Our Land-Based

Design Projects

Design and Implementation

Students attending any of our PDC Courses will learn more about these projects.

Projects

Below are examples of 4 projects we have been intimately involved in. Two are here in the states and the others are international.

03

Regenerative farming non-profit in India

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Women & Girls Empowerment farming cooperative in Uganda

CSC Nonprofit- 8.7 Acres in Illinois

Center for Sustainable Community

Current framework design - 2021

This acreage sits immediately next to the community where Midwest Permaculture (Bill, Becky and team) reside.  We are supporting our non-profit organization, Center for Sustainable Community, with the long-term establishment of a permaculture design upon their land. 

Like any good permaculture design, this framework layout has evolved over the years. This updated map encourages us to remain energized, inspired, and helps us continue on the path towards fulfilling the vision of CSC as we respond to the ever-changing patterns of life here. We have come a long ways on this project in the establishment of our food forests, building of healthy soil, pond restoration, and community outreach.

We have begun to attract more visitors through renting our Earth Shelter Cabin on Hipcamp, (Click here to learn more about the Earth Shelter) and are continuing to maintain and establish new projects such as:

We have been working with CSC on this project for several years and are making gradual progress with mostly volunteers. The design will eventually include all of the below elements.

We expect it will take about 10 years to fully establish each element of this design and then another 5 years to see them all move into greater maturity.  We want the implementation to be a learning experience for hundreds of people so we are in no hurry.

Stay with us at one of our Hipcamp sites, and request a tour! You’ll be able to walk the land with a member of our team to learn more about the design, history, and see all the ways we are working to create abundance and fertility here in Stelle.

“My family and I had the most wonderful stay! We had plenty of room in the cabin and outside for our tent. Highly recommend taking a tour… Such a cool property to experience!” – Kristen, camper from Summer of 2021

Join us for an occasional work-party days. Our occasional emails will notify you of these.

Stay up to date with our blog

Bending Oak – 25 Acres in Youngstown, Ohio

The framework basemap thus far:

The ponds

The map above shows the pond shortly after construction when it was only 1/4 full in October of 2016. There is a 2.5 acre watershed that feeds this pond and over the year-end holidays there was a 5 inch rain when the ground was still frozen underneath the soft surface. The pond filled in one week. Here  is it on Feb. 1, 2017.

Here is quick view of what the pond area looked like before clearing it.

Before construction we created a basemap showing the approximate shape and size for our excavation team noting several shelves we wanted to include to support fish and aquatic plant propagation.

The Shipping Container Barn

For a 25 acre design with plans for active production of various berry and nut crops, it is important to have a place one can work, store equipment and tools and process the harvest. To do this while reusing some recycled materials we designed a barn with a foundation base of shipping containers.

The containers provide the walls and structure to hold up the prefabricated 50′ trusses, and each also doubles as a weather tight and secure (lockable) storage room.

With the cement floor, lockable roll-up and people doors, and an off-grid solar-powered electrical system this barn has proven to be invaluable.

The Double-Deer Fencing in Fruit and Nut Orchards

Deer love to eat young trees and shrubs. Because of the large population of deer we knew that to grow anything we would have to protect it. This permaculture concept of placing two fences close together has really done the trick.

There is something about the depth perception of deer that they are just uncomfortable if it is not clear where they will land. Around the outside of both of these fences there are regular deer runs with hundreds of deer track. Inside both areas there are NONE.

DD Fence (Left): The two wire fences are 4 feet high and spaced 4 feet apart. This system is designed for another purpose, that of a chicken run. The chickens will keep the weeds down and eat plenty of the insects heading into the orchard.

DD Fence (Right): This is a single 4′ wire-mesh fence with a single white nylon cord running through pigtail stakes that are about 36″ high. The stakes are placed about 30″ from the wire fence. Bungee cords at the gate areas make it easy for access in and out and they also keep a fairly constant tension on the line so it does not droop should it stretch. The pigtail posts make it very east to pull the system up 4 times a year for mowing.

The Elements in the Bending Oak Design

swaYYam - Regenerative farming nonprofit in India

Bill Wilson meeting Malvikaa and Levi for the first time at Midwest Permaculture.

In 2014, Midwest Permaculture was visited by Malvikaa Solanki of India and her colleague Levi Mataga of the US.

Malvikaa was in the early stages of a pioneering permaculture project in India called swaYYam (a word that implies “unified self” in Sanskrit). The goal was to demonstrate an authentic and sustainable way of living to a culture that, like many, was blindly following what is called ‘progress’ rather than making conscious decisions concerning the long-term health and survivability of themselves and their communities.

