We have a one-of-a kind home and farm on the northern edge of Muskegon County. Peter Bane and Keith Johnson moved there from Indiana a few years ago. They had friends in the White Lake area, and liked it here –the small-town atmosphere, and a little sophistication. They also liked its location by our Big Lake, which they feel will moderate impacts from climate change, making it a wise choice for a place to live, and good for practicing an approach to farming called “permaculture.”
Permaculture (from “permanent” and “agriculture”), focuses on designing economic, ecological and social systems that meet human needs without causing pollution or exploitation. In some ways, it’s a “back to the land” approach, but very much forward-thinking.I met Peter and Keith in 2013, when they came to town to put on a permaculture workshop. I attended the four-day course and wrote a column for our community’s local newspaper about it. I was impressed that it was an approach to suit people of many different locations and lifestyles. It encompasses everything from growing an organic garden in your backyard, to designing buildings for energy efficiency, to waste management and setting up local bartering systems. Not only does it address the environmental issues of our time, it also can also offer solutions to economic and social challenges. For example, growing an organic garden can help families save money on food, and provide healthier and safer food – both on the “to do” list of many of us these days. I remember thinking how important this new approach could be, beyond the business as usual approach, which was clearly not working. Six years down the road, I am more convinced than ever that a new approach is needed.Peter and Keith are not only farmers and homesteaders, but writers and teachers too. Peter is the author of “The Permaculture Handbook” and coordinator of the Permaculture Institute of North America. He has served as a consultant to universities, cities and landowners. Keith teaches also and focuses more on the gardening aspect of the farm and marketing its produce. Both will be collaborating with several other teachers this summer to offer a 12-day course at their farm, from July 14 to the 27th. Participants will be able to camp on the ten-acre property if they like. Tuition includes meals and materials and there are some limited scholarships. Some of the course topics include food production and nutrition, gardens and orchards, home systems for self-reliance, soils, climate and the carbon cycle, forest and trees, building design and materials, energy, land management, and village and neighborhood design.
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