The Kansas Permaculture Collaborative

The Kaw Permaculture Collaborative has changed its name to make it more inclusive of communities in Kansas. We have changed Kaw to Kansas.

Our domain name will continue to be the same.

Purpose: To foster a community of farmers and gardeners whose focus is the development of ecologically sustainable agriculture practices, production of healthy food, conservation of energy, education and the sharing of skills and labor, and creation of community self-reliance.  To embrace the permaculture ethic and share the responsibility for restoring a sustainable and ecologically viable way of life.

“Cultures cannot survive without a sustainable agricultural base and land use ethic. Permaculture is about relationships we can create between minerals, plants animal and humans by the way we place them in the landscape. The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute and are therefore sustainable in the long term.” – Bill Mollison

Imperative: We are at a crucial stage in climate change, economics, energy descent and transitioning to self-reliant homesteads and communities. Permaculture has principles and ethics to help individuals, communities and families develop their resources into stable and continuously viable homes and property. It is time to take an active role to improve our present and future food and economic security. The conventional model of industrial agriculture is totally dependent on fossil fuels for fertilizers, pest control, plowing and harvesting, transport of food, and refrigeration.  With the impending advent of escalating fuel prices due to oil depletion, this system can falter and may collapse. Our future food security must derive from a decentralized, localized, diverse system of production and distribution, become grounded in building and maintaining fertile and sustainable soils and environments.

Philosophy: To create an ecologically sound, economically prosperous human community that is guided by the ethic of care for the earth, care for people, reducing waste, sharing the surplus and working towards a sustainable future.

Goals: The Kansas Permaculture Collaborative endeavors to bring together knowledgeable Permaculture practitioners and land stewards with local farmers and urban gardeners who want to learn about and implement permaculture design and practice on their land and urban communities. We plan to develop a series of ongoing workshops on sustainable living, basic permaculture principles and certified courses in permaculture design. We also want to establish a forum for sharing ideas and skills on sustainable agriculture, food distribution, water catchment, creating biodiverse soils, seed saving & exchange, and much more.

Spring Kansas Permaculture Collaboarative Gathering

The members of the Kansas Permaculture Collaborative are planning to hold their spring meeting on Saturday, May 3 at Vajra Farm Permaculture Center. This will be a great opportunity to meet other like minded area permaculturist and learn about their exciting projects. This gathering will include a walkabout at the Vajra Farm Permaculture Center, a meeting and discussion, potluck dinner and evening bon-fire. Our meeting agenda will include KPC’s mission and plans to form a more cohesive network that provides mutual support and services to its members and community. Activities begin at 4 pm with a walkabout of our gardens and prairie. We will start our discussions about 5:30, eat around 6:30 and have the bon-fire when it gets dark.

May 03, 2014
04:00 pm – 09:30 pm
Location: Vajra Farm, 5 miles south of Oskaloosa, KS.
RSVP for directions by contacting Steve at


Permacommons at 1304 Pennsylvania Street, Lawrence, KS

The Permacommons

This is an “aerial view” (atop a 20-foot ladder) of the latest manifestation of the Lawrence, 1304 Pennsylvania street, community garden.  This was designed by Permaculture Design teachers, graduates, students and other folks seriously committed to Permaculture concepts and principles.  There is a very carefully crafted logic to the odd shapes and placement of the raised keyhole growing beds and the walking paths.  Gardeners and facilitators are invited to share in the fun, training, fellowship and bounty by becoming members of the garden.  Membership in KPC, expertise, or experience are not required.  As a member expect some wonderful physical exercise, good friendships and great healthy, organic foods.

For Information Regarding Education & Training

You will be redirected to the Kaw Permaculture website.  Please click here.

Vajra Farm Forest Garden Project

In 2008 after reading Dave Jackes’ books on creating forest gardens we became inspired to the same on Vajra Farm. When our property was purchased by its previous owner it was comprised of about 50% field and woodland in mid-phase succession toward a forested landscape. The old fields were being invaded by shrubs, cedars and small trees. After we built our home and moved onto the land in 2000 we began to intervene in the process by restoring prairie where cropland existed 25 years before.

By 2008 we had established vegetable gardens, herb gardens, vineyards and a healing garden. It was time to start thinking about a greater diversity of crops and greater food production. The idea of a polyculture forest garden system that once planted and established would support itself with little intervention from me the farmer and produce an abundance of fruit, nuts and forage sounded fantastic. But could it be done? In my way of thinking, life is a process of becoming, an opportunity for creating something unique.

In the summer of 2008 I started making maps and diagrams for a vision of a series of forest gardens. To the north of our new home was about 1 acre of a 5 acre area that was neglected in my early years on the farm. It was wild, full of young trees, shrubs, thorny vines and cedars. This was to be my place of experimentation. I reckoned that I could clear out the brush and vines where one might plant some pecan, large nut oaks, hickories and chestnut trees. So that year I planted a few chestnuts and shellbark hickories on the margin of the cedar and dogwood thicket and a strip of prairie. These trees survived the winter to leaf out in the spring.