Not really wishing to 'change' or 'fix' anybody, Malvikaa is simply striving to be an example of what an authentic and sustainable way of living looks like.

This long-slow process requires excellent dedication, strength, and perseverance, but it is also the most critical work on the planet.

Bill and Becky quickly realized that Malvikaa was a dedicated and passionate person undertaking very important work in her part of the world. Our two projects created an early bond as we share similar visions for how humans can live on this planet.

Malvikaa slowly integrated herself into the local village. One way she did so was by teaching and building relationships with children.

The work of permaculture is to take the small-first steps to create self-feeding, sustainable living communities, which draw from ancient tradition and natural methods devoid of stripping the earth of its natural resources — where people take care of themselves, feed themselves, build their own houses and create energy for their needs, more as a norm rather than an exception. It’s not a peripheral activity, an alternative; it is the work we must all move into as humans if we are to live responsibly. And, it is the work that feeds our hearts and our connections to life itself.

Committed to this work, Malvikaa sold her home in the city and purchased a small farm, and named it the Open Shell Permaculture site. With the love, support, and time of multiple volunteers and local residents Malvikaa has worked to build the barren, degraded soil into a small oasis of life and possibilities. And as of 2019, she is beginning to offer workshops and permaculture live-in study opportunities.

It has taken all of Malvikaa’s personal resources to bring this project into being and we would like to do what we can from our side of the world to support her work.  It is inspiring to see these progressive satellite photos of the site over the past 4 years.  This is an amazing amount of progress over such a short time considering it also includes housing structures.

Aerial View of Open Shell Farm

Malvikaa, in her polycultured-millet patch which was once a barren field.
Inspiring the girls in the village to continue on with their education is dear to Malvikaa's heart. In our opinion, her mere presence and the work she is doing on her property is likely becoming the greatest of inspirations to these young people.
Malvikaa is also spearheading what she calls the 1000 Tree Project. Now that her farm is becoming lush, green, and productive, she has earned the attention and trust of many of the local framers and villagers. The first solution to the agricultural problems of the area is to plant trees to help soak in water, build soil, and provide food & income.

All of these projects aim to maintain the integrity of the local ecology – social and environmental – and integrate sustainability into every decision. The goal is to design and build capacities and self-reliance within the community and the individual as well. Malvikaa feels that for life to have meaning and longevity one cannot separate the outer world from the inner world. They are inextricably connected.

Let’s support Malvikaa’s work in this wonderful permaculture project by sending her some financial support from the US. Every dollar from us goes a very long way in India.

(The “Donate” button is in the upper righthand corner of the page)

Malvikaa's Personal Journey

We highly recommend this 40-minute inspiring video that shares how Malvikaa found her life’s work.

Be a Volunteer at swaYYam and Visit India
We asked Malvikaa if she would like to enter into a long-term relationship so that we might trade educational travel opportunities to our Midwest Permaculture course graduates (and others) in exchange for willing hands to assist her in the work before her there.

From the swaYYam website about volunteering:

Volunteers are an essential part of the swaYYam community. One of our objectives is to be independent of outside labor and manage our daily work together with the volunteers. You are welcome at any time to come and participate in our project, to live and work together with us in awareness and respect for the environment. 

A minimum commitment of 15 days is essential to enable a worthwhile engagement. 

The project offers a wide range of working possibilities – vegetable gardens, fruit trees nursery, medicinal plants nursery, seed saving, composting, vermicomposting, natural soap making, cooking community meals, natural buildings, preserving foods – pickles, spice powders, jams, kombucha, documentation, tree planting, mulching, watering, maintaining the community space, educational workshops, building up a live fence etc.

Malvikaa wearing her Midwest Permaculture T-shirt on a busy street in India.

swaYYam, meaning: The Unified Self

-Sanskrit

Malvikaa began her young adulthood as a rather conventional Indian woman—she was married at 18 and became a mother at 19.  She lived in a small village where she raised silkworm and farmed.  By 30, she was divorced.  She moved to a city and worked with nonprofits and grassroots organizations that were related to women’s and children’s welfare, the environment, and public health.  She also pursued a master’s degree and worked as a research scholar studying the ecology of lakes and bodies of water.

This sort of work experience led Malvikaa to consider the possibility of building communities that are “progressive, inclusive, self-reliant and sustainable.”  Thus the concept of swaYYam was born, an organization that later came into official existence on December 2, 2011 as a nonprofit registered as a “Trust” with the Government of India.

