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    I have finished the first five lectures in the first section of the course.
    In listening to solving problems with invasive species, imported species etc and also how conventional farming and tilling has depleted soils i have a question i can’t seem to find the answer in this forum so far.
    I live in south central minnesota in what is called the minnesota river valley area and it is prime farmland.
    however, monoculturing has been going on for decades here.
    Our 1 acre property is a long deep rectangle surrounded by a large farm that has been growing corn year after year. Last year in our first summer here the farmer was spraying a foam spray over his crops.
    We bought this property a year and half ago and it has a small line of trees, sloping land here and there. But before i decided to seriously study permaculture i already kinda knew instinctively what to look for and such. the former owners did not take care of the land very well and they had junk everywhere etc. So i let the land rest all this time and observed what was coming up and where and to my delight found lots of wonderful herbs and fruit bushes like elderberry and blackberry. My big concern is how to protect this property from the farmer around us.
    Are there basic steps i need to take like planting certain trees and such around the perimeter?
    Trying to think ahead as spring is coming in about month after a really brutal cold and snowy winter here. Will the farming techniques of this conventional farmer hinder or poison the perimeter? I am considering setting up Hugel mounds around the edges and planting trees and various shrubs to make a natural boundary.



    I wish someone expert would answer this question, because I have a similar situation at my place in north-central Spain. The farmers all round are now plowing and spraying, should I somehow protect my fields from their overspray and backwash?



    In the absence of anybody credentialed we students might have our own discussion and kick around some ideas. The activity might attract some instructors too.

    Surely some kind of screen consisting of not a solid wall but a staggered planting of dense chemical-resistant trees would trap some of that spray? I’m thinking that there would probably be a “no-man’s land” approximately twice the mature spread of such trees. I wonder if you could afford to sacrifice that much space though. What about some kind of timber bamboo, if there’s enough water? Advantage of rapid growth and usable harvest of materials,for building around the farm. Maybe eating the bamboo shoots might not be a great idea considering the purpose of your barrier.


    Larry Korn

    Sorry for being late. I was stuck in traffic. This is a hard one since there is no definitive answer. It’s not clear what they are spraying or how it behaves in the soil. Certainly there will be some drift in the air so I agree with Hal that a hedge of some kind couldn’t hurt. How much actual good it will do is not clear. A mound with some KIND OF HUGELCULTURE with a hedge either on it or beside it is a nice idea, but it would be a lot of work without heavy machinery. BTW, Masanobu Fukuoka was surrounded by neighbors who sprayed all the time. Anyway, the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to make your soil and your crops as healthy as you possibly can. That means a continuous soil-building ground cover. Please try to avoid tillage. IT IS VERY HARD ON THE SOIL AND SETS ALL KINDS OF forces in motion that are difficult to deal with, namely weeds, soil depletion, erosion, and on and on… Bamboo is a good ides, but be sure to use “clumping” forms as opposed to “running” bamboo. The latter can be impossible to control. If the neighbors are spraying you might not want to eat the shoots, as Hal said, but there are so many, many other uses for it.

    It’s not a perfect world (understatement!) so a lot of the time we need to get by as best we can. Concentrate on life-affirming practices, such as soil building, and you won’t go wrong. When the farmer becomes the “agent of death” it never works out well in the end.




    As there are a lot of People having this same/similar problem, perhaps those in positions to help should do so. we are all in this TOGETHER. I am semi-retired, living on $800.00 a month, and not able to pay for a certificate at this point in time. I have watched for the past decade commercial tomato farming decimate the prime farmland around me. Every year I sadly watch farmers spray fields and plant gmo soybeans. It is painful to see prime farmland actually turn almost white due to poor soil practices. I live on the Eastern Shore of the U.SA. which during the 1920’s was considered prime cropland. I estimate less than a decade given present practices to reduce the soil fertility past the point of usefullness for agricultural purposes. This careless destruction of our environment has got to be addressed. I too would like someone to address the needs of designing a living buffer to shield those of us who do not desire the effects of others whose use less than friendly methods that encroach on those of us who do care. Please people, some input is better than ignoring the problem. Laura, Rebekah, my heart is with you. If I find any useful info, I will post it. Hal, I concurr… more brainstorming people! – I know there has to be a viable solution.



    I don’t know if you have the space, but I think you need some of everything. Some trees (to catch it in the air, or let it blow over), a hedge, the bamboo sounds good. Bamboo is very strong and dense, above ground as well as under.

