Salamander Springs Farm: Permaculture Organics

Berea, Kentucky
Family Farm

30 years of Permaculture in Practice:

20 years of creating Salamander Springs Farm from scratch! See farm website (at right).

After nearly a decade spent developing permaculture systems and appropriate technologies with small farmers in Latin America, Susana Lein returned to the USA and began in 2001 to homestead a piece of Appalachian mountain land near Berea, KY, with no road access, structures, utilities or topsoil. After clearing a gentle ridge, she established contour swales, ponds, permanent beds, no till staple crop fields, food forest, orchard and nut trees on the land which would become Salamander Springs Farm.

Completing a gravity-fed spring water system from the top of the forested watershed in 2002 was a major step, after which Susana started camping full-time on the land, using an open-air kitchen shack she built from salvage materials, a homemade solar shower and compost toilet system.

Over the next few years Susana self-built a tiny passive solar house using locally-harvested lumber, clay, straw and salvage. She built another small passive solar building with a south facing space for starting plants and a north room for cold storage and small solar electric system. Susana transformed clay dug for farm ponds into a beautiful earthen floor, clay "slip-straw" walls and natural plasters. See the Farm Systems page on the website for details on natural building and permaculture practices at Salamander Springs Farm.

​ Since 2002, Salamander Springs Farm has been a key producer for the Berea Farmers' Market, Community Supported Agriculture shares, local stores and restaurants--with a wide variety of vegetables, staple grains & dry beans, fruits, nuts, berries, flowers, herbs, forest medicinals, ramps and mushrooms. On logged land once devoid of topsoil, today you will find deep, living soils producing abundant nutrient-dense crops without tillage, fertilizers or pesticides. Contour swales and ponds retain moisture and nutrients on the site, helping build fertility. See the Farm Products page of the website for some of the staple crops grown, dried, shelled and processed on the farm, including black turtle and pinto beans, popcorn, whole grain cornmeal and grits.

  • No-Till Dry Beans, Grains and Corn:
  • ​ Since 2003 grain and dry bean fields have been broadcast seeded without tillage in a continuous relay cover crop system, incorporating the wisdom of the late Japanese rice farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, using a traditional scythe and rotationally-grazed poultry.

    Cornfields are also grown without tillage in "3-Sisters" style polycultures of pole beans, pumpkins & squash, utilizing traditional Native American practices that Susana learned during 8 years working with Mayan farmers in Guatemala. Since 2000, she has developed a unique heirloom cornmeal corn, "KY Rainbow dent" which she sells seed through the Virginia heirloom seed company, Southern Exposure Seed. Much of what Susana learned about corn seed selection and breeding she credits to her years working with Mayan farmers whose ancestors created corn from teocinte (a wild grain the size of wheat). She is especially grateful to the late Don Gavino Ca'al of Tampo, Tactic, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. (See the website Farm Products page).

    In 2014 she was awarded a small farm grant to purchase a grain mill and local lumber and materials to build a small granary barn. She later built a porch on the granary for a community gathering space. All structures have been self-built with very little money and without debt. Nearly 20 years later, the farm remains entirely off-grid.

    MONTHLY FARM TOURS are offered on the 2nd Saturday of each month from April to November starting at 2 p.m. (November tours start at 1 p.m.) Tours last 2 1/2 hours and are $12/person paid on arrival. (groups of 5+ people @ $8/person) Please understand that we must stick to this schedule in order to accommodate the large number of inquiries for farm visits & tours. Workshops or other events sometimes necessitate changes to this schedule or provide additional tour opportunities. See website FARM TOURS page for more information and email us to reserve. As we are off-grid without internet, contact us at least a couple weeks prior to your requested tour date to arrange. As time permits, we arrange special tours for school/college groups of over 10 people, however we generally must stick to this schedule in order to accommodate the large number of inquiries we receive for farm visits & tours.

    PERMACULTURE IN PRACTICE & NATURAL BUILDING WORKSHOPS at Salamander Springs Farm: See WORKSHOPS page on the website for more information and to sign up for workshop notification list. Email notifications are sent several times/year, including both on-farm and off-farm workshops Susana teaches for farming conferences and other organized groups. Email us on the website to organize a workshop for your group/organization or on your land. As the farm is totally off-grid without internet, please allow 10 days for replies.

