Project: PRI New Zealand (Koanga Institute)
So we’re on a mission to see if we can design and implement an urban garden ( 200sq m) that can provide a family of 4 something close to the levels of Vitamin A and calcium Weston Price found in all indigenous people’s diets that he visited in the 1920’s and 30’s. It is my understanding, from our own experience that if we cover the Vitamin A and calcium most other minerals and vitamins are taken care of. For an intro to this project click here
This is the brief
We have an urban, low income family in a large city who are super resourceful, with common sense and basic handy man (and woman) skills, who are very keen to learn and would like a design for their 200sqm urban garden to produce as much as possible of the key elements of nutrition needed to keep their family of 2 adults and 2 children (aged 4 and 6) super healthy. They are eating following the principles of the Weston Price Foundation. They are concerned that high quality food is not easy to buy and is not affordable, and that it is likely that this situation will rapidly become worse. In particular it is difficult to obtain high enough levels of Vitamin A calcium and traditional fats and oils in an industrial diet.
They have been given some money ($2,000) which they want to use to establish this garden, to enrich their lives in every way.
They live in a Mediterranean climate, cold in winter, maybe 20 frosts between 1-5 degrees celsius below, normally very hot and dry in the summer, with free draining sandy loam soils and a water table around 1m below the surface. Rainfall annual average, 1600mm.
They have every weekend to work in their garden, and in the summer, evenings as well. They dream that this garden can be their fun, their work, their play, their connection with nature, their connection with their own ancestors. They also dream that the skills they use and the resources this garden might produce could enable and empower them to take the skills to their wider community.
Obviously there will be endless ways to do this. We’d love feedback and ideas from you all.
Design work at the Koanga Institute On our last PDC we gave our students an option of designing an urban garden following this brief. Our students got right into this challenge, and some great ideas emerged from both groups who chose this design option. Out of these two designs/ideas we will now draw up a final design that will be implemented on our internship program beginning in September after our next PDC. Both groups of designers spent some time researching what foods contain high levels of calcium and Vitamin A and traditional fats.
Where are we to get our daily requirement of calcium on 200 sq m ?
Checking out the chart below it is clear that unpasteurised dairy products and bone broth are way ahead of anything else in being able to provide this calcium requirement.
I’ve seen countries where it is normal to keep a milking sheep or goat penned up and taken for daily walks to find food and or have food carried to them. That is an option which uses the resources of the wider area and is certainly a real possibility in many places. I have seen goats and sheep penned up very happily in dry warm situations, being taken for walks by young children during the day to browse for food. In the Western world this is less likely to be an acceptable option at this time, and in our designs here we have chosen other options.In an ideal world we could have smaller cities with small farms surrounding them supplying raw milk and raw milk cheese to those in the city. It’s obviously going to be easy to get enough calcium if we do have access to raw milk ( pasteurized milk has the same levels of calcium but the enzymes are killed, and so it is difficult to absorb the calcium ). If I was vegetarian I would choose the sheep/goat option. dairy is the easiest way to get our calcium from our own garden. Apart from raw dairy, bone broth is the obvious solution, if we can produce enough bones to be consuming 2 cups of bone broth every day, with the remainder made up of a mix of green vegetables, olives, and nuts. For this to be possible we not only need a very good design but we need our family to be building skills around animal management.
It will be critical for gardeners to understand that if we have low brix vegetables, then feeding low brix vegetables to our rabbits or chickens or ducks will simply recycle the deficiencies. our goal must be to produce high brix plant material to feed ourselves and our animals, so those minerals can be recycled through us!
Where are we to get our daily requirement of Vitamin A?
I thought this was going to be the greatest challenge but I found the calcium challenge was far harder. Rabbits have large livers which are relatively high in vitamin A, and 1 rabbit liver a week is nearly enough vitamin A for 2 adults and 2 children. 1 fish meal a week from an aquaponic system and high quality eggs could add significantly to that along with small amounts of animal fat from ducks or chickens. It seems that vitamin A does not occur in any vegetable sources except as a precursor to vitamin A (beta carotene) which children can not convert, and neither can anybody with a less than very strong liver, and even then the conversion process is not 1:1, you get far less vitamin A in the conversion process than you began with in the beta carotene.
