Permaculture Pathways: Citizens' Science, Community Development and Farm Stays

People come to take Permaculture Courses for a number of reasons: some want to adopt a new way of thinking and bring more creativity into the work they are already doing, others don’t find meaning in their current occupation and are looking for alternatives; some are looking to buy land hoping to run a homestead, while still others have a small garden at home and would like to get more in touch with the soil and produce a few things for themselves.

Over the years many people have taken Permaculture Courses with Social Landscapes and again and again I am inspired and humbled to see what they get up to. Some people arrive on the course with their project underway, while for others it inspires a whole new direction. I’ve enjoyed contacting some previous course participants to hear their stories. The questions I asked them are how Permaculture has informed their work, how do they integrate their learning and what do they want to share with others. Here are some of the answers...

Food Systems Thinking & Citizens’ Observatories

Raquel - Creating Resilient Communities Permaculture Design Course in 2014 at Treadwell in London

Back in autumn 2013 I started volunteering at a permaculture project aiming to create a forest garden in a large house garden in Streatham Hill. Michel was coordinating this project and that is how I found out about the PCD at Treadwell. I started the PDC course in spring 2014 while I was doing my PhD in Food Policy at the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London. The PDC was a fantastic way to ring face time to stop and learn about permaculture and food systems from a very different perspectives.

Based in an urban setting, we also explored how the principles and ethics of permaculture can be applied to our relationship with time, money and any design. I cherished the space and collective moments to reflect on connections and patterns that are easily overlooked when rushing from one thing to the next.

After a great period at the Centre for Food Policy working as a Teaching Fellow on the Interdisciplinary Food Systems Teaching and Learning project that brings together postgraduate students from many different programmes (law, sociology, agronomy, psychology, etc) to learn about food systems beyond their own disciplines, I moved on to a new project called the GROW Citizens’ Observatory, led by University of Dundee.

GROW is a European project with a large consortium of 18 partners, including the Permaculture Association of Britain. GROW is bringing together the potential of citizen science, sensing technologies, online learning and crowdsourced environmental data to improve the ways we monitor and look after our soils and contribute to climate science. GROW has been running several online courses covering a wide range of topics, from the challenges and opportunities facing our food systems and how to observe different characteristics of your soil, to earth observation and citizen sensing. The next and last GROW course, Citizen Science: Living Soils, Growing Food, starts on 13th May, you can you can watch a trailer and enrol for free here.

The Observatory is bringing together small food growers, scientists and policy makers to make better-informed decisions for policy and practice. Participants in GROW Places are learning to use soil sensors to monitor soil moisture and other properties of their own soil. The soil moisture data are then submitted to the observatory and used to help validate the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellites. These satellites collect data at the planetary level and citizens on the ground are helping refine the datasets that are then used to create climate models and predict extreme weather events such as fires, droughts and floods. The project is a fantastic opportunity to help us realise the connections between the planetary and the very local level of soils in our own gardens and farms.

Outside of work, I love spending time in the allotment, experiencing how hard but enjoyable is to grow food, learning about, and saving seed, and being the happy keeper of two wormeries, earthworms being the most regenerative pets ever!

[The GROW Observatory has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 690199]

Community Development through Ecosystem Restoration

Manon - Monestevole’s Permaculture Design Course in 2018 in Italy

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My name is Manon and I am currently working for the UN Development Programme in Haiti. I am involved in ecosystem restoration projects. It is a great challenge as the country is facing major deforestation with charcoal being used as the main cooking energy.

The permaculture approach and principles have been especially useful to me, showing a new perspective on our projects and their potential impacts. I often use tools provided by the course when designing interventions, they ease the decision-making process and articulating physical and social factors.

Moreover, an important permaculture principle reflected in my work is "use and value diversity". It includes both the cultural diversity - that is essential to the sustainability of our projects and the participation of local communities - and the biologic diversity that we need to reforest large areas of land. This ensures our projects result in a diversity of positive impacts and contribute to the development of local communities.

You can learn more about the work of UNDP in Haiti on www.ht.undp.org.


Farm Stays & No Waste Dining

Dino - Tread Well On Earth 2-Day Introduction to Permaculture in September 2017 at Treadwell in London

Hello, I’m Dino, a 30 something Londoner working in food and drink and owning a couple of restaurants and a small hotel. I am currently planning a new restaurant / hotel / farm stay, not exactly sure how to classify it, a project, which was inspired off the back of a permaculture course.

I originally signed up for the permaculture course after a brief chat with someone who worked on a permaculture farm and I thought the course would mean learning about gardening. What little I know!

During the course I learnt many things, but the main principle that really hit home was to produce no waste. The industry I work in is responsible for a huge amount of waste food and packaging amongst other things. My goal is to create somewhere for people to come and eat, drink and socialise that produces little or no waste, causes no unnecessary harm to the environment and hopefully, at the same time, guests will learn from and be inspired by what we do.