[blockquote cite=”Stefan Sobkowiak” type=”center”]“You’ll go from what you do, to do what nature will do for you.”[/blockquote]
Stefan Sobkowiak of Miracle Farms and The Permaculture Orchard joins me to talk about the what’s lacking in organic systems – biodiversity. And why organic is good, but creating a polyculture is a lot better.
Stefan started out his journey purchasing a conventional non-organic orchard. He worked on converting it over to organic and realized that something wasn’t right, something was missing. The system was lacking the biodiversity that you see in nature.
So Stefan converted over his organic orchard into a permaculture, polyculture based system. He removed a lot of apple trees and replaced them with other fruit trees and support species. He added more diversity to the system giving him more products to sell, more wildlife, and ultimate a healthier, more resilient system.
A lot of commercial orchardists say that polyculture won’t work. Stefan has show that on a tree by tree basis he is getting as much yield as a conventional orchard.
He is out there trying to prove that you gross $1.00 per square foot in a polyculture system that value adds from multiple yields – poultry, fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc.
The biodiversity of the system and his design will hopefully help him reach his goal. His grocery aisle concept is smart. Planting trees with similar harvest windows increases efficiency and convenience for customers.
Stefan also embraces interns helping them to grow and follow their own goals. He echoes what Joel Salatin has said on this program, you don’t have to buy land to farm. Go out and form a partnership to get some land to get started. Learn on that land, make mistakes, and grow, then move on to your own land.
Key Takeaways from this Episode:
- Try stuff and see what works and what doesn’t. Get rid of what doesn’t work and replace it. Be brutally honest with this approach. Just because you put a lot of work into something that ultimately doesn’t produce good results, doesn’t make it successful. Maybe there is a better solution.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and adapt.
- Starting is 50% of getting the job done. Most people don’t start. Enough said.
- You’ll make the same mistakes on land that you are renting on land that you own. Use the time while you are renting to learn and make mistakes, so when you move to land you own, the learning curve is less steep.
- Setting up a polyculture/permaculture based system is more work in the beginning, but ultimately less work and a more resilient, anti-fragile system in the long run. Earthworks, soil prep, multiple plantings all take up time, but pay off down the line.
- If something takes a full day to do, then do it over two half days. This helps cut down on boredom and repetition keeping things fresh.
- Stefan emphasized the importance of good coaching. Raw skill only gets you so far, often you will need a coach/mentor to help take you to the next level.
- Incorporating animals into the system brings a lot of benefits. They eat waste breaking the pest cycle, creating disturbance, and fertilize the system. Actively and rotationally managed
- “You can read a lot, but you need to go out and test things.”
- “A plan is only as good as the paper that it is written on for a time. Then when you get onsite your still designing and the plan often changes.”
Connect with Stefan Sobkowiak:
Miracle Farms, A 5 Acre Commercial Permaculture Orchard
Year One: Abundance of Species
“When we set out to make a garden on at least 2-5 acres, in the Permaculture mode, we also set out to trial dozens of species, and to select those that thrive in our soil, under the conditions we impose, and in association with each other. Thus, in the beginning, even with generous help from our friends, we have relatively few plants of any species growing, but the basic garden assembly would have at least 300 plants representing some 240 species and 70 or so varieties. It takes a year and about $800 to put together such an assembly, and when we do so we feel the first sense of abundance, which we could call the rich abundance of species and forms. The yield is modest, more of a contribution to diet than a full diet, but many tree species will later come into production by years 3-6.” Bill Mollison
[blockquote cite=”Alan Watts” type=”center”]“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.”[/blockquote]
Connect with Stefan Sobkowiak: