Balkan Ecology Project: Grower-Led Research

Since 2010, reaching a wider audience by providing models of food production that yield quality produce, promote ecosystem health, and can be replicated easily.

The Balkan Ecology Project is a family run project — Paul, Sophie, their two boys Dylan and Archie moved to Bulgaria from the UK in 2005. Inspired by the widespread practice of locally grown food and the incredible biodiversity of Bulgaria they started to develop productive ecological gardens and education programs. In 2010 they founded the Balkan Ecology Project, the goal being to reach a wider audience by providing tried and tested models of food production that yield quality produce, promote ecosystem health, and can be replicated easily.

The Balkan Ecology Project is a permaculture-inspired, grassroots project, devoted to the design and exploration of ecologically-sound human habitats. It serves as a demonstration and education site for visitors from all over the world. They aim to develop thoughtful approaches to food, shelter, community and commerce, while promoting and preserving the unique biological diversity associated with the Balkan region and the world at large.

The project has four main income streams: a plant nursery, educational courses, a vegetable box scheme and a design consultancy. Balkan Ecology Project is not externally funded and generates its revenue from these activities.

Participants of the 2016 Permaculture Garden Design Course in the Orchard

Any profits are diverted to purchasing land with high ecological value currently under threat from industrial agricultural development. The land — once under their stewardship — is managed with respect for its inherent value and vital ecosystem support.

In addition, Balkan Ecology Project conducts its own research programme. This focuses on growing many crops in the same piece of land at the same time, known as polyculture. Having experimented with polycultures for almost a decade with some very encouraging results, they are now starting to compare this approach to conventional methods, specifically in terms of time and energy expenditure, the yields harvested and associated biodiversity. Little data exists for polycultures, so they started to gather their own. They are currently building data sets that show how they can provide healthy and nutritious food while promoting increased biological diversity in the growing environment. Studies are currently carried out in two plots, a garden scale plot of 66m2 and a market garden scale plot of 2000 m2. In 2017 they are expanding the study to include perennial polycultures and starting a new garden dedicated to this.

The perennial polyculture garden plan scheduled for development in 2017
Late summer fruits from the forest gardens

Written by Devyn O-S

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