Hello fellow gardeners and earth lovers, Matt Sosa here with another meeting recap. Orlando Permaculture was really excited for this meeting as it was the beginning of our Food System series. We wanted to start exploring what local leaders are doing in their yards as a means of creating and building a sustainable system that produces a high yield. Next month will focus on large scale commercial and market systems.

[Picture of Meeting Open]

After a short intro into what Orlando Permaculture does as a community,  the group got more comfortable with a quick ice breaker on irrigated land use in America. Lawns were the winner by a few millions acres, highlighting a simple and effective solution for feeding millions people if society were to look at what is growing in their front yards! Yuan and Justin continued the show with an introduction into food systems touching on permaculture principles and the relationship you can have with your own food.  Lastly they gave a brief blurb about each our local leaders highlighting some talents they display in the community.

[Picture slide show/mashup of Yuan+Justin]

Once Justin and Yuan finished up their well thought out presentation, Jeff jumped right into the real show by calling each leader to the stage to sit on our expert panel:

[Picture of Hayrie]

Hayrie Lawrence- She lives on her homestead in Winter Garden, Florida. She has been a master gardener for the past 18 years and is an active member of Simple Living Institute and Central Florida Fruit Society. Her expertise is with tropical and temperate fruit tree grafting and propagation. She also raises chickens and quail for meat and eggs. Hayrie loves to cook and experiment with gluten-free recipes.

[Picture of Mike]

Mike Grave-“My list of projects and things to learn never ends. I’m addicted to learning new skills and enjoy spreading the knowledge to others. You have the ability to do anything and the more you can do the more sustainable you are, so why not? Plumbing, electricity, solar, fermenting, composting, hydroponics, compost tea, mushroom growing, medicine making, fabricating out of wood and metal, automotive/engine repair, and tons of other things take up my entire life I’m a one man operation! My permaculture projects are funded by treasure hunting, as well as recycling electronic waste and metal, and my 9-5 is in the gardening world. I focus on medicinal/fruiting plants on my homestead.”

[Picture of Marabou]

Marabou Thomas- “I guess you could say that my day job is a farm manager growing annual vegetables, but my passion is perennial food systems with a focus on staple crops.” Marabou was one of the first people in Orlando to truly begin to embrace and begin practicing permaculture principles in his own yard. He is an expert on yams and root crops and uses then in all sorts of unconventional ways. Local artist and author.

These people were chosen because they not only describe themselves as self-sufficient homesteaders but they have had great success in growing their own food from sometimes a smaller plot of land.

Many questions were asked during the panel that lasted close to an hour. I will list a couple here and give some a summary of the panels answers to the community:

How do you feel about climate change and what is your reaction? All of the panelists understood the danger faced by climate change in the long run for humans and the planet in general, but as gardeners they all agreed the additional CO2 in the atmosphere is great for growing plants.

Do you collect your own seeds? Yes, they even noticed the seeds would increase germination year after year and that the plants would grow accustom to their soil.

What plants do you use/harvest medicinal or edible everyday? Dino Kale was a favorite as with a simple shade cloth were able to be grown all year round.

What is your definition of “homesteading”? All of them call themselves homesteaders because they have little to no waste as everything is reused, grow many of their own vegetables, and practice sustainability throughout their lives.

How do you split time between work/garden? All said they work full/part time jobs while also putting 30-40 hours a week into their gardens and STILL make time to see friends and go out. True Heroes.

What techniques do you use to preserve food? All panelist used common preservation techniques like canning and fermentation to store food for months at a time.

Do you plant crops to cover your calorie/nutrient needs? All generally planted food they enjoyed eating, Marabou specially said that he has tried to cover his daily intake of calories by planting a variety of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. He already gets daily nutrients from his above ground vegetables and is working in increasing his oil production.

Overall, we thought this meeting went very well and we thank everyone, especially the panelists, for coming out to the meeting. The first Plant of the Month was presented by Shon Law, check out Plant of the Month page for pictures and more information. Please check out the gallery for more pictures from this event and be sure to come to our next meeting in April continuing the Food Systems Series.