Thursday, February 2, 2012

Black Oaks Concept

I have been working for several months now with Black Oaks Center for Sustainable living in Pembroke Township, IL. The final design is nearly complete - driven by the melding of several concept models and an overarching concept of a fully-integrated ecosystem dynamic. Moving past the binary paradigm of man vs nature, this plan recognizes the inter-related nature of nature - the concept is as follows: 

The developing field of agro-ecology according to the UN definition: “seeks to improve the sustainability of agroecosystems by mimicking nature instead of industry..agroecology is highly knowledge intensive.” Agroecology is congruent with the sustainability mission Black Oaks has committed to. Altieri puts forward the idea that: “Many of the new models of agricul­ture that humanity will need to transition toward forms of farming that are more ecological, biodiverse, local, sustainable, and socially just. They will be rooted in the ecological rationale of traditional small-scale agri­culture, which represent long established examples of successful forms of community-based local agriculture.” (P 103 Agroecology, Small Farms,and Food Sovereignty)

Altieri in his article goes on to argue that small farms have higher profit margins than traditional industrial agriculture because they sell directly to the consumer. Doing so, establishes a regional economic system that is more responsive to the needs of local populations, and has more specific resilience to fluctuations of volatile global markets. To reach people directly, without diluting the power of the fresh food and medicine, to connect them to the land where their sustenance comes from and to support those ecological systems in place on the small farms without damaging petroleum-based inputs is fundamental to this integrated systems model. It is a model that is inherently community based, because it is knowledge intensive, with the transfer of specific skills like seed saving, compost making and harvesting being passed from one person to another. It is also ecology based, mimicking “natural systems” through a diversity of crops, water drainage systems, etc.  to handle fluxes in temperature, water volume, and disease that can paralyze a monoculture system. 

The vision for this concept connects people to the systems they are part of through the choreography of paths, gathering spaces, and planting design. 

I believe the concept below reflects those ideas and principles.


  1. This is great Todd. We will be driving others to visit the site to see the final plans....

    Many Thanks

    Dr. J

  2. I am using the Black Oaks sight to speak about local food movement in my sociology class this Friday March 2, 2018