Linnaea Farm I realized how wrong I was. Mike and Hannah did an amazing job at truly emerging us into the Cortes Island community that is alive and striving. Linnaea farm is such an amazing hub of inspiration for those who spent time there. We were introduced to David Asher a truly brilliant artisan cheese maker who was able to expand his farming knowledge while working on his passion for authentic artisan cheese making on Linnaea Farm. There was also Mark Lombard who has been developing and constructing tiny homes and natural buildings on Cortes Island and beyond. Also talking with the Klahoose First Nation opened my eyes to a strong indigenous resurgence on Cortes Island. Their village is expanding with many new exciting initiatives underway such as the community forest project. After only a few action packed days I was able to come to the clear conclusion that there is much more to this island than one can see at first glance. All of the great people we’ve met so far have expressed how fortunate they are to have other people of the Cortes Island community share their skills and knowledge with them. Cortes Island has the feeling of a special meeting place. So many different people have settled here with such a vast array of skills and knowledge. There are also many people here trying to learn through trial by fire, the community, or by nature. It’s going to be very hard to leave this special place.
A groundcone spotted in the forest