Permaculture design course participants show their enthusiasm for coming together

Our Permaculture Community Comes Together 

Our 6-month Permaculture Design Courses run twice a year. This spring/summer, we are joined by Gail McNulty, a student in one of our courses. Gail is new to permaculture and after each of the 6 course weekends, she’ll be sharing a blog post about the weekend – what she learned, what inspired her, what connections she made and reflections from some of her fellow students. We are very happy and honored to be able to share her experiences with you all and hope you enjoy hearing some student perspectives.

A Reflection On Weekend One of the Permaculture Design Course

By Gail McNulty

A beautiful view of the hills near Santa Cruz on our permaculture design course site.

I signed up for the Permaculture Design Course (PDC16) on a whim and arrived early Saturday morning with an open mind about how the weekend would unfold. Since being laid off from my communications job in the ocean and climate realm in January, I’d been processing all that’s happening with our climate and civilization and reimagining next steps for my life and all of humanity. As the class got underway, the World Cafe opportunity to get to know others in the group was a welcome surprise since one of my hopes was to meet others who were processing these times in similar ways. Throughout of the weekend I enjoyed the overall spirit of revitalizing hope and re-envisioning the future while learning more about: 

– Permaculture philosophy and methods

– How permaculture is evolving to be more inclusive of Indigenous communities and their ancestral knowledge as longtime stewards of Mother Earth

– How our PDC16 Group Design Projects will come together

– What my fellow course participants are hoping to learn over the next six months and how they hope our permaculture experiences will impact their lives

A permaculture student views a brush gabion built by a previous class – designed to restore the eroded creek bed.

I asked a few of my fellow course participants to revisit Saturday morning’s World Cafe questions…

Colin, who grew up in Jamaica and joined the course because he appreciated how his neighbor’s yard evolved as a result of knowledge he acquired in a past Santa Cruz Permaculture cohort, shared thoughts which resonated with mine: 

We’ve been systematically destroying the world for a long time now and I see permaculture as a small way of starting to reverse the destruction. I particularly like the philosophy of seeking the wisdom of the ancients and learning from their approaches to agriculture which didn’t rely on chemicals, fertilizers, machinery that destroys the soil, pesticides, etc. I also like the focus on building communities that localize the production of food while raising consciousness about being good stewards of the environment. 

Amanda, who works in Santa Cruz as a therapist, shared, “I joined the course in part to find a community of people who embraced similar values while learning how to be a better global citizen for Mother Nature and humanity.”

The longing for community in these pandemic times, connection with nature, and a sense of hope seemed to be a common theme. During Saturday’s morning introductions, several people mentioned feeling grateful to be sitting outside in a circle with a large group for the first time in years. 

PDC16 Group Photo – Their Permaculture Community Comes Together

Chuck, who lives in Napa and traveled down for the weekend shared, “I long for social connections as I work from home and deal with a computer network and zoom for most communication.” Chuck also shares my desire to find ways to make a difference in these times. “I long for a way to contribute to the world outside of my professional life,” and the yearning many of us are feeling to find more meaning, presence, and fulfillment in our daily lives. He shared, “I long for balanced contentment that allows me to accept and be in the moment and in the now.” 

Kylie, who lives in Modesto and joined the course with her partner Eric, also hopes to build meaningful connections through the permaculture cohort: 

I yearn most for lasting community. I’ve had zero luck finding others who are into permaculture locally, so I would really like to take this experience and bring permaculture to my community, making it accessible to especially marginalized groups of people. If it isn’t accessible, it isn’t revolutionary. If I know anything though, it’s that when I take on organizing as an individual, I get burned out. Community is absolutely needed for this to blossom, in my own immediate life and in others. I feel that Permaculture offers a lot of solutions to the human struggle and in effect, our collective liberation. 

A Black Lives Matter sign displays one aspect of a common yearning for social justice.

As one who cares deeply about justice, antiracism, and our collective liberation, I’m grateful that Kylie, Eric, Shawna, and hopefully some others from our PDC16 group will have the opportunity to work with the Ahimsa Collective to help redesign and revitalize the garden and orchard at their new healing and justice center. Ahimsa is a visionary nonprofit that works to respond to harm in ways that foster wholeness for everyone with the goals of replacing systems of punishment with paradigms grounded in healing, relationship, and love. 

Tybias, who traveled from Antioch, CA to join PDC16, shared what he longs for: 

Peace. I’ve had a lot of anger and hate in me for a long time. When I started gardening three years ago I found myself less angry. I still have anger and hate sometimes, but I’m a lot more calm, understanding and most of all patient. As long as I continue to utilize those rules I know I will find peace someday. 

When asked, “What’s possible within our time together over the next six months and what’s worthy of our best effort?” Tybias responded: 

Depending on everyone’s willingness to work together and have patience to not just teach but to learn from one another… In a perfect/ideal course the sky’s the limit. We potentially could better anyone that we come face to face with, which would better the world. My dad a while back was talking a lot about stocks and like many others in this rat race is trying so hard to get rich and so he asked me why I wasn’t trying to do that. I simply said it’s easier to learn how to live off of nothing than to try and reach for something impossible. I didn’t explain it much further but pretty much the area I come from is a very poor neighborhood and all they think about is money so that they can pay all their bills and have money for food. By learning permaculture and a more sustainable lifestyle, everyone might learn how to live off of nothing and maybe they wouldn’t crave money so much. People wouldn’t be breaking into my stepdad’s vehicle every other week just to go sell it to a junkyard or on Facebook Market for money. Maybe less people in my neighborhood would get held at gunpoint for whatever’s in their wallet. Maybe people would smile more instead of crying. 

Sacred old oak trees at the site of the permaculture design course give shade and shelter to students.

I look forward to learning and growing within this community and getting to know Tybias, Kylie, Eric, Shawna, Chuck, Amanda, Colin, and everyone in our PDC16 cohort along with Dave, John, and other leaders over the next six months. As a mother who cares deeply about my childrens future and understands that it’s inherently connected to the future of all children and all life on this planet, I’m hoping we’ll continue to cultivate communal wisdom like the insights people shared for this blog post as we learn to nurture and regenerate our local ecosystems while growing our collective consciousness in these transformational times. 

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