Sustainable agriculture education and practicum for Kansas small farmers and ranchers using permaculture principles of ecological systems design and management

2010 Annual Report for FNC09-793

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $17,976.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Steve Moring
Vajra Farm
Charles NovoGradac
Chestnut Charlie's Organic Tree Crops
Maryam Hjersted
Prairie Lovesong Farm

Sustainable agriculture education and practicum for Kansas small farmers and ranchers using permaculture principles of ecological systems design and management


Over the summer and fall months of 2010 detailed plans were developed for designing the forest gardens at both Vajra Farm (operated by Steve Moring) and Prairie Lovesong Farm (operated by Maryam Hjersted). In order to aid Mrs. Hjersted in the development of her forest garden a detailed Master Design Plan has been written. This document is similar to a business plan for her farm and food forest project, and includes information on soil type and profile, soil nutrient composition, placement of water retention features and fruit and nut tree species. In addition detailed design layout maps have been created for both of the farms for the planting of various fruit, nut tree, and supporting plant species.

On Vajra Farm most of the nut tree species were planted during the early summer and fall. Most of the trees and nitrogen fixing species were grown from seed on the farm. Twenty additional fruit tree varieties have been ordered for spring 2011 planting. For additional information see our website,

On Prairie Lovesong Farm three 350 ft. swales were constructed on contour to hold water in the soil. The swale berms were covered with hay mulch and planted with cover crop of clover, vetch, and perennial rye. In the late fall 15 pecan trees were planted and 35 nut trees and 60 fruit trees have been ordered for spring planting. More nitrogen fixing species will be ordered for spring and early summer planting. For more information go to

In the spring of 2010 considerable effort went into the organizing and presenting of a lecture series, and field workshops on various aspects of permaculture design, care, and maintenance of producing fruit and nut tree crops, water harvesting, earth works, sustainable architecture, and green construction. In February, 2010 the KPC began its biweekly Permaculture Design Certification Course in Lawrence, KS. The course consisted of 72 hours of lecture and hands-on experiential training in sustainable agriculture, and ended with four 6-hour practicum sessions in July 2010. Grant funds were used to purchase a projector and screen for the lecture sessions of the course. Prior to the beginning of the grant period this equipment was leased. A fall lecture series was offered in Kansas City, which consisted of nine sessions. In both course offerings grant funds were used to lease classroom space.

In the fall of 2010 Steve Moring, project leader, and David Yates, web design consultant, worked together to create the Kaw Permaculture Collaborative website (

At Vajra Farm we have completed a forest garden design layout and have planted most of our nut trees and half of our planned fruit tree species. Figure 1 shows the forest garden layout at Vajra Farm, which contains the major elements that were planted in 2009 and 2010, and fruit trees planned for spring of 2011. The planted tree species include Burr Oaks (3), Chinquapin Oaks (10), Pecan var. (18), Chinese Chestnuts (8), Carpathian Walnuts (3), Paw Paws (14), Witchhazels (8) and Hazelnuts (4).

At Prairie Lovesong Farm we have completed a master plan for the development of a forest garden nut and fruit tree crop system, and the construction of three large water harvesting swales. We also planted a cover crop and the Pecan trees (14) on the lower swale berm.

We successfully completed a certified permaculture design course with 12 whole course registrants and six partial participants. We held our permaculture lecture series in the fall with 7 participants.
The KPC website was completed in mid January 2011.

Activities open to the public:
* We organized and led a permaculture urban garden and farm tour in Lawrence, KS and southern Jefferson County, KS in June with about 30 participants
* We organized and presented a one-day permaculture workshop in July at Vajra Farm with about 10 participants
* We organized and presented a one-day nut and fruit tree growers workshop at Chestnut Charlie’s Nut Tree Farm with about 30 participants.

On Vajra Farm most of the planting of major nut trees and about half of the fruit trees have been planted. In addition nitrogen fixing species have been planted throughout the Forest garden area. These include red clover, American senna, autumn olive, and bristly locust. Plans for planting in 2011 include twenty new fruit trees, including 5 apple varieties, 6 cherries, 8 Asian pear, 2 peach and a few native plum and apricot trees. We also plan to plant about 10 hazelnuts in areas that have long term access to sunlight.