    See the ABOUT: IN THE PRESS page on the Salamander Springs Farm website for links to Susana Lein featured in films, podcasts, books, magazines, conference highlights and online blogs. These include the acclaimed award-winning 2015 permaculture documentary film "INHABIT" which premiered at the North American Permaculture Voices conference, the International Permaculture Convergence in London in September 2015, and has been translated into 7 languages. The website page also links to podcasts with Susana and Scott Mann of, as well as the farm featured in publications like Mother Earth News, New Pioneer and Orion magazines. Cornell University Small Farms Quarterly recently published an excellent article on Salamander Springs Farm dry bean and grain crops, "No-till Organic Relay Cropping in Kentucky," also found on the site.

    See the ABOUT: FARM SYSTEMS page on the website for educational links, photos and details of permaculture and natural building projects at Salamander Springs Farm (also found at Click on the first photo set for a version Susana's permaculture workshop slides for teaching off the farm.

    PERMACULTURE IMMERSIONS at Salamander Springs Farm are available from mid-April to mid-October. Salamander Springs Farm also participates in college service-learning programs and Work-away type exchanges.

    Length of stay for immersion programs is one month with opportunity for longer stays or extensions if space is available. Full season apprenticeships have developed from immersion programs.

    Farm conditions are rustic in a beautiful setting; we drink clear spring water and use a solar heated shower, composting outhouse, kerosene & LED solar lights, rustic kitchen shelter with LP cook stove & solar oven and tent platforms. All farm infrastructure (Susana's tiny house, potting shed (clay-slip-straw building), granary, corn crib, produce packing shed, tool shed, outhouse & shower, tent platforms and open air kitchen) has been developed from scratch using a majority of on-site, natural, local, recycled or salvaged materials. Gravity-fed spring water, rainwater catchment and ponds fill water needs. This is a place to learn about truly regenerative systems, cycling local resources & energy ("closing the loop"), homesteading from the ground up, living within the means of a local ecosystem, and using permaculture principles to develop sustainable housing, crop production and local economic systems. Spanish and English are spoken. Email for application information.

  • SALAMANDER SPRINGS FARM IS AN ENTIRELY OFF-GRID FARM & REMOTE HOMESTEAD. We are not on social media but you can learn much more from the website, which includes links to educational slides Susana uses when teaching off-farm. Without regular access to the internet, we appreciate your patience with email replies!
  • Listing last updated on Sep 14, 2019

  • See the Salamander Springs Farm website to learn more about permaculture and natural building practices, products, FARM TOURS, WORKSHOPS, IMMERSIONS, PERMACULTURE CONSULTING.
  • Salamander Springs Farm is off-grid and remote, without internet or social media so please allow 10 days for email replies.

    Season:  May through October

    Type:  single farm

    Since:  2013

    Share Prices:  $675 week (full shares) for a long 20-week season!

    Work Req?  No

    Markets on LocalHarvest

    Know a market serving this farm? Tell them to connect here on LocalHarvest!

    Schedule and Location:

    Saturdays 9-12 a.m.
    Berea Farmers' Market, 419 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY.

    WINTER Market: Methodist Parrish House, 101 Fee St. Berea, KY (behind summer market location).

    Local natural food stores, restaurants, special events, deliveries to Berea by order.

    Happy Meadow Natural Foods, Glades Rd., Berea, KY
    Native Bagel, Berea, KY
    Good Foods Co-op, Lexington, KY

    Latest Reviews

    When you're 'starved' for a genuine experience, Susana Lein at Salamander Springs Farm is the real deal.

    Salamander Springs Farm serves a full course Appalachian meal of permaculture and organic farming knowledge, solar and electrical energy alternatives, and SO MUCH more! And like any satisfying and surprising feast, Susana herself is the fine wine adorning each scrumptious presentation.... [more]

    Tho in my rural youth I walked corn fields and enjoyed creamy, sweet, fresh corn right off the stalks, for the last 20+/- years I have been unable to consume the "mutant" (hybrid) corn prevalent in commercial food production.... [more]

    My husband and I attended Susana's Farm Tour in October. The weather was gloomy and rainy but that didn't distract from all the things we learned. Susana is very gracious and we enjoyed out time greatly!... [more]

    See All Reviews

    From Our Blog

    Salamander Springs' Permaculture Workshops: email to get notifications


    Permaculture in Practice workshops at Salamander Springs Farm are not posted on social media, etc.  Salamander Springs is an entirely off-grid and remote farm without internet; we appreciate your patience with email replies!  If you would like to get on the workshop notification email list, press "email us" our our Local Harvest home page.... [more]

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    Products and Crops