Project Summary: To create a permaculture demonstration farm and educational center to teach the local community, and international students how to live a more sustainable lifestyle using Permaculture principles. Permaculture Design Certificate courses (PDCs) and workshops in related areas - such as food preservation, straw bale building techniques, rain water harvesting, herbal medicine, and natural animal care - will help fund this project. Any surplus produce can be marketed in the immediate area to provide a source of healthy, locally grown food. Relationship building will be the key to bring together locals, including youth, members of the Nez Perce tribe, and farmers, as well as international students who want to learn to improve their lives and build community wherever they live.
Within the boundaries of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, the site is just under 44 acres, situated less than 2 miles from the town of Kamiah, Idaho, USA (pronounced CAM-ee-eye). It resides in the Palouse Bioregion, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States. While not on the Palouse Prairie itself, the project’s close proximity to one of the world’s most significant grain producing (and monoculture farming) areas of the world, presents a multitude of educational opportunities for local farmers.
Over 12,000 years ago, ancestors of the present-day Nez Perce Indians or “Ni Mii Pu” populated the area. Due to its mild climate, the Kamiah Valley served as the winter home of the Nez Perce tribe. The Nez Perce were hunter-gatherers who survived on locally harvested wildlife, including salmon, elk, mule deer and camas bulbs from the surrounding prairies. Modern agriculture has had a devastating effect on the area. Since 1870, 94% of the grasslands and 97% of the wetlands of the Palouse Bioregion have been converted to crops, hay or pasture. Until recently, this site was part of a larger farm used for the production of crops, such as oats, and most recently as pasture for cattle - it was overgrazed for more than a decade.
Geography and Soil:
Located in the Clearwater Plateau Sub-Basin, agriculture and pasture constitutes forty-nine percent of the total land use. The slope on this site ranges from three percent to forty-five percent. There are several springs and a year-round stream that runs through the property. Soil is silt-loam to silty clay loam.
The climate is unusually temperate for an area so far inland. Hot, dry summers follow relatively warm, wet winters and long, cool, damp springs. Most precipitation falls as rain for an average annual total of 24.88 inches. The Kamiah Valley has an average growing season of 165 days.
Vegetation and Wildlife:
Four vegetative categories (exotic annual uplands/slopes, bottomland pasture, wooded riparian and forested slopes) exist. Native plants include Ponderosa Pine, Black Hawthorn, Honey Locust, Douglas Fir, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Idaho Fescue, and Common Snowberry. Edible plants already established are wild plum, cherry, blackberries, pear, and apple.
Wildlife is abundant. Whitetail Deer, grouse, Ring-necked pheasant, quail, wild turkey, porcupine and coyote are present.
Phase one of the project is complete. Plans for a straw bale house were put on hold due to time and financial constraints. A residence has been erected in the form a 30' yurt with a wood stove for heat. A kitchen garden and fruit trees have been planted in Zone 1 and Heritage breed livestock systems have been put in place, including cattle, horses, goats, rabbits, chickens and working dogs. A 250' section of swale has been dug, access improvements have been done and a rainwater harvesting system has been installed.
Plans for 2011 include: An expansion of our garden to cover more of the families food needs. If a surplus is produced it will be sold at the local farmer's market. Pasture improvements will be made this spring, seeding them with a more diverse range of forage and herbal plants. Electric fence will be used to create paddocks for rotational grazing and free range poultry. A small greenhouse will be built to start seedlings. In addition to several community presentations, we are establishing a calendar with scheduled voluteer days, tours and hands on workshops. We have plans to hold a PDC in late Spring or Summer of this year.
This phase will include construction of a straw bale home and classroom with kitchen facilities. Our yurt could then be re-purposed as intern or student quarters. We also have plans to add an aquaponics system.
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