Encouraged, I planned to get more organized and aggressive with a plan to create a food forest. In the fall of 2009 I applied for a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) farmer/rancher grant to help fund the creation of forest gardens as training sites. To my surprise we were awarded the grant, and I immediately began planning two garden projects. On Vajra Farm I called for a community crop mob. This is a concept where members of the community participate in a rotating farm help program, much like the Amish tradition. In June 2010 about six folks came out to the farm to cut the brush with shears and hand saws, using the chop and drop method. In this way most of the vegetative debris was left in place to decompose into soil. That summer I continued cutting brush, and with help of a couple of our farm apprentices, stacked branches and small trees that we cut into a series of woody berms to impede the flow of surface water across the forest floor. We then began planting sapling chestnut, pecan, chinquapin oak and pawpaw trees. We ringed the trees with poultry wire and mulched them with wood chips. Following tree planting we began planting nitrogen fixing species, including a ground cover of red clover and plantings of Russian pea shrub, wild senna, autumn olive, and chuckling vetch. All the planted species were watered weekly or as needed into the fall and mulched in preparation for winter.

In the spring with some of the funds from the SARE grant, we plan to plant more fruit trees, including Asian pear, disease tolerant apples, cherries, plums, apricots and peaches. This project will be on-going in the years to come with planting of more nitrogen fixing species and the cultivation of tree guilds of supporting perennial fruiting shrubs and herb. Our horizon forest garden layout is shown in figure 3. Representing over 25 edible species so far.

Want to learn more about Permaculture Design?  Take the 2011 Spring Permaculture Design Certification Course

Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture – Food Forest Project

An Experiment In Food Forest Design

By Daniel Dermitzel, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture

Here at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture we have been growing annual vegetables for many years. We have worked with farmers throughout Kansas City to develop and share better growing techniques to make small-scale urban agriculture more profitable.

View of site before overstory and understory plantingMore recently, some of us have become interested in soil-conserving agriculture, first no-till vegetable production and now multi-story perennial food forests. For those of us who are dependent on steady incomes from intensive vegetable production, these methods may sound impractical or difficult because they seem to require a lot of labor and / or knowledge, or in some cases produce a smaller harvest per acre than we have come to expect.

But the reasons to switch at least some of our land to soil-conserving techniques including food forests are powerful: less maintenance and inputs in the long run; soil conservation and carbon sequestration as well as insect and wildlife habitat. And perhaps food forests will one day become the way we plant our urban greenspaces and parks?

This photo shows a perspective view of the newly formed swaleAt KCCUA we have received funding from the Audubon Society and Toyota to take small steps toward converting a suburban quarter acre field from annual vegetable production to a food forest. We are starting from scratch, with little prior knowledge of perennial crops and we’re learning as we go along. We’ve read a lot of books to learn the basic principles of forest gardening and, more importantly, we have consulted with many local experts (many of them members of the Kaw Permaculture Collaborative) and we thank them and the Collaborative very much for their guidance.

The site for the KCCUA food forest is located in Merriam, KS, just a few minutes from our main Gibbs Road Community Farm. We used to grow tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, edamame and many other vegetables here until 2009. But the frequent trips for planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, etc. cost us a Aerial view of food forest project site 100 by 100 feet in sizelot of time and energy, so the idea of a lower-maintenance perennial food system appealed to us. Now we’re looking to plant a small experimental food forest beginning with the canopy trees in Spring 2011.

Our hope is that we can document our learning experience and share it with others. We’ll start that effort with a workshop on forest gardening in May 2011. Stay tuned for details on that coming very soon.

Detailed image of the design concept, rendered  in a CAD output pictureMore information about the design process and the plants we will be growing at the KCCUA food forest will be posted soon. Check this website and for information.

You can also contact Daniel Dermitzel, Associate Director and Farmer at the KC Center for Urban Agriculture ( for more information or if you would like to volunteer some time at the food forest.

Here are some pictures (above) of the site we’re developing and an image of the canopy and shrub layers as it is currently planned.

Daniel Dermitzel, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture

Rural Renaisance – Kids Building Local Community

What is “Permanent Culture” and what are the pieces that go into building real local sustainability?

For those already familiar with the term “Permaculture”, the leading descriptions would likely include the term “Design”. Permaculturists design whole system sustainable environments…and as a whole system, that can expand out about as far as your imagination.

Good design, driven by creativity, can expand and renew even the most archaic and decrepit failed systems, environments and locales. When we discard the Tyranny of Either/Or, and work together to fashion a vision of action geared towards helping our communities, amazing transformation can happen.

