I introduced Permaculture to DFW in 2009 with an introductory course. In spring of 2011, I held my first 11-day Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) class in Dallas. In fall of 2011, Patricia Allison and I have teamed up to bring a 12-day PDC class back to the DFW area.
How did I get from IBM to Permaculture and from New England to Austin?
I am a fairly old-time Permaculture devotee, student, designer, and teacher – about 15 years now, which might put me about in the middle of the pack. I am a New England (US) native – SE-MA through college, working on farms/estates through my teens; then college in W-MA, followed by 12 years in W-NY.
In the early ’90’s I had a chance to leave corporate life and join the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, a national organization HQ’d. at UC-Boulder – we jumped at it. That is where my love affair with Permaculture began – I had the good fortune of working with Vine Deloria, Jr., Standing Rock Sioux, on a series of conferences on the American Indian Knowledge of the Natural World – Stars, Animals, Plants, and Origins/Migrations. Out of these came a deep respect for Indian ways and knowledge, especially in caring for the earth,living within local resources, and for developing an amazing store of plants, foods, and medicines.
It also led to a program to encourage Indians to revive their Traditional Agriculture traditions – for foods, diet/nutrition, disease prevention/cure, self-confidence/self-reliance, spirituality, and community identification. This sounds a lot like Permaculture – and it was. Soon I was a devotee and avid reader – then a student, an Intro speaker, apprentice teacher, and now a teacher/designer.
I had the fortune to attend my 2-week Permaculture Course in the Highlands of Guatemala with friend, Ronnie Lec and his peasant farming project. Geoff Lawton was the Instructor and Ali Sharif, the Coordinator. I have been back several times since, to learn more and to help. Back in the US, I was able to allocate funding from the Natural Science/Traditional Ag. Program to support the first American Indian Permaculture Course at the Tesuque Pueblo with [anglo] Thomas Mack, Justin Willy of Black Mtn. PC, and Clayton Brascoupe, Mohawk – Clayton went on to form TNAFA, the Traditional Native American Farmers Association. TNAFA now runs one or more AI-PC courses, each year at a different sponsoring Pueblo. Scott Pitman taught in these classes several times. Another Indian PC Course was with Justin Willy and Geoff Lawton at the Pine Ridge Reservation in SD. This has endured as a small group of AI Farmers/Gardeners operating out of Sinte Gleska College. Not many have come to Permaculture this way – from Traditional AI agriculture. I was very fortunate, indeed. I also had the good fortune to become a CO Master Gardener while in Boulder.
The same daughter that lured me to Guatemala, and thus to my PC Course, also lured me to Austin, TX, as she moved their in ’98 to attend UT-Austin. I left the AI-Agriculture behind, except for a yearly visit, but Permaculture came right along with me. Knowing I had to “learn my place” all over again, I became a Master Gardener for a 2nd time, took the TX Master Naturalist, Master Composter, and Citizen Forester courses, and got a Landscape Design Certificate from ACC. I was fortunate to run two AmeriCorps programs for a local high school,Casa Verde Builders and Environmental Corps – this launched me into the Austin environmental scene and into Green Building. Our young people built miles of trail, stabilized miles of stream-bank, and over 90 very Green Homes. The latest chapter in myGreening has been takingSolar PV Install and LEED training classes in 2007. Permaculture was at a low ebb in Austin, virtually dormant.
In 1999, I started spreading PC by giving Permaculture Intro talks in/around Austin. I met Patricia Allison, former Austinite, Earthaven founding member, and veteran Permaculture Teacher and began to do a lecture/project or two in her classes. I apprenticed with her for about 2 years before doing courses on my own in about 2001 – a 2-day Basics to start, several 7-day Fundamentals, and finally our 10-day Fundamentals/Design Course for the last 3 plus years. Selwyn Polit, Jenny Nazak, and Kirby Fry have become essential members of the teaching team and founding members of the Austin Permaculture Guild. As a part of the 10-day/8weekend format, we added mid-week talks on PC-related subjects that were also open to the public – this has grown into the very popular Winter Series of Talks, attended by hundreds of people each year. In early 2007, I left my job to semi-retire and to devote my time to Permaculture and Austin’s environmental issues . This has been very rewarding with probably thousands of people exposed to Permaculture via the innumerable Intro talks and course graduates in the hundreds. We were so happy when our spring 2008 Design Course started with over 30 students. And delighted to now be bringing Permaculture to Dallas-Fort Worth and North Central Texas.
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