Liver is by far our best option for ensuring we receive our Vitamin A intake as you will se in the following chart. In the second chart below you will see the things we find easiest to get our Vitamin A from in our daily diet.Traditional Fats Lastly where are our traditional fats going to come from. Indigenous people studied by Weston Price ate between 30-80% of the daily calorie intake as traditional fats, mostly animal fat, saturated animal fat or in the warmer climates olive oil and coconut oil. On 200 sq m getting enough fat will be a challenge. Rabbits are not animals that carry fat in their meat or under their skin but do apparently carry it around their internal organs, we have olives, but will need a lot more to be anywhere near 30% of daily calories. We will have a few chickens that have some fat level, some kinds of ducks are easy to put fat on, but do they have a place on a 200sq m garden? Eggs contain fat, and…….. believe it or not the higher the brix of the vegetables the higher the fat content and the higher quality that fat is, in the form of omega 3 and 6.
Having been eating following Weston Price principles for several years now and also having done the GAPS diet I would say that getting enough high quality fat will be the greatest challenge in a small garden. Once we get our bodies running on fat, as they evolved doing, rather than carbs as we currently do, we crave fat, rather than chocolate!
I never ever thought I would ever say this but if I was in a desperate situation in an urban area, trying to feed my family a diet I know will nourish them and future generations, with my current knowledge, and little money to spend on food, or high quality food unavailable to buy, I would have to say that the obvious solution seems to be guinea pigs??? They get fat easily on vegetable scraps, and apparently taste very good. I have never eaten one or kept one but my children have had them as pets. ! I have a big learning curve here.
At this point I would be tempted to re think my decision around whether or not to include a milking sheep. I think if I knew I could find sheep forage in my area, parks, waste land etc etc I would choose to keep a milking sheep. Sheep milk is very, very fatty and makes delicious yoghurt !Failing the sheep ( or even goat) option the next best way to grow our own traditional fat will be
• olive trees for pickled olives or oil if we can use somebody’s press
• animal fat from small animals ie guinea pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits ( who store their fat around internal organs rather than in the meat or under the skin
• high brix vegetables contain high quality fats and oils especially Omega 3 and 6
Following are the two designs done by students on the Koanga Institute April 2012 PDC. This was a real existing 200 sq m and already has the lemon and mandarin trees in it, along with the building that is the house the family live in.. Students were asked to leave them there.
• this team plan on the family getting their calcium from lots of bone broth, fish, rabbits, chickens and ducks!, with more minor amounts in the high brix fruit, vege and nuts.
• nuts are a feature in this design to maximise oils and minerals. hazel nuts, almond and olives will all grow in this space if they choose the right varieties, other sources of traditional fat will come with each of the animals species they have
• vitamin A will come from rabbit livers mainly but also from chicken and duck livers, and fish, and from making bone broth using all of the animal parts especially the heads
• they chose heritage varieties of vegetables and fruit to maximize nutritional content
• they chose heritage fruit species that are known to contain high levels of nutrition eg berries and apples
• maximization of edges and vertical spaces with espalliered and cordoned trees, vines
• cordons allow for maximum length of ripening time, and maximum varieties for different end uses
• high quality chicken, duck, fish and rabbit food is grown on all paths and under trees , everywhere possible..comfrey dandelion, dock, tree prunings, weeds etc
• Brown Leghorns were the breed selected because they are a high laying heritage breed
• Indian Runner ducks selected because they lay the most eggs of all ducks
• multipurpose greenhouse using integrated aquaponic system to use fish waste to grow crops and crops to clean water for fish, and heat from greenhouse to keep fish growing and soldier flies growing to feed fish and chickens and ducks
• multiple systems in place to produce own fish, duck, chicken, rabbit feed… worms under rabbits, soldier flies in greenhouse, garden compost heap in chicken scratch yard, comfrey herbs everywhere possible,
• potential garden area maximized by keeping fruit trees minimal ( whilst ensuring year round fruit)
• garden beds Biointensively managed for sustainability and maximum production
• choice of crops for maximum nutrition in vege garden eg the heaviest producing calorie crops are potatoes, kumara, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and leeks!
• bees in there too, great way to bring in nutrients resources from wider area
• quite a few similar ideas with some differences
• similar ways of providing basic fats , Vitamin A and calcium
• combination of animals, nuts fruit and vege combined with producing high quality animal food to feed animals
• check out the great energy in energy /out circle , a good way to understand what is going on and what we are aiming for
• more fruit trees in this design and less area for vege garden and nuts
• very special well integrated animal house, green house, animal food production (worms and soldier flies, seedling production space… check out diagrams
• rabbits have access to grass in this design
• fryers in mobile pens on grassy paths and areas where weeds are let grow to feed them
(See more design details in attached images)
Our next PDC is in September 2012. During that time we will draw up our final plan for our 200 sq m garden and publish that for you. Our interns will build that garden for $2000 or less in November . We’d love comments/advice from those who have ideas/experience, particularly with animals in small spaces.
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