NOBULL: Drought proofing your farm and landscape with Australian Permaculture expert Darren Dohert

AMES, Iowa — The drought that parched fields, scorched crops and withered farm ponds in Iowa was indiscriminate, hitting farmers of all types, sizes and enterprises equally hard. In its wake, it revealed not just the unpredictability of weather – but the need for farmers to plan ahead to protect their farms from the inevitable droughts of the future.

Maharishi University of Management’s Department of Sustainable Living is hosting a workshop to help farmers and landowners jumpstart the drought planning process. The event, Drought-Proofing Your Farm Using Keyline Design, will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 2 on the Maharishi campus in Fairfield. All are welcome to attend.

The event opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 with a free public lecture at the Argiro Student Center, followed by two days of in-depth sessions in the Sustainable Living Building. The workshop portion runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The cost is $100, with a special student rate of $25.

Maharishi University students can attend for free. Register online at

The workshop is sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Backyard Abundance, and KRUU-FM.

Topics covered will include integrated pasture and water management, land planning, irrigation and fencing systems, soil management, buildings, land surveying with GPS, keyline plowing and principles of keyline farming and design, including a demonstration of keyline plowing.

Permaculture expert Darren Doherty, a fifth-generation farmer from Bendigo, Australia, will lead the workshop, which will blend technical and practical sessions based on the concepts of keyline farming. Doherty has taught courses around the world on keyline farming and the principles of regenerative agriculture, a philosophy of integrative farming similar to permaculture that emphasizes practices that restore the soil, local ecology and surrounding communities.

Keyline design is an integrated approach to broad-scale landscape design and practice, developed from the 1940s to early 1980s by the Australian farmer P.A. Yeomans in response to the unpredictable rainfall regime he found on his farm. His approach, which came to be called keyline design, emphasized soil building and innovative water harvesting to help soils become the largest reservoir of water in a landscape.

For more information, or to register by phone, contact Leanne Hays or Molly Reiff, with Maharishi’s Department of Sustainable Living, at (641) 472-1164. Individuals can arrange for private consultations on their land for a fee prior to the workshop. To schedule a consultation, contact Reiff at m_martlin or (319) 594-0086.

"The most creative and necessary work that humans do is to work with the soil as coproducers with nature."– Vandana Shiva