How do I learn to grow food?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by adamteale, May 23, 2011.

  1. adamteale

    adamteale Junior Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I am in need of a little guidance if possible.

    I am trying to figure out how one day I will have a farm and grow fruit & vegetables on it.

    The ideas of Permaculture and Biodynamic farming are exciting and seem to be embraced around the world (from what I read on the internet) and I what to learn.

    Here I am, currently traveling in South America, wondering what I should be doing to pursue this goal.

    I have spent nearly the past ten years working in the film & television industry, staring at computer monitors all day in dark rooms.
    So I have next to no idea about how to grow anything.

    Would anyone be able to give me some guidance on how to reach this goal?
    Should I:
    * try to enroll in a University / TAFE biology/agriculture course (can I do this overseas also?)?
    * spend some serious time wwoof'ing around Australia & New Zealand learning as much as I can?

    This is a bit of a "life change" I am after, so I'm really looking to leave this industry I was working in and get stuck into learning as much as I can about how to grow food.

    Thank you for any ideas you might have!

    Cheers,

    Adam
     
  2. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Occupation:
    Farm manager/ educator
    Location:
    Hunter Valley New South Wales
    Home Page:
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    warm temperate - some frost - changing every year
    We could talk about a trade adam. I need someone to do a series on mandala gardening and small mixed farming and could give you permaculture and biodynamic experiences at the same time.
    What do you think - a slow progression ??
     
  3. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    If you've never done any gardening before then don't go to tertiary education for that just yet. Get your hands in the dirt now. Woofing is a good way to do that if you are already travelling, although bear in mind that some hosts want people with some skills already, so check out the properties well.

    If you stop in one place you could get involved in your local community garden or organic gardening group. Most gardeners are happy to help and share knowledge esp if they get some help in return.

    Spend some time in nature observing what is going on. You can learn a huge amount from this. Use permaculture resources to help you focus eg look at things like water run off, aspect of sun, where the weather comes from, what kind of soil is there, what kind of plants, other life? etc. While you are travelling, get used to looking at the land and really seeing what is going on there.
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm with Pebble. Plant something. Watch what happens. If it works do it again, if it doesn't do something different. It's as simple as that. If you feel the need to do a course head over to Purple Pear and do his PDC (or someone else's).
     
  5. geoff

    geoff Junior Member

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    Here in Oz we have a book called the Yates garden guide, which covers all the basics of growing stuff, has a section for each vegetable (covers ornamentals as well) and sowing guides. You can usually pick a secondhand copy up for a couple of dollars. I imagine other ("western" at least?!) countries would have a similar thing. Could be a good place to start the journey.
     
  6. adamteale

    adamteale Junior Member

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    Purplepear, Pebble, Eco4560 & Geoff, thank you all for your advice and suggestions.

    Purpepear - thank you very much for your offer - I have sent you a private message.

    For the remainder of my travels in South America I am going to get onto as many farms as I can via wwoofing & what i can come across on the net.
    At least to just have a look around and see how they are existing with nature - but hopefully I can get my hands dirty.

    I will either return to Australia or head to New Zealand and try to work on organic farms for 6-12 months gathering as much experience as I can.
    Hopefully after that I will have a good idea if farming is something I can do for the longer term.

    I really appreciate all your feedback, this really is a terrific forum!

    Adam
     
  7. tim@piginthemud

    [email protected] New Member

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    Hi Adam, I've developed a resource as part of my permaculture diploma work that might be of use to you. The Permaculture Practitioner provides a introduction to a number of sustainable design elements, techniques and systems that I leverage in my own designs. The journals go into the big picture and concepts underlying sustainable growing techniques and also the practical application of each. I've also included a reading list that might be of interest. Feel free to check them out at https://www.piginthemud.com/ There are six journals in total at the moment all available as downloadable pdf files. Cheers tim
     
  8. krugiodendron

    krugiodendron Junior Member

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    Milpa: an ancient form of sustainable agriculture.

    There is also a style of farming known as milpa (meal-pah) that you might want to find out about. It is practiced by many indigenous groups of Mexico and Central America. The ancient Mayans used it a lot. (Which explains why their civilization was so sophisticated, despite the fact that tropical topsoils tend to be dangerously thin - due to a highly accelerated nutrient cycle - and most tropical regions can support only a small number of people.) Basically, some farmers would clear small patches of forest and each patch would be a few dozen meters square. This mimics the events that occur when a tree falls in the forest. Subsoil layers are exposed and lots of light reaches the ground - which usually never happens in a mature rainforest. This means that the succession cycle begins all over again, starting with weedlike annuals. Over the next 20 or 30 years they practice an agricultural régime that imitates the local ecological succession. Annuals such as maize, squash, and climbing beans for the first 3 years, fruit-bearing trees and perennials such as avocado and mango begin fruiting after the 5th year, and so on until the forest hardwoods come into maturity 20 or 30 years after clearing. Some of the fruit trees may still bear fruit even after the end of the milpa cycle.

    Here are a couple of websites on milpa agriculture.
    https://www.mayaforestgardeners.org/index.php
    https://ambergriscaye.com/earlyhistory/ag.html

    In the aftermath of Spanish colonization of the Americas, however, a European-influenced milpa régime is practiced by a large number of local farmers in Mexico and Cen. Am., which prolongs the first phase of the milpa cycle. While more sustainable than the monstrosity known as modern agribusiness, it tends to put stress on the soil since annual agriculture is not well suited to the tropics.

    In South America there is a kind of soil known as terra prêta (dark earth), which can be found in many parts of the Amazon Rainforest. It contains modest amounts of charred wood, which sequester soil nutrients and so help the soil resist nutrient leaching that often occurs with heavy summer rains. Such powers of retention helps to allow for the amount of nutrients needed to sustain a rainforest ecosystem. (Although, if too much char is used even the choicest soil might be no better than bare sand.) Bonsai potting mixes include small amounts of charcoal and so are similar to terra preta. You may want to find out more about terra preta as many good things have been said about it.

     
  9. adamteale

    adamteale Junior Member

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    Hey Tim! Thankyou very much for making your pdfs available, that´s fantastic! I´m really looking forward to downloading them and having a read.

    I´m currently in Colombia and have just begun a 2 week stint on a farm out here called Fundacion Viracocha. It´s been terrific but hard work! Blistered and bruised but really enjoying it.

    Thanks again Tim!

    Adam
     
  10. Ruby51

    Ruby51 New Member

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    Just give it a try. Get a book on raising fresh vegetables, where ever you are going to stay at least a year. Buy a local book, or talk to neighbors.
     

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