By Dylan Leipold, New Farmer Academy Intern
Last week the New Farmer Academy interns got the opportunity to meet with Sasha Miller, of Purplebrown Farmstead. Sasha has designed her farm based on a permaculture design concept, which, over time, creates a self-sustaining permanent-agriculture system. On her 12 acre farm she raises pigs, laying hens, and ducks integrated with mushrooms, berries, perennial vegetables, and cider apples. The goal of permaculture is to mimic nature, so every element of Sasha’s farm has been intentionally designed to resemble natural systems.
Vegitative spaces are designed to grow in a pattern similar to forest growth – with a canopy and shrubs growing taller, and vines and herbaceous growth closest to the soil. Hogs are used to break ground and turn layers of sod, then chickens are moved around in mobile pastures to simulate a forest ecosystem. She uses berms and swales, and builds perennial beds on the contour of the land to trap runoff, retain soil moisture, and mitigate erosion.
The property was overgrown and out of production when Sasha moved onto the farm with her husband and two children in 2016. Before even stepping onto the property she had a plan drawn out and zones designated for different stages of production and growth, livestock, buffer strips, etc. With such a large area to work with, Sasha decided to start small and expand outward, which takes time.
Sasha’s advice to new farmers is to, “Just start throwing things at the wall and see what sticks,” to experiment with different areas of interest, styles of production, and don’t worry about making mistakes. She says it’s important to be patient, especially in a design structure such as permaculture, where it takes years to establish healthy and thriving living systems.
Sasha is also opening a collaborative farm store off of route 303 in downtown Peninsula for local family farms to market their produce. She says that collaboration is key when it comes to successfully farming on a small scale, so local growers and producers need to work together to find new markets.
The farm store is expected to open in the next several weeks, and will include products from a variety of local small scale farmers. She is hopeful to build a clientele with local consumers who are looking for good food that is naturally and sustainably produced. The Purplebrown Farm Store will be one of the first in the area to assemble products which are all locally produced and stands as a testament to the work that countless farmers are doing to reclaim local food systems.