A Dive into Permaculture

This post was written by Fall 2017 intern, Solona Sisco.

What is permaculture, and how can/should we implement its principles throughout our lives? This was much of the focus for us interns for three days toward the end of October. Permaculture is permanent agriculture for a permanent culture, but it is also so much more. It is about designing systems not only for landscaping and gardening, but also for social processes. The successful permanency of all these permacultural practices is due in large part to permacultural thought being influenced by natural systems and patterns of the world that have been successfully going on for millenia.

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For one full day and two mornings, we were with Joel Glanzberg, a guest instructor who was our main facilitator for this series of workshops. We met with him primarily in the beautiful park a few doors down from our house. Being in that (semi) natural space helped us to connect with what we were learning. Joel made sure to not merely lecture us but also to activate our brains through tactile activities. Joel had learned about some amazing indigenous practices and values through his experiences (particularly at Bioneers conferences), and was able to teach us some; The thanks givings prayer is a traditional practice of the Iroquois tribes (also known as the Haudenosaunee), who successfully designed their social practices of peace keeping, along with practices of environmental stewardship. It is valuable for us to take inspiration from such people so that we can accomplish those same goals. During those chilly mornings, Joel also led us through traditional stretches, poses, and dances- both individual and cooperative!- that helped us to be in good mental/emotional/physical states for hearing what he had to tell us about permaculture.

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Jeff Adams was one of the several other “permie dudes” who taught us. He told us about some practical applications of permaculture, facilitated our assessments of the sites where we had been building the houses, and led us through the culminating service learning project. That service learning project gave us the chance to see very visually in person what the professionals were talking about, while also giving us hands on experience on the subject matter. I had personally helped make a swale under Jeff’s supervision back in the spring, but I had since forgotten the meaning of swales. After that experience, I will never again forget the purpose of swales. Half of us then chose to go on an optional tour of Jeff’s property on the following Monday. Touring the property managed by him and another permaculturalist gave us a great example of these practices in action at a more advanced stage; I found it inspiring and stunning in its cultivated natural beauty.

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After this educational experience, I (and likely others who participated) feel motivated to be an agent of change, cascading environmental stewardship through collaborative actions from me through to many others.

Related recommended reading currently on my bookshelf:

Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future, by many indigenous people speaking at Bioneers conferences

Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, by Joel Salatin

-Solona, the intern full of bravery, foresight, and many fear-based qualities.

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