Reflections of a new permaculture diploma tutor

by Jo Holleran


I grew up in the country and have fond memories of childhood days running free with my Gran on her smallholding and on the small farm where we lived. My nuclear family was displaced from the rural life by a compulsory purchase order in the 1970s and we found ourselves plunged into city living. Looking back, I seem to have spent much of my adult life trying to work a way back to where I started out!



I think I first heard about permaculture in the late 1980s and from this point my interest in the subject and generally getting closer to nature began to develop.



In 2003, redundancy provided the opportunity for a major lifestyle change and I relocated to North Yorkshire, embarking on an exciting new career in horticulture and subsequently specialising in organic techniques and edible gardens.



I attended a Permaculture Design Course at Hollybush in Leeds. This inspired and better equipped me to re-design my life, with a first livelihood project, ‘Envy Home & Garden’ providing eco-cleaning, organic garden maintenance and permaculture design services in the Nidderdale area.
In 2008, my husband and I headed for Central Portugal in search of a more self-reliant life in the hills. There, we spent a year renovating a mountain vineyard and olive grove, developing a gravity-fed irrigation system, some low-impact shelter and creating designs for the land.
Since 2009, I have continued designing and practicing with garden scale sites in the UK, with an aim of taking permaculture to the mainstream, expanding the ‘edge.’ I have also worked as a Lecturer at a land based college, produced land designs for a 2 hectare site in Tuscany and provided business development input to an emerging green business.
The Diploma was a hugely moving and life-changing experience for me and even after ten design cycles, I felt that I was just becoming fluent and gaining momentum. I wanted to remain connected with all the amazing people sharing this journey, to grow and develop as a designer and to share the skills and experience that I have gained so far.
It’s really important to me that that I continue to improve the standard of my own design work. I felt that I would learn massively from other tutors and also that becoming a tutor myself would continue to hold me to account.




I have been working as a diploma tutor since my accreditation in 2013 and am currently available to provide tutorials at my place in France, at permaculture gatherings in the UK, or in Milton Keynes or North Yorkshire, where they tie in with my trips back.




Here are some of my reflections on this new journey so far:



Q: What’s going well?




A:     I feel well supported. In depth training is available at Registration and Assessment levels. I really enjoyed the registration level training and am booked on the assessment level training in April. The training courses have been developed by senior tutors and are further supported by videos and a tutor manual.  This means there is always something to refer to if I’m unsure of anything and additionally, CPD (Continuous Professional Development) events are held regularly.



As a new tutor I have had ‘assessment of practice’ and feedback from more experienced tutors for the tutorial events I have supported so far. This has been a real help in ensuring that I am on the right track.



In many ways, the tutor pathway mirrors that of the diploma and so I am part of a tutor guild. We currently meet every six weeks over Skype and provide each other with peer support and feedback.



I also have access to the wider tutor network and can raise questions and share experiences via email when I need to.



Q: What challenges have you faced so far?

A:     Becoming a tutor does require a financial investment, to cover the costs of the training programme. This is something that I needed to think quite seriously about. However, I have been able to spread the costs over time as I have progressed through my pathway. To an extent, they have also been offset as I have started to earn an income from my tutor activities.





    There are a number of ways that I can influence the number of apprentices that I support, and so my income. These include: developing a website; writing articles; teaching on permaculture courses; publishing designs; attending permaculture events. I have built many of these things into my tutor pathway.






Q: What are your long term visions and goals as a tutor?






A:    I have a vision of tutoring being an integral part of my life and being one of a number of ‘right-livelihood’ income streams that enable me to sustain a more self-reliant and ecologically balanced lifestyle as long as I live.





    I’m really looking forward to supporting and learning from my apprentices and especially I’m looking forward to witnessing their accreditation events.






Q: What are your next achievable steps?






A:     The assessment level training and tutor CPD event in Leeds is a significant milestone in April. I’m also intending to take opportunities to shadow other more experienced tutors to learn from how they work with apprentices.





My tutor pathway is inter-linked with my permaculture designs and I shall be continuing with my site development and self-integration projects in France.





I have been working on my website over the winter and am looking forward to launching it in the near future.



Jo Holleran
Permaculture Practitioner, Designer and Diploma Tutor