In 2008 the Ranch began to shift more of its focus to food production. Since then we’ve added hens, hundreds of fruit trees, thousands of nitrogen-fixing trees, hundreds of additional square feet of garden space, a thriving nursery, many linear feet of earthworks, and various water and nutrient cycling systems. Many of these improvements have been designed and implemented using permaculture practices with the goal of meeting human needs using techniques that harmonize with ecological patterns.
Permaculture is sustainable land use design. As a design science it is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximize efficiency and minimize work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimized, “wastes” become resources, productivity and yields of all kinds increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.
The method was scientifically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. The word Permaculture is described by Mollison as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture. This later came to be permanent-culture. The Permaculture Design Certification course or PDC was developed as an intensive multi-week training to disseminate Mollison's knowledge and ideas. The intent is that, by training individuals in a core set of universal design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements. Ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution, which Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth's ecosystems.
Rancho Mastatal offered its first Permaculture Design Course in July of 2010. It was a great success that we've replicated each year since. To keep abreast of our Permaculture offerings, please see our workshop page.
The following series of articles highlight the details of our agroforestry systems. They were produced as part of a three part series on tropical orchard establishment techniques and concepts.
Today we work with a large network of practitioners, farms, nurseries, and homesteaders around Costa Rica to source materials, create markets, share ideas, and build community. Many of those projects have been compiled in through the Costa Rica Farm Network google map.
We collect about 35 eggs daily. This provides the kitchen with a great deal of locally harvested protein. The hens also provide us with an incredible source of fertilizer for our food systems and keep vegetable eating bugs and termites at bay.
We’ve planted hundreds of new fruit trees since early-2009. These species include jackfruit, durian, salak palm, pulasan, nispero, grapefruit, avocado, peach palm, rambutan, breadfruit and many, many more.
We began overhauling our gardens in 2009 with a focus on increased food production. We've added dozens of new edible species over the years and continue to increase the percentage of food that we're eating straight from the Ranch and other community farms.