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Spring 2020

“I say that even after April, by God there’s no excuse for May.” -e e cummings

Gridlock in the transportation of food from farms to distribution centers and retail customers during this time of pestilence has forced the conversation.

When things fall apart and the center cannot hold, space appears from within the center of the dissolution. Within that space is the core of real life, the inexorable reality on which our human constructs about reality — our cultures, our belief systems, our actions — are built.

I pause as I use that phrase, on which our human constructs about reality…are built,

because as I write it, the alternative out of which our human constructs grow, emerged in the same thought. The first indicates that the way we think about the world is literally constructed: a built environment erected upon the real world. Grows out of clearly indicates an organic, immediate, and subordinate connection to the real world. Covid-19 is showing us just how inexorable reality can turn out to be. And yet, we grow out of it and are carried in its current.

Inexorably. So what do we do? Float as much as possible, breathe steady, and use every fiber of our being to stay afloat.

So now, as the food chain has fallen apart, the centralized grow-and-ship system unable to absorb the bounty, that mess at the center, all the milk, crops, and already living animals marked for slaughter stuck by sickness (organic) and shutdown (human response to stay afloat); that agricultural pile of ruin and rot is compost for a rejuvenation of local food and agricultural networks. If we turn it, amend it, grow it, and finally plant it, we can establish healthy local networks that grow naturally through local interchange of labor and its products. Regardless of how industrial agriculture handles its piles of rotting organic matter, local interlocking groups of farmers and gardeners can still grow from small independent clumps in the undergrowth to firmly established ecosystems that provide, create, and consume what they need to sustain themselves — and provide outlets for farmers when the global systems glitches.

Local growing systems in no way mean being cut off from trade in the larger world. Organic growth in the wild world applies here too: specialized ecosystems change where their margins intersect — new systems form and grow into landscapes that accommodate individual needs, and interchange materials necessary among themselves. Whatever happens in the global scale of exchange, our current situation has made clear that the hole in the center of the system is the steady erosion of local, self-sustaining economies. Basic to self-sufficiency is home or communal food production. OF COURSE we’ll trade far and wide for some things, but feed ourselves first. When we grow our own food and support local horticultural and agricultural businesses, those nutritious organic food products are available within our community. Local trade leads naturally to regional networks, which then flow into the national and global economies — but that export can’t be skimmed off the top of local food security like rich cream.

In the face of climate and weather realities we have already been facing, permaculture principles of land stewardship can guide us all to save and regain vital soil and ever more precious water. Conservation of resources is the paramount concern, and in this too, the natural world is our teacher. We can create a sub-system that sustains feed-back loops in local areas so that basic necessities are locally available and sustainable agriculture supports its community through interconnected supply and demand relationships.

The Sedalia Center is fortunate to be in achingly beautiful farming country, running along Counter Ridge to the contributing ecosystems of the Blue Ridge, valley and mountains exchanging life forms, adapting, regenerating each other. Sedalia, Virginia, is home to rich farmland, and a vibrant local farm economy. Set as it is in farm country, the Sedalia Center sees in its spacious grounds an opportunity to follow permaculture principles in planting gardens and landscaping to promote natural systems that retain moisture and recycle nutrients in the soil. The Plan is to learn by doing. This blog is a beginning to the communication part of learning, and we invite you to share your experience and questions, to use this space as a place to inform each other of permaculture activities in the area and region, and to report and consider successes and failures.

Sedalia, Virginia, has the foundation of a local food-secure economy. The Sedalia Center, as a community arts and culture center, is setting out to educate itself and anyone interested in principles of restorative land stewardship and food  and community security. The Center is one little biosphere made up of lots of individual ecosystems, and it is one sphere among several in the neighborhood. Neighborhood is pretty much an urban term. It describes the ecosystems within larger urban population clusters. But food security is really important in urban neighborhoods, and permaculture principles apply to back (and front) yards, vacant lots and marginal land as well as the rich possibilities of the Sedalia area. Neighborhood, like Community, implies human connection, an all-in-this-together mentality. Both also refer to a collection of people in a specific locale, whether they look out for each other or not. And they are living, in varying degrees of awareness and closeness, in the natural world of that place.

Learn by doing about conservation of resources, how organic organisms grow out of and return to the soil, and how to practice horticulture according to its principles. So despite its delayed start, the Sedalia Center’s first garden grown from permaculture principles has begun. These principles apply way beyond the lettuce bed; they depend also on the cross-pollination and fertilization of conversation and the interchange of ideas. This blog is open to the neighborhood — and the one next door, and the one that is developing where the two intersect.

Please join the Sedalia Center to teach and to learn, and to maintain a conversation that grows out of the ground under its feet.

About the Author-

Doris McCabe

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