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My guests for this episode are Eric and Victoria of Charm City Farms, a permaculture based urban agriculture initiative that focuses on educating and supporting individuals and communities in and around Baltimore, Maryland.
During the conversation today we open by talking about the development of a quarter acre food forest in Clifton Park, and the requirement for grant funding and organizing volunteers in order to be successful with the project, and the permaculture and primitives skills classes they offer. The second half we dig into one of those courses in detail, The Forager’s Apprentice program Victoria is running, which leads to a discussion about the role of blending academic rigour with hands on experiences. Throughout this conversation we move between the practical and the philosophical and how both play an important role in practicing permaculture and creating deep experiences.
If you are in the area I recommend getting in touch with Eric and Victoria and going to visit the food forest when they are having one of the regularly Friday field days. If you can take a class with them, including The Forager’s Apprentice when it re–opens next year, I highly recommend it. You’ll find a complete listing of the different kinds of classes they offer in the show notes. If the course you are interested in isn’t listed on their website get in touch and let them know. Also sign up for their newsletter so you can see what is happening when.
I’ve known Eric for sometime through email exchanges and following his work through the Charm City Farms website. Knowing that he had a viable project going was why I wanted to sit down and interview him in person. After going down and spending a day with Victoria and Eric I was left with a positive impression of both Victoria and Eric, as well as what it is they are doing and the authenticity of their work.
The food forest is in really good shape and as we walked through they were naming the various plants using both the common name and latin binomial. They also pointed out not only the successes, but also the failures. They raised questions about why one plant did well as an outlier, but then did not thrive in what should be, by all accounts, the ideal space for that same species and cultivar.
When questioned about community engagement, it came with a humility and understanding of the difficulties of coming in as an apparent outsider and the need to integrate into a place to find out who the real leaders in a given neighborhood are in order to get the right buy-in. I asked about population and demographics and Eric was able to answer them immediately and in great detail. We talked about organizations and people and various initiatives in the city that went well beyond what you heard in the interview and what Victoria and Eric could bring to bear while we were casually walking around and discussing the two sites they are working with was encyclopedic. They’ve done the groundwork and really integrated themselves into what they are doing and taken on the roles they’ve decided for themselves and continue to look for ways to make the changes necessary to be more effective, including considering buying and renovating a home in the community near the second site they are looking to develop, where the red brick barn is located so they can be close to the space and also members of the community.
We all find inspiration in different places for the work we do. I know Ethan Hughes is an inspiration for many as he and his community are able to live within the gift economy, without gas or electricity. In conversations I’ve had with Ethan off the air he knows, however, that the Possibility Alliance model isn’t something that most people can do. It is too radical of a shift to accomplish in one lifetime. What Eric and Victoria are doing in the city, in place, is a path many many more can follow. I’m reminded of Bob Theis and his comment, which I’ll paraphrase, that there are plenty of good places we can repair and restore that already exist, rather than inflicting ourselves on some place that doesn’t need us. Now that worldwide the majority of people live in cities and metropolitan areas, urban permaculture practitioners are more vital than ever.
If you are in a place that needs you and we can work together to build the place you want to live, let me know. Get in touch.
Send me a letter:
The Permaculture Podcast
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018
Up next week is Adam Brock to discuss the role of a guest editor with Permaculture Design Magazine.
Until then, take care of Earth, yourself, and each other.
Charm City Farms Classes and Workshops
Permaculture Design Certification Course (72 Hours)
Wild Plant Food & Medicine (30 Hours)
Wild Edibles Workshops
Forage Plant ID
Botany for Foragers
Mushroom ID 101
Wild Edibles Cooking Demo
Wild Tea Party
Friction Fire I – Bow Drill
Friction Fire II – Hand Drill
Working With Bone
Utility Plant Walk
Cordage from Plant Fiber
Fresh Materials Vine Basket
Mugwort: Craft, Medicine, Food, Smoke
Cooking + Poison: Milkweed, Pokeweed, and Bamboo
Traditional Bow Making
Primitive Skills & Nature Studies
Hunter Gatherer Summer
Wild Ones Nature Exploration
Farm and/or Homestead
Holistic Orchard Management
Integrated Forest Garden Design
Cubic Inch Food Garden Intensive
Mushroom Log Inoculation
Herb, Fruit and Flower Wines
Fathers Day Ale Making
Cheese Making Class Round One
Cheese Making Class Round Two
Personal Care Products
Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
Salves, Syrups, and Tinctures
Knife Sharpening 101
Basic Vehicle Repair