As with many permaculture and sustainable living books, the wealth of beautiful glossy photographs in The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm elucidate an instant feeling of an idyllic rural, ecologically responsible life which anyone would feel compelled to be part of. A picture may paint a thousand words but Josh Trought’s many thousands of accompanying words very honestly and eloquently explain that living the dream takes a lot of hard work.
In detailing the D Acres project from its inception back in 1997 through to its current embodiment, Josh leaves few aspects of its past and ongoing evolution unexplored. The early years appear characterised by a self-confessed naivety in the skills and practicalities required to turn an idea into reality – familiar to anybody who has taken the first steps of translating their beautiful design from a piece of paper with all its pretty coloured pencilling into a three dimensional land based structure. Even a simple raised bed takes on a new reality when you have to move actual railway sleepers not just rub them out and redraw their likenesses.
The bigger the plan, the sharper the reality check and the D Acres plan was big. However, learning from their experiences it’s heartening to know what can be achieved if you stay flexible, don’t beat yourself up over mistakes whilst retaining the humility to accept when you’ve made them and, above all, have a goal.
As the subtitle of the book says, the D Acres goal is the creation of an ‘Eco-logically Designed Educational Center’ and the building of a resilient functioning community has been integral to their plans. Although a large chunk of the book is concerned with the lessons learned and practical experiences of land management – husbandry, sustainable building, renewable energy, soil management etc. – I think the chapters worth greater study are those dealing with aspects that many, too eager to get their hands in the soil, might find less interesting.
When picking up a book it is a common tendency (I know I do it!) to flick to the bits that you know most about. We are less likely to dwell on, for instance, marketing, budget, or how to hold a productive meeting. However, these are the things most commonly overlooked and consequently the most likely to cause a project to fail. I am very impressed that Josh has gone into such detail on these matters. If you buy this book and have plans of your own then I urge you to pay great attention to these chapters. They may seem a little dry but they cover the nitty gritty of dealing with those inevi-table, make or break moments where ideology crashes into pragmatism.
What makes this book so valuable is that it is the product of actual immersive hands on experience. It may contain elements of theory and philosophy but it is not ostensibly a theoretical book. It is saying, “These are the many things we’ve learned from doing this, day in day out, for 20 years. Maybe you can learn from our experience.”
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