Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

“As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills.”

Jo Bussell’s permaculture journey started with two weekend permaculture introduction courses in 2010 and 2011.  In 2013 she completed a PDC in Fremantle with Sparkles, Harry Wykham and a range of presenters, followed by an Advanced PDC with Ross Mars and Graeme Bell in 2016. Only a year later, Jo opened Urban Revolution in Perth, WA. Martina from the PA Education team chats with Jo about the permaculture skills required for her retail employees & opening a permaculture store in Perth, WA.

Jo, you have the only permaculture ‘brick-and-mortar store’ in Perth. Tell us a little bit about the concept and how you got the idea to open this store.

Permaculture sparked (like for so many people) a passion in me to make my home food gardens efficient and mineral dense, followed by helping friends and family implement permaculture design elements into their gardens.  This moved onto paid permaculture design work. There was a need to recommend tools and soil inputs to have a successful food garden in Perth.  This morphed into working with Men’s Sheds to make plastic free gardening tools such as our first product, a seedling flat.  I then created an online store and went to markets offering the products, permaculture advice and design work. The bricks and mortar store came to fruition due to the number of products we were supplying and the need to take the business out of our home.

What are the goods and services available in your store?

The store offers garden, cleaning, homeware and personal care products that are made from materials that are compostable, plastic free or are better for the Earth. The gardening products are aimed at growing food along with a fabulous range of local, heirloom and open-pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds. We assist and educate people individually on how to grow food, create soil and compost everyday organic waste.  We randomly present on various permaculture related subjects at community events and in schools. We also connect interested people with permaculture courses, teachers and designers.

I know your employees have done Permaculture Design Courses and at least one has done her Certificate III in Permaculture. Is permaculture knowledge something that is needed for the work at Urban Revolution?

Yes. Permaculture knowledge is key to assisting our customers with product use and our free advice on how to create soil, compost, grow food, and modify or add elements into an urban garden using permaculture design techniques. Skills I am looking for in particular are a holistic composting knowledge, soil creation specifically for growing vegetables, experience in growing various vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers; companion planting, backyard chickens and integrated pest management knowledge.

Are you encouraging further permaculture studies for the people you work with and your customers?

Yes, absolutely.  Out of our six staff, three have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) and two have completed further permaculture education – and we all would like to do more. The remaining three are growing food at home and are eco aware with other skill sets. They are learning about permaculture by just working in the store.  When possible, I hope they will all complete a PDC. In addition, our customers are consistently recommended to do a PDC at every appropriate opportunity!

There aren’t many permaculture jobs advertised at the moment. Do you think this will change?

Yes, I think it will change and gain momentum.  For example, why hire a mowing company to maintain your garden? Y ou can hire a permaculture-based gardening company to improve and manage your garden’s health, grow food, educate and provide garden design. As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills. Ultimately our business goal is to employ permaculturists to provide presentations and workshops to schools, businesses and especially in our communities.  At the moment this is a longer-term goal due to cash flow and providing an appropriate venue.

Additional information

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Jo can be found here.

Martina and Jo are Professional and Organisation members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

Urban Revolution Australia is anEco & Garden Store and Online Shop with household, personal and gardening products to make it easy to have a thriving garden, wasteless kitchen and greener lifestyle. There have a current vacancy to join their team which would suit someone with a permaculture background (a Permaculture Design Certificate would be highly regarded).

Permaculture study opportunities

Permaculture study opportunities

“Permaculture offers a simple, joyful and ethical way of life and making a living” Morag Gamble

Permaculture offers a huge range of practical tools to improve household and community resilience, increase food security, better manage water, create systems that return carbon to the earth, and reduce bushfire risks. All of these are sorely needed now that the climate is changing so much faster than expected, with unprecedented fire conditions, heatwaves and drought.

We are excited to share three online opportunities to increase your skills and knowledge in permaculture and soil health.

  1. Permaculture Education Institute, Morag Gamble

Receive a 10% discount on the registration fee for the Permaculture Educators Program, which comprises a Permaculture Design Certificate plus Permaculture Teacher Certificate. To receive the discount you must sign up using this link only and enter PA10.

2. The Advanced Permaculture Student Online, Matt Powers

Join the Advanced Permaculture Student online course and receive a 50% discount ($750) off the registration price. To receive the discount you must sign up via this link

3. Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Foundation Courses

Do you want to understand how soil microbes work in harmony with plants? Dr. Elaine Ingham has dedicated her life to researching the Soil Food Web and to working with farmers to help them transition away from using chemicals, to working in harmony with nature. Signup for the Foundation Courses today here.

