Purpose: To install a terraced orchard and perennial food system
Site Liaison(s): Tone Truong
ERC Liaison(s): Kirby Fry
Original Installation Date: 2016.09.24-25
Original Budget: $5,000
Funding Provided By: Tone Truong
2017.07.20 | Report by Shelly Belinko
Tone Truong came to Texas to farm. One day, a few months after settling into his property, he showed up at a volunteer meet up that promised to be something about gardening. It was a Permablitz at Scissortail Micro Farm, and his first introduction to Permaculture. He was so thrilled about all he learned that day, that a few days later he made himself a bunyip and hand dug his own berms and swales (which, he proudly notes, are still there and doing their job to this day). After this experience, Truong began an emphatic study of Regenerative Agriculture and took to the idea that farming can be about more than harvesting and taking from the soil. He feels very strongly about adhering to practices that give back to the land and to the community. His first big step to transforming his acreage into the sustainable farm he plans to live off of was to get in line to host a Permablitz of his own.
Truong continued to volunteer his time to the Central Texas Permaculture community and to show up to Permablitzes. The learning from these experiences helped him hone ideas for his own farm. In September 2016, he finally had the opportunity to host a Permablitz at his place out in Bastrop County. His goal was to install a terraced food forest system on a $5,000 budget. A series of 8 berms and swales was installed, totaling 420 feet in length with the berms 8 feet wide and the swales 6 feet wide. Approximately 50 fruit trees were planted of numerous varieties of fruit including apples, pears, plums, lemons, kumquats, pomegranates, figs, persimmons, Barbados cherry, pineapple guava, peaches, loquats, mulberry, jujube, elderberry. The trees were organized as a fruiting calendar with earliest fruit bearing trees at the top of the system and the latest fruiting varieties at the bottom. A mix of largely edible cover crop seeds including dill, carrots, parsley, cilantro, radishes, annual rye grass, and legumes was then scattered into the planted berms along with some soil amendments. Parallel to this, a team of volunteers dug 150 feet of trench, 6 inches down and laid out PVC pipes for an irrigation line to the orchard. To water the crops on top of the berm, there is a line of half inch perforated poly pipe.
Just short of one year later, some of the pomegranates are already producing, while the citrus and the Barbados cherry died from freezing. In about two more years, a portion of the orchard will come into production and seven years from now, the system will go into full production. In the meantime, Truong is enjoying the annuals that cover his berms and is observing the effects the earthworks have had on his property. The first word that comes to his mind when we talk about his land now is “lush.” The amount of moisture the terraced system manages to capture creates a lens of fertility that is growing well beyond the earthworks themselves. Gopher Springs Farm has become a green oasis in an island of yellowed pastures. Slowing water down as it moves into the property has benefits that extend beyond irrigation of the trees. Beneficial insects like dragon flies flitter around the property, while the surplus of carrots and kale feed the farm’s namesake gophers whose tunnels help create additional water diversion, further extending the reach of moisture and inviting more abundance onto the land.
In hindsight, Tone thinks he probably could have run more irrigation lines into the system to better facilitate production of the annuals he is relying on as the perennial system slowly matures. Also, in terms of getting the most out of the volunteer labor force that shows up for the Permablitzes, he suggests more detailed advance planning including assigning team leaders for specific tasks and more clearly dividing up the volunteers into teams based on tasks. That way, everyone knows what they need to do, and who to direct questions to if they do not.
In looking forward, Truong’s vision for Gopher Springs calls to mind a Permaculture version of a think tank and incubator. He wants a crew of permie entrepreneurs experimenting and developing their own projects and businesses on site. Among the projects he hopes to tackle in the next five years are aquaponics, bees, native plant restoration, large scale vermicomposting, a propagation center, a u-pick orchard membership, bio char production. So, Tone Truong came to Texas to farm and he stayed to regenerate the ecosystem and to join Gopher Springs Farm to the network of Earth Repair Corps experiment stations, representing Permaculture and sustainable agriculture in Texas’ Post Oak Savannah. Anyone out there looking for land to lease for similar endeavors, contact Tone Truong at email@example.com