A Growing Culture
  • Outreach

Outreach

An Overview of A Growing Culture’s Previous Outreach Projects

As climate change becomes more apparent, farming conditions are changing and the need to find site-specific local adaptations of ecological agriculture principles is essential to feeding a population of nine billion by the year 2050. AGC is committed to helping farmers around the world find low cost, long term solutions to environmental degradation that help farmers feed their communities more effectively.

Since it’s inception in October of 2010, AGC has worked with local farmers around the world to promote and develop ecological agriculture practices. We believe local farmers must be kept at the center of innovation and change. This is why rather than teach or lecture, all AGC Outreach work is conducted with the support of local lead farmers, who co-facilitate training workshops that encourage local adaptation of sustainable agriculture principles. Our approach relies on developing relationships with local farmers and community leaders and learning from them about the challenges they are faced with and the resources they need. AGC does not bring in any products or technology, but looks for sustainable solutions within the existing community. We offer technical assistance and support through the sharing of sustainable agriculture theories and principles, which are used to inspire and drive farmer innovation. We believe that by empowering local community members to innovate, we can help build a global community of growers that will thrive long after AGC has an on the ground presence.

The following is a brief overview of several AGC Outreach projects:


Perennial Peanut Polyculture  

Project Location: Dalat, Vietnam
Project Date: Fall 2011
Group of Local Farmers:  Jangala and Local Highland Montagnards
AGC Staff: Will Rutherford and Loren Cardeli

In Vietnam, like other developing countries, many farmers plant permanent cash crops close together to maximize their production and thus increase their income. This technique is frequented by farmers in the Central highlands of Vietnam who grow coffee, tea, and fruit plantations. There are several environmental and economic problems associated with these mono-crop systems and local farmers have experienced significant erosion, nutrient loss, loss of topsoil, polluted water sources and compacted soils. Most of these environmental issues increase the dependence on the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which can have severe consequences to human health and the earth’s future food productivity.

As Vietnam has become one of the world’s largest producers of coffee, and as the crop has been widely planted throughout the country, Vietnam’s agricultural landscape has experienced a large amount of deforestation along the mountain slopes which has caused countless environmental problems.  Specifically, the coffee monoculture has led to the wide scale use of herbicides, and commercial fertilizers.

Biodiversity and polyculture are key factors to any sustainable agricultural system because they aid in pest control, cut environmental impacts and can provide different means of income. In the Fall of 2011 AGC worked side by side local farmers and a French organization called Jangala, to introduce perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi) into coffee plantations in Vietnam. The planting of perennial peanut in Vietnamese coffee plantations is a great example of how the principles of polyculutre and biodiversity can be applied to soils to improve soil health and crop productivity.

Perennial peanut originate in Brazil and is well adapted to low fertility soils. It is a stoloniferous plant, which means it is a creeping horizontal plant that takes root along its length to form new plants. Planting perennial peanut into coffee plantations with significant soil issues, can help solve issues of erosion, add nitrogen to the soil, making it an ample ground cover.

Perennial peanut meets all of AGC’s requirements for appropriate eco-ag outreach, as it is almost free to implement, requires no fertilization, and effectively stops the needs for any herbicides to be used in the future.  It either eradicates the need for conventional fertilizers or drastically reduces the amount needed while preventing erosion and building soil organic matter.

AGC trained a community of minority Montagnards in how to cultivate, plant and implement perennial peanut as a ground cover. In just one year the peanut covered the whole area effectively.  With a strong ground cover present, small animals like chickens could be introduced and grazed on its high protein forage, adding to the fertilization of the coffee trees.  Also as the perennial peanut flowers at the opposite time as the coffee flower, bee production can be introduced allowing farmers nectar all year long.

 


Zero Waste Training Farm

Project Location: Quoc Oai, Vietnam
Project Date: February 2012
Lead Local Farmer: Nguyen Hong Long
AGC  Staff: Will Rutherford and Loren Cardeli

Vietnam’s rich biodiversity in the north region provides an excellent climate for an abundance of different crops and livestock species.  In February 2012, AGC along with SPIN (Sustainable Product Innovation) and several local farm families, built a zero-waste training farm where over 30 techniques were taught and implemented to a community of farmers.  Some of the concepts covered were companion planting, homemade fish emulsions, EM technology, living bed technology, composting, free-range chicken production, fermentation, duckweed and azolla production, bio-char production, and many more.  AGC worked closely with five families in a two-month period where AGC staff Loren Cardeli and William Rutherford lived, worked, and built strong relationships on mutual respect and hard work that laid the framework for effective knowledge sharing. This project helped define AGC’s outreach principle of integrating into the community rather than attempting to educate in a paternalistic way. In the end, the entire project was a success, as in less than two months products were already being brought to the market and land that wasn’t previously in cultivation was bountiful with produce.

“A Growing Culture enables the sharing of sustainable agriculture technique that is crucial to sustainable development. The AGC team worked very closely with a handful of families in Quoc Oai, Vietnam, to promote independence from expensive foreign inputs, while increasing profits and protecting the environment. Together with AGC we promoted zero-waste agriculture practices on our Knowledge Farm.  We look forward to working with AGC in the future!”

