Dre's experience of the Permaculture Design Course
“Permaculture is thinking like an ecosystem”
On the second day of the 2016 Permaculture Design Course the concept above was mentioned. From that moment on Andrea, also known as Dre, began to question the impact of why and how we approach things. Ecosystems rely on dependency, much like the human ecosystem we all live in.
Hailing from South Carolina, Dre grew up unaware that her family lived essentially off-grid. The house had multiple fire places which meant they did not require electric heating and a running well until the 90’s. The land was rich of various perennial crops as well as fruits and nut orchards planted by previous owners.
Now working in London as a Social Worker, this connection with nature felt lost to Dre, so she and her fiancé began looking at ways to reconnect. An initial interest in building an Earthship (to most of us this sounds a little far fetched...but trust me, look it up and I promise you’ll be impressed!) led Dre to permaculture, and she was determined to find out more. A little digging and she settled on Social Landscapes, because it was close, affordable and flexible. In addition, the course appeared to have a non-traditional teaching approach - we’ve spent so much of our lives in the classroom, Dre thought, why do we need more of that?
Starting the course with open expectations, she would have been happy even learning just one thing, Dre tells me. Wanting to meet open minded people who might inspire her on her journey is what brought her here, and this is what happened. The non-academic setting helped make the course more free-flowing and helped foster the permaculture process of learning, alongside Mich and Tish, the course leaders, who Dre felt catered to everyone. She also felt that a lot of thought had gone into the preparation of the course - from the varied places visited to the different people met on the course.
Since completing the course in July, Dre has begun the first steps of realising a social enterprise she hopes to start this year, back on her home turf of South Carolina. Her motivation - South Carolina has an abundance of fertile farming land that is often overlooked by local residents as a means of sustaining themselves. As is the case in cities, people do not feel connected to the land they live on, despite the abundance of opportunity. Unfortunately, areas of lower economic households have more fast food outlets than richer areas, with extremely cheap prices contributing to the rising obesity epidemic and poorer life expectancy.
Dre hopes to tackle this by giving young children a head start in life at a summer school programme, which also acts as a day care centre, something that many families struggle with. The aim is to improve children's life chances by giving them a head start in food education, growing your own food and enjoying the soil, most definitely not in a traditional academic setting.
We end our conversation with two great pieces of advice from Dre: firstly, what you do to the environment you will eventually consume, and secondly, to future PDC students ‘ “buts” will always consume your life, just go for it!’
Andrea is a social worker by profession with experience working in the US and UK. In her spare time she is either tending to her garden, travelling, teaching yoga or attending a class herself. Her interest include topics such as race, gender, community, permaculture, yoga and social justice. She aspire to live off grid and empower people to become self sufficient by reconnecting with nature.
This blog post was written by Sophie Roach, who is currently interning with Social Landscapes. After working on a permaculture farm in Chile earlier this year, she is keen to learn more about the ethics and attitudinal principles of permaculture, and how these can be used to enrich the lives of children and young people. For more information on this project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.