“I’m a country girl at heart, enjoying the wide-open spaces around me. I love being creative and am always trying to learn new things and educate myself on different topics. I’m currently working through my Diploma in Permaculture. I’m a dreamer and an optimist trying to see the positive side of life. “
This week we share a story from PA Professional member Stephanie Cutmore, from Indara Farms located in Meckering , Western Australia. Stephanie has completed a Permaculture Design Course and Accredited Permaculture Training (Certificate III and currently finishing Certificate IV) with Candlelight Farm Permaculture and Permaculture Educators Alliance. She is now completing her Diploma in Permaculture and setting up a permaculture business.
“As soon as I had my first baby, I had this sudden urge that I wanted to be back on a rural property. Wanting the freedom and outside connection that I wasn’t getting from being crammed into an estate in town. We were also becoming more and more aware of our food system and the challenges that it may face in the future. It didn’t stop me from starting right there in town to grow the odd fruit tree and seedlings before the time came to move further out into the country where I would have the space, I needed to really create a classroom and learn hands-on how to grow food for our family.”
“We grow food to take back some power and find sovereignty from the industrial food system, which I believe can be quite damaging to our environment and our health. We also grow food as a family activity to get the kids outside and inspiring them to eat more fresh vegetables & fruits. We live in a remote rural area where the supermarket is a 60km round trip and where it is hard to still buy organic fresh produce. Nothing beats being able to walk outside and pick something fresh for dinner, its our kind of take-away food. I like to know that we are helping to reduce our food miles and that the produce I grow hasn’t been sprayed or treated with any chemicals.”
“Our farmhouse sits on a block of 110acres (44ha). The raised vegetable garden is approx. 1011sqft or 94sqm & we also have a rotational grazing chicken system set up where we can grow food in-ground. We do have an Old Orchard and other area, as well as an old orchard and planned expansion area. I love buying Heirloom Varieties of Vegetables & fruit seeds, learning their stories and knowing these seeds have been passed down generations is just so inspiring. I get the chance to grow fruits & vegetables that I may have never tasted before or seen as they aren’t made to be shipped long distances and store well for the supermarket stand. We also have plans to create a “Drylands” permaculture Food forest which will include Fruit & Nut trees, Berries and Australian Native Bush foods.”
Obtain a yield, Produce no waste & Use and value diversity
“We like to leave mother nature to tell us what our soils require looking to the weeds for signs of what they are doing and what may be missing from the soils. We don’t like to disturb the soil & practice a no-dig method. We move livestock regularly and keep our soil covered as much as possible. We don’t spray any chemicals and encourage predators to the pests to live in the garden, realizing that this may take some years to build up a more even playing field. We are building a worm farm and compost bays to add natural fertilisers back to the soil. We also add back any scraps to our soils feeding the worms. The chickens manure gets composted and spread around as necessary. We have also experimented with Chop & Drop Crops & Using Native Wattles as well. We are continuing our self-education on the intricacy of soils all the time by observation and research. I currently have a number of plants such as Silver beet, Radicchio, Corn & Zucchini I’m letting go to seed. You always get an abundance when you save your own so sharing them with family and friends feels empowering.”
“Where we live our average annual rainfall is between 250mls- 350mls annually so the lack of rain can make gardening in summer tough with the extreme heat and strong winds. Trying to grow vegetables that we have become accustomed to eating in a semi-arid climate where they may not want to grow. Unfortunately, we also have some introduced pests such as parrots & rabbits that are very damaging to the native environment and will destroy a lot of our plants before they even have a chance to bare fruit. The biggest rewards are hands-down seeing the kids become acquainted with growing food and seeing how tiny seeds can grow into their favourite vegetables & fruits. Knowing that what ever they choose to eat from the garden is like eating Medicine, reducing our food miles and knowing exactly how that food was grown.”
“No one knows everything there is about growing food, it’s a constant learning curve. Making mistakes is a part of the process and nothing beats harvesting something you can eat that you grew yourself! The next most empowering thing you can do is saving those seeds.”