More information:

Permaculture Australia does not endorse any businesses, services, products, courses, workshops or events posted on this website. When you purchase a course or product using the provided links above, you will receive the stipulated discount and PA will also receive an affilitate commission on each purchase.

Please contact hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au if you would like to become a PA Affiliate or have any queries. We will carefully review all organisations to ensure they align with permaculture ethics & principles, and the mission of Permaculture Australia. Every effort is made to ensure the above information is up to date and correct and will be updated as new information is received.

TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

Spring has sprung with the action from communities towards this giant we face that is climate change. While in lockdown in Naarm / Melbourne, a household of permaculture folks have planned a three day summit with some of the legends of permaculture, First Nations perspectives on a just recovery, and workshops for pragmatic solutions to building resilient communities. Read more about the event and how it was developed with this guest post by Guy Ritani, PA member and co-organiser, TEDx PermaQueer.

“During isolation I have had the privilege to go to a number of climate action, youth future, climate uprise events which I am incredibly grateful for. However I came away from a lot of them thinking something was lacking. Action. The calamity we face is reasonably well known to most people and the issue of climate change has shifted somewhat into a paralysing storm. I wanted to hear the solutions and see how they were appearing in the light of day with peoples actions. Action that we can all do to weave the vast ropes of humanity through the needle head that is climate change.

TEDX is currently doing a global pulse of their platform out to communities around the world on the topic of climate change and are calling it ‘Countdown’. I applied for the TEDx license a few months ago and didn’t hear back until two weeks ago to advise the event would be in three weeks. 3 WEEKS!! So a very excited and anxious me began drafting on the whiteboard what an I thought an action filled summit would look like, one that had real impact for communities.

I live in a Permaculture sharehouse with fellow teacher and PA member Delldint Fleming, my partner and co-teacher at PermaQueer Toad Dell and permaculture student, Cicily. Together we drafted the idea of an amazing summit with all of the dream speakers we could possibly want. The drawing board featured David Holmgren, Rosemary Morrow, Damon Gameau, David Attenborough, Keitha Thuy Young to name a few. Then we set out with bright eyes on our journey to contact all our dream speakers. Some we got, others we didn’t. I wanted to curate a summit from all perspectives and all levels of industry to tackle the ways our human system works as holistically as possible and get somewhat of a birds eye view of how we can actionably respond to this crisis. We shared the outcome: a solutions oriented approach to the ways communities can build infrastructure to alleviate their dependence on carbon consuming systems.

We’ve been in isolation pretty much since March this year so we’re all just slowly migrating around the house and garden with our laptops and drawing boards organising, emailing, designing, replying to emails, calling speakers and replying to more emails again. It has been a tremendous effort from the four of us here pulling together this fantastic group of speakers, dispersing it out to our communities and establishing the infrastructure to run this event. I am immensely proud of my household, having never tried to do anything like this before and I’m pleased we’ve stepped up to the plate. Outwardly too, it’s been amazing and so affirming getting the support from all the amazing speakers we have and their deep genuine interest to solve these issues and share how they’ve done it themselves. 


In terms of the actual event, we wanted it to feel effortless, like a conversation over a cuppa. The three day summit begins with a Welcome to country. We then have Tyson Yunkaporta talking on what a meaningful existence means as we move towards the future informed from the deep ancestral truths Aboriginal and First Nations peoples hold from the past. One thing we’ve really consciously tried to centre this around is First Nations sovereignty. There is no just recovery without complete considerations for the First Nations of this land and of the lands surrounding it. So as we came together hoping to speak of solutions, we tried to ensure they were coming from First Nation voices and experiences.  I want the speakers to talk about this issue in the way that sang to them and spoke to their true passion as to why they do what they do. From seed saving to bringing your ethics to the workplace, decolonising our minds and ancestry to integrating medicine into our natural food systems, how activists are supporting Australia to break up with fossil fuels to fungal fabrics as the future of fashion. We have tried to meaningfully cover as much as we can given the time we’ve had so I am really looking forward to this event.

