To those who grow urban or suburban permaculture gardens: A Request for Help!

I received this plea for help in an email this morning from my Sufi mentor Darvesha, who is on the Ziraat Council which carries the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan: Creating a positive future in partnership with Nature. 

I ask that all who steward, or long to steward, similar gardens, and who experience similar issues with your neighbors and towns to please read this and respond, either by email or snail mail to the authors Amina and Arif, and the town of Gardner, Massachusetts. When I returned from the 2015 North American Permaculture Convergence in 2015, it was with this singular takeaway: “As a permaculturist, unless I am rubbing up against the edges of existing laws, I’m not doing anything!”

Clearly, as the authors attest, this is a moment “for education, not confrontation.” Please make your letters and emails reflect that fact.  


A Request for Help

Dear Beloveds,

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Above is a picture of our garden.
As many of you know we have been working on a urban homesteading, permaculture, forest gardening project here at our home in Gardner for the past nine years.   We moved here with the intention of being a resource and example of a more sustainable and resilient way of being on our beautiful planet. We started by planting a large variety of fruit and nut trees and bushes , along with perennial  and self seeding herbs ,vegetables and flowers.   We  stopped mowing the lawn.  We harvest the rain water. Added a hoop house and a green house to extend the season and  grow  annual veggies. A pond for the birds .  Native medicinal plants and flowers  appeared  along with pollinators of all kinds .Most recently helping a local mushroom grower start up “Fungi  Ally” we added many mushrooms  to the land. We now have a beautiful foraging and grazing 1/2 acre diverse garden, with winding paths , whimsical art ,shrines, places to be with medicinal plants and flowers, play and rest areas, a bed for  sleeping under the stars, a dinning space for eating while communing with nature.   There is  the Art Garage which consists of art supplies for anyone to create art from the heart using   mostly recycled, re-purposed things that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

Our neighbors for the most part have gotten used to our project,  Recently new neighbors have moved in and complained to the Board of Health which has regulations such as no vegetation over 12 inches and other outdated laws.   We have dealt with the Board of Health a few times about this already through the years.  But now we would like to schedule a hearing with the City, in hope of changing the antiquated rules about having a lawn in this age of water shortages, and unhealthy food choices,  We want to let the City know  that rather than a health hazard that the land here is a health benefit for the City, Growing food and medicine,  putting our hands into the soil is a remedy  for healing the violence that afflicts our society.

This land is a sanctuary, a  food source, a source of healing herbs, our recreation and our work, a recycled art museum and a place of peace and refuge for both us and  friends and all beings.

We are putting together a report for the hearing , that  describes what we are doing, and that we are  herbalists and permaculture designers , artists and peace activists. Including  the philosophy of permaculture, forest gardening and a list of the books and resources that support this viewpoint.    Listing the variety of plants (including those on the Plant Saver List) on the land and their uses,  It will be intended as an educational document rather than a confrontational document.   THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN, PLEASE  — by writing testimonials and letters supporting us. Our friends who have been here and been touched by this land in some way.  Also welcoming letters from those who recognize the importance of local food, species diversity, creating art,  people gathering in love, harmony and beauty and this whole movement towards  a gentler way to be on this planet.

If you are wondering what to write about perhaps you have experienced the Art Garage, a slow meal here in the garden, backyard blend tea from the magic teapot, sitting amongst the green beings here, a garden tour or herb walk, permaculture project,  staying with us and experiencing our minimalist experiments.  The letter does not need to be long, any offering or insight is welcome. If you have photos that you have taken here and would like to share that would be great!

Please consider helping us continue to care for this piece of land and to change the regulations  so that other residents in this city (and others) are free to garden and homestead on the land, in hopes that this helps this movement to grow,  Food Not Lawns!

You can send us a snail mail or an email. The letter could start with to the City of Gardner, to whom it may concern:

On behalf of us – Amina and Arif

Our address is 106 Chestnut Street, Gardner MA 01440.

If you send an email please use

With deep appreciation and gratitude,

Love and peace,

Amina and Arif

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