At Prairie Lovesong Farm (Figure 2.) we plan to plant the following nut and fruit tree species during the spring and early summer of 2011

Area north of upper swale: Apricots (4), Peaches (4) and Plums (5)

Upper swale berm: Chinese Chestnuts (17), Apples (7), Pears (7)

Middle swale berm: Pecan var. (7), Carpathian Walnut (7), Peaches (13), Persimmons (2); alternative: substitute fruit trees with Mulberry trees

Lower swale berm: Pecans (13), Cherries(12), Persimmons(3) or Mulberry tree in place of some cherries.

In addition to planting nut and fruit trees and other nitrogen fixing trees Mrs. Hjersted plans to install a drip irrigation system for her fruit and nut tree saplings. She will install a new pump in an old well located about 150 ft from the west edge of the forest garden, and run irrigation pipe along the tops of the swale berms to access the individual trees.

On both farms we will be planting a large variety of perennial nitrogen fixing species including bristly locust, goumi, autumn olive, bush clover, Russian pea shrub, false blue indigo, New Jersey tea, ground nut (Apios sp), cow pea, vetch and other clovers.
Our plans for community education in 2011 include the offering of a second permaculture design certification class (72 hours) including a summer practicum, an introductory workshop, our 3rd annual permaculture farm and garden tour, and other fruit and nut tree crop workshops (the latter will involve our third grant partner, Charles NovoGradac).

The following is a list of community outreach events that were organized by the Steve Moring and other volunteers of the Kaw Permaculture Collaborative during the grant period from April 2010 to January 2011.

May 8, KPC permaculture crop mob at Vajra Farm. A group of seven volunteers participated in brush clearing for preparation of a forest garden site.

June 2, publication of grant narrative on Google Groups list-serve site.

June 26, KPC agroforesty workshop: Integrated Urban and Farm Permaculture Food Production Systems at Michael Almon's Urban Permaculture Project and Chestnut Charlie's Tree Crop Farm
in Lawrence, KS. The workshop demonstrated how permaculture principles and design concepts can be applied to both urban and farm scale settings.

July 10 Workshop on Broad Acre Permaculture at Vajra farm, 10 am – 4 pm. This event included a lecture outlining the history of the farm, the construction of a passive solar home, and the creation of a food production system based on permaculture design principles.

July 18, 2nd Annual Permaculture Tour of Farms and Gardens. This guided tour started at Forest Floor Permaculture, Lawrence KS, and proceeding through a total of six urban and rural permaculture sites.

July 28 & 31, Two day water harvesting practicum workshop at the Hjersted farm in Linwood, KS. At this workshop participants were involved in the laying out, excavation and construction of swales, mulching and cover crop planting.

Aug. 2010 – Jan 2011, publication of permaculture project story, courses, lectures and events on Google Groups site (, and KPC websites.

Sept. 23 – Nov.18, Weekly KPC lecture series Matt Ross Recreation Center, Kansas City, KS. Introduction to Permaculture Ethics, Principles and Design.

Sept. 25, Nut Grower Harvest Workshop at Chestnut Charlie’s Nut Tree Farm. Charlie NovoGradac discussed the history of his organic nut crop operation. The chestnut harvest was in full swing and participants joined in the chestnut gathering. Discussions included care and maintenance of the orchard, observation and comparison of mature and productive chestnut, pecan, black walnut, Carpathian walnut, hazel nut trees, and other fruit and berry selections.

Oct. 9, NCR-SARE Grant writer workshop. Among the program presentations was the KPC farmer/rancher project presentation by Steve Moring. About 30 people attended the workshop.

Oct. 25, Lawrence Journal World story of SARE farmer-ranch (KPC) project: Nature at work: Permaculture teaches sustainable techniques to growers, see publication at

2010 Quarterly KPC meetings where members share skills and discuss projects. Four events occurred on the following dates: Jan.3, April 3, Aug. 8 and Nov. 21.

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