How did we get here?

Dear Reader:


This is the first of what I hope to be frequent blogs about helping to reverse climate change and addressing food insecurity by using regenerative farming practices, embodied in the principles of permaculture. For this first blog, Karen, my wife has insisted that I write a bit about myself. I am usually loath to do this.

However, I am a trained evaluator (more on that later) and one of the techniques that we use to establish the validity of our qualitative evaluations (e.g., case studies) is to provide some personal background so that the reader will be aware of any potential biases.


As I alluded to above, I am a Senior Evaluation Officer for a small, specialized agency of the United Nations, based in Geneva, Switzerland. In this capacity, reports about climate change come across my desk quite frequently. These reports alarmed me to the extent that I, together with Karen, decided that, in our upcoming retirement, we would relocate somewhere safe and create a sanctuary from climate change for our family and friends.


We conducted research and found out that many scientists think that our home state of Michigan, in the US, will be one of the best places to survive climate change. This is because Michigan is a peninsula, surrounded by the Great Lakes, that will act as a buffer.


Therefore, in 2019, right before the pandemic began, we made a whirlwind trip of the state and ended up buying a 56-acre Amish farm outside of Clare, Michigan. Clare is smack-dab in the middle of the state. Its moniker is “Gateway to the North”.


The pandemic began and I received permission from my agency to telework from outside my duty station. For two years, I teleworked from 6:30 to 14:30. Then, I would go out and work on the farm until dark.

Because of the pandemic, many people were laid off from their jobs. Food insecurity is, and will continue to be, a big problem. Since we had an outside source of revenue to support the farm, we donated our surplus production to the Community Compassion Network, a food bank in nearby Mt Pleasant.


We slowly came to the realization that, even if we create a sanctuary, if climate change renders the planet uninhabitable, we will perish with everyone else. Therefore, we resolved to join the larger fight against climate change.


We did more research and found that currently about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are emitted come from agriculture. However, if we transform our agricultural system, it could not only avoid emissions, it could also actually sequester large amounts of carbon, thus helping to mitigate climate change.


We came to conclude that the best way to transform our agricultural system might be through a system of ecological design called permaculture. Permaculture’s design principles, based on whole-systems thinking, seem to us to be ideally suited to the task.


We set out to learn more about permaculture and, in the process, Russon Family Farms received permaganic authentication, at the pioneer level, from the Great Rivers and Lakes Permaculture Institute. It’s kind of like the USDA’s organic certification—only better. We are only the second farm in Michigan to receive this honor.


Our commitment to fight climate change led us to form a private operating foundation called the Climate Change Permaculture Project (CCPP). The purpose of the foundation is to help create a critical mass of farmers who will adopt regenerative farming practices, embodied in the principles of permaculture, to begin to reverse the effects of climate change and, at the same time, help to address food insecurity.


Russon Family Farms will take 10 acres out of production and lease it to CCPP to create a farmer incubator program, like a small business incubator. New and diverse farmers will receive training from internationally recognized permaculture experts. Then, they will put their training into practice on their own two-acre plots.


This is what keeps me awake at night. I can’t wait to retire to devote my full attention to saving the planet. I hope that you will consider joining me.  CR

2 thoughts on “How did we get here?”

  1. I will be watching keenly from downstate! I first started with composting all my fruit & veggie scraps years ago, then moved to vermicompost about 10 years ago. I have just created my first small amount of biochar collecting charcoal from my woodstove, and they are currently inoculating in a bucket of vermicompost. Finally after having hugelkultur on my radar for some time, I got a bed started this week. The trench is dug and has been mounded with large well rotted logs, yard waste sticks and and a layer of well aged maple wood chips from tree in the neighborhood. Will likely spend this summer building the compost layer with a plan to add the top soil layer and plant next spring.

    1. Thanks, Val. You honor us. We’re amazed by all that you do in your part of Michigan – from your latest hugelkulture project to foraging feasts, bee keeping and, of course, wine making. Hope to learn more in person. 🙂

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