Just two years ago I was searching for a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) to take in South Florida. At that time there were very few choices. I heard of a class offered in Ft. Meyers taught by Wayne Weiseman and I made my way across the state for what would be a life changing experience. Months later I took an Edible Forest Garden Design course with Eric Toensmeier hosted by Earth-Learning very close to home. During those transformative weeks I learned more than I ever expected about ecosystems, regenerative agriculture and culture at large. Now there’s no shortage of choices for people interested in permaculture in South Florida. There’s a blossoming community in the Broward and Miami areas who are teaching, designing and implementing a variety of earth conscious systems. Our local food networks are booming, there are cooperatives and new businesses starting up. Gatherings and events are being hosted on a regular basis. Its exciting to be part of it and lately I’ve been interested in how permaculture education builds social capital.
I recently had the chance to join a PDC in Dania taught by Angie Gonzalez. Angie, along with permaculturalist Judith Gulko invited me to co-facilitate a session on the social aspects (or invisible structures) of permaculture. Judith and I sparked conversations about open space technology, consensus and sociocracy. We shared examples of thriving projects like City Repair and 596 Acres. We talked about ways in which people empower each other and self organize. As a result of Angie’s course, a new group formed with members from the Broward area collaborating on an organizational structure, common vision and purpose that meets their local needs.
Weeks later, I took part of a weekend workshop hosted by Marcus Thompson of Permaculture Miami. He invited biologist and author Toby Hemenway to lead a series of talks and activities. The focus was on creating community, food and livelihood in the city. With the student’s input, he listed things of scarcity and abundance in our environment, as well as a lengthy list of design elements to consider in an urban setting. We visited an urban farm in Broward called Mirando Farms. We toured the site, finding rescued farm animals, aquaponics, a farmers market and more. Our final assignment was to identify local interests, skill sets and businesses that could benefit from working together. It was a good reminder of the many opportunities available in an urban setting and in our local economies.
I took a trip down to the Florida Keys last weekend to visit an Introduction to Permaculture course taught by Tia Meer and hosted by Midge Jolly of Earth & Sea Farm. I helped to plant a keyhole garden and was amazed at the diversity of edibles Midge grows so close to the sea! After class we talked about the upcoming International Permaculture Congress in Cuba. That evening Tia and I were also able to catch up on some plans for the 2nd FL Permaculture Convergence. I felt very blessed to be there for the afternoon and relished in the conversations we had over a beautiful meal.
Looking back on all these experiences, I noticed a pattern. I’ve left all of these courses and gatherings feeling connected, empowered and inspired but most importantly equipped with the knowledge necessary to design a variety of life supporting systems. I came to the conclusion that education has been one of the best investments I’ve made. It’s equally wise to invest in social capital, an essential part of creating mutually supportive communities and an alternative economy. There are so many opportunities to learn how to live lovingly on the land and countless ways to responsibly provide for one another. All we need is the desire to do so.