Many readers will know that I am a Big Fan of Hoop Houses (aka High Tunnels) as low cost, easily erected, functional structures. Last Spring I was part of a group that submitted a grant proposal chasing some of the Stimulus Money. Obviously we failed (should have said we were expanding an interstate), but the idea of a structure producing, food, fuel, and resources in a linked system has lived on. While I spent much of the early Fall leaning strongly towards re-committing to perfecting the small scale agriculture / Suburban Permaculture model here at the Home Site, the last 2 months have given me cause to rethink that; I am more convinced daily that The Funnel is closing faster than I had let myself believe and it is time to Get Busy.
So here is my challenge to all of you: Help me design a permaculture system within a 30′ wide x 70’long x 12′ high Hoop House and I will pitch it for funding.
Here is the design criteria:
- Produces Food
- Produces Fuel
- Produces Resources
- Is self sustaining in terms of funding – we want sale-able products valued at least $10k annually (money being a convenient current measure of “surplus” goods and productivity)
- Use of only local inputs acquired on farm, or within community.
- Productive in Year #1, though system should “progress” with time as systems mature.
Short List of Resources available:
- 30x70x12 Hoop house
- Space Heat (a bit over freezing in the winter) and Warm Water from a Biomass Gasifier
- Electricity (grid for now, gasifier generated soon)
- up to 20-30 hours of weekly labor year round, 10 preferred
- Start-up Expenses up to $20,000 (Structure $5k)
- Small Scale Ag equipment (seed starts, tillers, seeders)
- 20 acre farm with 5 acres tillable – straw, ethanol / BD feed stocks, unsaleable vegetables.
- Manure from livestock
- Community Waste streams such as yard leaves, food waste, etc
Examples for inspiration:
- Growing Power
- Sweet Water Organics
- The New Alchemist Bioshelters /Aquaponics
- Midwest Permaculture’s Perpetual Greenhouse
To these we would like to add energy systems such as small scale biodiesel, ethanol, and / or methane to further increase efficiencies, reduce waste and increase outputs. Example, tilapia carcasses could be used as a methane feedstock while the digester itself adds to the thermal mass of the Hoop House reducing night time heating load and the methane burned in a generator to produce supplemental heat and electricity for pumps and grow lights or power other farm buildings.
The overriding focus is to design a system with elegant energy flows mimicking an ecosystem in true Permaculture form. We wish to use natural biological systems whenever possible rather than mechanical solutions. Technology will be very evident, but used appropriately only when natural systems are not feasible. For example, beets don’t turn themselves into ethanol without help, but Tilapia will happily breed new young if provided a proper habitat and their water filtered readily by plants such as watercress rather than industrial nitrogen filters if stocking rates are reasonable.
I envision much of the structure to house known systems generating sale-able goods such as extending the growing season per Elliot Coleman or Growing Power style vermiculture. And these “profit” systems will interweave with experimental ones such as a self propagating, natural filtered Tilapia aquaponic system using both male/female fish fed with on farm products.
But that is the rub – its a “vision” right now. There are hundreds of GREAT minds that read this blog – please comment with your musings, link to your inspirations, and help spur this project to something unprecedented to push the envelop of our sustainable culture.
If the conversation gets going I would like to form a Google Group to facilitate the uploading of documents and links. Here is a link to a shared Google Doc on a 30×70 grid to help with layouts should anyone really want to jump in.
Be the Change!!