One Path to Veganic Permaculture

Evolving from Organic to a reduced and no-tillage farming system with no off-farm fertilizer, no insect sprays, and very little weeding.

In 1988, I managed the transition to Certified Organic of 200 acres in New Jersey with 9 vegetable & fruit crops. In 1992, I bought my own small farm in Montana and began moving towards "eco-organic" systems management, experimenting with habitat and soil building strategies to increase plant, insect, and microorganism diversity and provide year-round soil cover, using living mulches, cover crops, and green manures.

For more on my living mulch system see living mulch.

In 2016 my late husband and I semi-retired to continue our experiments with no tillage, no off-farm fertilzer, no pest spraying, and only selective weeding on our new 211 acre farm in Eastern Oregon. We put in a no-till orchard and reduced tillage vegetable, dry bean, and grain fields.

After 33 years of farming on four different Organic farms in four different states and climates making mistakes and enjoying sucess, it is clear that eco-organic and veganic permaculture farms and gardens will not all look the same! They will mimic nature in the climates/environments where they are and manage ecological relationships rather than crops alone. Here are ten ecological principles that have helped me build soil and habitat while managing relationships and agro-ecosystem interactions rather than just crops.

1. Diversify the soil food web with crop & ground cover diversity.

2. Disturb the soil as little as possible; create year-round refuges for natural enemies (such as insect predators & parasites, birds, bats, frogs & snakes).

3. Grow a living root in the soil year-round & feed the rhizosphere.

4. Keep soil covered with as much plant diversity as possible.

5. Add organic residues regularly throughout the year, not all at once in the spring.

6. Focus on slow-release, plant-based Carbon fertilizer amendments rather than fast-release Nitrogen fertilzers.

7. Recycle nutrients within the plant community, rather than import mined nutrients.

8. Selective fertilization; avoid fertilizing the whole field or garden.

9. Selective weeding: choose your ground cover; then chop & drop only crop-competetive weeds.

10. Maintain or create wild habitat as close to crops as possible.

It took many lessons, on-farm experiments, and years of observation to get to an economically-sustainable, minimal-input, farming with nature system. The most important first step was to stop distubing the soil with tillage and weed cultivation and to maintain a growing root in the soil year-round, as habitat for the soil microorganisms that nutrient cycling and biological control depend upon. My way was and continues to be lving mulches grown with and beneath crops. I began with annual living mulches.

By 2004 I began evolving towards a more permanent organic agriculture in a new field on my Montana farm, further reducing tillage and off-farm fertilizer, experimenting with permanent, no-till living mulch row middles to provide year-round safe habitat for the vital soil microbial communiity, and bringing more and more wildness onto the farm. See agroecology experiments.

In 2007, I began to experiment with veganic, permanent soil cover farming. Veganic Permaculture is my way of honoring all living beings and farming with an unconditional effort to keep all things alive and growing.

Veganic Permaculture is a willingness to balance my existence with the natural world.It means respecting the basic right of life for all things: from the soil microorganisms whom I try not to disturb with tillage, to the birds, frogs, snakes, butterflies, and insects whom I do not poison with insecticides, the weeds that are not killed with herbicides, the domestic animals who are not killed for food or to provide bonemeal or bloodmeal fetilizer, and the wildlife who are not trapped or killed.

I watched the video Earthlings and knew I had to do more, including not importing mined minerals from other people's land to apply to my land.

I began to experiment with grow-your-own plant-based fertilizer and stopped using manure-based compost. The plant-based fertilizers worked as well as manure compost without creating excessive soil phosphorus, potassium, and nitrate-nitogen levels, that had occured when I was applying even small amounts of manure compost every year.

Then in 2010, I sold my commercial Organic vegetable & fruit farm in Montana and began to farm with my husband in California and to experiment with veganic forest gardens modeled after functioning forest ecosystems. One forest garden was created in my husband's 35-year Certified Organic fruit orchard in northern California.

Another small forest garden was created in Western Montana on my parent's land.

In Oregon, I am farming commercially and growing most of my own diet, still listening to the land, learning & evolving new farming methods. I maintain 141 acres in undisturbed native grass/sage high desert as a wildlife santuary. Animals are not used for food or manure in my veganic, eco-organic orchards with 85 varieties and 600 trees of peach, pear, apple, apricot, plum, pluot, hazelnut, and walnut. Except for wild animals, there is no grazing in our orchards because we maintain undisturbed habitat for beneficial insects beneath our trees and mow selectively only to provide "fertilizer" and enhance nutrient cycling. No manure or animal products or any off-farm mineral fetilizers are applied to our orchard soils or to the permanent living mulch vegetable, grain, and dry bean fields.

Native animals, birds, and insects wander through and join the system as pollinators, biological-control agents, nutrient-cyclers, and consumers.

Our diet of fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, grains, and mushrooms grow in a diverse polyculture surrounded by premanent living mulches, composed of grasses, clovers, alfalfa, and flowering herbs or "weeds" alowed to blossum to provide sequential, season-long bloom for pollinators as well as predators and parasites of crop pests. Besides providing habitat for ground-dwelling and above-ground natural enemies, our permanent living mulches provide plant residues for fertilizer when mowed and provide perennial roots, even among annual crops, to prime the microbial community who cycle and recyle nutrients.

For more on our version of Fukuoka Natural Farming, growing grains in a way that mimics a native grassland ecosystem see: natural farming.

for more on veganic methods see PowerPoint Presentations: Veganic Farming and Gardening and Eating Veganic - What You Should Know About How Your Food is Grown.

Find more veganic gardening/farming information at:,, Vegan Organic Network,, and NWVEG's Veganic Gardening forum

For me, farming with perennial ground covers, reduced tillage, and mostly perennial crops makes ecological sense and vegainc permaculture makes moral sense.

For more on mature Forest Gardens see:Forest Garden Examples.

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Veganic Permaculture is hosted by the Permaculture forums at