Permaculture at the Commons

Michelle Nordmeyer is transforming one of the toughest sections of the Perry Ave Community Farm into a permaculture-style urban fruit forest.

Read on to learn more about Michelle and Permaculture at the Commons.

That’s the number one permaculture thing, know your area. Spend time to really know what your area needs and grows.
— Michelle Nordmeyer

How long have you been involved with Sweet Water Foundation?

I met Emmanuel, Sweet Water Foundation’s Co-founder and Executive Director, in 2011 when he was an artist-in-residence at the Hyde Park Arts Center. I first visited the Perry Ave Commons in 2014, but didn’t get involved as a volunteer until 2015. Last year, I met up with a couple people through the arts center who had fruit trees and were looking for a place to build a perennial, permaculture-style, urban food forest. I knew Emmanuel had an area towards the back of the farm that he couldn’t really do anything with because it was grassy and wet. So, in 2016, we started our permaculture-style site.


Can you tell us a little more about the permaculture?

Well, what we are doing is a permaculture style. We are trying to use what we have and keep it a closed system. We harvest seeds and replant them for the next year. We try to compost all our green waste into soil that we can put down on the beds next year. We have fruit trees and fruit shrubs and around those we plant companion plants that are good for the trees.


What is growing in the permaculture-style garden?

Clovers, rye grass, fruit trees (including: apple, pear, peaches, persimmons and paw paw), raspberries, blueberry shrubs, elderberry, strawberries and currants. We also have rhubarb and a lot of perennial flowers and plants.


What are some resources for people interested in learning more about permaculture and the design concept you are cultivating?

The site was loosely designed by a permaculture designer named Matthew Stevens. He teaches permaculture design courses all over.  This is not his exact design, but he was one of the guiding people behind how we would fill things out. He uses Bill Mollison’s permaculture book, which is a great reference.


If you had unlimited resources, what would you envision for this space?

I would love to have a gathering area on our site where people could come to teach and/or take classes. Ideally, we would like our site to focus on healing, physical health and also the soul and spiritual healing. It would be great to get more people involved in wanting to design their own grow and harvest things for aromatherapy to support businesses, support other people. And solar panels! A wind turbine to pump our water in.


Jia Li Pratt