Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cooperative Development: housing, property, farms, festivals!

Happy October! Here in Southern California the weather has finally gone cool. We've had some random heat waves every week or two that have split my nascent pumpkins and baked to death some of the bushes I planted for a client. We had highs in the low 100s a few times but usually in the 90s. We likely won't spend much time above 80 until next year. Now I can safely plant my winter greens!

Yesterday I went with a founder of the Ventura Food Cooperative to visit the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative. The tour was insightful with lots of great conversation on the walks between their 5 houses. Some buildings were multi-apartment style and others were large houses with private and shared rooms. All had shared common areas, like kitchens, gardens, and study halls for students to enjoy in community. The SBSHC has been around for decades and owns all their buildings. Members' rent and dues cover the costs of property taxes, repairs, two staff positions, and with the largest portion being the repayment of loans used to purchase properties.

Almost everyone I speak with is interested in cooperative housing and property ownership. Some folks dream of forming a rural intentional farming community, others a shared house for social activist-entrepreneurs, urban farmworker housing, and some an interfaith community like a kibbutz. Depending on the needs of the group, either a partnership of residents would own the property, a nonprofit (as in SBSHC) might own it, or the property is simply owned by locals.

My own dream is to found a farm and retreat center for service-members transitioning out of the military and chronically homeless veterans who want to learn to make and market value-added products and to be regenerative land stewards. I'm calling this project the Warrior Scholar Agroforestry Academy.

I've learned a lot in the last few months about community-financed bonds & investment, such as those by the Centre for Social Innovation, who arranged 100s of supporters to raise $1.4 million in 4 months to finance the purchase of a multi-use building in Toronto. That means locals own the building and reap the benefits of property ownership and giving a home to social-good organizations.

There's talk in our permaculture circles to similarly finance the development of agrihoods - sustainable human settlements. More on this as it becomes available!

Coming up: Lompoc Cooperative Development Project's Santa Barbara County Cooperative Development Festival (October 10th) and Ventura's Really Really Free Market (third annual! November 8th at Kellogg Park). Come celebrate the gift economy with us (we need more coordinators! that's you!)!

For more information on these topics, check out the following links, thanks to the staff at the SBSHC:

Lots of resources at the North American Students of Cooperation and registration for their Cooperative Education & Training Institute just opened. The event is from October 30th to November 1st in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

October is Co-op Month! Watch the video about what a Cooperative is at the Cooperative Network.

Thanks for reading and for growing with us!
Robert Barnett
Permaculture Designer at Ventura Coop since Dec 2014

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Permaculture Design: Vision Plans for Sustainability

With the long hot summer in front of us, now is the time to assess your landscape and make new plans for fall planting.  Take the time that you have to observe and interact with what you have on site, and create a vision for the next big step in your garden and drought tolerant landscape.  At the same time watch how your environment interacts with the heat, look for plants that will establish through the fall and winter next year.  Look for ways to capture and retain water in the rainy season to come.

A permaculture vision plan done now will answer most of your questions and save time and money when it comes to implementation.  Don't wait.  Now it the time to slow down, stay in the shade and contemplate the future while enjoying the present!  Call us if you want a consultation.  We have the knowledge base and experience you need to bring your dreams into reality!

Tips:  If your wanting to plant something plant pumpkins for Halloween.  Top feed plants with compost and mulch those areas that are thin and need extra protection.  Then root soak with compost tea.

More tips:  Go for a hike in the local area and observe how native plants are dealing with the heat.  Nature is your best teacher!  Go for a swim in the ocean, and bring back a 5 gallon bucket of seaweed to add to your compost pile.  In Ventura, we live in a virtual paradise of natural resource.  Integrate your everyday actions with permaculture principles!

Our suggested drink for hydration:  Cool filtered water with fresh mint sprigs and a few leaves of lemon verbena.  Ahhhhh!

Relevant Links:

Seaweed Mulch

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ventura March Against Monsanto

Monsanto has become synonymous with corporate corruption and ecological destruction as activists all across the globe point to the company's practices as the prime example of negligence and greed.  With their Seminis Seed headquarters located in Oxnard, Ventura is at ground zero for raising awareness of Monsanto's destructive behavior.  

Join us and the world Saturday May 23rd in front of Ventura City Hall for a march through the street and post rally workshops.  From 9am to 2pm you'll be a part of the solution, not the problem.  Seed swaps, Solar Ovens, Compost Tea, Live music and more all throughout the day.  Say "No More GMO's" and keep you, your family friends and the world healthy and chemical free.

Relevant Links:

Top 10 reasons why Monsanto is Corrupt to the Core:

March Against Monsanto (MAM) Main Page:

Ventura MAM facebook event page:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Save Water! Grow Your Own Food!

Because of the drought conditions we are facing, we at Ventura Cooperative encourage everyone to:
  • Grow edible and water-wise gardens in your yards and communities
  • Mulch, Mulch, and Mulch those gardens!
  • Deep watering grows stronger roots, so water well and less frequently
  • Support your local community gardens and farmers markets
  • Stop eating cheeseburgers.
  • Get active and aware
Cheeseburgers: Did you know that a typical cheeseburger takes 660 gallons of water to get to your plate?  Yes, six hundred and sixty gallons!

Check out the water footprint of some of your favorite food items here.

