2011 Permaculture Design Course

“It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.” — Wendell Berry.

This spring New Community Project held our first Permaculture Design Course. This 72-hour certification course was headquartered at our new Sustainable Living Center, at 715 N. Main St. in Harrisonburg and featured site tours of Radical Roots Community Farm in Keezletown, Polyface Farm in Swoope, Stone Soup Books in Waynesboro, The Seed Community Garden in Staunton as well as several home sites. 24 students from within the Shenandoah Valley participated.

Based on patterns and processes of ecological systems, permaculture is the art and science of creating healthy and resilient human environments abundant in food, water, shelter, energy, and community. The course focused specifically on exploring sustainability strategies for the Shenandoah Valley, and participants emerged as a thriving practitioner network, each with the ability to design and build gardens, homes, and communities modeled on living ecosystems.

This ecological design course featured lectures and workshops on permaculture ethics and philosophy with Adam Campbell (NCP) and Meghan Williamson (Staunton Creative Community Fund), ecological system understanding and edible forest gardening with Tom Benevento (NCP), organic food production and design concepts and techniques with Dave O’Neill (Radical Roots Farm), natural soil improvement with Wayne Teel (JMU), healthy buildings and human settlements with Ted Butchart (Virginia Natural Health), local economies with Mary Katharine Froehlich (Stone Soup Books), and mushroom cultivation with Mark Jones (Sharondale Farm), to name a few.

Concluding the course students presented their final designs! Using the skills, techniques, and teams that began forming last February, they worked with Shenandoah Valley families and residents to design home-scale permaculture systems throughout the Valley.

Many thanks to the graduating class of the NCP Permaculture Design Course 2011! We learned as much from you as we hoped to teach. Congratulations, and many more wonderful projects and workshops to come!

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