So what are those ecological principles? Helena continues: “The basic principles are care for the soil, for nature, for people, for sufficient financial resources and a fair distribution of revenues. Ask yourself whether others can imitate your actions, or whether they are at the expense of nature and people. The use of finite resources such as fertilizer or pesticides is therefore by definition a problem.” Slowly we begin to understand.
Clever Use of Natural Resources
Those principles sound logical, but what do they mean in practical terms for their farm? “It starts with observation. How does the sun travel through the garden, what does the wind do, where does the water flow, what kind of soil is there and how do we move through the garden. Then you look how you can best use the natural resources. For example, on the edge of the garden we created a hedge. This forms a sort of heat trap that also stops the wind. Next to it are the vegetables that need a lot of sun and heat. Crops that need the most attention are planted along the routes we walk most often, so between the farmhouse and the restaurant. “
Helena explains the importance of continuously improving the soil. “We use naturally occurring soil improvers, such as clover and worms. Our organic manure consists of composted leftovers from the restaurant and ‘waste’ from the land. And the vegetable beds follow a cycle of several years; crops alternate so that the soil is not depleted. In winter, seaweed and straw enrich the soil.”
Permaculture and People
Permaculture principles are also applied in the restaurant, both in the kitchen and in the workplace. They use the produce from the garden, cook with seasonal ingredients and serve mostly vegetarian dishes. The restaurant staff is organised as a cooperative, which means that they are co-owners who decide together and fairly share in the profits. This gives them a vested interest in their work.
Helena and Stefan do not deny that it has been hard work since the start. Their farming methods are quite labour intensive. They hire seasonal employees to help with the harvest and cultivation of the land. The opportunity to work on a permaculture farm attracts young people from all over the globe, as we witness first-hand when we are introduced to a young farmer from Haiti and a Swedish biology student. While the youngsters get valuable training in this paradise-like environment, for Kosters Trädgårdar it is a good way to get help and spread the principles of permaculture.