A few days ago a friend sent me an email asking about how our project is aaddressing the sustainability issue. I think the word “sustainability”, like “green”, has been diluted and used in so many different ways and applied to so many different things it has become difficult to discuss. Below is a link to a video of a talk given by Prince Charles on sustainability at Georgetown University at the Future of Food Conference. .. Also my short correspondance with Jack. . . 

Hi Chris.  Not sure how much you knowa about Prince Charles as an avid “sustainable” farmer. have ya read his speech to the Future of Food Conference, Georgetown Univ. Washington DC, May 4th, 2011?

In it, he defines sustainability: “as keeping something going continuously”  and the need to “keep things going”.   Question for ya. How does what you’re doing address this focus?  Jack

Hi Jack,
Sorry, I wanted to find time to watch his whole speech before I responded. 

To answer your question, I first want to make clear that we are not claiming to be “sustainable” at this point in time. That is a goal we are aiming towards, recognizing that it will take time to get there if that is indeed even possible in Maple Ridge in 2011. Obviously we are connected to our immediate community and ecosystem as well as the global community and larger ecosystems. We cannot “keep things going” ourselves without the creation of a “sustainable culture”. We want to be a part of bringing that about in whatever way we can. I see this as the role and goal of the Transition movement and am glad to be a part of it in Maple Ridge. 

As for how we are addressing this here and now. . . Prince Charles is essentially describing the Permaculture philosophy: Living within natures limits, modeling sustainable agriculture on natural ecosystems and natures resilience etc. We are only just beginning to implement some of these ideas and it will take years to see them grow into fruition. The most important thing (as the Prince mentioned) is building the soil. I have attached an assignment I did on soil management in the Organic Master Gardener course which goes into more detail but it essentially comes down to feeding the soil with organic matter and beneficial micro-organisms and not destroying it with herbicides, pesticides, man made erosion etc. As much as possible these organic “inputs” come from on our property, next best is on our street, then Maple Ridge etc. . .

Another aspect of “keeping things going” is seed saving.  We haven’t planted a crop with saved seed yet but the plan is to save (and trade locally) seeds continuously year after year.

Fruit and Nut trees and bushes are another important part of the equation as they require much less intensive labor and if they are cared for will produce for decades. As opposed to the traditional orchard we try to develop “guilds” or micro-ecosystems mimicking nature and centered around a productive tree.

A benefit of being a very small farm is that we don’t rely on heavy machinery which require fossil fuels. We are trying to do as much as possible with human power and let nature do the rest. 

As we are complete novices at all of this there are lots of ways in which we have and will “fail” (learn). The goal is to have as much of a “closed circuit ” as possible, recycling the “waste” we produce back into the system. I’m not naive enough to think we can produce all of our own food/energy/other needs or that that is even desirable. First and foremost this is an experiment and hopefully can grow into a model of small sustainable food production that could be copied and improved upon by others in the community.

Hope this helps answer your question. It’s a good one that needs to be asked and I’m glad you did.


PS. A little “sustainability irony” . . . Did I see you at Costco today??? :)