 

One last thing I will mention is the queering of Permaculture. We know the edge is where it’s at and to value the marginal. Our desire is to integrate all the deep pools of knowledge and open up other areas of humanity’s realm of acceptance so we can create this new future. We’re entering an era of science fiction at the moment, in that we don’t have a rulebook anymore for what’s going to happen and the outcome will be only what we make it. Now is the time to open up all our borders and collaborate with people, ideas, identities, cultures and get as creative as possible. I hope that this will be the first in a series of events on pragmatic sustainability and am looking forward to the future 🙂 “

For more information:

TEDx PermaQueer will be held online on October 15-17th October 2020 and recorded in Naarm / Melbourne. Tickets for the event are free or via donation and can be booked here. The list of speakers includes David Holmgren, Rowe Morrow, Guy Ritani, Morag Gamble, Delldint Fleming and many more. Follow for updates on the schedule and speakers here.

Permqueer is a collaborative effort to share ecological sustainability methods through the lens of permaculture and focussing accessibility to traditionally marginalised communities. Our goal is to spread knowledge of living within ecological boundaries.

Guy and Delldint (and many of the speakers at TEDx PermaQueer), are professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based permaculture organisation. Join up here today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.

“Grow food and grow farmers” – permaculture stories

“Grow food and grow farmers” – permaculture stories

“Jeff concluded years ago that growing soil and growing food would be the most important skills for humanity in the next thirty years – a conviction that hasn’t changed since. Asked whether he thinks that permaculture and regenerative farming skills will become more important in the future, Jeff answers with a resounding “Absolutely”.

Jeff Pow and Michelle McManus are the faces behind Southampton Homestead near Balingup in the Southwestern corner of WA, where they are regeneratively farming meat on 130 acres. After a three-year break from chicken farming, they are just returning to raising pastured meat chickens again, while also running a few heads of cattle and some pigs for their own consumption and as an additional income. Clydesdale horses for work and enjoyment are complementing the grazing regime to improve pasture and soil. Southampton Homestead is home to the only micro-abattoir in Western Australia. PA’s Education volunteer Martina chats with Jeff and Michelle about combining permaculture, regenerative agriculture & organic practices to improve their land, and the importance of growing food and farmers for a resilient food system.

Jeff’s motto is ‘Grow food and grow farmers’, as he sees a strong need for more small farming businesses. He is concerned about the decline in numbers of farming families and farms as well as diversity in the food-producing sector and is driven by the need to re-establish food sovereignty and a resilient food system. He tells me that there used to be 54 abattoirs in the Southwest of WA in 1992. Now he is the only one left and had to battle bureaucracy to be able to slaughter his own poultry. All rules and regulations are geared at big-scale agriculture, excluding small businesses from the market. In Jeff’s opinion there is a huge risk in this centralisation of agricultural businesses and services. “One big thing falls over quickly when something happens. With lots of little things, some will probably survive”, he explains. Jeff feels farmer’s democratic right to access the market place is taken away from them, when they are not able to bring food to market themselves without involving big corporations in the processing.

Southampton Homestead is run under holistic management principles and planned with the help of Regrarian Platform. Jeff and Michelle are self-taught farmers that take the best from regenerative agriculture, organic growing and permaculture to improve their land. They have taught at Fair Harvest’s Permaculture Design Course and are passionate about passing on their knowledge.

When asked about the importance of additional training opportunities that contain permaculture and other related knowledge systems, Jeff agrees that there is not nearly enough on offer in Australia at the moment to support farmers. Qualifications that focus on intense small-scale food growing are desperately needed, but Jeff argues that training in different ways of retail and marketing is at least as important. He says traditional retail opportunities like supermarkets are nearly impossible to access for small farmers and farmers markets mostly aren’t a financially viable alternative. Therefore alternative ways of marketing their products like community supported agriculture and online distributors such as Wide Open Agriculture will play a big role for new farmers. It would be irresponsible to teach new farmers food-producing without including the marketing side of the business.

To help this along, Southampton Homestead offers a residency program to train future farmers and is planning to become a not-for-profit education business in the longer run. His residents are not only gaining the practical skills of raising livestock, but just as importantly, business planning and management as well as marketing skills.

For Jeff, permaculture means ecological thinking. Part of what he has learned from permaculture is understanding and mitigating catastrophes. He says nothing will ever be perfect and you have to plan for things going wrong. Southampton Homestead once lost hundreds of chickens when a tornado swept through their property, and the farm burnt down completely in a bushfire in 2013. Jeff and Michelle have rebuilt it and have now planted over 1000 oaks, mulberries, poplars and other deciduous trees in shelter belts to mitigate the risk of this happening again and to provide fodder for their animals. The right plant at the right place for the right reason is one of the principles they have taken from permaculture.