“I am a Permaculture Australia Member & an admin on a local “Permie” group on Facebook which we are in the process of organizing garden visits and a book club. We share information and cuttings and seeds when we can. I have completed formal education in Permaculture and continue to study. I share this journey and everything I am learning along the way, on my Instagram and have recently started Vlogging on YouTube to help inspire and share our knowledge with others who are trying to grow their own food. I have been able to share excess seeds & produce with family and other locals often being on the receiving end of their fruit gluts creating a community around local food. I don’t know where this journey will lead as I continue on this path, however I have big far-reaching dreams for the future. No body arrives at a destination without a long journey.”
Stephanie is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisation. You can find out more and sign up as a member today here.
You can follow the journey of Indara Farms via their Instagram and You Tube channel for heaps of great inspiration and ideas for growing food, implementing permaculture ethics & principles, and building community in a semi arid climate zone.
Stephanie has completed the Accredited Permaculture Training(Certificate III and Certificate IV Permaculture) and is currently completed a Diploma in Permaculture. Find out more about the Accredited Permaculture Training offerings in your area, including online options here and here.
This interview was first published with the Humans Who Grow Food Social media group, with words and photos provided by Stephanie Cutmore, Indara Farms.
We are thrilled to announce that Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow has been awarded an Order of Australia medal (OAM) on 26th January 2021 for service to permaculture.
Permaculture is probably the world’s greatest people’s movement while being embraced from every place and people. This award celebrates this movement. It is perhaps Australia’s greatest export.” Rowe Morrow
For almost 40 years Rowe has worked extensively with communities in Africa, Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe, including conflict zones and those experiencing the serious effects of climate change.
“This is wonderful news for Rowe to be acknowledged for her many decades of permaculture work around the world and especially with refugees and communities recovering from war. Rowe did her PDC with me in 1987, what an inspiration,” Robyn Francis, Permaculture Elder & Educator
Rowe has been recognized as a permaculture pioneer, was a previous Permaculture Australia Board Director, and is one of the Permafund patrons.
“Rowe has made such a huge contribution to permaculture in Australia and internationally – as an educator, author, teacher, mentor and international permaculture projects – including as our Permafund patron. The award is a great acknowledgement for the work she’s done and continues to do with communities across the globe”, Kym Blechynden, Permaculture Australia.
When not working overseas, Rowe is based in Katoomba, NSW and is an active member and co-founder of Permaculture for Refugees (pictured below) and Permaculture Blue Mountains. She is also passionate about making teaching sustainable and encourage others to succeed her as teachers. Her books include the Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture and the Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture.
PA’s Permafund provides small grants to community permaculture groups across Australia and internationally. Since 2012 we have provided 54 grants in 16 countries. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Find out more including how to donate here.
Permaculture 4 Refugees South East Asia is a network of permaculture aid workers in Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines, including members of PA’s Permafund. We work in partnership with local NGO’s to support permaculture training and resource development in displacement and crowded urban settings.
PA member and former PA Board member Dr Cally Brennan is a permaculture designer and educator based in Canberra, and founded Canberra Permaculture Design. Prior to working in permaculture, Cally held roles in academia and in the public sector, working in energy and climate policy.She is also the designer of one of the PA limited edition T shirts with the slogan ‘Permaculture. Do you dig it.’
Cally spoke to PA volunteer Julia about why permaculture came at the right time in her life, and how her past experiences have shaped her understanding of it.
How did permaculture come along, and how was it shaped by your background working in academia and climate policy?
I have always had an interest in sustainability and I have always loved gardening. My grandfather was involved in the Dig for Victory campaign in the UK, we had some lovely holidays visiting his garden. This first sparked my interest in gardening. I have worked in academia, mostly from realising that it was fun to educate people, and like many people in the world, you disconnect your degree from what you want to do in life. So, I tried a range of things until I settled on permaculture. I studied ethnomusicology, a mixture of music and anthropology that explores how people use music to express their cultural identity. I was also lucky enough to do some fieldwork in Malaysia and Singapore. Predictably, there were not many jobs in this area! So, it was on speck that I decided to join the public service.
