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Permaculturist Dave Jacke hugged a stinging nettle plant at a farm homestead on Hustead Road, where he will teach a seven-day workshop on creating edible forest gardens next week. Jacke will also give a free public lectures at the Glen Helen building on homescale food production and enhancing soil fertility on Aug. 9 and 11.

Forest gardens in your own yard

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Growing food in a backyard garden can be a lot of work. But by designing a “forest garden” of trees and shrubs, aligned with ecological principles, gardeners can achieve a food yield sustainably, with less maintenance.

This is the essence of a seven-day forest gardening workshop from Aug. 9 to Aug. 15 on a farm homestead north of Yellow Springs on Hustead Road, according to assistant workshop instructor and former Yellow Springs resident Jessica Bilecki.

“I think people in Yellow Springs are pretty well educated on why they want to grow their own food and are ready for the next step of how to do it,” Bilecki said. “Not everyone necessarily wants a vegetable garden but they might want to produce food without that much maintenance.”

At the workshop, led by well-known permaculturist Dave Jacke, who authored the two-volume Edible Forest Gardens, participants will learn from lectures, site walks and experiential exercises how to design food-producing ecologies on a residential scale.

“One of the great things about forest gardens is that it can add to the local food system with a high diversity of crops — and less labor,” Jacke said in an interview.

The workshop, which has 10 confirmed participants and openings for several more, costs $700 to $1,000 on a sliding scale.

Those unable to attend the intensive workshop can hear Jacke at two free public lectures during the week at the Glen Helen building, both starting at 7:30 p.m. On Monday, Aug. 9, Jacke will discuss homescale ecological food production and on Wednesday, Aug. 11, his talk will focus on building self-renewing soil fertility.

“We have to look at how we regenerate the soil,” Jacke said. “The biggest export of U.S. by weight is soil washed down the rivers.”

Still, Ohio’s high-nutrient capacity soils and high levels of native diversity make it a great place to focus land rehabilitation efforts, Jacke said.

“We have a lot of work bringing back the ecosystem to what it used to be,” Jacke said. “We can do that — heal the planet — while we meet our own needs. That’s permaculture.”

The workshop will be at Jenny Haack’s and Rob Content’s permaculture farm on Hustead Road. “A place to learn, share and harvest,” according to Haack, their four-acre homestead is a demonstration site for innovative local food-growing ideas.

“It’s rare to have a site with a lot of interesting plants and a good starting point for diversity,” Jacke said of the homestead, for which students will create possible designs during the course. The garden’s diverse fruit and nut trees include mature pawpaw, apple, pecan, pear, hickory, hearty kiwi, walnut, butternut and more.

“[The workshop] is for home gardeners, homesteaders, eco-freaks, hippies who want to live in the woods, suburbanite soccer moms — it’s for everyone,” Jacke said, joking that he would also teach ecological design to President Obama and the head of BP.

While Jacke’s visit to Ohio is being organized by the Columbus-based Ohio Food and Farming Association, or OEFFA, Haack and local agricultural educator Dennie Eagleson spearheaded the effort to bring him to the Yellow Springs area.

“We have so much local expertise and so many models for organic and sustainable farming here,” said Eagleson, who also organized a series of local agricultural workshops in 2008 and 2009 and participated in the recent local farm tour. “We’re creating an opportunity for people to learn from the local knowledge sources.”

“We also have the opportunity for someone who is very internationally-known to come to this area. We want to maximize the possibilities of people learning from him and his expertise,” Eagleson said.

For more information on the workshop or to register, contact Laura Weis at OEFFA at 614-421-2022 or laura@oeffa.org .

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