Balkan Ecology Project

A small-scale mixed use ‘polyculture’ farm, promoting bio-diversity

Visiting the Balkan Ecology Project is a worthwhile experience for anyone wishing to learn more about designing human habitats based on sound ecological principles. Paul and his family will demonstrate how they are developing thoughtful approaches to food, shelter, community and commerce, while promoting and preserving the unique biological diversity associated with the Balkan region in particular and the world in general.

Paul Alfrey has been experimenting with permaculture for almost 10 years now. He started an experiment to learn how the polyculture approach to cultivating crops compares to conventional methods, specifically in terms of time and energy expenditure, the yields harvested and associated biodiversity. Surprisingly, little data exists for polycultures and Paul hopes that the conclusions from the project will be used to replicate similar ecological practices on a larger scale. What Paul wishes to demonstrate is that small scale biologically cultivated polyculture gardens are a practical, accessible and realistic way of providing food for humans whilst preserving and promoting biological diversity in the environment. 

Greenpeace documented ecological farming practices in preparation for a farmers’ platform showcasing different examples of ecological agriculture.

Paul Alfrey

6150 Shipka, Bulgaria

The farm is divided into a large number of small plots. There’s a home garden – 0.1ha; a market garden – 300 sq. m; and another 2.5ha of land in plots scattered around Shipka Village. The plan is to amalgamate nearby plots into one bigger estate, which will be planted with experimental perennial varieties for larger scale operations. Paul started on this project around 9 years ago and runs it with his wife and 2 children, and usually with a further 3-4 volunteers.

Their main activity is the polyculture study, where volunteers help record information and test how the project’s approach compares with standard methods of cultivation. There’s also a plant nursery, with plants for sale.

Not only does the family feed themselves, but there’s enough to provide for 10 families, so they also donate to food banks and supply produce to food box schemes. Finally, they run annual training courses on regenerating landscapes.