Get active and Aware:  California is using 80% of it's water supply to grow water intensive crops in near desert conditions.  Of that 80%, nearly 100 billion gallons of water is being used to grow alfalfa to feed cattle in asia.  Think about that when you get your water rate hikes this summer.  The same government that is demanding you to take shorter showers is subsidizing the export of water intensive crops to Asia.

Read the LA Times Article here:

A good friend of ours shared this quote recently:

"The sad reality is that we are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of personal responsibility to life. If we become extinct because of factors beyond our control, then we can at least die with pride in ourselves, but to create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claims to consciousness and morality.."
− Bill Mollison

To this we add one of our favorite new quotes:

“It’s time to put away our fairy tales, all of them, and assume our responsibilities, the adult responsibilities that begin with adult knowledge. Our planet needs us. She needs us to think like healers and act like warriors. And if you think that’s a contradiction, then get out of the way.”
-Lierre Keith, Deep Green Resistance

It's not just a backyard garden anymore.  It's a beautiful and responsible way to be the change you wish to see in the world.  So mulch it, and mulch it good!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bamboo Potato Towers

Potato Towers are an easy way to grow and harvest potatoes in your home garden.  Bamboo fencing is easy to acquire, and is a reusable and renewable resource.  We cut our rolls in half and made two towers for the VCoop backyard garden.  Here is a picture of the tower a week after firstt planting.  We had a bag of potatoes that were sprouting in the kitchen.  We dropped 'em in and they took off.

As the plants grow, we kept adding straw and compost, burying the new growth up to the height of the newest leaves,  a month later the plants have already reached the top!

We'll keep adding pictures here as the tower goes through it's cycle.  Start yours now and grow with us!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Compost Tea Foliar Spray

Spraying with Compost Tea (A Brief History of Why)

When plants evolved from the water to live on land, they partnered with the microbial life in the soil and in the air.  Certain species of bacteria and fungi became the distributors of the plant’s food, and the doctors that helped them fight disease.  Plants need biologically pre-digested nutrients; it is easier for them to feed.  Like humans, they digest food that has been prepared.  Actively Aerated Compost Tea boosts the microbes and the nutrients needed to make this network thrive.

Healthy plants have a strong immune system that includes a ‘bio-film’ of microbial life from leaf to root.  Humans do too.  Head to toe.  To make use of these biological principles to feed and protect our plants, we can spray with compost tea.  I'd suggest a swim in the ocean for you humans instead.

When we spray plants with VCoop's compost tea, the droplets envelope the plant with living organisms.  The web of life of which the plant (and all life) is a part of is strengthened.  The results: Large, mineral rich vegetation with healthy leaves, decreased disease, and weakened insect attacks.  Happy plants and gardeners! Even better, apply when trees are preparing to bud, cuz compost tea feeds the delicate new growth directly and helps protect the baby leaves until they are more developed.

Note:  Plants that have been showered with compost tea have higher “Brix” levels – a measure of the carbohydrates and mineral density in the sap.  The healthy plants are better able to ward off attacks.

Actively Aerated Compost tea cannot be over-applied and does not burn leaves.  The microbe-rich droplets drip down to improve the soil below.  I usually root soak the plants too!  For growers who regularly use compost tea, there is nothing better.  The main drawback is making the brew.  Whew!  That's where Ventura Cooperative Compost Tea comes in.  We have a constant supply of tea made locally for local gardeners.  Bubblin' up right now.

Get some!  Now is the time to foliar spray with compost tea, when the buds are young and spring is on its way.  I'm spraying all our trees consistently over the next few weeks.  It give me the reason to keep an eye on their growth too.  Now is also a good time to graft new wood on fruit and citrus trees if you have them.  Remember we are all a part of the soil network.

I'm going surfing after, and bringing some kelp back to my compost piles.  Stacking functions, it's the permaculture way.

See you in the Garden!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sheet Mulching Ventura

Sheet Mulching is the best way to restore vitality and to build health in the soil. While putting to sleep traditional lawn landscapes, this permaculture tactic provides a kickstart to the "Soil Food Web" in which annual and perennial plants can thrive.  The foodweb helps conserve water, saves money, saves time and reconnects us to the living earth.

Paul Herzog and Robert Barnett use the burrito method along the edges of Paul's backyard

To begin, layer soil amendments, compost, mulch, straw, yard clippings and cardboard (see diagram above) on top of the exisiting sod and existing soil and water with compost tea.  The life and the nutrients in these layers decompose into rich soil. The richness leeches down into the lower layers and soon the land is rejuvenated.  The grass and the weeds are smothered by the layers above and become food for microbes and arthropods. Think of sheet mulching as a large horizontal compost bin.  There are many methods of sheet mulching, but the aims are basically the same-soil restoration and water conservation.

One way to keep unwanted plants from growing out along the edges, iis to use the "burrito method" which creates a double layer of material to suppress the weeds.  Paul Herzog and Robert Barnett are sheet mulch superheros using the burrito method in Paul's backyard.  See picture above.

Any time of year is good to sheet mulch, but the best time is in during the rainy season.  The rain soaks through the layers and stays in the yard.  Sheet mulching acts like a sponge, keeping the hydration where it's needed.

Soil restoration is a radical action in our current system of consumer based chemically driven quick fix answers.  Let's get to a deeper solution.  The word radical is derived from the latin word "radicis" meaning root or going to the origin or essential.  We can help you get down to the roots.  The radical roots.  The essential basics of healthy living begin in the soil.

Relevant links:
Surfrider Ocean Friendly Gardens
Urban Soil Summit
Soil Food Web