The Permaculture Orchard

The Permaculture Orchard : Beyond Organic is a full-length educational film that will give you the tools necessary to get started on your own project, whether it’s a multi-acre commercial orchard, or a few fruit trees in your urban backyard.

Based on 20 years of applied theory and trial and error, biologist and educator Stefan Sobkowiak shares his experience transforming a conventional apple orchard into an abundance of biodiversity that virtually takes care of itself.

Stefan Sobkowiak

Trained as a biologist and landscape architect, Stefan has taught fruit production, landscape plants and design, and natural history of vertebrates at Montreal’s McGill University. He owned a landscape design firm for 20 years, developping hundreds of projects for private, institutional and municipal clients. He’s been teaching permaculture in Quebec since 1995. Stefan is the owner of Miracle Farms since 1993.

Film contents

  • creating habitat for birds / pollinators
  • natural pest control techniques
  • the trio system / plant combinations
  • the shrub + herbaceous layers
  • seed planting of annuals
  • planting fruit trees / drainage considerations
  • tree training vs. pruning
  • grafting / overgrafting
  • starting your own trees vs. buying trees
  • mulch options with a focus on plastic mulch and why/how
  • drip irrigation
  • the importance of cultivar selection
  • the grocery aisle concept
  • spraying / fungi control
  • tree protection
  • frost protection



What is PermaCycle?

Sometime in the middle of the year, i started contemplating cycling from Holland to somewhere. Like o really really really thought about it, started researching, talked to cyclist friends i used to know, started thinking about the route, ‘would i have time to stop over in Austria to see my family, maybe Switzerland to finally hug Serena after so long, how would i contact the farms, …. all these questions. One thing i knew for sure was that, i did not want to just go, i wanted to have a mission for the cycling trip, to achieve something along the way and really for this to be a learning journey but also a way to give back to mother earth.

I am part of ‘TWAM’  travel with a mission and last year i travelled across East Africa as part of  travel for impact , a trip that i have put on hold but will revive soon , my friend Mohammed is  Cycling around the world in support of environmental stewardship, and i got a request through warmshowers to host these guys from agrovelocities. So all these ideas kept coming to me, and i kept thinking ”there is going to be alot of planning involved, and where will i get the money, etc

In the past, i have done my fair share of WWOOFing, and i thought, hey, how about i cycle from city to city stopping along the way and volunteering on farms but also blogging about food production? The idea was that i would stay on farms for a bed and food and in return ofcourse help out, but also i would write something education about the good practices that were unique to these farms

Then i met Rob on warmshowers. I was checking around for a bike and ideas for touring accessories and we both realised that we shared bike touring in common and rescuing food that has been thrown away. Rob is part of the team at what the fiets, a not for profit service run by volunteers in the Dutch city of Utrecht, they help people repair their bikes and in return ask that you pay it forward by helping out another person with their bike woes. When i went to visit Rob, we got to attend the opening of a veggie bar in town, went to a house party where i met someone that i knew while i lived in Georgia but we had actually met in Armenia and had similar friends in IRAN! (crazy world). The highlight of the evening was the food we rescued from the university catering service, lots of bread, pizza, pastries, fruit, it was awesome. We talked about cycling, and because we are both advocates of ”waste not want not”, i figured when i do embark on the cycling trip, Rob will be the kind of person to go with.

But the whole point of this post, is to introduce you to a really cool project from these 2 earthlings, Seth and Jasmine of ‘PermaCycle”, ”an adventure, a journey, a desire for the liminal phase of transition, a coming of age, and pursuit of happiness…PermaCycle is a cycling trip across the country that will connect Jasmine and myself with all things Permaculture related, or as many as possible. This can include small or large farms, food forests, eco-villages, homesteads, or even just backyards…” Please follow their journey and support them physically, emotionally, spiritually by sending positive vibes, love and light to them: Rolling a tread between People and Permaculture