There are golden opportunities for new farming businesses and he encourages aspiring farmers not to give up because they don’t have millions in seed money to buy property. Farming is labour-intense work and there are lots of opportunities to add more layers to existing farms and improve them by adding fertility and ecological services. He says his own land could support more businesses, but it has so far been difficult to find people to run them. Jeff’s advice when starting out is to master one aspect of farming before adding more layers, instead of trying to do everything at once. Business enterprises that could be added to existing sheep or cattle farms to increase soil and pasture health and to provide ecological services include pastured poultry, bees, composting, small-scale intense market gardening and many more.

Jeff comes from a business and management background, but concluded years ago that growing soil and growing food would be the most important skills for humanity in the next thirty years – a conviction that hasn’t changed since. Yet when he proposed to present a stall at his daughter’s university career expo, his offer was declined. He is convinced though, that times are changing and COVID-19 has made many young people reconsider their priorities.

Asked whether he thinks that permaculture and regenerative farming skills will become more important in the future, he answers with a resounding “Absolutely”.

More information:

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education can be found here.

Martina is a professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

From “frustrated farmer” to permaculture educator – Andrew Nicholson

From “frustrated farmer” to permaculture educator – Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson is a PA professional member who teaches Certificate III Permaculture at the South Regional TAFE in Albany, Western Australia. Martina Hoeppner from the Permaculture Australia Education team chats with Andrew about teaching accredited permaculture at TAFE and how permaculture qualifications & skills will be in demand jobs over the next decade.

