Build Infrastructure for Climate Change Program
[Once the video starts, click the "cc" logo, for subtitles.]
A note from Peter Bane, author of The Permaculture Handbook
Climate change is everywhere demanding our attention: killer heatwaves, on top of drought, fire, storm, and flood fill the news almost daily. These alarming reports of horrifying events around the world have caused many to develop symptoms of anger, worry, insecurity, and frustration. In fact, so many people are experiencing the same thing that the condition has been given a name—climate anxiety. I would like to introduce you to two colleagues, Karen and Craig Russon, who are channeling their climate anxiety into positive action.
Karen and Craig have devoted their lives to helping others improve their own from the days when they served in the Peace Corps together. As Craig approaches formal retirement from service with the U.N., they want to make a difference in this critical global struggle. Their underlying values, plus their experience in development, management, and agricultural systems, coupled with their growing anxiety about the state of the world led them to start a private operating foundation called the Climate Change Permaculture Project (CCPP) in 2021. Its mission is to create a critical mass of farmers who, by adopting regenerative practices, can help to reverse the effects of climate change and address food insecurity.
CCPP’s main activity is the Permaculture Incubator Program (PIP)—designed like a small business incubator, only for regenerative farming. They have applied for federal funds, and written to private foundations for grants to support the program, so far without success, but they are not daunted.
The design for PIP calls for farmer candidates to be recruited, trained, and provided with housing and access to adjacent plots of farmland where they will be supported to start production for sale into the local food system. They envision the trainees learning the ropes of market farming, accumulating resources and skills, and graduating to larger plots of land as their skills and capital grow. It is a program rooted in self-help, but one that recognizes the significant barriers to enter farming, and the climate imperative to rebuild soils, water, ecological knowledge, and local community.
CCPP’s board includes representatives of the local farming community and its public market and food bank, as well as a nationally prominent permaculture trainer. The elements are coming together for initial success.
They have used their own funds to buy and rehabilitate a four-bedroom house, sitting on 2.5 acres of prime farmland near the town of Claire in central Michigan, with the aim of launching the first season of CCPP’s Incubator Program in 2024. They still need funding to prepare the land for cultivation, including a land survey, fencing, a well for irrigation, and more, and they are asking for your help in three ways:
1) They have set up this GoFundMe campaign to raise the money needed to prepare the land for the arrival of trainees;
2) They hope you will help spread the word about the Permaculture Incubator Program so that worthwhile candidates can be recruited;
3) Tell friends, family, and others who understand the need for climate action and food security about PIP and the funding campaign.
The plan is to lodge four PIP trainees in the house and to offer them each one-half acre to launch a farm enterprise. The trainees will receive instruction in regenerative agriculture through our partnership with Great Rivers and Lakes Permaculture Institute, a PINA regional hub supporting permaculture education in the mid-continent (greatriversandlake.org). After completing the training, they will be well-positioned to apply their learning on the farmland plots.
From their own gardening efforts in 2020, Karen and Craig raised and donated several tons of food to local food banks. They know the land is good. Out of these efforts, they developed relationships with other growers and the Farmers Market in Clare, their nearest town. This goodwill helped when CCPP’s pursuit of federal grant funding was endorsed by Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator, Debbie Stabenow, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The new farmers would be able to sell their produce into the local food system. From their own experience, Karen and Craig are confident that the new farmers will be able to share their abundance with the local food bank. There is always more produce than can be sold.
Besides training, PIP will undertake basic research. They have reached out to The Soil Inventory Project, an organization working with Al Gore. They have agreed to help Karen and Craig to measure the amount of carbon they are able to sequester. And they will learn and document varieties and methods that work best in extreme weather conditions likely to ensue from the developing El Niño.
After a couple of years, the trainees will have saved enough money to make a down payment on a farm of their own, lease some farmland, or buy farm equipment. Then a new group of trainees can be welcomed into the program. They have more land that they can make available, but housing there is a bigger challenge. With initial success, they believe that they can expand the program to train more farmers.
Providing the land and the housing has taken all that Karen and Craig could spare, and they are very close to being able to start and run this program. We still need:
• a land survey 1,000
• deer fencing 10,000
• a well for irrigation 7,000
• a greenhouse with climate battery 30,000
Taken together these will enable successful growing throughout the year, including in winter, a major consideration in our northern climate. If they can raise the necessary funds, they will build the infrastructure this summer (2023), begin recruiting candidate farmers, and launch the Permaculture Incubator Program in the spring of 2024.
So here is where you come in. If you, like they, are suffering climate anxiety and want to do something, but aren’t quite sure how, we encourage you to help them establish this facility for new farmer training, soil building, carbon capture, and farm incubation. Thanks for helping them to help reverse climate change.
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