On December 24th, i will be travelling to Uganda as my mum and i finally put in place the learning permaculture center. We will have school plots for school children to come and learn about permaculture and grow their own vegetables while learning about food and nutrition. Through our ‘fruit in schools project”, we want to distribute fruit trees in schools so school children can adapt various fruit trees (passionfruit, mango, papaya, pome, orange, grapefruit) while learning why it is important to eat more fruit and vegetables to curb obesity and malnutrition. We are also going to have a herb garden where various natural herbs can be grown and sessions will be held to engage in the sharing of indigenous knowledge and passing it on to the younger generation. It is going to be tough coordinating all these because next year is also when i plan to be doing my PhD, but i have the utmost faith in my mum, i always say to her she has healing hands, PLUS Christmas came early when i gave her my Ipad which i was not using, this way we can communicate and be on top of things, but i will also be sourcing seeds from different open source agriculture centers around the world, in the hope of introducing them to a climate like we have in Uganda, then seeing if they survive and if more of them can be grown (not GMO)…

My friend Johannes is also in Tanzania, and he just acquired a piece of land to build a permaculture and community healing center, so i am hoping to go over and visit while i am in East Africa. Exciting times ahead



This week, foodsharing group Wageningen had a screening of DIVE!

Just incase you have not seen it, ”DIVE follows director Jeremy Seifert and his friends as they dumpster dive behind several grocery stores in the Los Angeles area to demonstrate the massive amount of food that is wasted each year in America. After showing that much of the food found in dumpsters is perfectly edible, Seifert confronts the managers of the stores to question why they don’t donate more of it to local food banks, especially in light of the 1996 Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects them from liability for such donations. The legality and ethics of dumpster diving are discussed when the stores begin locking up their dumpsters. Finally, Seifert considers the waste created by individual consumers when they throw out food that is only partly bad or just past its expiration date.

I will not say the film was a disappointment, however, it made me realise that there is much to be done by individuals if we are to address foodwaste. The makers of the film therefore came up with the ”EAT TRASH Campaign to End Food Waste” – ”this is part of a growing movement that re-examines the role of food in a society that wastes 1/2 of all that it produces. This is a call to action. the campaign aims to inspire, awaken, challenge, educate, and empower individuals to reduce waste in the home, school, work, and cafeteria. To put pressure on supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and corporations to Save More and Waste Less. To highlight the role of hunger, poverty, and waste in society and take this on as an issue of justice, ethics, morality, and common sense – imagine a world of empty dumpsters, full bellies, and regular people leading sustainable lives.

People in Europe (some) do not see food waste as an issue here, infact, after the movie someone commented ”but this is the United States, its not happening here in Holland”. For sure, food waste occurs on a higher magnitude in the US, where some  165 billion dollars worth of food per year is thrown away in America. That’s more than the budgets for America’s national parks, public libraries, federal prisons, veteran’s health care, the FBI, and the FDA combined. the food waste fiasco

However, statistics for The Netherlands look like this according to the government website

Each year, Dutch consumers throw away approximately € 2.5 billion worth of food. This is equivalent to more than € 155 per person, or around 50 kilos. Food producers, wholesalers, the hospitality industry and supermarkets discard a further € 2 billion in food.

The products consumers throw away most often are:

  • milk and milk products;
  • bread;
  • vegetables;
  • fruit;
  • sauces, oils and fats.

These figures come from the food waste Factsheet 2013.

20% reduction in food waste by 2015

This is a waste of money as well as energy. The transport and processing of waste produces additional CO2 emissions.The government therefore wants to reduce the rate of food wastage by 20% in 2015. Consumers and companies have a major role to play in this. If food producers and consumers throughout the food chain work together, the target can be met. Consumers can be more careful about how much food they buy and use. And producers can sell smaller portions or improve their packaging.

Cooperation between government and industry

In the No Waste Network, the government and the food industry are working on ways to reduce food wastage.The network brings together the agricultural sector, the food industry, supermarkets and the hospitality industry to ask each other questions, discuss issues and forge collaborative partnerships.