- Mr. Nguyen Hong Long, Senior CP and SPI expert, Vietnam Cleaner Production Centre

 


Empowering Farmer Workshops

Project Location: Kenya (various locations)
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: Dan Kiprop Kibet
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

Throughout Kenya, from Nanyuki and Embu, to Rift Valley and Lake Victoria, AGC conducted several workshops for farmer groups in the Spring of 2013.  These workshops were geared to breed innovation and farmer research as sustainable agriculture was taught through principles and not techniques. From hands on instruction AGC was able to empower farmers to become agents of change. There were always large turnouts for these demonstrations and constant request for more to come. AGC looks forward to cultivating more relationships with farmers around the world and using their existing farms as learning sites for future workshops.

“The group was very pleased with the training AGC did and as a result we are implementing AGC’s teachings on ecological farming and pest management without using harmful chemicals which are in the long term bad for both people and the environment. We are also applying fish fertilizers to our gardens. As a result of AGC’s trainings we are doing a program of implementing Kitchen gardens in every home of our farmer group.”

-Caleb Odondi Omolo, Kenyan Farmer

 


Orphanage and Neema Women’s Group Group Training Project

Project Location: Kabarnet, Kenya
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: Dan Kiprop Kibet
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

Many social issues are tied into access to food and land.  Sunrise Children’s Home in Kabarnet, is home to a large number of incredibly energetic and vibrant local youth. AGC co-founder Loren Cardeli resided with Sunrise Children’s home for a month where he helped the orphanage and “Neema,” a women’s group, build an organic farm.  The project involved a weeklong training workshops on the principles of sustainable agriculture and culminated in the implementation of an organic farm providing the children and their community with access to healthy, safe food. AGC also provided the women with organic seeds, materials and all the resources they needed to build their organic farms. The training was provided free of cost and covered a wide range of topics as companion planting, integrated pest management, composting, soil building, legume incorporation, grazing management, and more.

“Having the team of AGC joining our Project for a month was without doubt one of the best experiences we have had in ‘’Neema’’ our women’s group in Kabarnet (Kerio Valle, Kenya).

Loren and Kiprop provided us with invaluable and profound lessons. With AGC something as simple as planting a bean becomes an awakening of consciousness and ultimately a road to freedom. Such a simple lesson for each and every woman, a lesson to help them, not just as farmers but also as mothers. A lesson to encourage them to pass on a new way of thinking, living and being for generations to come.

AGC embodies a timeless yet ever relevant philosophy that may, hopefully, seed by seed, change the world for the better.”

-Rocio

 


Diversified Orchard Project

Project Location: Homabay, Kenya
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: 
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

One of the biggest challenges to implementing orchards into impoverished communities is developing long-term goals for financial stability. Farmers do not have the ability to wait for several years before income is generated.  Thus the long term planning to plant an orchard is rarely considered a viable option in these communities. In the Spring of 2013, AGC attempted to create an orchard model that allowed for both short term and long term benefits with the help of local women. A diverse selection of mango varieties were planted at normal intervals with papaya trees in between.  The papaya trees matured faster than the mangoes and will produce income within a few years.  In between the rows of papaya and mangoes were cassava plants and a variety of native, nitrogen fixing short-season vegetables.  This model incorporated immediate return (vegetables), intermediate (cassava and papaya) and long term (mangoes).

To minimize labor during the dry season, soil was always covered with nitrogen fixing plants, and the fruit trees were surrounded by an outer circumference of vetiver grass.  Vetiver with its deep roots, aids in water retention and organic matter building, which hastened the rate of growth for the fruit trees.  The design of the orchard is great example of how the permaculture method of layer farming can be implemented to a allow all layers of crops to be incorporated from groundcover to canopy and to short term and long term models for economic stability.


Effects of Raw Milk  Fertilization on Mixed Cool Season Pastures

Project Location: Reidsville, NC, USA
Project Date: Spring 2013
Lead Local Farmer: Worth Kimmel
AGC Training Staff: Asher Wright

In forage-based livestock operations, forage quality and quantity are paramount to the success of the operation. Forage is a general term that refers to any plant that is used by the animal to meet it’s nutritional needs and sustain life. Examples are grasses, legumes, and forbs (various broad-leaf plants).

Raw milk has been an alternative fertilizer of curiosity to many pasture managers as a means to promote productivity and quality in forages. Several articles have been circulated in eco-ag literature as to the wondrous effects of raw milk as a foliar fertilizer. There are claims that even in a concentration of 2 gal/acre of application, that cool season forage production may be increased by 1,200 lbs/acre compared to non-fertilized plots.

Individual producers have experimented with treatments and seem to concur that raw milk is a cost affective means of boosting yields.

Raw milk may provide a microbial boost to the pasture system by actually inoculating the soil with milk-borne microbes and by providing food for microbes through milks natural sugars. It has been suggested that this improves the soil food web as well as plant quality by making available to plants, nitrogen and other nutrients when the bacteria die and are mineralized.

We sought out to test these claims in a plot study at Pine Trough Branch Farm in Reidsville, North Carolina, USA. Parameters tested where, total dry matter yield, soil compaction, and plant nutrient quality. The findings were interesting and a published summary of the results will be available by the end of the year. Stay Tuned!

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CURRENT 2013 OUTREACH PROJECTS

  • EXPERIMENT 1: EFFECTS OF RAW MILK FERTILIZATION ON MIXED COOL SEASON PASTURES, USA
  • EXPERIMENT 2: ASSESSMENT OF TWO DIFFERENT CARBON SOURCE RATIOS IN A LIVING BED  SYSTEM FOR SWINE, VIETNAM
  • ORGANIC FARM INSTALLMENT AT KABERNET ORPHANAGE, KENYA