How did you get involved in Permaculture? 
I first came across the idea of Permaculture as a year 12 student in 1978 (the year Permaculture One was published) and still have that very tattered book in my library. I was fascinated by the ideas of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and as a bit of a frustrated farmer I read up a lot of the books that were their influencers at the time. I also have 1978 editions of Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Yeoman’s Water for every farm in my library. I got married in 1985 and my wife Andrea, who was from a farming background, was also interested in sustainable living, vegie growing and preserving. When we bought our first house in York we started implementing permaculture practices on our block. We had no formal training through this period but read and absorbed whatever was published, we watched the Global Gardener series and designed integrated plant and animal systems on our ¼ acre block. By this time, I was working on a farm and my boss was open to doing some pasture renovation using a Wallace soil conditioner, holistically planning tree lines and fencing, keeping water high in the landscape and to using rock mineral fertilisers in places.
We have now ‘permacultured’ six properties, including a 255-hectare farm. We currently live on a ¼ acre block in Albany with an aquaculture system, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks and worms integrated with raised vegie beds, ground cover crops and fruit trees. I also co-ordinate the Good Life Community Garden in Albany (permaculture oriented) and the Permaculture courses at the South Regional TAFE.
What formal permaculture training have you completed?
My formal education in permaculture didn’t start until 2017 when I raised the idea of starting a permaculture section at South Regional TAFE (SRTAFE) with my manager. She agreed I could investigate it and when my wife Andrea raised the idea of doing a PDC at Fair Harvest Permaculture in Margaret River, I realised this would be a good start to getting the qualification on our scope of registration. We completed the PDC and inspired I enrolled to do the Certificate III at Candlelight Farm in Mundaring with Dr Ross Mars. Traveling from Albany to Mundaring (900 km round trip) each month for a year was challenging but Ross and his team taught a great course and I obtained my Certificate III at the end of the year. Bitten with bug I enrolled in the Diploma course and once again made the trek up and down every month for another year, completing it in July 2020 amidst Covid-19 lockdown.
South Regional TAFE in Albany are offering several permaculture opportunities – can you tell us about the different courses?
We offer two separate Certificate III courses at SRTAFE. Our mainstream course runs two days/week over three terms, with five units of competence being offered each term. Students have the option of completing the course one or two days/week – if they enrol for both days they can complete the Certificate in nine  months. Our facilities include a fully equipped horticultural training site with a separate area for us to develop a permaculture space from scratch. We also do some of our course work at the Good Life Community Garden where there is an established food forest and integrated animals as well as the community engagement aspects that are important for an understanding of the Permaculture principles. We also offer the Certificate III in Permaculture as a series of weekend workshops for those who work or find weekends easier. The 15 units that make up the qualification are divided into eight workshops that are offered over a year. People can enrol in one unit or all of them. Some workshops will be offered more than once during the year depending on demand.
Where are students working after completing the Certificate – are there any jobs in permaculture?
Most of our students are on small to medium sized properties and are wanting to integrate permaculture principles and practices into their farming enterprises and lives. A couple are doing the course for interest and some are Ppermaculture practitioners who want to obtain a formal qualification. A couple are interested in becoming permaculture teachers in schools and in the community. There are no advertised permaculture jobs in our region at the moment, but there is a strong sustainability push in the Great Southern and a number of schools are implementing sustainability into their curriculum, including creating permaculture gardens and spaces for kids to learn in. I think people with permaculture qualifications will be well set up for the new wave of sustainability jobs that will become part of every forward-thinking organisation over the next decade.
Do you think the emergencies of the last year have changed these job prospects?
Not yet, but I think they will. Designing for disaster (civil unrest, fires, power loss, water shortages as well as pandemics) is a key concept in permaculture thinking. Although ‘preppers’ and fringe groups have caught the headlines in this area over the past ten years, preparation for some of these disasters has already lead to people wanting to learn skills in growing and preserving food, going off the grid and developing resilient community networks.
Where do you see Permaculture skills needed most in the future?
The bulk of our food production will remain on conventional farms, but progressive farmers are already moving away from whole of farm cropping programs and reintroducing grazing animals because of concerns around weed resistance to herbicides. Concerns about health effects associated with some chemical usage is prompting more people to seek out healthy food options. The Good Life Community Garden hosted David Holmgren during his Retrosuburbia tour of WA and had a tremendous response with over 100 people wanting to learn more about growing food in their backyard. We have the capacity to reduce the pressure on our farmers to harvest unsustainable levels of food from their land by turning some of our lawns and underutilised soil in back yards into productive food forests and even developing small businesses based on permaculture principles and practices. These are skills not only for food production but for a more resilient permanent culture. Organisational culture is a buzz word at the moment and the Permaculture ethics, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are the best conversation starters about culture that I know.
How do you think the Accredited Training in Permaculture (APT) compares to the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in the skills taught?
The PDC course is an amazing overload of information and mind-expanding experiences over an intense 14-day block. There is a little practical hands-on stuff, a lot of observation (with not much interaction) and the opportunity to work with a group of people to put together a concept for a design. An experience with food, camping and permaculture knowledge that I would recommend to anyone.
Accredited training (APT) is much more practically based with the course broken into 15 units that all have a knowledge component and a practical component – and because it runs over 60 days in total there is more opportunity to explore in depth the subject matter and to implement large scale practical projects. At SRTAFE we are building a permaculture garden from a patch of grass, and students are involved in all aspects from site investigation, design, construction of the gardens, food forest, paths, reactional spaces through to maintenance of the finished areas. If you have been inspired by doing a PDC, I recommend you consolidate your knowledge and skills by doing a Certificate III in Permaculture. The Certificate IV of Permaculture is for people who already have some skills and would like skills to supervise and manage permaculture installations from a design, and the Diploma of Permaculture provides in depth training in consulting, interviewing clients, developing permaculture designs to industry standard and researching permaculture principles and practices.
Should more training organisations offer Permaculture?
Yes. I would like to see every region across Australia offering Permaculture. The way to create permaculture jobs is to develop a groundswell of qualified practitioners who are competent, inspiring workers in horticulture, sustainability and agriculture. Hiring a permaculture graduate gives you not only someone with growing and nurturing skills, but analytical and researching skills, community engagement and social cohesion skills as well as a passion for the planet and robust human societies. They are ethical and inclusive, sharing and cooperative, they are the workers this rapidly changing world needs and the more we train, the faster the world will realise this.
There was a Permaculture surge in the nineties after the Global Gardener came out and I think we could be at the start of another surge if more RTO’s took up the challenge of delivering Permaculture. I have been lecturing in the fields of horticulture, conservation land management, sustainability, forestry and agriculture for 25 years at SRTAFE and my most satisfying and enjoyable training times have been with my permaculture students over the past two years. I love it.
Additional information

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Andrew can be found here.

Martina and Andrew are professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

Southern Regional TAFE delivers accredited vocation education and training, working with industiry to build the capacity of current and future employees through training and skills recognition in the region. There are several options to study Permaculture at the Albany campus with more details available here.

Giving Greens – Permaculture careers

Giving Greens – Permaculture careers

Martina Hoeppner from the PA Education team chats with Western Australia based James McDonald about finding permaculture in England, microgreens, and the link between permaculture studies and small scale urban farming enterprises.