I go dumpster diving atleast 5 times in a month, depending what i find. Being a transitioning vegetarian, i can be picky whereby i do not dumpster dive bread or diary or meat. Sometimes i have been lucky, i find a bunch of veggies, while othertimes its all meat 😦

The evening we had the screening of DIVE! was a good one for me. Following the movie, i went home, had a snap dinner of potatoes and veggies, and tried to time the store’s closing time of 10 oçlock so i went real slow on my bike. However, when i  go there, i had company of about 5 other people, students from the university. I tried to warn them there were staff still inside the store (there is a fine of 140euros if caught dumpster diving), but they did not listen until another woman came and warned them, then they scrammed! I tried to kill time by going for a jog around the town, before coming back. The store staff had not left yet, and it was risky approaching the bins, so i got into conversation with another dumpster diver and her friend, the students who had come by car, were nowhere to be seen, so we got talking ,this woman and i. There were 4 of us waiting for the coast to be clear, the other 2 were homeless guys who also came in a van – and i got to learn that they take the food and share it with other homeless people,

The lady told me there is about 20 people that depend on this particular skip, Monday – Friday. Sometimes the guy with the van comes and wants to take everything in the skip and leave nothing for others, and apparently a few words have been exchanged before. She told me about the struggles some people have in this particular area to feed their families, especially the struggles by the homeless guys.

Once the coast was clear (store staff were still chatting in-front of the store but finally packed it in and left), we approached the bins and went shopping. I was in vegetable heaven, packets of ready made salad, green beans, strawberries, we even found a six pack of non alcoholic beer and  the guy who found it gave me a can,  i got broccoli, potatoes, more packs of ready made veggies, mushrooms, i remembered the students might be on their way as well ,so i took what i could and i left the others, hoping silently they would leave some for the students

The food i have can possibly last me until i leave for the holidays, but i might also go one more time this week to see if i can get some more veggies…if not, its no big deal. I also rescued some meat which is currently in our common freezer, if there is a pot luck dinner coming up, i might prepare that then and take it along because i will not be eating that, so…

And now, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow dumpster divers i present to you, food i found i rescued from the bin

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

November 27.2014 dumbster diary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because i live alone, this food can feed me for atleast a month, lunch and dinner… but first a smoothie from some rescued food

I try to share my dumpster diving spots with as many people as i can, and while i understand that i will not be eating out of the bin for ever, i also applaud efforts by fellow travellers that have kick-started efforts to draw attention to waste, and while i still do not know the magnitude of my actions, together with my mother, we will for 2015 set up the permaculture project for school children where they can learn about food production and how can they be a part of the food they eat

Check out these projects;

1. Rob Greenfield

2. The hunger of the world

3. agro velocities

FAO Food for the Cities multi disciplinary initiative

Food, agriculture and cities: challenges and priorities
More and more of the world’s population is becoming concentrated in and around large cities. Ensuring
the right to have access to safe and nutritious food to the billions of people living in cities represents a global development challenge of the highest order.
Promoting sustainable agricultural production in urban and peri-urban areas and developing food systems capable of meeting urban consumer demand will become increasingly important to global food security. Currently however, the important relationship between food security, agriculture and urbanization is often not sufficiently recognized.
The FAO project ”Food for the cities’‘ highlights the major issues related to food, agriculture and cities and provides a set of recommendations for action at the global, national and local level.
Urbanization, poverty and hunger
In 2008, for the first time in history, the world’s urban population outnumbered its rural population. In 2005, the world’s population stood at 6.5 billion and it is expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. This population growth will take place mainly in urban areas of developing countries,
By 2030, 3.9 billion people are expected to be living in the cities of the developing world. The impact of expanding urban populations will vary from country to country.
Depending on national policies settings and economic structure, increased urbanization can affect hunger
and poverty in both positive and negative ways.
As cities expand, so does the urban consumer demand for food. The recent food and financial crises have highlighted the problem of urban food insecurity in developing countries. Urban households have been hard hit as they saw their purchasing power declining drastically, while they have a very limited capacity to produce their own food.
Investing in urban food security
It is clear that in order to reach the Millennium Development Goal 1: ‘eradicate extreme poverty and
hunger’, urgent attention will need to be given to cities.
Food production, marketing, and transportation, as well as the sustainable management of natural resources in and around cities will play an important role in reaching this goal.
Feeding expanding urban populations will also help reduce the risk of social unrest and conflict. In addition, satisfying the food needs of expanding urban markets and promoting nutritious diets in urban households can function as a motor for economic and social development in rural communities.
Strengthening rural-urban linkages
Specific attention needs to be given to the links that connect urban and rural communities, shape the economic relationships between them and determine how water and other natural resources are shared. At a time where cities are expanding and merging, it is urgent to bridge the increasingly divide between the urban landscape and the countryside. It is imperative to think in terms of territorial planning that incorporates rural, peri-urban and urban areas and food systems.
Strengthening these links will require an improvement of current systems of urban development. In addition,
as price of energy increases and pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the costs and the distances required to transport food between producers and urban consumers will need to be reduced and better managed.
The steps in delivering safe nutritious food from the field to the urban consumer: the production, processing and marketing, are all interlinked and should mutually strengthen each other. Promoting the benefits of a nutritious and diversified diet to urban consumers is a key element in creating markets for local producers,
processors and vendors. Protecting and preserving agricultural land and forested areas in and around
cities will require progress to make in sustainable livestock production and the integrated management of land and water resources. As the demand for water increases, the treatment, productive recycling and safe reuse of waste and wastewater will be crucial for peri-urban and urban agriculture and food security. In addition, the price of phosphorous and other fertilizers is expected to rise, so it will make economic sense to recycle these inputs as much as possible.
Cities, emergencies and food security
The impacts of climate change may severely affect urban areas as they often lack environmental buffers against climate-related disasters, particularly flooding. The development of sustainable peri-urban and urban
agricultural production can help mitigate the risks of climate-related disasters in cities. In addition, to be
successful, emergency interventions designed to address the needs of internally displaced people seeking refuge in urban and peri-urban areas need to integrate food,
nutrition and agriculture components right from their initial planning stages.
Building expertise through partnerships
More than 40 cities around the world have benefited from FAO activities related to peri-urban and urban food
security and agriculture. Through these projects, which are tailored to meet specific local development priorities, theOrganization has a gained a high level of expertise in promoting urban food production that is socially inclusive and generates employment in vulnerable communities and in improving the management of land, water and and forest resources in peri-urban and urban settings.