    I was thinking of a stream to carry it away but… there isn’t much of an ‘away’, it would only carry the problem elsewhere. So the thought is just to stop it as much as possible from getting into your garden.

    In Holland we have a project running to persuade farmers to use natural ways to protect their crops. Like growing certain weeds around the land. Maybe you can find such a thing in your country and see if the farmers surrounding you are interested.



    You need to always consider downgrading as a choice for your home appliances when they break. The move may actually save you money. Source for this article: Don’t replace, downgrade



    Thanks for posting about this problem.
    I was living for 18 years with anowner neighbor, friend.
    Then two years ago she changes her mind and began calling on extermination of insects businesses.
    While I was using natural and ecologic technics in my garden…
    I was so disturbed while she did not bear the wild garden…..
    The ironical way is that I didn’t get mosquitoes, but she had more and more!
    She finally found a good pretext for pushing me out of the place (insects in the roof of my house, too dangerous for me…) and I had to
    The miracle is that I had a hudge chance finding a magic little place with all I need, full of birds, a micro permacultural plot
    and I move my soil and also plants and lombrix!
    So I m often thinking about this neiboring problem et thank you so much: Bamboo IS th solution,
    we, in Madagascar, have a lot of them



    Since you need to want some type of immediate screening, perhaps you could consider connecting wood pallets to form a fence like barrier. The pallets are often obtainable for free at any business that receives shipments in your area. Google DIY wood pallet projects. You could staple plastic or drop cloths painters) on the outside and still be able to use the interior pallet walls for vertical gardening…Just a thought. Deb


    alexandros m. pfaff

    Hello everybody!

    Concerning the above topic actually most people are affected in one way or the other as really virgin spots and or spots with people being in alignment with mother nature are rather rare to find.

    But to take it from the start, whenever someone wants to begin a close-to-nature-farming project the first thing to consider are some basics that should be on our check-list and checked out BEFORE buying anything. Buying a piece of land inmidst of heavy conventional, destructive farming does not make any sense in the first place, even if the piece is nice or suitable from other aspects, such as location, vegetation (wild plants and/or planted ones), climatic conditions, size and price etc. So, buying a piece of land which is surrounded by fully unnatural means (GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, monoculture etc.) IS actually a big error from the very start! If this has been the case, though, one should consider reselling the land and chosing something more suitable because ALL MEASURES to be taken can only be half measures with rather low impact!

    Now, if due to different reasons one would like to stay on that piece of land a few basics are to be achieved of which the most important one IS

    – to have good contact and ability of communication with your neighbours! –

    It will BE a much more efficient shield against pollution if your neighbours and you are in a good realation meaning that any spraying will BE done only when the weather conditions, and especially the wind-direction is taking care of your protection! If this connection, communication and agreement IS not possible, than skip all kinds of protective barriers if you do not have at least a 20-30 metre thick area with all the above mentioned means (e.g. bushes, trees, bamboo etc.). In your case, Laura, with around 4.000qm you obviously do not have the space for that because almost all the land would go into you protection zone, right?! Anyway, Laura, you know best what your options really are, if you better moved to a cleaner environmentr or if you actually have friendly neighbours who care also about your concerns and respect you and your undertaking etc. The worst senario would be really, to plant all the stuff and do earth works, invest a lot time, effort and even money with very little effect, if your neighbours do not give a **t about you, your family and your land… In fact, one can smell chemicals being sprayed even in hundreds of metres distance, if a small breeze does its part! So imaging anot even powerful wind blowing the stuff when it is being sprayed right into and all over your land… what will all the protection zone, especially if only a few metres thick be able to prevent from passing? Right, almost nothing!

    The ideal location should
    – have some kind of protection at the north part like a hill or mountain in a little distance,
    – face south with open views to all directions,
    – be on a hillside and not in a low, muddy area
    – be blessed with wild nature like a forrest, especially behind (at a higher altitude of yours, providing thus nutrition to your land)
    – be a little downhill with terrasses
    – have wild nature or neighbours at the sides that do not use any chemicals
    – a variety of wild plants like bushes, herbs, trees that can (and should!) BE kept and integrated into your farming concept
    – a water scource, well or most perfectly, a small running water course.