Can you tell us a little bit about your permaculture journey and education?

My permaculture journey began when I was living in England. I stumbled across the term in my search for information on growing food. At the time I had suddenly become aware of homelessness as a significant social issue and I had taken it upon myself to become acquainted with the many people experiencing homelessness in Exeter, where I was living at the time. It struck me that, for the most part, these people were struggling each day to get enough food, quality food, while there were people walking right past them to the Tesco and Sainsburys to buy food. Money was the missing link; the lack of money. Realising that all that was needed to grow food, for free, was human effort, I set out to learn how so I could grow food for those that needed it.

Having stumbled across Permaculture and falling in love with the concept through my online research, I went to the local library and found Patrick Whitefield’s The Earth Care Manual. I devoured it, read it cover to cover in a matter of days. That sparked further exploration living and working on various properties in Portugal, Romania, and Ireland to learn more and put some of what I was reading in to practice. When I returned to Australia I was fortunate to meet Ross Mars and ended up living on his property, continuing to learn and practice while completing my Bachelor of Sustainability, and then eventually completed my PDC down at Fair Harvest in Margaret River.

After getting involved in permaculture and serving on the Permaculture West committee, you founded Giving Greens, a social business producing microgreens. Tell us a little bit about this business.

While not any formal form of social business, or social enterprise, I do see Giving Greens as a social business, but it is firstly a business, that has social intent. When I first launched Giving Greens, for each tray I sold, I was donating a tray of microgreens to a local charity that provided meals for Perth’s homeless. I liked to consider it ‘secret nutrition’ as the recipients had little awareness of what microgreens were, or their benefits, but they were consuming them, which was the important part. As well intentioned as this was it was really difficult to maintain in the early stages of a new business. I ended up scrapping the 1-for-1 model to focus on building the business knowing that one day, when Giving Greens was in a stronger position, donating would be much easier. Also, the scope of what I considered to be a ‘social good’ expanded.

With studies suggesting that microgreens are more nutrient dense than regular greens, and that when we are receiving adequate nutrients to fuel our bodies optimally, we feel better. When we feel better, we show up differently in the world to our family, our partners, our colleagues, peers, and our community. If I can change just one person’s eating habits so that they are now eating better, getting enough nutrients, they feel better about themselves and encourage, by example, those around them to do the same, it creates a ripple effect that can be carried on almost infinitely. What looks like a fun, exciting, and colourful microgreen can be a powerful agent for change, however subtle it may be. If I can help people shift from a ‘me’ mindset by getting their bodies and minds out of survival mode, and into a ‘us’ mindset thinking more consciously about the people around them and their environment, then I see that as a social good.

What do you think is the relevance of small-scale urban food production for the future?

I have always considered small-scale local food production to be important for building resilience in the food supply. Rather than relying on a few large national/multinational companies for our food, I’d certainly encourage small-scale production. This would create localised economies that, should something significant happen, would be resilient enough to stand alone. The tricky thing, though, about having more suppliers/growers would be that the pricing would be driven down. With increased supply, less revenue would be available to pay for the overheads to produce that food, making it less viable for smaller producers. I’m certainly not saying that is right, it is just a consequence of our contemporary economic system. If permaculture teaches you anything it is the connectivity between components in a system. You can’t make a significant change in one area without impacting another.

Have recent events like the bushfires last year and the pandemic this year confirmed or changed your mind on this?

Confirmed, certainly. The pandemic, or at least the panic and fear around the pandemic, demonstrated the vulnerabilities in our food supply. Suddenly, the availability of some items that we took for granted just dried up. If you were relying on the larger supermarkets for your food some things became much harder to get, if you even wanted to go to a supermarket. Even a lot of the local growers were inundated with orders for home deliveries during this time leaving the local supply stretched also.

Do you think permaculture education provides a good entry to small-scale intensive food production?

Yeah, absolutely. Again, understanding that to produce food you must have an understanding of the various components that play a role. Things like the soil with its microbial life, nutrient cycling, structure and water storage, water collection distribution, pests, light wind, temperature, the sun. The conventional form of food production aims to eliminate as may variables as possible to make it easier to control. The permaculture approach recognises, embraces, and uses the many variables to produce quality food with less exogenous inputs, and sometimes, certainly not always, less human energy input. I’d love to see an economic system that recognises and rewards the efforts of food producers.

 

Additional information

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and James can be found here.

Martina is professional member and volunteer of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

Permaculture West is the WA permaculture association, including local groups across the state.