Landscape Horticulture students tour Welch Permaculture Gardens
Picture-perfect weather in a picture-perfect setting greeted 15 students on a two-hour visit to Welch Permaculture Gardens on a Friday afternoon in early October 2010. The students were taking part in a field trip offered in the Introduction to Sustainable Landscape Practices course taught by Matt Brooks, an instructor in the DCTC Landscape Horticulture program.
Designed and operated by Bruce and Brenda Blair, Welch Permaculture Gardens is an intensive, two-acre sustainable land use project located on the sandy floodplain of the Cannon River just outside of Welch, Minn. Spectacular limestone bluffs overlook the gardens and the river, the latter hardly a stone’s throw from the Blairs’ front yard.
Bruce Blair is a founding board member of the Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate, a nonprofit organization with the following mission: “Through research, education, demonstration, and community-building, PRI Cold Climate catalyzes and fosters the creation of an abundant and restorative culture for living in northern temperate climates.”
“WPG is distinct from most projects through intensive, intentional and successful design and development of relationships—physically, spatially, temporally and biologically. — Bruce Blair
Blair led the guided tour of Welch Permaculture Gardens, explaining in a series of mini-lectures how permaculture functions in relation to the systems and processes in place on his family’s acreage. Permaculture by definition is a methodology for designing human habitats and establishing agricultural practices that emulate networks observed in natural ecologies.
Stops on the tour covered a number of permaculturally significant areas, including:
- Riverfront ecological restoration
- Flood management
- Woody biomass production for home heating
- Forest and annual gardens for food crops
- Chickens and geese on free range, including chicken infrastructure
- Extensive fruit production
- Small pond
- Water management, including storage, pumping and irrigation water from Cannon River
“Bruce showed how careful analysis of his site allows him to recognize patterns that guide him in developing concepts he can then implement and refine,” said Matt Brooks. “He and his family are in their seventh growing season at WPG. Bruce continues to build on his knowledge and successes. Our students came away with a new appreciation for sustainability and the importance of learning all we can from our natural environment.”