Current Master Plan Sites
PRI Australia, Zaytuna Farm
Zaytuna Farm is situated on a sixty-six acre (27 hectares) property that fronts Terania Creek opposite the village of The Channon, Northern NSW. The property contains 800m of creek frontage, numerous swimming holes and abundant wildlife. The landscape is diverse, covering high frost-free hilltops, ridges and valleys with both cleared paddocks and forested areas.
Zaytuna Farm is a working permaculture education and demonstration farm under continuous development and with ever changing and evolving on ground research in practice; work is consistently in progress to develop new more efficient and productive systems. Situated in sub-tropical Northern New South Wales we offer students the opportunity to learn while experiencing a real life permaculture farming and gardening live in working experience situation. In addition to classroom time, students will train and work on daily farm duties interacting and caring for farm systems which can include animals, crops, trees, nursery, aquatics, irrigation, renewable energy, waste and recycling. Other tasks include looking at design in the landscape, making compost, natural fertilizers, testing soil, basic surveying and completing design exercises.
There is an integrated water harvesting system of multiple dams, ponds, and swales, with gravity irrigation throughout the property. Farm electricity is all stand alone off grid solar with generator back up, all toilets are state of the art composting toilets, all grey waste systems are gravel reed bed natural biological cleaning system all approved by the local government.
The buildings on site include mud rendered lime plastered straw bale, bamboo bale construction home, stylish upcycled shipping containers with passive solar aspect wind vented metal roofs, commercial kitchen, student launderette, internet cafe with student kitchen all enclosing open space classroom and dining area. There are also various sized metal industrial farm sheds from quite large to very small housing the solar power station, main tool room, main farm workshop, machinery storage, farm office, camping shelters, feed stores, dairy preparation area, main crop tools and supplies, nursery tools seeds and nursery stand alone pressure pump solar power station, all approved by the local government.
Zinc-allum metal roofing on all buildings harvests rainwater to water tanks and is pumped to a tank at the top of the property and supplies excellent pressure high quality showering, washing and drinking water to all the built infrastructure on site, all approved by the local government.
The farm has a large diversity of bamboo production for food and timber plus farm forestry and reforestation including river bank stability projects.
PRI Jordan, The Greening the Desert II Site
The Greening the Desert II site is situated on 3000 square meters property towards the bottom end of the Jordan Valley (also known as the Dead Sea Valley), with its lowest point 400 meters below sea level in a country with one of the lowest levels of available freshwater per capita in the world, and offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate a permaculture model of sustainable arid land development.
The property is situated between the two villages of Jawfa and Jawasreh, 40 minutes from the capital city Amman and just 10 minutes away from King Hussain/Allenby Bridge, a crossing point for entering Palestine. Being on a west facing rocky slope, the site is open to both the full harshness of the late-afternoon western sun and a view of Jericho and Jerusalem – two of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities of the world: with its Acacia savanna and abundant wildlife, the Jordan Valley was once one of the most fertile areas on Earth, part of that Fertile Crescent where, for the first time in human history, hunter-gatherers gradually ceased migrating and settled down in permanent villages. Similarly to other cradles of civilization, the abundant natural resources underwent mismanagement and over-exploitation, paving the way to soil loss, drought and desertification and, in turn, to large cycles of the poverty of marginalization.
The interaction between a Mediterranean latitude of 32° and an altitude below sea level results in a subtropical-like climate with a short winter rainy season (100 to 150 mm often limited to a couple of main rain events) and a long dry season which extends over several months, exacerbated by temperatures that have a maximum average of 40°C (104°F) in July, but can reach peaks as high as 52°C (125°F). With its mild winter – the minimum average is 10°C (50°F) in January – the Jordan Valley, despite heat-stress and water scarcity, is one of the main agricultural areas in Jordan: the chemically-supported greenery of monocultural plantations of bananas, along with the increasingly widespread plastic-house cultivation of tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers, strongly contrast with the barren empty slopes in which poor shepherds struggle to fatten up their herds, grazing off the already limited natural resources and de facto preventing the regeneration of a functioning, healthy ecosystem.