The commitment of local authorities and integrated approaches involving a broad range of stakeholders has been necessary to guarantee the sustainability of these initiatives. For this reason, FAO works closely with
a variety of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and national and local authorities.
Food, agriculture and cities: challenges and the way forward.
There is an urgent need to ensure that cities are included on the agenda of food and agriculture policy makers,planners and institutions. Likewise, it is equally urgent to integrate food security and agriculture into the agenda of city planners and local urban authorities.
Recommendations at the global level
To ensure food security in cities during this period of rapid urbanization, the following actions should be undertaken at the global level:
• taking stock of urban food security and agriculture policies, legal frameworks and programmes that cities and countries around the world have developed, or are developing, with a view to their systematisation and wider dissemination;
• developing decision-making and planning tools (guidelines, criteria and indicators) for policy makers
dealing with urban development in relation to agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, land use planning and forestry, as well as urban food system planning and development; and
• setting up multi-stakeholder platforms (international organisations, national and regional representatives and related sectoral expertise) for dialogue, action planning and policy formulation on good governance on food,agriculture and cities, including a high-level advisory panel to FAO.
Recommendations at the local and national level
At local and national level it is imperative to support the development of policies and programmes that address the issue related to food, agriculture and cities. Support to local and national governments should contribute to enhancing the productive capacity of urban and peri-urban are as for sustainable food production, with particular attention to indigenous foods. This enhanced food production would require that important natural areas and agricultural lands be preserved and included in city development and land use plans. To ensure the sustainability of this food production, it will be crucial to safeguard the environmental health of these areas by strengthening the integrated management of natural resources, including trees, land and water throughout the entire urban and peri-urban landscape
Improving sustainable agricultural production in urban and peri-urban areas can be accomplished by using planning mechanisms that ensure:
• land use in important natural and agricultural areas is not only determined by market forces; and
• urban and peri-urban agricultural development contributes to supporting other environmental and social functions, such as mitigating and adapting to climate change, reducing urban heat islands and preventing floods.
Along with improving natural resource management, support at the local and national level should streng
then urban- focused food systems, including production, processing and marketing. This involves:
• fostering urban producer and consumer organizations and direct marketing schemes;
• raising consumer awareness about the nutritional value of locally produced and processed foods;
• supporting technical innovations that can ensure safer production, processing and marketing within both the formal and informal food sectors.
Innovative project financing and the creative use of information and communication technologies can help bring about these changes.
At the local and national level, support is also required to ensure that issues related to food, agriculture and cities are addressed in national research institutions or programmes. This support should focus on:
• promoting action and policy oriented research;
• integrating monitoring and systematization activities in all programmes dealing with urban food security and agriculture; and
• integrating subjects pertaining to urban food production and food security into university curricula
For more information: FAO Food for the Cities multidisciplinary initiative:

Permaculture – Women’s groups RWANDA

November, 2013, Rwanda

As part of the travel for impact project, i had the opportunity to travel around Rwanda for a month documenting stories of local women in enterprise. For a great deal of that time, i spent it between Northern Rwanda and  the Kayonza region meeting women in agriculture

In Kayonza, my friend Faith works with the opportunity center for women and she invited me to see some of the work the ladies were involved in, from brick work, crafts and of course agriculture.

