Permaculture Design

“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 Teal (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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December 2010 Announcement of PDC :

New Community Project is pleased to announce we will be teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Spring 2011.  This 72-hour certification course will be headquartered at our new Sustainable Living Center, at 715 N. Main St. in Harrisonburg.

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.  This course will focus specifically on exploring sustainability strategies for the Shenandoah Valley, and participants will emerge 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 covers such themes as: permaculture ethics and philosophy, ecological system understanding, organic food production, design concepts and techniques, natural soil improvement, edible forest gardening, aquaculture, healthy buildings and human settlements, renewable energy systems, local economies, mushroom cultivation, and much more.  Hands-on work and play, group discussion, site tours, lecture, design projects, and work parties will all be used to facilitate a dynamic learning environment.

The dates for the four weekend, 12 day course are:  Feb 18-21, Mar 11-13, Apr 8-10, and May 14-15.  Cost is a sliding scale from $500-800.  The course will be capped at 24 participants.

Email questions, comments, and/or registration forms to Adam at ncppdc@gmail.com, or call 540.209.7378 for further details.

Our team of teachers includes:


Tom Benevento:  Tom draws on years of experience in development work and community organizing – as well as a degree in sustainable systems – to coordinate Harrionsburg’s Sustainable Living Homestead, which combines ground-breaking backyard environmental projects with community outreach.  Before Harrisonburg, Tom spent several years in Central America working on appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture.  Tom is a committed permaculturist, and a staff member of New Community Project.

Ted Butchart:  Ted spent years working in natural building and straw bale construction before deciding to give himself the gift of medical school for his 50th birthday.  Now a Naturopathic Physician, he has received over 500 hours of graduate and post-graduate training in Homeopathy, and bases his natural medicine practice out of Staunton.  He is the Director of the GreenFire Institute, which works on issues of sustainable development, natural materials construction (especially straw bale), and sustainable agriculture, and is on the Board of Advisors of Village Volunteers, a 501-C-3 organization working with Masai villages in Africa to incorporate permaculture design and other sustainable techniques into their lives in an effort to preserve their indigenous culture.

Adam Campbell:  An experienced world traveler, Adam’s journeys through Nepal, Guatemala, Cambodia, Tibet, South Africa, and Morocco solidified his commitment to designing authentic, locally-based responses to the enduring challenges of social injustice, environmental degradation, and economic disenfranchisement.  The Education Coordinator at New Community Project, Adam is currently working with Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County school students to design and implement gardens on school grounds.  An educator by passion, he realized recently he had been training his entire life to be a teacher in a PDC, and feels incredibly lucky to be a part of this team.

Mark Jones: Mark moved to his family’s homestead Sharondale in the summer of 2004, with the intention of expanding a successful permaculture and useful plants landscaping business.  Mark is fascinated with the forms, colors and flavors of mushrooms; and due to their food value and essential ecological role as recyclers, he has specialized in mushroom production and education.  In addition to selling mushrooms and useful plants, his focus has been on developing perennial garden systems, farm waste management strategies, intercropping mushrooms with vegetable production for food and soil building, developing methods that contribute to agroforestry and natural resource management plans, and using local strains of mushrooms for bioremediation.

Jason Myers-Benner: A self-described and unapologetic Nature Nerd, Jason has always been somewhat obsessed by small farm activities and pursuits…most notably chickens!  Jason studied International Agriculture in college, and is more or less attempting to practice a borderless and timeless form of home-centered agriculture on the place he shares with Janelle (wife) and Kali (daughter) in Keezletown.  His interests include…well…pretty much everything.

Dave O’Neill: is the owner and operator of Radical Roots Community Farm and former director of the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University. He has studied permaculture systems in New Zealand and Australia and designed regionally adapted systems and gardens for the Shenandoah Valley. Dave is committed to social change through creating a community farm that fosters connections between people and land; and whether gardening on intensively cultivated, beautiful garden soil, growing permaculture plants in a 3,000 square foot greenhouse, selling produce and plants at the Farmer’s Market or through a 100 member CSA — Dave is always pushing the edge of productivity.

Wayne Teel:  After spending nine years in Africa working on agroforestry efforts, Wayne moved into a self-designed strawbale house in Keezletown, VA.  A professor of environmental science in the Integrated Science and Technology Program at JMU, he teaches courses on environmental issues, water quality, agricultural systems, sustainability, and geography.  Among his research interests are alternative agriculture, making and using biochar as a soil amendment and a means of sequestering carbon, and using trees to control nutrient overload in area streams.

Meghan Williamson: A native of southwestern Virginia, Meghan returned to the Shenandoah Valley to practice locally-based community development and rural revitalization after serving for several years as a social policy researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.  She is the Executive Director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund, a community development agency that finances and develops creative, independent, and environmentally sound small businesses and incubates start-up nonprofits by providing fundraising and organizational support for grassroots organizations such has Staunton Green 2020 and Friends of the Middle River.  Meghan is the current Chair of the Artisans Center of Virginia, Vice-President of the Virginia Microenterprise Network, a member of both the Staunton and Waynesboro Main Street programs economic restructuring committees, and former Director of Economic Development for the City of Waynesboro.


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2 responses to “Permaculture Design

  1. Pingback: Straw Bale House Workshop – August 2011 « New Community Project-Harrisonburg·

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