This TED talk by Emily Pilloton, of Project H Design is one such example of the power of community, creativity and good design.

Food Safety Issues – Check It Out

Ran across this EXCELLENT video from another food activists website. It’s an interview of “Farmer Brad”, a local farmer in Texas that is operating a CSA for a few hundred families.

NOTE: There has been a lot of folks weighing in on local food safety issues because of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) which came out of the Senate as S 510. I’ve seen folks disparage the spokesman on this video because he is “a conservative”.

We are talking about Local Food here. We all eat it… we all need it… and many folks want to be able to grow it without being hampered by excessive regulation, or the need to apply for a “permitted exception” to grow food for our communities.

This is about growing food, not about peoples politics. Anyway… nuff said :)

If you are interested in hearing what a farmers take is on new regulations… one that touches on all the issues that matter to folks who believe eating food is good, give a listen to “Farmer Brad” of Home Sweet Farm.

What’s Wrong With Our Food System? – An 11 Year Olds Honesty and Clarity

11 year old Birke Baehr grew up wanting to be a professional football player. Now, he wants to be an Organic Farmer. His reason is simple… but you’ll have to hear it from him. 5 minutes of brilliance.

Permaculture Books

Permaculture Books – “The Best Of” and some of our favorites. Help fund KPC by buying your books here.

Kaw Permaculture Collaborative – U.S.D.A./SARE Farmer & Rancher Grant

Community Projects

As many of you know three members of the KPC received a USDA SARE Farmer Rancher grant to create demonstration sites for broad acre permaculture.  The project involves emulating natural ecosystems in the establishment of forest gardens for the production of fruit and nut crops.

Digging Swales

At the Hjersted farm near Linwood, Kansas, we developed a permaculture plan to establish a food forest of walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, hazelnuts, paw paws, apple, pear, peach and a variety of other fruit and berries.

The site for our project consists of about two acres of pasture land on a 4% slope that had been used to organically graze a combination of a few cattle, sheep, pigs and free range chickens. The soil of the acreage consists of two different types in transition moving down slope.

At the top there is a Pawnee clay-loam that is classified as moderately well drained and near the bottom half there is a Sibleyville silt-loam soil that is moderately-high drained.

Finishing Swales

What does this mean for growing nut and fruit trees?  A moderate degree of water runoff, and difficulty holding nutrients in the soil.  Pecans love a moist well drained soil.

In order to better hold nutrients and moisture in the soil we planned to create three large swales on the landscape.

In theory the swales collect the water and allow it to slowly percolate into the soil as opposed to running off into a creek basin below the area. With funds provided by our SARE grant we hired an excavator to dig the swales on contour.  In late July we broke ground.  We surveyed the area and pegged out the keylines on contour.

Then a 1 ½ ft trench was excavated with a back hoe and the soil piled on the downhill slope.

Spreading Mulch on Berm

To finish the swale the uphill lip a portion of the top two swales we encountered areas of hardpan in the soil. Fortunately we were able to punch through a 2 -3 inch layer of fine sandstone-like material.  Breaking the hard pan will allow water to move in the subsoil to nourish tree roots.

The swales were completed by the 1st of August , and a team of permaculture students set out to cover the swale lip and berms with red clover seed and straw.

Our plan is to plant as many nitrogen and carbon fixing short lived perennial cover crop species to build up the soil in preparation and support of fruit and nut tree species that will be planted in the spring.

Water Harvesting in Swales

Our next step in the process is to wait for rain to learn how well the swales hold water and how quickly it percolates into the soil. On Aug. 31 the farm received about 4 inches of rain over 24 hours and the swalesfilled with about a foot or more of water. In two days the water receded about six inches, indicating a good perc rate.

To fully understand the value of the use of swales for conserving and holding moisture on the landscape see Geoff Lawton’s “Water Harvesting”.

As the fruit and nut tree forest grows through phases of succession from nitrogen fixing species to mature bearing trees the amount of material and energy input will decline and the productivity of the food forest will increase.

In 15 to 20 years the food forest may look from above like this layout design with fruit trees

Food Forest Layout between Swales

on top of the swale berm and pecan and walnut trees below. Paw Paws will be nestled under the walnut trees and berry bushes in the understory.  We are planning for hazelnut hedges on the upper edge of the swales (not shown in diagram) and insect nectaries of wildflowers in open spaces between.

To learn more about the ethics, principles and methods of permaculture consider attending the Kansas City Fall Permaculture lecture series, “Introduction to Permaculture Ethics, Principles and Design” with Steve Moring of Vajra Farm.   The course consists of a series of 9, three hour sessions with lectures and video screenings held every Thursday beginning September 23 from 6 – 9 pm at the Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty St. Overland Park, KS.

Want to learn more about permaculture design? Check out the Spring 2011 Permaculture Design Training and Certification