Women for Women International (WfWI) began its work in Rwanda in 1997, three years after a genocide that left more than 800,000 dead and 2 million displaced. Since then, more than 66,000 Rwandan women have gained new job skills, knowledge about health and wellness and learned how to be decision-makers in their families and communities through our training program.

Over the years, WfWI has sought to create new economic opportunities and strengthen the social infrastructure for rural Rwandan women, the result of this was its groundbreaking Women’s Opportunity Center (WOC) in Kayonza, an hour drive from Kigali.

The WOC is designed as a meeting place that bridges the gap between urban buyers and rural farmers. It is a place where rural entrepreneurs can incubate businesses so they can transition from subsistence farming to larger-scale farming and other entrepreneurial activities. It also offers classroom space where women can learn new business skills and where cooperative, support networks and other groups can meet regularly.

The innovative and environmentally sustainable design is built on a five-acre campus. From the entrance along a well-traveled road, market stalls are readily accessible to the public. On the grounds of the WOC, facilities include a kitchen and restaurant, guest lodging, a large celebration space, organic vegetable and fruit gardens, and storage, training, and office space for lease to partner organizations and businesses. Inspired by traditional Rwandan meeting spaces, classrooms are shaped as circular pavilions and are at the center of the WOC. Behind the WOC, there is a large commercial demonstration farm in a fertile valley.

farm-iconDemonstration Farm: The on site demonstration farm not only teaches women to make an income off the land through organic techniques geared toward commercial production, it also provides food for use in the restaurant and for sale in the marketplace. In addition, animal waste can be converted to bio-gas fuel for use on-site.

From Kayonza, i travelled North under the shadows on the great volcanoes that border Rwanda and CONGO to Imbaraga cooperative.

The mission of the Imbaraga Farmer Federation is the professionalization of the farming profession to improve the welfare of farmers in rural areas and to change perceptions of the perception. Founded in 1992 by Rwandan farmers, Imbaraga comprises of 94,324 farmer members today and located throughout 5 provinces in Rwanda that brings farmers together to share best practices and resources. The organization runs on member fees (about USD 2 annually) and contributions from non-governmental organizations. Imbaraga operates three overarching programs, including training farmers in the latest agronomic practices, linking farmers with viable markets (either through identification of markets or assistance with physical transportation), and assisting farmers as they adapt to new agricultural technologies to lighten their workload. The organization is structured at the regional level, whereby farmer groups of 30 farmers organize themselves into regional groups for the election of the federation’s representatives. Imbaraga operates a full training center in Musanze, in northern Rwanda, that has the capacity to train 200 farmers each day. With a staff of 22 full-time and 50 part-time agronomists, they work to improve the technical capacity of their member farmers. Imbaraga has a long record of connecting farmers with partners such as research centers like the International Potato Center (CIP) or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Rwandan government’s Ministry of Agriculture and other farmer federations such as the East African Farmers Federation (EAFF).

Highlights from visiting both groups

1. The focus given to sustaining indigenous vegetables; In Musanze, the women groups i found were growing local vegetables for food, and the seeds were harvested and sold for supplementary income. Although not captured in the photo, there is also an orange sweet potato initiative in the region with more than 25,000 farmers growing orange sweet potato, which has good dietary components for children. The vines are sold again for supplementary income

2. The Kayonza women’s group visit was another eye opener where the women have organised themselves into a cooperative jointly growing food on the same land, shared labour and shared profits. In Kayonza, i got training on how to build a kitchen garden, and Jane the demonstration farm manager gave me some seeds for onion, carrot, green pepper for me to have a go at building my own kitchen garden – an idea that we will explore during the permaculture project for school children

This slideshow requires JavaScript.