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, and activists gathered together. Participants learned from each other and performed and listened to musical performances. Folks from all backgrounds participated in hands-on demonstration projects, built and strengthened community, and had a whole lot of fun together!

The Hub

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 hosted the community connection place. This year, we built on their prior successes, adding even more opportunities for connection, reflection, and continued collaboration.

At the Hub, participants represented and defined 27 bioregions, and we mapped these up on a board showing where folks were coming from.

We had email lists for people to join to get plugged into local guild meetings. Or if their bioregional doesn’t already have one it, it was a chance to create one.

The Hub hosted well-attended bioregional networking happy hours on Friday and Saturday. Attendees utilized our requests and offers board 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. 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.”

Convergence Offerings

While the Hub provided a place to make connections and strategize how to bring Convergence learning home, attendees had access to numerous ways to engage with diverse permaculture topics and hands-on projects.

In total, the Convergence included 100 speakers and 100 workshops. Topics included

  • “Posture for Permaculturists”
  • “Yoga for the Inner Landscape”
  • “Understanding Systems of Oppression”
  • “Ceremony for Male Vulnerability”
  • “Micro to Macro: Soil Science Made Easy”
  • “HugelSwales – Turn Fire Hazards into Water Saving Food Forest”
  • and many more!

There was something for everyone!

Although 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. Folks could share stories of what happened in each of the sessions casually. In so doing, attendees could learn about any workshop they wanted. In fact, people are still sharing these stories at guild meetings, online, and over the dinner table.

Additionally, there were hands-on projects and themed spaces in the Village Commons. These included the Ancestral Arts Zone, the Queer Magic Center, and the PLACEmaker’s Teahouse. The Convegence offered various ways to engage in different ways with people who had shared interests, experiences, and offerings.

In addition to inspiring talks and workshops, the Convergence featured sustainable and delicious food, as well as engaging and diverse live music.

Given this dynamic combination of opportunities, organizers describe the Convergence this way: “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. 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.

Did you know Santa Cruz has a Permaculture Guild? Please visit the Santa Cruz Permaculture Guild website and Guild Facebook group to learn more and get involved!

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