The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm
by Josh Trought, founder of D Acres
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"What a broad-minded book and thorough record of achievement for a visionary farm enterprise that takes practical steps to counter the capitalist disaster--an inspiration for the next generation of growers" ~Peter Schumann, founder of Bread and Puppet Theater
"Every community should be so blessed to have a permaculture learning center and demonstration farm in its midst. Josh Trought and company provide pure inspiration for learning essential earth skills. Pick up this book and you too can help people connect with the land and a sustainable way of living." ~Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard
"I haven't been to D Acres, but The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm made me want to go. And as any good permaculture project should, this book stacks functions. It's at once a chronicle of the reinvention of an old family property as a 21st-century enterprise, a first-hand guidebook for developing a successful community, and a useful how-to for ecological homesteading and farming. If you are doing any of those--or thinking about it--this book should be in your hands." ~Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture and the Permaculture City.
"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 ‘Ecologically 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 inevitable, 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.” -Tim Green
co-founder of Village Farm, Devon
"At a crucial crossroads in our history, this book chronicles a life-giving response to a society bent on self-destruction. With uncommon honesty, Josh Trought lays bare the lessons of once wide-eyed beginners, now seasoned and savvy leaders in the permaculture movement. The journey presented here is inspired and instructive, though nonformulaic and a work in progress. When the dust settles upon our epoch, what will stand out are places like D Acres, which built a living alternative to the ubiquitous, me-centered society. As readers will soon discover, it is hard work turning dreams into reality, but with Josh as your trusty guide, your body will ache for this 'real' work."
—Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity and founder of the Global Living Project
In this meticulously detailed book, Trought relates the lessons gleaned from 17 years of establishing and running D Acres, a nonprofit, community service–oriented farm in the challenging soil and climate of northern New Hampshire. With a serious, pedantic style more common to business books than to the cheerful permaculture genre, he provides extensive descriptions of historical precedents; local geography, geology, climate, and economy; fund-raising; marketing; and community governance and decision-making (there's a whole chapter on meetings). In addition, there's more-typical discussion of soil-building, animal husbandry, alternative building techniques, cottage industries, ecological integration, and community engagement. The exposition is threaded with political commentary and seasoned with a strong dose of an admirable but dauntingly earnest ethic. Despite Trought's sincere love for his work and willingness to share abundant knowledge and experience, his somber, didactic tone may discourage budding eco-villagers still at the initial dreaming and planning stages. His lessons may be more useful and inspiring to those already ankle-deep in their own land-based community ventures. ~Publishers Weekly
"The word permaculture, a shorthand term fusing permanent agriculture with permanent culture, is a recent innovation based on the ecological ideal of caring for the earth and for people by reinvesting any surplus back into the system to minimize waste. Although there are still only a handful of fully functioning permaculture farms worldwide, D Acres near Dorchester, New Hampshire, serves as a role model for other communities aspiring to a high level of sustainability. In this sumptuous handbook of tools and ideas, D Acres cofounder Trought provides a comprehensive blueprint for creating an environmentally and culturally balanced community homestead and shares some of the economic and organizational experiments he and his collaborators have tried over the years. Twenty detailed chapters cover all the fundamentals of running a permaculture-based farm, from governance to budgeting and communication philosophy, as well as designing buildings, setting up water irrigation systems, and managing no-till agriculture. An immensely useful guidebook for organic farmers, cohousing advocates, and anyone interested in learning about a place where sustainability is truly possible." ~Booklist
"If we want people to live ecologically, get along, and heal the Earth, we need to build a local, ecological economy. Josh Trought's detailed guide points the way to localizing where we get our basic needs and at the same time stay flexible and practical, not utopian-egalitarian. D Acres started with almost nothing, but through permaculture and perseverance, and a lot of hard knocks, it's getting to where it's doing everything right. The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm is not merely a model for farmers or for an education center, but for a great kind of life."
—Albert Bates, author of The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and The Biochar Solution
"Homesteading on a hamlet scale, teaching ecological design, building for the future, and creating new family and tribal bonds in a time of dissolution, the D Acres vision sheds light on the uses of adversity to counter the centrifugal forces of our culture. With many rich vignettes and inventive solutions on offer, this book will reward careful reading."
—Peter Bane, author of The Permaculture Handbook and publisher of Permaculture Activist magazine
"One cannot discuss sustainable agriculture without considering its community context, nor vice versa. Trought has given a lot of thought to both, and his experience and observations are well worth sharing. I've visited D Acres and been very impressed at the depth of its vision, which is clearly expressed throughout the book."
—Will Bonsall, author of Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening and Through the Eyes of a Stranger
"Josh's manual offers a wealth of practical advice that will be very useful to those adventuring in the direction that D Acres has developed over twenty years in intentional living and permaculture farming. Truly inspiring!"
—Andrew Faust, founder, Center for Bioregional Living
"Josh Trought shows how society can be brought together in harmonious fashion with ecological systems to produce healthy food, close-knit communities, land stewardship, and beauty in a sustainable way. What I love most about the D Acres model is that from the start, their intent was to experiment AND share the learning. That's exactly what this book does, describing the philosophical and historical roots of collective living and permaculture, as well as the day-to-day work of growing and building, all with clear and compelling storytelling. Nothing short of miraculous!" —Tim Traver, author of Sippewissett
D Acres of New Hampshire is a not-for-profit Permaculture Farm and Educational Homestead located in Dorchester, NH. Read about our mission, our weekly meals, camping and lodging, and events and workshops.