LAND seminar in Denmark September 2016

September 27, 2016

 

 

The aim of the seminar was to help establish a several LAND Permaculture projects in Norway, by looking at how it was established in Denmark, where they have 9 certified LAND projects. Five people participated from Norway: Julio Perez, Trude Skåre Johansen, Gunn Marit Christenson, Jarle Svendsen, Eirin Solberg and Jan Bang. Julio has been building up Sletta Gård just outside Oslo, Trude and Jan have established Jevnaker Hage also outside Oslo, and Gunn Marit and Jarle have established a Permaculture project near Porsgrunn. The seminar was organised and focalised by Cathrine Dolleris, and there were in addition two participants from Sweden, Chris Druid and Jeff Ranara.

 

Byhaven 2200

 

This was a community garden in the centre of Copenhagen, established 5 years ago and the first place in Denmark to be certified as a LAND project. Candela Vargas showed us around. They began as a project growing food for themselves and making a visible impact upon the inner city neighbourhood they found themselves in. Relations with the local municipality were good, but there are a lot of restrictions upon what they could do. The 1 000 square metre area they had selected was a conflict-filled area of the city with many disparate groups vying for the use of resources such as outside public spaces.

 

Their first activity was to fence in the area in a very colourful way, making a visual impact. They received a truckload of soil from the municipality and used strawbales from a nearby oyster mushroom farm. Beds for vegetables were set up, fairly unplanned and spontaneous. After a year they realised it was time to clear up a lot of the unfinished mess and with a great deal of volunteer help raised beds and hugelbeds were created, again with quite a lot of spontaneous design.

 

Now they have established a fairly reasonable schedule of workdays once or twice a week. They have an open policy with no formal membership, but have established a formal board to run the project, with rules and delegated tasks, but the actual planning and carrying out of work is done by a completely open Garden Council.

 

The gardens can be used for growing food or just for hanging out. There is a local group of people who like to use the place for drinking beer during the day. They had been using the space well before the project was envisaged, and continue to use it. In many ways, this public space is “their place”. The Garden Council have established good relationships with this informal group, they help to clear things up, do odd jobs, water the plants when necessary and help in many other ways.

 

Some things take a long time, and many projects don’t get followed up, but food does get grown, is mostly harvested, and often prepared and eaten together. The project has become part of the city landscape. Rainwater is harvested and used, compost is made in two different ways and used on the gardens, a bee apiary has been established which has a wall around it to make the bees go above people level before they can fly out.

 

There is a pizza oven that is open to everyone, and many different neighbourhood groups use the place, and it has become an incubation centre for other projects. For the future they envisage more signs explaining what is going on, better established bee keeping, an active building group and perhaps some level of conflict resolution.

 

There is collaboration with other urban gardens and with the municipality park workers. There are about 20 active users and maybe this rises to double that in the summer high season. They have established cooperating with a local café who are now harvesting herbs and giving the garden users an inside space for meeting when they need it. They have also established a successful “drop-in” composting system.

 

When asked what difference it made to them to be a LAND centre, the following reasons were mentioned:

 

  • More and a higher quality of volunteers

  • More funding possibilities

  • Being part of as growing Permaculture network

  • Assuming the role of advisors for other projects

 

 

Gule Reer Permaculture Gardens

 

These were in Hedehusene, about 40 kilometres from Copenhagen. We were shown round by Charlotte ?.

 

These gardens were established by Tony Andersen 28 years ago. Tony was one of the initial group of Permaculture pioneers in Denmark, helping to co-found the Danish Permaculture Association in the 1980’s. The concept for Gule Reer was a city/country Permaculture demonstration project.

 

Permaculture zoning analysis was used in the design, but now it has been very overgrown, after several years of semi neglect. The largest area was divided up into 7 round fields which were to be cultivated on a rotational basis, the idea being to grow alfalfa, potatoes etc. However, after Tony stopped managing the project these fields were mostly just cut with a grass cutter and the cuttings used for mulching, making the rotational idea redundant.

 

There were still rainwater channels bringing the water from the greenhouse roof and draining the fields into a very overgrown and algae filled fond. There was a partly finished strawbale building in one of the adjoining orchards, interesting that the clay finish was still mostly good, but clearly the roof was leaking and it is now just a question of time before the building will longer be viable.

 

The fruit trees were laden with fruit at this time of year (September) as were the berry bushes. The association that was still managing the 10 000 square metre site come from Copenhagen whenever they can, but only manage to mulch and cultivate a tiny amount of land there. They harvest seeds and cuttings and try to spread the useful plants, and harvest some of the fruit and berry crops.