    Well, sure in most cases we cannot have everything, but we should make sure that we have at least some of the mentioned points. The less we do have the more difficult everything will be, the more effort, time, energy and money will have to BE spent and the less good our results will BE. So if we actually have no or almost no hits on this chek-list than selling and moving would be for most cases the best option…

    When we decided to move from Athens right into the almost wild nature we searched and found this almost perfect place on Peleponnese. 125m altitude, 2km from sea, south direction with a 300degrees open view, small mountain at the back (north). Our land here combines most of the above mentioned parts (except the running water), the land itself being fertile and practicly virgin as it have been over 20 years since the last time when it was being used. Since then many wild vegetation, many types of herbs, bushes, carob-, olive-trees, small oak bushes and trees have found their way inside and around the planted olive grove. With the size of around 4acres (with another full 4acres to be added soon next to it) it will become a managable and sustainable paradise very soon, with not chemicals whatsoever, which IS being applied not only for the land itself but also for enyone staying on it (shampoos, soaps, toothpaste etc. everything has to be 100% natural!) In case anyone will be in Europe and visiting Greece contact us, we are happy to host people with the same and/or fitting visons and philosophy and have ypu stay and live with us for a ew days, weeks or, who knows, maybe for longer…

    All the best to all of you

    Alexandros M. Pfaff
    (co-founder Korogonas Ark eco-spiritual community project in Lakonia-Peleponnese/Greece)



    One word 🙂


    We just nabbed an 11 acre lot that also has some Monsatan Corngrowers nearby.
    Last September we went to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs Pa and two of the workshops there dealt with the powers of fungi – specifically, mushrooms.

    We plan – eventually, cuz 11 acres is a LOT to cover – to line the more toxic edges of our land (on contour) with mushroom-innoculated straw and logs. It won’t stop the airborne flow of toxins, but those little mycelia can break down the most toxic chemicals into biodegradable elements. We plan to line every edge that slopes uphill away from us and into those toxic fields before it hits our gully of a stream.

    If I have the time and energy, I’ll likely even dig a drainage ditch or swale on contour a foot uphill from these lines of defense and maybe run the runoff farther downstream so we can dam farther upstream for a more biodiverse growing area. Either way, I like the idea Hal had of planting bamboo on top of these mini-hugel ridges. They’ll suck up the dirty toxic water and we can always build stuff with it, instead of eating it.

    We’re planning to catch water off the roof of everything we build, so there won’t be a well (we get a lot of rain in Ohio).



    The best thing to do is move, the next best thing is to make friends with your neighbors and request a bit of a buffer, a spray free area on there land. If that don’t work, plant spray susceptible plants as a barrier around the perimeter of your farm. That will make him liable if the spray kills it. Do remember, he was there first and if he is using industry acceptable practices, its an up hill road to change local opinion and for you to fit in the community.


    Maggie’s Farm

    Landowner rights, conflict resolution and negotiation are important tools in this permaculture toolbox. There are many lawsuits regarding conflicting land use, GMO seed showing up on non GMO farmers lands, overspray, manure runoff etc. Barriers, good farming practices and reasonable negotiations are important. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that moving, negotiations or any other agreement will ensure land free from contamination due to drift, runoff or spills. If we analysed our air, soil and water we will find unwanted contaminants.
    I do the best I can with the things that I can control in my environment and try not to worry about what I cannot control. From what I glean from permaculture, moving closer to this ideal is a journey, not a race. The above problem is why I personally question organically identified food and why I do not try to attain certification.



    Moving somewhere else seems a bit drastic of a response to your neighbor using chemicals. Hardly the answer I think anyone would be looking for and next to impossible for lots of people. And sometimes you can’t ask your neighbor to kindly stop spraying because they are a large industrial farming operation and think you are the crazy one for not spraying. If you’re concerned about unwanted materials entering your property the more obstacles between you and them the better. Be it fences, trees, shrubs, or even mounds of dirt. I might install a solid fence, followed by a row of Leyland Cypress. Another option would be a hedge of shrub type dogwoods. They would provide a lot of food for wildlife while creating a thick barrier. In the end the simple answer is the answer to 99 out of 100 Permaculture questions. Increase organic matter and increase biodiversity.



    Farmers here in Ontario (Canada) are being encouraged to grow switchgrass beside water to buffer and absorb chemical runoff from planting fields. This in turn makes excellent biomass for pellet fuel (just leave the grass out over winter, before pelletizing, to outgas the natural chlorine content, which is corrosive to pellet stoves).

    There are many types of switchgrass (in fact bamboo is a type of grass) that thrive in a variety of marginal conditions (wet or dry), is a perennial non-food crop (fuel, bale construction), and can filter chemicals.

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