I came to Canberra in 2006 as a graduate and then found myself in an analytical role in economic research. It didn’t quite fit with my moral side however, as I was coming to conclusions that I fundamentally disagreed with. I ended up working in energy efficiency and climate policy. Working directly on the ground in dealing with climate change policy was a lot! I found that there was a lot of politics involved in climate policy, on both sides. The urgency of the issue was such that I didn’t want to spend the next few years writing and working on things that were basically there to pretend things were on track when they were not. I felt I could make a bigger impact doing other things with my life. So that’s where permaculture came in. I had learned about permaculture when we had first moved to Australia in about 1994. I first remember visiting a garden in Freemantle, WA which had a lot of tyres in its designs. So my conception of permaculture around then was lots of straw mulch and old tyres! It wasn’t until I joined Permablitz ACT in 2009, that I learnt what permaculture was really about. I met a horticulturalist in the group who knew a lot about plants. He had the ability to make you feel like you could try anything, and that it was good to try new things and to not feel constrained by tradition. My conception of permaculture changed to something that was exciting and different and new. I did a PDC with John champagne and Phil Gould back in 2011 and that was the usual brain-popping experience when I realised it was just about common sense. What struck me was how good it would feel to be doing something on an individual level that was regenerative and helpful. I could do both important civic participation through protesting and doing a small thing in regenerative permaculture. Permaculture was an area where I could learn about how nature worked.
I later set up Canberra Permaculture design, because I could design, draw well, and use my interest in sustainability. I built a client base and some confidence. I’m now rushed off my feet with people who want to find out more about permaculture, which is great! For a while, it was a good balance to be working on the big picture stuff (but no direct connection with people) to actually legislate on building standards or energy plans, and then the small picture stuff of doing something with my own life and my own garden.
Wow! So you’ve done so many different things, how do they overlap? Where do you see parallels between permaculture and energy policy?
Having worked in energy policy, it’s amazing to know how much permaculture is about energy, and energy efficiency is fundamental to permaculture design. Permaculture is about capturing energy in your house and your garden. It’s nice to see this linked: the more I learned about energy from work, the more I deeply understood the workings of permaculture.
That’s really fascinating, and it’s great to see how all the varied experiences in your life have combined together to help you understand all of these different processes, and your background seems to have influenced significantly your perception and understanding of permaculture! I was particularly struck when you were speaking about your days in Permablitz ACT, where the horticulturalist in the group had this “can do” attitude about trying new things and seeing what worked. Has that philosophy influenced the way you approach permaculture design in your garden, home and life, and new clients who may not be familiar with permaculture?
The experimental side of my permaculture practice is reserved for what we do in our garden! I make the mistakes on behalf of other people so I can share what I have learned. The most effective design incorporates water into its heart. Canberra is a semi-arid climate normally (though this year it’s quite moist), and last year was terribly dry. I’m now very aware of passive water harvesting. I experiment with these designs in our garden, and then I suggest ideas on water harvesting. I generally build my designs about passive water harvesting: everything is about water here. There’s a lot of opportunities though to capture water: it’s very often wasted in residential properties.
What are some of your most effective passive water harvesting techniques you’ve found on your own properties?
French drains and swales are two of the most effective designs and are at the right scale for a residential property. In ours, we’ve used drainage channels through our driveway, so we’ve diverted water from our driveway and directed into a small swale around a raised bed. It has worked really well I love it!!
Anything you’re listening to that’s inspiring you at the moment?
What are your New Year’s permaculture resolutions? Anything on the horizon?
Balance is what I need to work on. I need to work out how to balance my business and the important service that I provide with everything else in my life. We’re still establishing this garden, and haven’t run workshops this year. We had a massive hailstorm that hit us in late January of this year that smashed everything up, and along with the poor air quality and smoke in January and COVID later on, we couldn’t run any in person workshops outside. We’re at the moment now doing a lot of infrastructure work: putting in a chicken coop and a greenhouse. I’m trying to find a balance between doing designs for other people and getting onto the things that I have to do now: putting in the greenhouse, getting the beans in and all of those big and small tasks that come up all the time. I need to make sure I have more time for us: my family and myself as well. It’s easy to run yourself ragged because people want help and you can help them!!
Dr Cally Brennan is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national member-based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia like Cally advocating for permaculture solutions.
This article aligns with the permaculture ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and permaculture principles including Produce No Waste, Catch & Store Energy, Integrate rather than segregate and Use Edges and Value the Marginal. Find out more about the permaculture principles and ethics here.
Cally is wearing one of the Permaculture Australia T shirts, featuring her design ‘Permaculture: Do you Dig it’. These limited edition T shirts can be purchased here.
