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Resilience in an increasingly uncertain future demands that most of our food must be grown locally. Zach Loeks provides an approach that will be vital in a warming world.
solutions for societal resilience
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The Ecosystem Solution Institute (ESI) is dedicated to food security, community well-being, and societal resilience. Its mission is to seed solutions for change-makers through education, propagation, and inspiration.
We do this by building eco-education sites, publishing solution booklets and teaching skill-based workshops. Our goal is transitioning under-utilized and inefficient greenspaces in yards, parks, farms, and schools, to gardens and edible landscapes. By transitioning entire landscapes to edible diverse abundance we can transform our communities and our culture and sustain a regenerative human habitat. The institute is primarily based out of Ontario, Canada on a 50 acre farm which serves as a edible biodiversity hot spot, a living laboratory and source point of seeds and plants.
ESI, It's Easy!
Zach is an educator, designer and grower who specializes in Edible Ecosystem Design through landscaping and education. He consults widely with homes, farms, colleges, schools and municipalities across Canada and the United States, and through many biomes from Guatemala and South Africa to the Yukon and Mongolia.
Zach manages an award-winning farm with diversified food forest products, heirloom garlic, and a hardy tree nursery. His innovations have won three provincial awards and are featured in his first book: The Permaculture Market Garden.
Zach is the director of the Ecosystem Solution Institute, which is dedicated to the education, propagation and inspiration of ecosystem solutions for land use transition. The Institute oversees pathbreaking education sites, including an Edible Biodiversity Conservation Area near Ottawa, Ontario and a suburban food forest in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Zach is passionate about how small actions - strategically linked - can make big change. His inspiring and empowering vision is presented in his latest book: The Edible Ecosystem Solution.
Vera Banias is a master gardener, food security specialist, and works in sustainable fisheries development. Within the Institute she is the manager of the Institute's largest satellite site: The Suburban Edible Ecosystem, which is showcasing food security solutions for semi-urban areas.
Vera works across Canada, from Ontario to Manitoba and as far north as Nunavut, helping to bring food security to the forefront of policy development and community wellbeing.
Vera is passionate about the health and wellbeing of communities and the connections that can be made within communities and between people and land. Her work can be followed through the Insitute and on social media @SuburbanEdibleEcosystem
Edible Ecosystem Design
Mimicry of natural systems for successful human landscapes
Edible Ecosystem Design is used in gardens, farms, and landscaping as a solution for typical management obstacles such as water, pests, fertility, and yield. This design style maximizes edible and useful plants in sites managed according to natural principles that mimic wild ecosystems.
Speaking & Workshops
Educate, Propagate, Inspire
EPI Site Design
Successful EPI sites help to educate, propagate and inspire community land transition
Order an EPI Starter kit today and get a free install consult
EPI sites teach people right where they stand through plant name tags and interpretive panels, and customized eco-education signage. The importance of signage to record genetic diversity is a critical action for community edible landscaping.
EPI Sites are living laboratories that demonstrate the sites-suitability of their food plant guilds (companionship plants). A plant's winter survival, management success, and culinary enjoyment, means it is site-suitable and can be propagated and dispersed to help transition your community!
The success of an EPI Site is stewardship. Stewards are individuals/groups that care for a site, enjoy its bounty, and contribute to land transition. Stewards educate neighbors, propagate plants and inspire others to take a spot of Earth and make their own EPI Site. Stewards can set an example, offer mentorship and/or provide sponsorship.
Become an EPI Site!
EPI Sites disperse education, propagate plants and inspire community action. EPI helps your site gain visibility and better reach your education, propagation, and inspiration goals
Email us about EPI kits with educational signage, installation designs, and free consultation!
EPI Kits, Find a good fit!
Suburban Edible Ecosystem
The Suburban Edible Ecosystem, or the SEE as we call it, is a 2.1-acre food security project in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that demonstrates the amazing potential of the suburbs to feed the urban populace. Not only is there an abundance of green space available in suburbia, but there are also the people to work it and benefit from the local food, beautiful landscapes, and good work. With roof water catchment, efficient irrigation, edible landscaping, hugelkutlur, Permabed gardening, prairie restoration, and more, the SEE is a veritable hot spot of edible biodiversity, community education, and food plant propagation- a model EPI Site.
Edible Biodiversity Conservation Area
The Ecosystem Solution Institute in partnership with other organizations and groups is building a 100-acre living laboratory. The Edible Biodiversity Conservation Area (EBCA) is planting 3 individual plants of thousands of varieties of fruits, berries, nuts, herbs; with many popular food plants, heirloom varieties, and regional landraces. This biodiverse food forest is both an arboretum, a collection of research sites, and a source of plant propagation for community projects. All the varieties are planted and being managed using ecosystem design techniques.
Edible Bike lane
This Edible Bike lane in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue was designed by Zach Loeks in partnership with the City of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and installed over a series of hands-on workshops with students from McGill University and other community members. It is a living laneway providing access to diverse foods: such as mulberries, black raspberries, pears, grapes, mint, chives, and more for the community. The layout encourages biking, jogging, and walking and includes interpretive signage to help share the experience of community food security and edible ecosystem design.
College Living Laboratory
Algonquin College’s Office of Applied Research partnered with designer Zach Loeks to create an edible ecosystem living laboratory. This site is designed to enhance campus learning opportunities across all programs. Students participated in the landscaping and planting of the edible ecosystem and assisted in the developement of educational concepts. The site will be utilized and maintained by the Waterfront Campus through outdoor educational experiences over many years. A stunning example of community food security, ecosystem design, education, this living laboratory includes several interpretive panels, mini eco-educational signage, and edible plant name tags.
Woodland Ecosystem Restoration
This project, in partnership with Trees Ontario, and other organizations, is a 30-acre land restoration that includes planting over 30,000 native tree species: such as shagbark hickory, black walnut, sugar maple, red oak, eastern white cedar, etc. Trees have been planted in a site appropriate manner within a complex terrain that includes different soil textures, moisture regimes, and micro-climates. Instead of reforesting with a single species, this project includes over 30 native species and is primarily a hardwood planting that maximizes soil health, mulching, mowing, shelter nursing, and other ecosystem design techniques to restore the ecosystem in lieu of chemicals and tillage.
All of the benefits of a diverse and wild landscape can be brought into our communities in the bits of space we have in yards, corners of neighborhoods, walkways, and city parks. Wellness Gardens not only provide the benefits found in natural ecosystems and discussed in the research of forest bathing, nature therapy, and outdoor education, but they also provide food security, pollinator habitat, and other ecosystem services. Immerse yourself in the sounds, sights, textures, fragrances, flavors, and dynamic experiences of Wellness Gardens.
Ice-cooled Cold Storage
Many of the buildings and projects at the Institute's farm property use passive technology and natural systems to maximize efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. Our ice-cooled root cellar keeps at about 0-6C 365 days per year through a combination of natural geothermal regulation from burial in the hillside and the energy exchange created through the melting of giant ice cubes we make in the winter. Our barn uses passive wind to aid curring processes and collects rainwater and wash water to feed wetland restoration projects.
In an area of low rainfall and high susceptibility to the environmental and social pressures that cause erosion, desiccation, and overall vegetation loss- dryland restoration offers a solution with many techniques. Here waffle beds and river stone leys, slow and sink water, act as germination beds for wild prairie flowers, grasses, native trees, and cacti. By building appropriate solutions within the watershed we can begin to green drylands and return productive and site-suitable plants to communities that exist within areas of low precipitation and brittle environments.