Reprinted with permission from the Biltmore Beacon, published on January 5, 2018
A Birdseye view of Chris Charnitski’s backyard reveals numerous raised beds in his garden. He experiments with several border materials. / Photo by Mark-Ellis Bennett
For those who resolve to garden organically in 2018, Brandon Greenstein with Organic Growers School offers sustainability consultations designed for everywhere from homes to farms. Chris Charnitski recently won a free home consultation from the school’s Get Growing survey drawing.
Charnitski, a high school biology teacher, bought his north Asheville home 12 years ago, but rented it during his professional travels to American international schools, and only moved in a year and a half ago. “We lived in Ecuador, Burma, and Amman in the Middle East. They’re wonderful schools, and you get exposed to all kinds of cultures,” he said. His wife Sharon is also an educator and has worked as a traveling occupational therapist.
Greenstein cuts to the chase and quickly learns that while Sharon appreciates the homegrown food she is not much of a gardening enthusiast, but Chris has been longing to have his own garden for many years. “As I’m doing assessments for what people are wanting to create in their world, I need to find out what motivates them. I need to understand what kind of money, time and land resources clients have at their disposal,” he said.
Homeowner Chris Charnitski listens attentively to Organic Growers School consultant Brandon Greenstein.
For 20 years Greenstein has been practicing permaculture through landscape installation, building, design, and function. He defines permaculture as a philosophical theory coined by men in Australia who developed a system of application. “The term comes from ‘permanent agriculture,’ developing systems that mimic nature and provide more for everybody. It’s environmental, but it’s inclusive of the human element.”
Greenstein said even the concept of permaculture is for him a very useful tool. “There’s Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison, and then there’s the Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow. The baseline concepts of working with nature, mimicking natural patterns, stacking functions, and incorporating rest and space for everybody are all embedded in that. Everything has a function and a form.”
Greenstein said he used to think that domesticated animals didn’t have a place unless they served a function such as a serious mouse hunting cat, a guard dog or a herding dog. “What I’ve realized in my own version of permaculture and sustainability is that is bringing joy to your function and making more possible for you to exist in the environment that allows us to perpetuate the effort of getting up each day and tending to whatever, then there’s a value and a function to that role.”
The consultation then relocated from the parlor to the garden where a critical examination of water flow was featured. “We look at those classic examples of where water is introduced into your landscape, where it comes off the street, or your neighbor’s property, or off the roof, or out of the sky, and figure out how to maximize its use on the land in the safest and most appropriate way possible, increasing biodiversity on the landscape.” Other topics of consultation might include capturing and storing rainwater, composting, worm beds, and protecting gardens from rabbits, moles, and other wildlife.
Charnitski’s relationship with his neighbors is another aspect Greenstein takes into consideration during his assessment. “These guys are renters, have been there forever, and we talk about gardening all the time. They garden in the ground, but they’re going to build raised beds next year,” Charnitski said. “Being downhill from you, the nutrients that wash onto their property from yours provides a potential for collaboration,” Greenstein noted.
For more information about the Organic Growers School or to schedule a consultation, visit their website at www.OrganicGrowersSchool.org.
By Mark-Ellis Bennett
Organic Growers School is a non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and support people in our region to farm, garden, and live organically.