 

With only two years before the 30 year lease runs out there is a great deal of uncertainty whether this project will continue, and whatever happens it is certain that it will not continue in the way it is being pursued now.

 

There was a feeling of sadness over the place.

 

Naturplanteskolen

 

This project is in the same village as Gule Reer, and established and run by Aiah Noack, who grew up on the site, inheriting the site of the agricultural machinery sales and repair shop established by her father. The project is now 4 years old, and gained its LAND accreditation about a year ago. This was celebrated and gave an opportunity to gain a good dal of publicity, also in the local press.

 

She wanted to be independent of modern machinery, she has a good deal of international experience in growing plants and herbs and realising their inherent health giving properties. She has many volunteers coming to help her, and now has about 400 diverse perennial plants, both for sale and for use on the site. She hopes this will rise by at least 200 over the next year or two. At any time there are 2 to 3 people working there, but without a salary. She hopes that sales of plants and the running of courses will establish an income during the next 2 to 3 years.

 

She has been very inspired by Stephen Barstow and his work with collecting edible perennials from around the world. She uses companion planting to enhance the effectiveness of the plants. She has many plans for the future.

 

Kattekærhus LAND Senter, Orø

 

Our host was Cathrine Dolleris, who started the day by showing us around the centre she is building up on the island of Orø.

 

The building is about 150 years old, and she bought it very cheap two years ago, and it needs a great deal of upgrading. Her family has had a summerhouse on the island since she was little, and her parents and brother live on the Island. Orø is small, about 16 km2 and with a stable population of about 850, with probably well over a thousand summer visitors.

 

She has begun rebuilding the walls, half-timber with brick infill. She is retaining the fired bricks for the lower metre or so, but replacing them with old dried adobe bricks and a clay mortar above. The timbers are being replaced by old oak she is locating on the island. The insulation will be wool with a clay plaster inside finish, giving the walls a breathing function.

 

Heating is mainly by a rocket / mass stove weighing probably two tons and needing additional foundations. The stove includes a cooking oven and a warming bench.

 

The whole property is about 1 000 m2 and includes some outbuildings and a small garden. She has a greenhouse and has established several Permaculture features: mulch gardens, hugelbeds, forest gardens, and a composting toilet. There are several very large established trees, including some apples. She hosts volunteers during the summer months who do a great deal of valuable work.

 

She is succeeding to live with a small income and low expenditures, made possible by having no debts. She sources free local materials whenever possible.

 

 

LAND session 1 Introductions

 

LAND was established in the UK about 7 years ago and stands for Learning, Activities, Network, Demonstration. Basically it entails quality controlling, branding, Permaculture demonstration and learning sites. The Danish PK association decided to take this on, inspired by the UK project.

 

Land Coordinator is Cathrine Dolleris in Denmark, and Helene Bøhler took this on in Norway a years ago. The LAND coordinator is responsible to the PK association board and to the Annual General Meeting. Helene collected together a group of LAND Advisors, who are experienced PK teachers and designers who can assist and teach projects and ensure a quality control. Many Advisors are connected to a project applying for LAND status, but that is not a requirement for an Advisor. An Advisor cannot assess his or her own project. Together with the coordinator they visit and ensure projects keep to a high quality. In Denmark 2 Advisors assess every project, but it may be that in Norway we decide that only one is necessary to begin with, until we build up enough people who can do this.

 

Assessment is done in writing, and the document is circulated among the other Advisors who can comment on the assessment, and can come up with recommendations should the project not meet the requirements.

 

Each project has to have a PK Educator who has to have taken as PDC. This person is responsible for creating a Design Project document for the project that is part of the application for LAND Centre status. A project can apply to be a LAND Starter Centre until it is qualified to be a full LAND Centre. In Norwegian:

Lærling og Senter.)

 

There are three qualifying criteria:

  1. One member of the project (preferably the project leader) should have taken the PDC.

  2. There should be a fully documented design project submitted with the application.

  3. The project should be assessed by the relevant LAND advisor and recommended for LAND Centre status.

 

A follow up will be done every 2 years.

 

What is a good Permaculture LAND Project?

 

There was a long discussion about this. I note here my own recommendations:  

 

  • It should reflect a serious amount of work.

  • It should show a good understanding of the Permaculture design methodology and the design tools that we teach in Permaculture.

  • It should show a development, a history and a future vision.

  • It should show a social engagement with a strong educational aspect.