In this context, the Greening the Desert II actively promotes permaculture education by hosting PDCs and internships directed to a wide array of local and international students, at the same time acting as an effective demonstration of:
Energy-efficient housing: the main building/classroom is a mixed mud-brick/straw-bale construction, finished with a tiled floor and supported by concrete pillars. Thick straw-bale walls insulate the southern and western walls (the most heat-stressed sides), while mud bricks – pressed on location – bank the cooler temperatures of the eastern and northern walls, resulting in an energy-efficient structure and comfortable living space. Sieved red clay mixed in with the lime plaster gives the building the salmon color that makes it in tune with both the desert environment and the local sensitivity. Apart from the main building, a detached kitchen and toilet block are equipped to satisfy the needs of students and visitors.
Off-grid energy supply: the site is powered by an off-grid solar system with a grid connection that can be used as a back up during high loads or cloudy days. Apart from the panels themselves, the major components are battery bank, charge controller MPPT, inverter, breaker box, AC charger, and grid/solar switch. Finally, an evacuated tube solar hot water system is placed on the top of the toilet block, guaranteeing an ongoing hot water supply.
Water harvesting and passive soil building: the whole site design follows the harmonic pattern of the landscape’s contour with the major feature being three main earth-backed swales reinforced by stone walls realized by collecting the countless rocks originally present on site and filled back with earth, whose function is supported by other minor swales in-between, all fully mulched and with the trees directly planted into the ditch. Swales slow, spread and sink all available rainfall while capturing all the fine particles of clay and silt that are carried by the water, so that after 5 years inside the main swales we are rewarded with a fertile 2-inch layer of red soil accumulated on the top of the whitish infertile subsoil that used to cover the whole area.
Dryland polyculture food forest: a drip-irrigated mixed food forest displays a series of hardy nitrogen-fixing pioneers (e.g. prosopis spp., acacia spp., allocasuarina torulosa, leucaena leucocephala, etc.), local classics (e.g. carob, cypress) and traditional fruit trees (e.g. date palms, olives, citrus, figs, pomegranates, etc.). All fruit trees are composted and fully mulched and, by mean of regular pollarding, all the surplus leaf material provided by the support species goes back to compost, mulch, and forage. Also, while waiting for a more permanent fence wall, a line of rainwater-irrigated prosopis spp. – started off with small gabion silt-traps – serves as an aid to the wire mesh fence, the inside well-pruned to offer a shady walkway and the outside cover in spikes to prevent even the bravest sheep from breaking in.
Dryland polyculture vegetable gardens: a drip-irrigated kitchen garden characterized by double-reach contour sunken beds 40 cm deep, lined with a non-porous plastic sheet (that prevents any water from draining out) and filled with fertile soil, compost and mulch is positioned on the shade side of the main building, covered by a shade cloth all throughout the hottest months. In a similar way, also the nursery that feeds the garden is a shade house on the shade side of the toilet block. Also, on the sunny side of the main building, a series of wicking beds obtained from upcycled 1-cubic-meter plastic tote containers cut in half is coloring the facade with an edge of fresh water-saving veggie supply.
Food waste management and small animal systems: an integrated chicken-composting system converts food waste into meat and egg production while actively building soil, decreasing the input in terms of chicken feed while providing an efficient alternative to the widespread habit of the burning of organic matter. The straw-bale mud-rendered chicken coop has been recently connected to a mixed straw-bale/earth-bag rabbit pen that will increase the meat production on site while adding other composting material. A minor part of the food waste goes to fuel the four worm farms realized from upcycled bathtubs strategically placed on the edge between the kitchen and the main footpath, so to easily collect the daily ratio of mineral-rich worm juice that drips out the tubs’ drain ready to get converted into other vegetation.
Biological waste management: both male and female toilets were all realized according to the Farallones’ dry composting toilet design that, although customizable to suit different styles, it is simple to build and easy to duplicate, detailed instructions being freely available online.
On site greywater treatment: the two main sources of greywater on site – the kitchen sink and the shower block – have been connected to two reed beds filled with gravel and planted to cattail. As for the wicking beds, also the smaller kitchen reed bed was made out of a 1-cubic-meter plastic tote container cut in half, the two sections obtained joined together through plastic piping, while the bigger shower reed bed (about 4.5 cubic meters) was made out of concrete blocks, with the advantage of the good head pressure due to its position on the top of the property. Both of them have the output tied up to a garden hose, ready to pour the treated water onto the surrounding fruit trees.
We are currently expanding all structures on site by adding a second floor to all existing buildings with additional rooms for staff and students and top roof wicking bed demonstration gardens. Finally, a shade house is going to be connected to the shade side of the main building in order to provide cross ventilation while hosting the colorful goodness of the main kitchen garden.