Growing Rice in Vermont and Designing for Peak Oil (Video)

whole systems design photo

Image credit: Whole Systems Design

I don't know much about growing rice, but I do know that it tends to be a warm climate crop. So when fellow TreeHugger Mat emailed me about an outfit trying to grow rice in Vermont, I was intrigued. But it turned out that growing rice was just one small part of what Whole Systems Design are up to. In fact, these guys are trying to create designs for entire, habitable, and truly resilient human habitats that can survive any of the challenges our uncertain future throws at us.Landscape Architecture Meets Architecture Meets Permaculture
Based out of Mad River Valley, Vermont, Whole Systems Design is a collaborative team of landscape architects, gardeners, permaculture designers, architects and energy experts. Much like Bountiful Backyards in North Carolina, or Les Jardiniers à Bicyclette in Montreal, there is a strong focus on creating edible, perennial landscapes that require minimum energy inputs. (aka Permaculture.)

The team have designed edible landscapes for schools, homesteads, farms, and are operating their own experimental research farm where they are growing everything from wine cap straphoria mushrooms through pears and apricots to paw paws and hardy kiwis. Their work seems to be making waves to, earning them a 6 page feature in Landscape Architecture Magazine on growing groceries for a post-oil future which featured a little more detail about the team's rice growing explouts:

Ben Falk is growing rice in Vermont. Last fall he carved two flat paddies into a hillside above the Mad River Valley, then excavated a small pond at the top
of the hill. The pond catches rain and meltwater from the upper part of his 10
acres. His three ducks, which provide eggs and eat the slugs that would otherwise
overwhelm his vegetables, often use this pond as their bathroom, so the water is rich in nutrients. It also gets a lot of sun, so it's warm, like bathwater. [...] last July, the rice was bright geen, obviously thriving. Falk says he'll get about 150 pounds of brown rice from these two paddies, enough to take care of the grain needs of a family of four for a year

Resilient Housing for Resilient Landscapes
Crucially though, these guys don't stop at food production. While their commercial services seem to focus on landscaping and food production planning for now, the team is also involved in research on designing low impact, low energy, resilient structures that can withstand future shocks—be they natural storms and other challenges, or man-made disasters such as peak oil.

Based out of a purpose-built multi-purpose dwelling at the research farm, Whole Systems Design clearly puts an emphasis on low tech, appropriate and "passively survivable" sustainability features, by which they mean systems that can keep operating if there is an interruption of power supply or other crucial resources. Featuring massive insulation, local timber (often from undervalued species), passive solar heating, and of course edible landscaping, it definitely looks like a well-thought out space.

We look forward to seeing more from these guys.

More on Permaculture, Edible Landscaping and Resilient Design
a href="">Bountiful Backyards Creates Edible, Urban Landscapes
A Dumpster Diving, Bike Riding Garden Company
18 Beautiful, Edible Landscaping Plants (Slideshow)
Urban Farming, Community Resilience, and the Death of the Motor Industry in Detroit (Video)

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