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Recap: Edible Forest Gardens Design Intensive w/ Eric Toensmeier

"Green Dreams is an ideal location to teach agroforestry and food forests because of the fantastic demonstration gardens. These include the finest fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables that will grow in the area, as well as a diversity of native plant species for nitrogen fixation, groundcover, and attraction of pollinators and beneficial insects. Their gardens provide the template for the ecological edible landscape of the 21st century."

-Eric Toesnmeier

Just last month, we were lucky enough to be able to host an incredible information-packed educational experience with one of the top presenters in the perennial plant world, Eric Toensmeier. We feel honored that we were able to offer this unforgettable advanced course with our fellow food forest designers that came from all over Florida to learn with us. Eric’s presentations & exercises were brilliantly organized, as always & we feel that the knowledge & experience that he brought to our barn classroom was invaluable.

Our 20+ attendees learned about the design process through the modules of goal setting, site analysis, ecosystem mimicry, polyculture knowledge, spacing/patterning guidelines, infrastructure, sequencing & overall functionality. Not only was theory presented simply for note-taking, but each guest got the chance to apply what they had learned about species palettes, by working in groups to creatively design a specific polyculture system for each type of habitat. And… just to add even more of a bonus, Eric inspired us all again to see how important our work is, in providing a tangible solution to global warming: carbon sequestration.

On top of Eric’s classroom content, we were able to add to the educational value with our on-site food forest demonstration, here at Sandhill Farm. Throughout the diversity of our forest gardens, we were able to validate the limitless possibilities of polyculture systems with the hundreds of different edible/useful plants throughout our 6.9acre space. Our very own plant specialist, Taylor Walker, offered a 3-hour tour of the farm so that our guests could see, smell & touch some of the species discussed throughout the weekend. Taylor’s tour was a moment of gratitude for GreenDreams, since it was at an earlier course of Eric’s, that we were inspired to create the model that now is Sandhill Farm (our whole team attended his 2012 Edible Forest Gardens Design Intensive in Homestead, FL.)

Since we strive to offer our guests the best opportunity possible for learning, we included field trips of 2 local sites that truly inspire us. Our first stop was to see our friend Sam at his urban farm in New Port Richey. When you step onto Sam’s plot, you forget where you are for a moment… It truly feels just like you are in his native country of Thailand, among the tropical edible gardens with ancient roots; many of them being species & varieties most have never seen here in Florida. Sam & his wife were gracious hosts, offering our guests delicious produce & tropical edible plants to take home.

Our 2nd field trip was to Freedom House Farm to visit our good friend & mentor, Jim Kovaleski. Jim had just returned to Florida a couple of days prior to our arrival, from his summer farm in Maine, along with a truckload of heirloom edibles to offer. Jim offers a glimpse of what is possible & tends to ignite nearly anyone who takes the time to chat with him. Jim has become rather well-known for his (very old-school) scythe method to cutting grass & for his contribution to urban farming in the downtown New Port Richey area. Over the past few years, he inspired his neighbors on Virginia Ave. to convert their own front yards into edible forest gardens & annual veggie beds. To celebrate Jim’s arrival, his neighbors & friends hosted a garden bazaar to showcase the various edible varieties that line their sustainably charming street & were granted permission from the city to barricade the streets for a block party, complete with live music, food & vendors. To top off the night, Eric honored this entire group of like-minded people with a short talk, speaking about how inspired he was to see what’s possible when the right people come together to re-evaluate what township really means.

We wrapped up our weekend with a planting demonstration using the some of the guilds discussed during the course. The physical connection always completes the classroom experience & we also wanted to be sure to provide a thorough explanation of spacing, specific planting depth & other important information for the maximum success of our co-designers. It was a great way to anchor all the information & inspiration that

the group had collectively gained.

We are so grateful when we think about how ideal this weekend was & to have had Eric Toensmeier here to share his 20 years of experience in the world of edible plants & sustainable food production. It was an unforgettable weekend for sure! … & … We are thrilled to announce that he will be back October 10-15, 2016 to present the next course here at Sandhill Farm! If you would like to be a part of this next experience with Eric, be sure to sign up for our newsletter where we will be sending out reminders (you can find the link to sign up at the bottom of this article.) In the meantime, there are a few other ways you can learn from Eric. We highly suggest his books Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables & his website is full of valuable information & articles:

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