Building Resilient Communities at the 13th Annual NorCal Permaculture Convergence

Last month in Hopland, CA, 610 permaculture-minded folks from all over Northern California and beyond gathered for the 13th Annual NorCal Permaculture “Building Resilient Communities” Convergence.

Presented by Living Mandala and co-sponsored by a super rad list of organizations and businesses, the Convergence is proud to be the world’s largest permaculture event! The Solar Living Center where the Convergence is held is a 12-acre renewable energy and sustainable living demonstration site. It’s a fitting location to support the vision of the Convergence:

“We provide stellar hands-on educational experiences which lead people ‘back to nature’ and more coherent ways of living, in a fun and community oriented environment which helps us all thrive. Diversity and equal opportunity for education are two important principles we guide our organization by. Our scholarships program helps make this possible.”

For four days, permaculture educators, designers, practitioners, students, activists, and folks from all backgrounds learned from each other, performed and listened to musical performances, participated in hands-on demonstration projects, built and strengthened community, and had a whole lot of fun together!

David Shaw from Santa Cruz Permaculture was in attendance, helping coordinate “the Hub” with Susan Silber from the NorCal Resilience Network. The Hub is a gathering space to help participants get connected before and after the Convergence.

In prior years, groups such as NorCal Resilience Network and the Permaculture Action Network have hosted the community connection place. Our work this year built on their prior successes, finding ways to add even more opportunities for connection, reflection, and continued collaboration among Convergence attendees.

At the Hub, participants represented and defined 27 bioregions, and we mapped these up on a board showing where folks were coming from. There were email lists for people to join so they can get plugged into local guild meetings or create their own permaculture guild if one doesn’t already exist in their bioregion. The Hub hosted bioregional networking happy hours on Friday and Saturday that were well attended. Our requests and offers board were utilized by many participants throughout the Convergence. We had so much fun meeting and engaging with people from all over who are creating a more thriving, just, and sustainable world through permaculture!

Existing guilds, businesses, and community organizations posted flyers about upcoming events and opportunities for engagement. The Hub was the place to be for making connections, finding opportunities, and identifying ways to take their experiences at the Convergence home and foster continued collaborations.

“The Convergence is a place for just that: converging,” writes David Shaw of Santa Cruz Permaculture. “It’s a crossroads. People come from all over the world to intentionally forward the project of permaculture in their communities and lives. The Hub was an important space this year for making the invisible visible. People made visible all of the things happening in their community through the Bioregional Board. People could meet each other during our Happy Hours to start forming relationships with neighbors, but also between neighborhoods. Our Requests & Offers board was full!

“I’m curious to see what new directions we’ll head in post-convergence as we do our best to tend the fires that were ignited. I know at least in Santa Cruz, where I live, that there are more people coming to our guild meetings then ever and it’s thanks to Convergences, Conferences, and the sustained community organizing efforts that happen during the pre- and post- event work. A big theme I heard from people this year was: expand the network, grow more powerful. I’m actively hopeful we will succeed.”

While the Hub provided a place to make connections and strategize with others about how to bring Convergence learning home, there were numerous ways for people to engage with diverse permaculture topics and hands-on projects throughout the Solar Living Center.

The Convergence schedule included 100 speakers and 100 workshops, on topics ranging from “Posture for Permaculturists” and “Yoga for the Inner Landscape” to “Understanding Systems of Oppression” and “Ceremony for Male Vulnerability” to “Micro to Macro: Soil Science Made Easy” and “HugelSwales – Turn Fire Hazards into Water Saving Food Forest.” There was something for everyone.

While nobody could attend all of the sessions and avoid the oh-so common “FOMO” (fear of missing out), it was nice to have the sense of being in a learning village where we could share stories of what happened in each of the sessions casually, and in so doing learn about any workshop we wanted. In fact, the stories are still being shared at guild meetings, online, and over the dinner table.

There were also hands-on projects and themed spaces in the Village Commons like the Ancestral Arts Zone, the Queer Magic Center, the PLACEmaker’s Teahouse. Many other areas throughout the Convergence allowed people to engage in different ways with people who had shared interests, experiences, and offerings.

In addition to inspiring talks and workshops, there was sustainable and delicious food throughout the Convergence and awesome live music with an engaging and diverse lineup of performances.

Given this dynamic combination of opportunities, one of the lines organizers use to describe the Convergence is this: “It’s not a Festival, It’s not a Conference… It’s the Convergence.”

To learn more about what the Convergence is all about, check out this video created by the organizers:

As always, we had an inspiring and rejuvenating time at the Convergence this year, and we hope to see you there next year! Follow the Convergence on Facebook and visit their website for updates about the 2019 Convergence and related events throughout the year.

Did you know Santa Cruz has a Permaculture Guild? To learn more and get involved with local permaculture projects, please visit the Santa Cruz Permaculture Guild website and Guild Facebook group.