Wednesday, October 7, 2015

'Natuculture' and DPS Project Featured Program at District 9 Meeting

Dr. Manuel Reyes describes the fine points of 'Natuculture' in the demonstration laboratory
at the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability. Photos by J.S. Corser
Oasissofa beds in the demonstration garden use the
practice of cover crops to enrich raised beds.
By J.S. Corser (FHGC)
Durham Co. Master Gardener

Going Green… Sustainability... Permaculture… And now, 'Natuculture.' New ecological models and trends continue to shape public thinking of our natural resource management. 

‘Natuculture’ will be the featured program of the October 22, 2015, District 9 Meeting of the Garden Club of North Carolina to be held in Durham. Keynote Speaker Dr. Manuel Reyes, NC A&T Professor of Biological Engineering, and Durham Public Schools Ruth McDaniel, Co-Director ‘Natuculture in Schools Program’ for the School of Energy and Sustainability (Southern High School) will both present 'Natuculture' theory and a current project by DPS students.

Natuculture™, defined as “any human made system that mimics nature in human disturbed landscapes,” began in the United States at the campus of NC A&T by Dr. Reyes.

'Natuculture' uses ‘MCD’ principles of conservation agriculture:

M – minimum soil disturbance which involves no tillage (or weeding);
C – continuous mulch which involves growing fertilizer-producing mulch in the site, rather than bringing in processed mulch
D – diverse species which involves spatially planting different species at various cropping cycles.

Dr. Reyes said 'Natuculture' is based on farming systems used in Cambodia.

“In Cambodia, we have around 30-50 percent reduction in labor [with 'Natuculture'] so no more tillage, it destroys soil. We use continuous mulch provides food for microorganisms and many others.” Moreover, natuculture creates diversification of species, like the forest, and utilizing cover crops to nourish the soil prior to vegetable planting,” he said.

Dr. Reyes said the mission of NC A&T is focus on small farmers, but ‘Natuculture’ is applying small farmer concepts with urban angle. Dr. Reyes is leading 7 international projects, with a 'Nutuculture' focus on commercial vegetable/home gardening profit.

Durham Public Schools is a fortunate benefactor of land grant universities like NC A&T that are creating outdoor laboratories for students to learn and literally grow. Dr. Reyes is hoping to partner with Durham garden clubs to bring more scholarship opportunities for DPS students to create a ‘Natuculture’ business for Durham neighborhoods.

“Why not develop a vocational school to provide this service in neighborhoods, rather they [students] would not just mow ‘drug-addicted carpets’…We could change the paradigm that they will produce food for the homeowner,” he said. “The benefit for students is to have fun, but solve complicated issues in growing food at the same time, the food will feed the neighborhood. That is a system we could create vocational angle, also draw from home gardener clubs to support,” he said.

Dr. Reyes said his hope is to get homeowners to create 40 percent of their properties as food-producing instead of simply an expensive ornamental space. “I remember when I was still crazy, I was paying like $2,000 a year for somebody to mow and maintain my lawn at home.” said Dr. Reyes.

An outdoor laboratory of 32 vegetable beds or “oasissofas” were built and installed by students at the School of Energy and Sustainability in December 2012. An oasissofa is a 6’ x 3’ carbon-sequestering vegetable bed. The bed is the size of a sofa to symbolically discourage students from becoming couch potatoes and by going outdoors to the “oasissofas.” The bed is called an oasis, because many households due to lack of fresh, nutritious and artificial chemical free produce in diets are home deserts symbolically needful of an oasis. Oasis sofas mimic a forest since ‘MCD’ are fundamental attributes of a forest.

To see and learn more on how Durham garden clubs can become involved in the DPS 'Natuculture' project, visit with Dr. Reyes at the District 9 Meeting on October 22.
Registration forms are found online with the Garden Club of North Carolina:

Also see the 'Natuculture' website:

Southern High School was rededicated "Southern School of Energy and Sustainability" in 2013. Its academy schools include:  School of Biomedical Technology, School of Business Management and Sustainability, School of Computer Technology Engineering, School of Infrastructure Engineering.

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