Andrew Schwerin leading a Study Group tour at Sycamore Bend Farm.
Jerry Landrum of Eureka Springs, and Jane Pille of Holiday Island, joined forces to start the Northwest Arkansas Permaculture Study Group. Landrum is well known for his advocacy of solar energy, while Pille is an avid organic gardener who, with her husband, the actor Richard Pille, has an extensive Permaculture garden at their home just outside Holiday Island.
The purpose of the NWA Permaculture Study Group is to inspire people to adopt resource friendly strategies as they farm, garden, or landscape their properties. Two main principles of Permaculture involve development of systems that collect and store resources, such as water and sunlight, at peak moments of abundance. Another principle is to produce as little waste as possible. Some methods to accomplish this aim are aggressive composting and recycling "grey water" such as water from clothes washers and household sinks.
Landrum and Pille schedule monthly tours of area farms and gardens that apply Permaculture strategies and methods in their operations. On May 17th, a group of about 12 area residents toured Sycamore Bend Farm, operated by Andrew and Madeline Schwerin off Rockhouse Road. The Schwerin's', and Sycamore Bend Farm, were featured in the May issue of Currents Magazine. The tagline for the article, titled "Back to the Land," was Hippie Movement's Dream Still Alive and Well in Carroll County.
While Andrew and Madeline embody some of the characteristics of the Hippie Movement, they have made significant capital and labor investments in their farm. Their operation includes acreage devoted to perennial plants such as raspberries and elderberries, a costly integrated tilapia (fresh fish) production system, and a large high tunnel for raising early season tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables. They also run cattle and goats, and have a small henhouse. These investments clearly show the Schwerin's commitment to another basic Permaculture principle, which is to earn a return on capital and labor.
Permaculture is a design philosophy which seeks to exploit and imitate naturally occurring patterns in nature, such as shade, windrows, and so on, and use them to their "natural" advantage. Permaculture designers are encouraged to develop a feel for the patterns that exist in nature, to determine their functions and the various interrelations work together. These natural patterns can often be utilized--either exploited or imitated--to satisfy specific design goals, such as assuring that less productive land becomes more productive. The goal of many Permaculture enthusiasts is to co-exist with nature and, like very good doctors, "do no harm."
The Northwest Arkansas Permaculture Study Group is open to any interested person. For more information follow it on Facebook.