Ventura County Garden Club: Backyard Farming, Permaculture and Hen Therapy

By Sheryl Hamlin

How would one describe an Irishman, born in Dublin, who met his wife of 36 years in Northern Ireland while trying to reconcile a peace between Protestants and Catholics, who then went on to become a trauma counselor, married Catholic Deacon and an applied philosopher/theologian specializing in psychotherapeutic performance art and permaculture?

Nothing short of “Renaissance Man” would come close to describing Dr. Gerald Fitzgerald who spoke at the February 3, 2016 Ventura County Garden Club meeting (VCGC).


Dr. Gerald Fitzgerald

Currently, he is involved in Radical Applied Theology around environmentalism as derived from his studies with the late Jacques Derrida, “father” of the philosophy of Deconstruction. And, by the way, Dr. Fitzgerald speaks Gallic!

Farming was in his Irish blood through is parents who were sheep and dairy farmers. He spent summers managing entire fields on horse drawn vehicles where he nurtured his affinity for nature. As a trauma counselor, he also sees trauma in plants traumatized due to drought. And, yes, he talks to the plants.

With nature as his best friend and healer, he was drawn to the Faulkner Ranch where he spent two years specializing in vegetables. He advocates a system of circular raised beds for creating a back yard farm. These are filled in situ with excellent dirt. The pictures shown here are from the home of a VCGC Board Member who has been working with Dr. Fitzgerald and has plans to plant Kale, tomatoes and other vegetables. The pictures were taken by the owner of the raised beds.



In his own backyard farm, Dr. Fitzgerald has the capability to produce 1800 plants in tiered planters. He advocates random arrangements of chairs in the backyard farm to be used for contemplation and meditation. He suggests placing a live Plymouth Rock Hen on one’s lap (with a cloth) and experiencing the hen’s breathing and softness as a way to put oneself into the present. For reference, here is the hen suggested, as shown in Wikipedia.


The backyard farm is also the “total household” and he suggested ways to save water (get rid of lawns, replace hard surfaces with porous paths and driveways, mulch) and save electricity (turn off electric appliances when traveling, tile floors for cooling),

Dr. Fitzgerald envisions teaching young people about backyard farming as an entrepreneurial venture. The above circular planters were built by some of Dr. Fitzgerald’s youth entrepreneurs.

He recommends super foods like the Moringa tree which has numerous uses in different forms, such as eating the bard and root or cold pressing the leaves, pods and seeds into a fine oil.

Permaculture is an important part of Dr. Fitzgerald’s farming methodology. According to this article on permaculture, the definition of permanent agriculture is that which can be sustained indefinitely. Permaculture works symbiotically with another concept, Integrated Pest Management: A well-defined Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program that should be based on prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems.

He spoke about Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, Dan Carlson, who invented the Sonic Bloom, Rupert Sheldrake, biologist, Owen Dell, landscape architect, and Bill Mollison, the father of permaculture, all of whom he recognized for their contributions to the urban farm and hence to humanity.

Dr. Ferguson is a rare individual who has experienced and practices what he teaches. Looking inward at his own personal traumas, he gravitated toward nature and farms.

The next VCGC meeting will be March 2, 2016 for a tour of the Red Hot Salsa Company in Santa Paula with a no-host lunch after the tour at Rabalais Bistro.

Table decorations were made by President Linda Wilkinson using member flowers.



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One Response to Ventura County Garden Club: Backyard Farming, Permaculture and Hen Therapy

  1. Sh February 4, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Time of March meeting is 11:00 am. Location southwest corner of 9th and Santa Barbara Street, near train tracks. All welcome.


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