In addition to the Open Shell Permaculture site, Malvikaa established the 1000 Tree Project to bring farmers together in the cultivation of abundant food forests.  Another project, known as Rangaayana, strives to celebrate and revive dying Indian folk traditions such as music, folklore, and dance.

Swales cut on contour hold extra water on the landscape
And they hold water every time it rains when this extra water would normally wash away.
Passion fruit
With extra water, plants flourish and produce greater yields.
Before swales and building soil organic matter.
After
The yields are diverse and bountiful
Now growing on this once-barren land
Drying bananas for preserving
Local children are learning along with everyone else.
Threshing one of their grains
The evening sentries

WAGE (Women & Girls Empowerment) Farm - Community Cooperative in Uganda

Isaac with his graduating class.

In 2019, Isaac Muhofa traveled from Uganda to Illinois to attend Midwest Permaculture's Design Certificate course.

As a boy Isaac became aware of, and subsequently deeply inspired by, the sacrifices and devotion his mother demonstrated while raising him and his siblings. She would work long hours to be sure her children had food to eat and the opportunity to receive an education.

From this intimate experience, he was driven as a young adult to look for simple and meaningful ways in which he could support other mothers in situations similar to the one he and his family had found themselves in. He also became aware of the degrading agricultural practices being used in his country that negatively affect the health of the people along with the natural environment. His question became: Might there be a way he could simultaneously address the needs of these areas?

For 8 years he applied himself in college, engaged in youth support and community outreach programs, and experimented in small-scale farming. When his research led him to the study of permaculture his vision synthesized and became clear.

He would find a way to help women and their children earn their own income by teaching them to use earth-friendly permaculture growing practices to raise healthy herbs and spices in whatever space they could find.

As such they would end up caring for their families, caring for their environment, and caring for their greater community, all of which are key Permaculture Ethics.

Thus Wage Farm was born.

A young mother receives seed and food as she begins her herb and spice production area. Any spare space is used.
Wage team packaging and preparing spices for distribution and sale.

Wage farm is a cooperative mostly staffed and managed by women. The cooperative purchases, processes, and sells local women’s modest harvests with a large portion of the sale going to the grower herself. The key is that all spices and herbs must be grown to the highest health standards (beyond organic), which are taught to every grower.

The Wage team goes out into the community to teach permaculture growing methods to beginner WAGE spice growers and established farmers alike. Their trainings bring value to growers operating on any level- all are taught simple and achievable ways to grow beautiful, healthy plants that produce with abundance in the most sustainable way possible.

Isaac Holding a Permaculture Training
Wage farmers assisting one another in weeding a coriander patch
Communities thrive when they have support and a means of providing for themselves.

On top of providing their growers with a market to sell their spices in, Wage is also in the process of setting up ways in which partners of the cooperative have access to tool sharing programs, emergency funds, and more secure ways to establish their own investments. It is just another way they provide their growers with tools to create their own abundance and security, all the while supporting them throughout the process.

In addition to helping their growers, Wage is also passionate about providing for the general community. The co-op created the “Keep a Girl in School” project which provides sanitary products to young girls, and promotes menstrual hygiene awareness and education. They also provide a Hamper distribution program, where boxes of food and spices are delivered to families in need.

Isaac continues to network and expand his group of farmers, helping more and more communities enter the cooperative. Here he is pictured with a cinnamon farmer.

Wage is setting a lovely example of how to care for underserved communities through support, empowerment, and education, giving people the tools they need to provide for themselves and the future. As has been observed in many developing countries, Isaac believes in this one unique way to transform communities for the better: “Target the women, change the world.”

Isaac has big dreams for this company- the impact that it has already created goes to show its potential and the amazing future in store for it. Right now Wage employs 125 farmers, but their hope is to get an additional 1,000 over the next 2 years. 

We are honored to be in collaboration with Isaac and the Wage team. As with swaYYam in India, we provide some, design, educational and consulting services to support them in doing their wonderful and needed work. We know that whatever we put into this project will be shared by Isaac and his team, tenfold.

If you’d like to join is in support of Isaac’s service to his community, please visit Wage Farm’s  website. 
Here is their donation page where you can contribute to their various causes and fundraisers.

And check out their Facebook page for updates on their projects.

As a small educational business, Midwest Permaculture cannot help everybody, but we can help a few. So we shall.

Isaac, Bill and Becky in Chicago for a quick tour of the city while he was in the States for his training.

And who knows… maybe a group of us could travel to Uganda someday to meet Isaac and his team while lending a helping hand ourselves? Let us know if you are interested? 🙂

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