Monday, February 1, 2016

Lower Savanna Project

So, we’ve been talking about this thing called The Lower Savanna Project wherever we go, all over town and on the Internet, for the last 6 months or so. But, we haven’t explained exactly what it is. Here it is folks...

Wolf Gardens has partnered with two local charities to help feed people. We’ll grow the crops, and they’ll distribute the abundance.

See, it works like this: I have these permaculture, homesteading, and general gardening students who need projects to work on. I also have a few acres of land that needs attention in order to serve as demonstrations for future students. The charities need suppliers to help feed people. Basically, I have a farm that grows food, but I don’t want to get into distribution right now. They have food distribution programs, but their current suppliers are drying up for various reasons. So, I’ll grow it and they’ll sell it or give it away.

Now, it’s actually a little more complicated than that, but before you can understand the details you need to know  a little about these charities. They are both programs that we, as both a family and a business, feel very passionate about.

Valley NAZ $10 Food Box Program

The Valley Community Church of the Nazarene here in Chino Valley has been running an affordable foods program for a few years now. The flagship of this program is simple: pay $10 and get a box containing $30 or more worth of fresh foods. No canned goods, few processed foods, mostly fresh vegetables and a little bit of meat.

YCA Food For Veterans and Children

The Yavapai County Angels are a group of volunteers who work secure the needs of vets and families with children who are in desperate need. In these parts they are best known for their Adopt-A-Vet programs over major holidays, like Christmas and Easter. But the group, which I am a member of, does a lot more than just the adoption programs. We run drives for the specific needs of various individuals and families for things like firewood, clothing, and yes, food. Our other charity partner, Valley NAZ, has even partnered with us to get food boxes and such to some of our recipients in the most need.

So, these two highly deserving charities have already been working together to what they can for people in the area.

The problem, now that we come to it, is that the main supplier for the $10 Food Box program is drying up. It is a central food bank distribution center down south that has been relying on... wait for it... WalMart for the food it distributes to various food banks and programs all over Arizona.

You see the problem with this? It’s right there in that one word: WalMart.

Over the last year problems have been creeping into the supplier. First it was certain months there would be no food, or not enough. Then the quality of the food they got started going down hill. This last fall and winter has been horrendous. They’ve had no food for their food banks at all.

I started talking to Valley NAZ last year, in order to try and cover those “certain months” they expected not to have enough food to fill their boxes. The deal was for two months. I would help supply crops for the two months they expected not to have any food. The idea was that between Wolf Gardens and a few other farmers and gardeners in the area we could get the boxes filled and get everyone fed.

Then the quality of the food coming up from the distribution center started dropping, and we hit on the idea of growing for them on a more permanent basis. Just enough to compensate for the stuff that might have to be rejected. They knew the center was doing it’s best, and that it was not their fault.

But, then the bottom fell out and the food stopped coming up here altogether.

So, now we’re in overdrive. The church is most likely going to have to suspend their affordable food program until it can be revamped to run in a more independent way. This also affects the YCA program that several vets and low-income children have come to depend on, since Valley NAZ was supplying YCA with a little food every month free of charge.

Now we can get into the details of the Lower Savanna Project!

The southern end of the Lower Savanna on oddly foggy morning in 2014. We had already begun stacking slash there to break down for the anticipated food forest. 

Here at Wolf Gardens we have this 1-acre front yard that is the bottom of a bowl, where every nutrient on the front half of the hill has a tendency to eventually find it’s way to. We call it the Lower Savanna. There is very little planted in this area right now, just some grapes, lilacs, and a few trees of various types. Nothing terribly productive at the moment. But, that is about to change.

We plant to plant a food forest here. We plan to turn the Lower Savanna into the Lower Jungle over the next 5 years. The problem, as it sits now, is that this area was over-cultivated (to no good end) before I took over the farm. There are lots of nutrients in the Lower Savanna, but very little carbon, and soil biota is all wrong.

This, however, can be fixed by taking advantage of this El Nino year (and the subsequent following wet year) by planting in a carefully managed maincrop, aka: an annual food garden.

A maincrop, planted in polyculture, rotated properly, done in a chop-n-drop no dig style, can fix all of the problems with the Lower Savanna that is currently keeping productive trees from taking and growing.

Epic pile of herbivore poo, the first of many, donated by a local micro-ranch for the Lower Savanna Project.

So, we are dedicating the entire project to the benefit and use of our charity partners. My students and I will grow the food, and they will distribute it. Moreover, we’re setting up a scholarship program for recipients of the YCA program, and bringing in the volunteers from the Valley NAZ program in order to train them up, all bright and shiny, so they can grow their own food, and maybe help supply the network.

There are also a few other food ministries and gardeners in the area that have signed on to help supply said network, thus broadening and stabilizing our ability to both feed people and educate people on how to feed themselves.

So, there you have it folks, The Lower Savanna Project. To find out  more or keep up to date on what's going on follow us on Facebook.