 

The discussion went on to include the question of whether the restaurant Blå Kongo, which we visited yesterday, could be included as a LAND project. There was broad agreement that it would be good to include many different kinds of projects, business, social entrepreneurships, educational and other social endeavours.

 

We went through the qualifying criteria. There are about 10 “have to” criteria and 5 “desirables”. There was also built in a two-year follow up assessment. Whether this is too long or too short was discussed, but there was no general conclusion.

 

We carried on by looking at Trestubbens application (separate document). We are going to visit tomorrow, and do an actual assessment there. Their description was highly impressive. There was a general agreement that as a written description it would certainly merit a positive assessment, and we looked eagerly forward to seeing the actual project.

 

Two questions arose, however.

 

1. The question of size. Trestubben was only 200 M2, no larger than a largish family home. Is there a minimum size that a project has to have?

 

2. Trestubben’s funding finishes at the end of this year, and there is no certainty that the partnership organisations currently managing and financing the project will carry on in their present form. It was suggested that a follow up assessment should be done after 6 months. Receiving the LAND quality control assessment may well help the project to argue for continuation, and by denying them this we might only help the project to fold.

 

Follow up tasks for participants in this seminar

 

There were two groups attending this seminar. Chris and Jeff were observers from the Swedish association, assessing whether they want to introduce the LAND project there. They will have to report back to their Board and get an agreement for carrying on with the project. I understood they were highly enthusiastic about this.

 

Trude, Julio, Eirin, Gunn Marit, Jarle and Jan were from the Norwegian association which already has a coordinator, Helene Bøhler, a set of guidelines and a number of projects applying for both full centre status and apprentice status. Three of these projects were represented. Participants committed to the following:

 

  • Working further with assessments: Julio, Chris, Jeff and Jan.

  • What kinds of visits and meetings should we have? : Eirin, Gunn Marit and Trude.

  • Visions and goals: Trude and Eirin.

  • Improvements to the assessment process: We will ask Helene to work on this for Norway.

  • LAND organisational structure: Jan will assist Helene do this for Norway, Chris and Jeff will follow this up in Sweden. We were positively interested in developing a regional Scandinavian network with Nordic cooperation, possibly in the future including Finland, Iceland and some of the Baltic states.

  • Communication and PR: Trude.

  • Awareness and caring for each other within the network: all.

  • Fundraising: In Norway Gunn Marit, in Sweden, Chris and Jeff.

  • Educational materials: Eirin and Julio.

  • Research: Trude, Jeff and Julio.

 

Trestubben Naturverksted

 

Felix Becker introduced the project, which was established in 2008. It is one of very few Permaculture projects that is specifically aimed at children aged between 4 and 8. They carry out many projects using their own labour, and Felix described the insulation project for the building, and the green roof. In this way they learn by doing.

 

The project has become something of a prime mover on how to utilise open public spaces in Copenhagen. The area is owned by the municipality as a public park. The building they use was a public toilet, but is now rebuilt as a kindergarten. There has been a great deal of planting around existing trees, and some planting of new trees. About 2 000 to 3 000 people attend some kind of activity in the project annually. There is an exchange station, a cupboard with books and objects that can be taken freely, and contributed to freely. This is very active.

 

There are many Permaculture principles exhibited here, it is a well-developed educational resource. There were a lot of signs, but now there are less. Felix is willing to put them back up and add new ones. Permaculture ethics here are expressed as finding a way of action. They work with other local networks and initiatives, for example with workshops on how to teach children. The project is not a food production place, rather a space for sharing, not only food that is grown there, but all kinds of resources.

 

The uncertainty over the future was discussed, and we all agreed that we need to add a six-month reassessment clause. There should be no principle problem with this, and there will be a Danish national meeting of LAND projects in November. By that time the future of Trestubben will be clearer.

 

There was general agreement that we should recommend Trestubben as having full centre status. This was reinforced afterwards when we met as a group to discuss whether Trestubben fulfilled all the requirements.

 

This was the last meeting of the seminar, however there was no time for a general evaluation. My personal evaluation is highly positive. We saw several very different projects. We went through the history, development and structure of the Danish LAND project, which should now have 10 sites with full centre status. I feel that what I have learnt has given me material and skills to be a contributing member of the LAND project in Norway, and take on my role as a LAND advisor.

 

I want to thank everyone involved with this seminar in planning, implementing, participating and taking time to show us their projects. Another great example of Nordic cooperation!

 

Jan Bang, September 2016  

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