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 posts, you’ll hear directly from our alumni about how permaculture is showing up in their lives and livelihoods.
We hope these interviews 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 Anna and Kyle King, who received their Permaculture Design Certificates (PDC) in winter 2019 through our course.
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?
Anna & Kyle: Originally from South Carolina and Florida, we were both exposed as kids to gardening, good food and a love for the outdoors. We’ve been together 13 years, married for 7 and are lucky to share our favorite hobbies of surfing, hiking, beach volleyball, tennis, climbing and cultivating plants. Outside of our “desk jobs,” if our hands aren’t in the dirt, there is sand in our toes.
We first learned about permaculture during Kyle’s research to get more education and exposure to his love for gardening. We were both immediately interested in the PDC course content and excited for the opportunity to make more time in our lives for this kind of work.
We currently make our living in data for different industries – Kyle in sales and Anna in analytics. The intent for us was to learn together and get inspired to move towards a lifestyle more in line with our passions for the outdoors and for sustainable living.
SC Permaculture: What have you been up to since you completed your PDC?
Anna & Kyle: We had full intention to see through our PDC project that we presented in the course, but life brought us a new opportunity that happened to be closer to home in location. The day we attended the scion exchange at Cabrillo College, a drop in attendee decided to join the fruit growing class extension and asked Santa Cruz Permaculture instructor David Shaw if he could help find someone to tend her empty garden plot on her property in Carbonera Estates. We were promptly introduced to her as a couple with more plants than available soil, and it was a perfect match. Apparently this sort of match making is common in the Santa Cruz Permaculture community. She offered her land, water and freedom to “come and go,” and we offered the labor and cost of building a garden and sharing some harvest. It was the beginning of a wonderful journey!
The size of the area is about 50 x 50 sq ft, full sun, at the top of a hill with a view of the Monterey Mountains. From March until May, we spent the majority of our afternoons, weekends and mornings (coffee in hand) working in our new borrowed garden. We cleared waist high weeds by hand (leaving some interesting looking volunteers behind), double-dug four 20 ft beds, added a circular bed design for aesthetics, and shoveled two truckloads of mulch (with two wheel barrows, phew) ourselves. The owner would pop in every once in awhile with her two boxers to say hello, check out our work and be on her way.
Earlier in the year, we had already started about 40 varieties of veggies and herbs in our garage-rigged indoor seed starting nursery. This just so happened to be a hobby (obsession?) of Anna’s. So, we found a home for all the plant babies. Summer came and went. We were successful in some areas (purple pole beans, golden zucchini, sunflowers, marigolds, green beans, radishes, carrots, arugula, snow peas, snap peas) and not so successful in other areas (various cucumbers, various tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers, celery, corn). We battled our own decision not to set up irrigation so we had somewhat inconsistent watering, and we also endured some gopher tragedies.
Overall, we considered the season a success, and our hearts got bigger every harvest as did our bounty! We shared our beans and squash with the owner, and random neighbors that would come by to check out our work. We would also show up to friends houses and volleyball games with bags of veggies! No one was unhappy about it.
Late summer, the owner told us we were welcome to use the land for another season if we desired. And we definitely did. Kyle signed us up for a “Winter Vegetable Gardening” class with Love Apple Farms. We came away from the class with a new excitement to amend the soil and a couple tray fulls of freshly planted seeds. We also decided to invest in irrigation this time around, knowing we had travel plans for the holidays and a new respect for protecting our investment. The pictures can tell the rest of this story!
SC Permaculture: How does permaculture show up in your everyday life?
Anna & Kyle: We are committed to taking care of ourselves as our responsibility to our community. Permaculture offered a practical reinforcement of our belief in plant care, people care, and earth care. For us, it strengthened our relationship with the part of ourselves that want to grow within but also to grow the earth and support the health of everything.
Our excitement for the material spreads in our community of friends and family, as we naturally educated those around us of the permaculture principles, by way of our passion and excitement for the projects we are taking on.
SC Permaculture: What is your favorite aspect of permaculture?
Anna & Kyle: One thing that resonated with us is the concept of observing before acting. In this time where technology offers consistent and instant gratification, it is too easy to get impatient and try to take action right away. The concept of having a sit spot on a piece of property combined with the meditation-style-observation was a wonderful reminder for us to slow down.
The elements and wildlife we are surrounded by are all on a path that we should be in alignment with. It takes a conscious awareness and willingness to show up and understand what we are working with on a piece of land. We are culturally in a big hurry, but the natural world around us takes exactly the time it needs – there is a lot to be learned here, as simple a concept as it is.
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?
Anna & Kyle: To start, the beautiful journey of stewarding this borrowed plot was a giant step in the right direction for us. Had it not been for the permaculture course (with the help of some stars aligning), we would not have found the opportunity. It’s hard to say whether or not we’d be as motivated as we are today, but having turned the beds and amended the soil to begin a second season for winter, we’ve already gained a new set of skills through our own exploration and hands-on experience, and uncovered a hunger for more.
We’ve also put work in together to identify our personal and professional long term goals, both of which align with and are supported by permaculture principles. The coursework opened our eyes to a different way of looking at life and livelihood.
On the last day of our PDC course, the instructors were so supportive and excited for our own individual journeys, and we remember vividly the encouragement to “do something” about our own passions. While the material gave us structure and relevance, the instructors gave us strength and support. Keeping in mind the importance to observe and plan, we are doing exactly that – while also leaving space for spontaneity and adventure.
SC Permaculture: What advice do you have for someone who’s just starting to learn about permaculture?
Anna & Kyle: Permaculture principles can be applied to many aspects of your life, not just gardening. You don’t have to be a gardener, and how green your thumb is has no meaning in this. Understanding the elements of sustainability and building for the future can enrich your life today while also enriching the lives around you and those who come after you.
Understanding the relationship of all things in the natural world is essential to truly existing on earth. Otherwise, we are just floating by, disconnected. Use these principles as a gentle guide towards your conscious awareness of your connectivity to everything around you. Connectedness is happiness!