PA member, educator and permaculture design consultant Janene Price chatted to PA volunteer Julia about the lessons she’s learnt from lockdown, how we can effectively inspire people to take up the cause of permaculture and its popularity under the new normal (plus some design tips for public gardens who get pesky visitors!).
PA member Janene Price is a permaculture educator and consultant, whose business,Love to Grow, in Byron Bay helps people implement effective permaculture garden design. As well as private gardens, she works with public gardens, most notably at Harvest Newrybar, where she also runs permaculture and gardening workshops for the public.
“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.
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 Australiais 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).
“These are the interactions with people who live so close to us, yet I doubt we would have chatted if not for our little stall… I can’t even describe how nice that feels. It’s somehow… hopeful.” Koren Holbig
The year of 2020 has seen a renewed interest in a growing food & a sustainable and local food supply. This week we have a guest post from PA member Koren Helbig, on Kaurna Land, South Australia. Koren chats to us about her new project – The Local Yum – an urban street stall promoting local food with some unexpected positive outcomes along the way.
“In September 2020, we launched our tiny Adelaide honesty stall, @the.local.yum. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. A way of connecting with the community, sharing the story of growing good food in urban areas, and inching (in a small way, admittedly) toward more local resilience.
Months of planning ensued, as I sought advice from friends, fellow gardeners and members of the Permaculture Australia Official Facebook group about the do’s and don’ts, as well as other useful lessons folks could share from their experiences.
Some of my favourite tips included:
Keeping a little notebook on the stall, so neighbours can leave feedback and words of encouragement.
Using the word ‘honesty’ in signage, a reminder to people of what the whole project is about.
Ensuring prices are round figures, the kind that are both easy to add up and easy to pay for with small change or notes ($4 rather than $3.50, for example).
Including bank details so even folks who don’t carry cash have a way to get involved. (This has actually worked so well!)
My partner Carmelo and I pondered for months on how exactly to make our stall. We didn’t want to buy anything, but rather reuse materials wherever possible. Then one day, walking home, I noticed a giant junk pile in a neighbour’s front yard – and spied some brilliantly rustic old shelves amid the jumble. We returned that arvo and this neighbour was delighted to lessen his landfill pile, even chucking everything in his van and delivering it for us!
Then our lovely next-door neighbour let us use his tools – and his considerable knowledge – to repair the broken doors, attach a roof, and grind a money slot in the old blue cash box I picked up at a secondhand store. He even gave us some off-cuts from his decking project, which I turned into hand-lettered signs.
All was going well. And yet. I was simultaneously being hit with a pre-launch neg storm, often from people who’d never tried anything similar before themselves. “It will be stolen overnight.” “People will just take things without paying.” “In that area of Adelaide? It will never work.” “You’re naive.”
It all got a bit much there for a while. I started to lose faith. But thankfully I had kind and calm words to guide me when I freaked out. Sally has run her brilliant @jembellafarmhonsety stall at Angaston (Barossa Valley) for years.
She was realistic, yet encouraging. It was a lifeline. She helped me see this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. “Give people a chance to be honest,” Sally suggested. Such beautiful wisdom.As we set up the stall on launch weekend, amazing things started to happen — even before we sold anything.
Danny, a local chef, stopped by to chat and offer help in any way we wanted. A handyman named Spog passed by right as Carmelo needed a hand fixing our fence. When Spog returned with his tools, he brought us goji berry cuttings, native finger lime seedlings and a luffa from his own garden. That last one is just too coincidental; I’d been hunting for local luffa seeds for weeks without success. Thanks to the stall, they were literally delivered to us. Free. Oh, and we got to pat a greyhound! ⠀
These are interactions with people who live so close to us, yet I doubt we would have chatted if not for our little stall. We made three sales on our first day, all from lovely nearby neighbours. I can’t even describe how nice that feels. It’s somehow … hopeful.
We can’t know what will happen to our stall in the future. But I love that it’s already pushing me to redefine my definition of success. Yes, the willingness of people to buy our things is heartening, exciting even.
But there’s so much more to this, I think.”
Koren is a member of Permaculture Australia, the national member-based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia like Koren advocating for permaculture solutions.
This article aligns with the permaculture ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and permaculture principles including Produce No Waste, Integrate rather than segregate and Use Edges and Value the Marginal. Find out more about the permaculture principles and ethics here.