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



FF photo postThe Kansas Permaculture Institute of Sustainability Action is pleased to offer this workshop taught by three well versed and experienced permaculture designers.

Edible forest gardens mimic the structure and function of natural forest ecosystems through all stages of growth. Well designed forest gardens use our temperate deciduous forest as a model, maximize photosynthesis for perennial production of food, fodder, and fiber, while emphasizing low maintenance and minimal external inputs.

The course will cover: forest ecology and architecture, examples of forest gardens, principles of permaculture, site analysis and selection, healthy soil, water management, understanding plant guilds and plant community functions, selection of plant species, the design process of forest gardens, goals and financial plans, and tours of two urban food forests.  Participants will leave the course with plant lists, resources on design strategies, and a base map for scheming and dreaming their forest garden.

The instructors, who have decades of permaculture experience between them are: Steve Moring of Kaw Permaculture, Steve Mann of Cultivate Kansas City, and Michael Almon of Forest Floor Permaculture.  For more information and to register, go to, or contact Steve Moring at, or (785)691-7305.

Course fees are $125 up through 16 August 2013, and $160 thereafter.  Make checks payable to “Sustainability Action”, and mail to: Sustainability Action, P.O. Box 1064, Lawrence KS 66044.  Or pay with our PayPal button in the upper right corner of this page (please add a $5 service charge for PayPal, and note that it is for “food forest workshop”).


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.

KPC Autumn Meeting – Minutes

21 November 2010
at Forest Floor Permaculture, 1311 Prairie Ave., Lawrence KS

Present: Ben Stallings, Lori Zell, Marie Bunning, Jason Aarons, Hilary Noonan, Pete Maynard, Christine Shuck, Mike Hoey, Daniel Dermitzel, Dave Yates, Steve Moring (facilitator), Michael Almon (note taker)

Introductions and Review

After we each introduced ourselves around the circle, Steve gave a brief history and vision of the K.P.C., which is a project of the Sustainability Action Network, a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit. He then gave a review of the discussion from the August 8 meeting, and a recap of the past season activities. One of the highlights is that the Kansas Permaculture Institute is now a part of S.A.N. also, and will provide training certification within that context.

Plans for 2011

Apprenticeships – We discussed apprenticeships that would rotate among several permaculture sites such as Prairie Lovesong Farm, Vajra Farm, Forest Floor Permaculture, Karlin Family Farm, and the K.C.C.U.A. Food Forest. Such an apprenticeship could be part of a Permaculture Design Course leading to certification.
K.C. Permaculture Guild – Now that Sara Shmigelsky has moved away, the group is dormant. Hilary Noonan volunteered to try to restart it.
P.D.C. Course – Steve is planning a Spring course. It could be sixteen sessions spread out over weeks as done previously, an intensive weekend, or a typical 10-day session. But if it includes field trips, it’s easier if they are spread out, and the practicum seems easier during Summer months. The certificate will be issued through the new Kansas Permaculture Institute.
Grants – Now that S.A.N. is 501(C)(3), we will more easily qualify for grant funding. The idea is to apply for a block grant for various sites, through S.A.R.E., S.B.I.R., or others that we may identify.
Workshops – These would be informal, collaborative learning efforts in: cold frames, solar food dehydrators, rain barrels, high tunnels, etc. We could do these during the winter, inside somewhere such as at the Karlin’s, if they are willing.
Seasonal tours – We want our Summer tour to reach out more widely beyond the Lawrence area. We could include Pete Maynard in Leavenworth, Linda Hezel in Kearney MO, and the K.C.C.U.A. Food Forest in K.C. Kansas. We also may do a single-site winter tour, if it works out.]
Crop Mobs – Crop mobs have been effective several places around the country. We had a brief taste of it last Summer, but it wasn’t sustained. For it to work, it needs to be egalitarian so that participants commit to helping at the farms or gardens of each other in equal share. Participants set a calendar and choose a sequence of sites to mob. Tasks need to be planned in advance, and be something that benefits from the intensive labor of many.
Food Forests – Several are in the works. Two that are in process with a S.A.R.E. grant are at Vajra Farm and Prairie Lovesong Farm. Steve has designed both, and the second involves swales constructed last Summer, and trees and nitrogen fixing plants going in this winter and next spring. Forest Floor Permaculture was established some years back with canopy and shrub layers, but is now incorporating swales and nitrogen fixers and ground covers. The K.C.C.U.A. Food Forest is being planned by Daniel Dermitzel with a grant from Together Green of the Audubon Society. He will be planting this winter and spring.
Growers’ Land Consortium – This is an ambitious food security effort to acquire farmland near the Lawrence perimeter, and make it available to land-locked urban growers needing garden space. A few folks have discussed it for a couple years, and a meeting is scheduled for 9 December at the Lawrence Public Library. To make it work, four key elements must be coordinated: possible sites to buy, a legal structure of how folks participate and share responsibilities, a business plan to make it financially viable, and the finances found to buy the site(s).

Organization Issues

Kansas Permaculture Institute – The purpose of the K.P.I. is to be a certification agency within S.A.N. It allows for multiple teachers, but who are using consistent curriculum and standards. So far, those of us who want to participate as instructors are: Steve Moring, Michael Almon, and Ben Stallings. Ben is beginning to teach short courses in Emporia where he lives, and Michael has begun an apprenticeship program at Forest Floor. The K.P.I. already has an advisory board, but others are welcome to volunteer.
Websites – Both S.A.N. and K.P.C. are revamping their websites. Send content and comments to for both sites. Ben said it would be very useful if the sites had event calendars. The sites are at and
List-serve – Sometimes the list-serve gets inundated with partially relevant posts, and usually comes from just a few persons. Is this too much, or do folks feel okeh deciding on their own when to hit the big “D” button? Steve will send messages to the few who are posting too much.

Collaboration and Outreach

We would like to work more with other organizations like Transition Kaw Valley, the K.C. Permaculture Guild, and Transition K.C. Youth education is another area that we would like to expand into.
Reskilling – This means that most urban dwellers have lost most of the practical life skills that their grandparents knew extensively, and could not survive in the face of energy and/or food disruption. This includes folks who have chosen condo living, and those powerless from socio-economic factors. People will need access to resources and skills to use them, and the learning curve will be steep. Transition training addresses this need, but it requires the marketing of the situation to target audiences. Some public institutions are beginning, such as the K.C. Food Policy Coalition and the Douglas County Food Policy Council.
Upcoming Conferences – Kansas Rural Center “Cows, Carbon, & Carrots”, 20 November 2010, in Emporia KS. Great Plains Growers Conference, 6-8 January 2011, St. Joseph MO. K.C.C.U.A. Annual Meeting, 29 January 2011, Kansas City KS.

Next Meeting

We will meet again on February 12 at the Delaware Street Commons.

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.