Jeff Adams Retention Pond

This water retention infrastructure is part of the landscaping at the Southeast Utah Health Department on Kane Creek Boulevard. The project was designed by Adams and installed with the help of Orion Rogers of the health department, local tree service company Triassic, and interns from local nonprofit Community Rebuilds. [Photo courtesy of Jeff Adams]

A hint of spring is in the air, but those last stubborn patches of snow persist. If you’re itching to roll up your sleeves and get to work on a garden or landscape, consider attending a permaculture workshop taught by Jeff Adams at the Grand County Library on Monday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.

“Permaculture is usually kind of thought of as gardening, but it’s really a bigger picture design process,” said Adams. “It draws on a lot of traditional ecological knowledge, on a lot of science, and on a lot of tools and techniques that are found in other disciplines: organic agriculture, forestry, hydrology.”

Adams is the owner of TerraSophia, a local ecological design consulting, education, and landscape contracting business. The Feb. 17 workshop is the first in a three-part series.

The term “permaculture,” Adams said, was coined in Australia in the 1970s by a professor and one of his students who were trying to respond to the environmental and social disruptions they saw arising from the industrialization of the world, and particularly agriculture.

“It was conceived as an alternative strategy for how we can actually meet our basic needs for food, shelter, energy, water,” said Adams, “while at minimum not doing damage to the broader ecosystem that we depend on, but really with the ultimate goal of going one step further—to create functional agro-ecologies that are both good for human needs as well as other species and the ecologies that are around us.”

Adams will talk more about the history and scope of agriculture at the workshop, while also discussing case scenarios applicable to the Moab area. Those who are new to the concept of permaculture can expect a thorough introduction, while others who have some experience using permaculture strategies will benefit from discussing local examples.

“Hopefully there will be something for everybody,” said Adams. “I’ll be talking a lot about onsite water harvesting: roof catchment, graywater systems, different strategies like that, as well as perennial landscaping; using things like fruit trees and culinary herbs as landscaping plants that you can get the benefit of some food or some spices from.”

Dr. Ros McCann is an associate professor of Environment and Society at Utah State University, Moab, and is active in the permaculture program on campus and in the community. She described some other permaculture strategies that work well in the Moab area.

“Guild planting (such as a fruit-producing overstory, and an understory of pollinator attractors, nutrient accumulators, and nitrogen fixers functioning symbiotically), swales, curb cuts, a heavy mulch layer, greywater and of course active water catchment through tank systems,” she ticked off, adding, “We need to stop pushing rainwater and greywater away as a nuisance and to better harvest its potential to build resilience in our community.”

The dates of the next two workshops are Mar. 2 and Mar. 16. With temperatures still on the chilly side, none of these workshops will take place outside, but Adams says there may be an outdoor element in a future class.

“I am working on getting together some other hands-on workshops and learning opportunities,” he said.

McCann is glad to see permaculture gaining more attention.

“With annual precipitation levels of under 10 inches and climate change projections in the Southwest for hotter, drier weather, it is hopeful to see so many interested in and implementing alternative landscaping using permaculture design,” she said.