Alumni Spotlight: Julia Herring

Santa Cruz Permaculture has had the joy of teaching and learning with many students over the years. Our alumni have gone into many diverse fields (literally and figuratively) since participating in our courses. 

To celebrate and demonstrate the many unique directions that studying permaculture can take you, we have started an interview series. In these blog posts, you’ll hear directly from our alumni about how permaculture is showing up in their lives and livelihoods.

We hope the stories and insights shared by our alumni inspire you on your own permaculture journey! The work our alumni are doing in the world demonstrates that people really can affect change in their community while living an adequately resourced life and livelihood. 

In our alumni spotlight for this month, we interviewed Julia Herring, who received her Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) in 2018 through our course. We connected with her via email to learn more about what she has been up to since graduating from the PDC and how permaculture has helped her pursue a new career path.

SC Permaculture: Can you share a little about yourself? Where did you first learn about permaculture, why did you take a PDC course, and what were you up to before you got your PDC?

Julia: My name is Julia (@perma.girl on Instagram), I’m 26 years old, born and raised in Northern California, and currently living in the Berkeley Hills. 

I first learned about permaculture at a gathering called the Oregon Eclipse Festival in August 2017. There was an incredible area at the festival called the Permaculture Plaza, with beautiful demonstration gardens and presenters from all over the world who gave inspiring talks on topics ranging from straw-bale gardens, to reconnecting our communities. 

The Permaculture Plaza at the Oregon Eclipse Festival

At the time I was working a 9-5 corporate job at a healthcare company in San Francisco, feeling stuck and unfulfilled, and unsure of where I wanted to take my life. The Permaculture Plaza (and the total solar eclipse) gave me a huge realization that maybe learning about permaculture would help me choose a new direction. 

As soon as I got home from the festival I looked up Permaculture Design courses in the Bay Area, and found out that Santa Cruz Permaculture’s PDC was starting just one month later. 

SC Permaculture: What have you been up to since you completed your PDC?

Julia: Oh man, what haven’t I been up to. After my PDC ended in March 2018, I quit my corporate job with the intention of traveling and gaining as many permaculture related skills and experiences as possible. I WWOOFed at a ranch in Grass Valley, took multiple natural building courses, attended the NorCal Permaculture Convergence, and completed a 5 week workshop at Arcosanti in Arizona.

This Spring I returned to Arcosanti to co-lead a natural building workshop, where 10 of us built a wood-fired sauna out of clay, sand and straw, using almost only materials found on site. While I was there I also got to design and help plant the beginnings of a food forest!

For now I’m focused on landscape design. I’m currently apprenticing with a permaculture-oriented landscaping company in the East Bay Hills, and taking classes in the Landscape Horticulture department at Merritt College.

SC Permaculture: How does permaculture show up in your everyday life?

Julia: Permaculture reminds me constantly to consider the triple bottom line. Sure, I could buy that pre-cut grocery store melon to save time, but how long would that plastic container sit in a landfill? I could order everything I need off of Amazon, but does that company treat its employees fairly? In a world obsessed with money, permaculture reminds me that there is tremendous value in earth care, people care, and fair share.

SC Permaculture: What is your favorite aspect of permaculture? This could be one of the ethics, principles, or even an entire petal of the permaculture flower.

Julia: I LOVE the “Use what you have” permaculture principle. Not only does reuse save you money and divert materials from the waste stream, it also stimulates SO much creativity! That yoghurt container can be a cute planter with a coat of paint and a hole cut in the bottom. Those old log stumps in your yard can make a great border for a raised vegetable bed. Get creative, it’s so much fun!

SC Permaculture: Why is practicing permaculture important to you?

Julia: I’ve learned that I personally cannot sit idly by while our planet succumbs to the effects of industrial agriculture and fossil fuel dependency. Especially in the last year, the effects of climate change have become very real, and permaculture gives me hope that it’s not too late to turn this earth-ship around.

The beginnings of the Arcosanti food forest, which Julia designed and helped plant

SC Permaculture: How has studying permaculture helped you do the work that you feel called to do in the world? Has it helped you reach any goals or milestones, personally or professionally?

Julia: I always knew that I wanted to get involved in the “green sector,” but I didn’t know what that looked like until I came across permaculture as a design methodology. When I was feeling stuck at a 9-5 desk job, I made it my goal to build a life where I could have my hands in the dirt and have a positive impact, and I have absolutely achieved both of those goals thanks to studying permaculture. 

SC Permaculture: What advice do you have for someone who’s just starting to learn about permaculture?

Julia: If permaculture is something you’re interested in learning, don’t hesitate! This is a design methodology that encompasses so many skills, interests and professions. I promise you’ll find at least one aspect that deeply inspires you. The world needs educated, regenerative thinkers now more than ever.

SC Permaculture: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Julia: I want to give a huge shout-out to David Shaw and Melissa Ott Fant for all of the work they do to make the Santa Cruz Permaculture Design Course so enriching. The SCPDC course introduced me to so many amazing people, and set me up for success on my journey in a huge way. I’m so excited to say that I’ll be returning to take their Food Forest class starting this August! If you’re considering signing up for one of their courses, do it. You will not regret it.

SC Permaculture: Thank you so much, Julia, for recommending our courses! We are grateful to know you, and we appreciate you taking the time to share about how permaculture continues to show up in significant ways in your life. We look forward to hearing more about your future permaculture endeavors!

Read a reflection piece from 2018 by Julia Herring about the Santa Cruz Permaculture Design Certificate course here.

Learn more about the courses offered by Santa Cruz Permaculture.

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