Founder's Story: Michael T. Whisler
-B.S. in Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Human Ecology from Indiana University.
-Completed the 172 hour Permaculture Design Course (certified in 2013).
-IU CORE (Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education) Program's Outstanding Student of the Year.
-Three years professional experience in landscaping, farm/orchard management and property management including:
-One Year internship at Capitol Reef National Park's Historic Fruita Orchards
-Two years working for Bloomington's premier organic plant nursery and edible landscaping company.
My Journey to EasyPeasy has been a winding road.
I graduated high school with no clear idea of what to study. The only plans I had were to get into Indiana Univeristy, and take "the trip". I had been planning a road trip around the Western United States, daydreaming about hitting the road with my buddies and some second hand camping gear. We took a month to see in person what I had only seen in western movies and postcard pictures. We traveled along Route 66 to the Pacific Coast Highway. Spent time in Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nevada City, Steamboat Springs and Aspen. We backpacked around the famed Maroon Bells (North America's most photographed mountains). We even had a brush with disaster when one of our party suffered a terrible skate-boarding accident in Colorado. He ended up with a serious leg fracture and 6 months in bed, while the rest of us took away a newfound sense of mortality.
It was time to go to college. I began pursuing a degree in Geology, but soon heard of "Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Human Ecology", and I jumped in with both feet. I began training as a Trip Leader with IU's Outdoor Adventures program. I learned wilderness medicine and survival skills. I learned leadership and navigation. I learned how to tolerate the heat, cold, wind and rain. In various classes, we took field-trips to see sustainable farms, state and national parks, studied ecology and hydrology, as well as facilities management and hospitality.
In 2012, I took part in a two-week, intensive Permaculture Design Course. We studied landscape design with a focus on sustainable food production, ecological home design, and "modern homesteading". Despite sometimes being referred to as "Hippy-camp", this was a group of highly motivated individuals, seeking the knowledge necessary to design and build a greener future.
In 2013, I applied for the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education Program, an exclusive, semester long program focused on leadership training in an outdoor context. 20 students were selected each year to participate, and I became one of them. The program taught many things, but primarily it was a lesson in adaptiveness and resolve, problem-solving and decision-making. We hiked through mountains, deserts and canyons in Southern Utah, carrying what we needed on our backs for the better part of a month. After the "Expedition", we returned to Indiana with graduation in our sights. I completed my courses and received my degree in December, 2014 and began the hunt for employment.
My ambition was not to be a wilderness guide or park ranger as it was for many of my classmates. I wanted to become a food grower and an entrepreneur. I wanted to work with the land, not just walk across it; to be a participant in the ecosystem rather than an outside observer.
I had the good fortune of ending up back in southern Utah for a year-long internship, March 2015 to 2016, in Capitol Reef National Park. My position was "Orchard Management Intern". I lived in the park's housing community, which consisted of a dozen single family dwellings, four apartments, and two dormitories. I lived in "Orchard Dorm 1". For the year I lived there, the dorm as a revolving door of interns, most of whom stayed for 1-2 months, and moved on.
I stayed through the duration of the growing season, from before the first cherries blossomed, to after the final leaves dropped. I conducted a "tree-assessment" for around 2,500 individual fruit trees and pruned around 900 trees. I learned a great deal about assessing and improving the health of struggling, old fruit trees. I learned about canyoneering, and was able to tag along on an elk-hunt. Utah has become my home-away-from-home. That said, I really began to miss Indiana during my time at Capitol Reef. I began looking for jobs on organic farms back in my home state.
I wound up at a beautiful little place, minutes from the shore of Lake Monroe. An organic farm and nursery; a shining example of permaculture design at work. It is called Bread and Roses Nursery. My job was to live on site at the nursery, to take care of watering and feeding the chickens, and other daily tasks and to work on landscaping projects in and around Bloomington.
For two years, we built gardens, backyard orchards, raised beds, and a couple dozen greenhouses. We worked hard and enjoyed the satisfaction of doing good work. We improved upon ourselves time and time again and upheld the highest possible standards of excellence.
The local food movement has been gaining traction. Restaurants are buying more ingredients from local, sustainable farms and farmer's markets are booming. It is encouraging to see more people are planting gardens. In an age of poor quality industrial food, and expensive organic alternatives, the backyard garden can be a means of saving money, while improving the diet. The biggest problem for most people is lack of knowledge and tools needed for the implementation of such a garden.
In the last few years, I have come to see that gardening doesn't have to be complicated, dirty or backbreaking. We can grow a substantial portion of our diet in an extremely small area. With rich soil, periodic additions of mulch and natural fertilizers, a raised bed garden can produce an exceptional amount of food.
Geoff Lawton, one of the founding fathers of the Permaculture movement, once said, "All of the worlds problems can be solved in the garden." While this may sound absurd, I believe in it whole heartedly. The garden can feed the body, calm the mind, and enrich the soul. The garden can teach many lessons, if we let it. It teaches us patience and persistance, the value of work, the cycles of nature and much more. Children are often drawn to the garden as a place of wonder and discovery. In the busy world of today, a garden can be a much needed source of peace and tranquillity.
During World War two, it is believed that Americans grew 40% of their fruits and vegetables in their "victory gardens". Before supermarkets, before food-delivery services, before the micro-wave oven, people were intimately connected with the food they ate. It is estimated that in the USA, the average ingredient travels between 1,300 and 1,500 miles before it reaches your dinner plate. It is about time we changed that.
There will never be anything fresher or more "local" than your own backyard.
-Michael T. Whisler
"The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway."
— Michael Pollan