Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Sustainable Living Department Celebrates Success of "Drought Proof Your Farm" Workshop
The Sustainable Living Department at MUM hosted a well received and successful workshop with Permaculture teacher Darren Doherty over the weekend of November 30th.

More than 65 people attended the “Drought-Proofing your Farm Workshop” with world-renowned permaculture expert Darren Doherty, of Australia, on Nov 30-Dec 2 in Fairfield, Iowa.  People from Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and as far away as Texas, Montana, and California were in attendance. The weekend started with a free public lecture on Friday evening where Darren introduced Regen10-a holistic design approach that starts with improving soil conditions and has the aim of going way beyond mere sustainability. It is very practical in the sense that it is local: engaging producers, consumers and ecosystems in symbiotic relationships that are profitable, healthy and always improving. Over 5000 people have taken courses with Darren across more than 40 countries and he has helped design water management systems and integrated plans for over 1500 farms.

Saturday and Sunday  were packed full of information including a keyline plow demonstration and site assessment at the farm of Dean Goodale. Said one MUM student in attendance, “we are so lucky to have this kind of knowledge brought into our community.” Another attendee, who traveled from Michigan said, “coming to this workshop was absolutely worth my time.”

Several regional permaculture groups and associations were well represented by attendees at the workshop and gathered outside of workshop hours to get updates on each others’ projects and to discuss possible collaborations for the future.  Fred Meyer, director of Backyard Abundance in Iowa City, a co-sponsor of the workshop, attended with six other Iowa City-based growers and educators and had this to say about new knowledge gained from Darren: ”There is no such thing as a vegetarian ecology. Animals are required for healthy urban and suburban ecosystems even if we choose not to eat them.  The in-depth understanding that we cannot solve major issues like climate change and soil degradation without the collaborative help of animals was profound. I fully intend to bring this knowledge back to my community.”

Margaret Dunn, Livestock Coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa, also a co-sponsor of the event, attended the workshop and shared these thoughts: “Darren was engaging and easy to talk to and to learn from. He forced people to think differently than they had been for years, yet offered concrete advice and methods. The keyline technique is quite different from anything practiced in grazing systems in the bulk of the US, so it's a bit tricky to understand. Darren did an excellent job of explaining and repeating the concepts so that all understood.”

The MUM Department of Sustainable Living is very fortunate to have been able to bring Darren to Fairfield to share this timely knowledge. We are very pleased with the turnout for the workshop and wish to extend our deep appreciation to our sponsors one final time; Practical Farmers of Iowa, The Leopold Center, The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Backyard Abundance and Solar-powered KRUU 100.1 FM have made this workshop a success by enabling the attendance of many who can now take this knowledge back to their own communities to share. We look forward to many more opportunities to work and learn together.

For more information please visit Darren and Heenan Doherty's website

For pictures of Darren and Heenan's work

For videos of Darren and Heenan's work

Article contributed by Molly Reiff

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