Permaculture Internship Reflections with Kaylee Savage-Wright

During spring quarter 2018, UC Santa Cruz senior Kaylee Savage-Wright worked with Santa Cruz Permaculture through a for-credit internship hosted by the UCSC Environmental Studies Department. We enjoyed working with her for the ten-week quarter. At the end of her internship, we asked her to reflect on her experience so we could share some of the behind-the-scenes work that we do.

Why did you sign up for this internship?

Originally when I signed up for this internship, besides fulfilling the two credits I needed, I also wanted to learn more about gardening, local flora and fauna, sustainable methods, phenology, and ecology. Even though my major is anthropology—which most people think of as studying dinosaurs or doing something related to India Jones—I’m very interested in environmental and sustainability research and wanted to learn how to apply anthropology to that.

I have also been enrolled in an Anthropocene course and a Field Research and Conservation course during my time at UCSC. I feel these pertain a bit to the things I’ve been learning in this internship, as it deals with environmental changes and biological processes. It’s been really great having these experiences coincide and show me how applicable this internship can be to anthropology.

Kaylee planting alliums in the garden

What projects did you work on in this internship?

Though permaculture is more than just a way to garden, that is primarily the work I did with David Shaw and Cameron Salomon on the property where David lives. I’ve learned so much more about gardening than I ever thought I would, mainly because I hadn’t realized before how much goes into it.

In the past, I helped out in my parent’s garden, worked on family friend’s farms as a child, and even had my own tiny beds that my college housemates and I tended to. Nothing was as in depth as this internship.

This time, I wasn’t simply being told what to do or using my scarce knowledge of watering or transplanting. I was told the why and how of things, and perhaps most importantly, understanding the ways that working with the earth pertains to permaculture.

However, I did more than gardening. Helping out at the Santa Cruz Permaculture booth at Open Streets Watsonville was a perfect example of how to introduce the philosophy of permaculture to the public. This event provides access to various local organizations around Santa Cruz that are devoted to community and sustainability.

Open Streets Watsonville
The interactive Santa Cruz Permaculture booth at Open Streets Watsonville 2018, featuring a tabletop intersection repair project to explore creative ways to strengthen community resiliency through beautiful, fun, and practical projects. Learn more here.

I also worked on the Bioregional Directory, which will be an online listing of local resources. It’s sort of like a yellow pages but for local and sustainable businesses, resources, and organizations–a “green pages”! The Bioregional Directory project exposed me to a lot of information about the different types of permaculture and the businesses around Santa Cruz that are aligned with those ideals.

What have you learned in this internship?

I have gained a lot of new knowledge and experiences through this internship that I am excited to continue pursuing. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the earth, the species of flora and fauna that reside in it, how to cultivate the land, and of course various gardening techniques.

Over the course of these ten weeks, I have learned skills like plant identification, methods for digging beds, how to set irrigation lines, the hazards of bamboo encroaching on a garden, and different approaches to composting.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve realized through this internship that I would love to be involved in some sort of permaculture community. When I graduate from UC Santa Cruz, I will look into different positions for environmental anthropology so I can continue to explore permaculture in the context of my studies at UCSC.

There is so much work to be done, and this internship was a wonderful stepping-stone in the direction that I want to be going!

We wish Kaylee all the best in her adventures after graduating!

If you are a currently enrolled university or community college student in the local area interested in an internship with Santa Cruz Permaculture, please contact us at

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