Stories from Permaculture Design Course Participants
Why do people take a Permaculture Design Course? What are their expectations and what is their actual experience of it?
These are questions Sophie Roach explored when interviewing previous participants of the Social Landscapes Permaculture Design Course, Creating Resilient Communities, in 2016. Below are a few excerpts of the five stories she wrote.
Find the whole stories on the Social Landscapes blog www.sociallandscapes.co.uk/blog
I spoke with Louise on a hot August day in her Wimbledon home, which boasts a patio garden unlike any I have seen before. Although small, there is not an inch of space that hasn’t been used as part of Louise’s very own permaculture extravaganza. There are squashes trawling the floor, pea plants grown to about 6ft, tomato plants ripening in the sun, a small pond (with fish!) and even a sandpit, something I doubt most London kids have access to in their own back garden.
It was Social Landscapes’ focus on the social applications of permaculture that drew her to us, which seemed not of significance in other courses run elsewhere. As an arts therapist specialised in eco and nature-based materials, the way the company seemed to work resonated with the beliefs and attitudes Louise holds to.
Nicky: "The frameworks for thinking that are part of permaculture helped me gain clarity and feel empowered to begin implementing change in my life."
Me: What did you like most about the course?
Nicky: Opportunity is given throughout the course to explore and express thoughts in depth. From the outset there is discussion about culture and what we, as students, want the culture of our course to be like. Each session drew upon and is responsive to the energy and interests of the group.
Also learning through play was a major part of the course- what better way to learn about building with clay than to get covered in it! This was my first experience of a holistic type of learning and I loved it.
Me: What would you say is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
Nicky: To trust in the process and to be confident. The outcome of the course was to produce a design following the permaculture principles. There were constant moments of uncertainty and frustration whilst getting to grips with putting all that we had learnt into practice. This personal involvement and investment in making sense of the process is what makes the experience of learning so meaningful and empowering,
Natasha had already completed a Permaculture for Transition course and an Introduction to Permaculture, both at Treadwell, and was about to begin the Permaculture Design Course (PDC).
Self-admittedly not a green-fingered person, Natasha explains that, although she is interested in expanding her gardening skills, her main interests are the social and community benefits applying permaculture to your life can bring. For example, bringing elderly people homes together with nurseries, for the benefit of both young and old, is a common sense solution to social isolation, using random assembly and building beneficial relationships, core principles of permaculture.
A few months after completing the course, the most important thing now for Natasha is not losing anything she felt she gained. She feels that she was given a toolkit of different things that can be useful in any situation, alongside a support system and network which is built out of the special relationships formed by the group.
Being able to visit a number of exciting projects in London and nearby made the course very attractive to Robert, as did the amount of active, group participation he found on the course. Perhaps most importantly, was the amount of time given to develop your critical thinking skills.
A recurring theme I have found since speaking to participants of the PDC, is how much they enjoyed and gained from the domestic setting of the course, held at Treadwell, a private home in Streatham Hill.
Robert also commented that this, and the potluck shared lunches, were a lovely surprise. His most valuable lesson from the course is actually quite personal, which is that he learned a lot about how he liked to learn, and the importance of reflection and a time being allocated to this in a course.
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.
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.
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!’
Find future course dates on the Social Landscapes event page.