“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PA Professional member and educator Kerrie Anderson chatted to PA volunteer Julia, in our first video story! She chatted to Julia about teaching under lockdown and what permaculture can offer in this time of great instability.
Lisa Passmore is a third generation Horticulturalist and has worked in the production and retail horticulture sectors in Perth, England and New Zealand. Lisa’s twin passions of Horticulture and Art led her to create her own landscape design and consultancy business in 1998. In addition, Lisa has been co-teaching the Diploma in Permaculture with Ross Mars in 2019 and running the Garden Design Course at Homebase since 2006. Lisa holds a Diploma in Horticulture, a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. A Water Corporation endorsed water- wise landscaper, Lisa is a member of the Horticultural Media Association (HMA) and is a regular contributor to horticultural industry publications. She has featured on the Garden Gurus TV program, Burkes Backyard and is a regular speaker at Garden Week and various WA garden clubs.
Martina Hoeppner from the PA Education team chats with Lisa about the impact on studying permaculture, changing beliefs about insects and soil health, and marrying permaculture & horticulture in her career.
You were a horticulturist before you studied permaculture. How has permaculture changed your view of horticulture and has it changed your practices?
Studying Permaculture has opened my eyes to the bigger picture of growing plants on this planet, specifically to what is going on underneath our feet. This new understanding and appreciation of the soil biome has had a profound effect on what I teach my students and how I garden at home. Whilst previously I advocated organic practices as preferable for optimising human health, now I advocate organic practices as imperative in protecting the soil.
When I first studied Horticulture (some 25 years ago) we spent a lot of time learning the lifecycles of common garden insects from the point of view of when best to spray pesticides for maximum effect. Now I advocate balance in the garden and urge my clients and students to encourage insects to the garden, to learn to tolerate some damage, to live and let live and above all else avoid using chemicals in the garden. So much has changed!
Like many permaculturists, you currently have more than one job. Could you tell us a little bit about the things you do at the moment?
I have been running a small garden design and consultancy business since 2000 and in addition to this provide talks and workshops on garden related topics. Being self-employed is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of being able to work around the family’s needs, however it does come with seasonal fluctuations. At the beginning of 2020 I took on extra work in different areas as a way of weathering any economic uncertainty. I applied for a casual pool position at TAFE teaching Horticulture and as a Senior Horticulturist at a local specialist native garden centre. I am now on contract at TAFE teaching most of the week, whilst still helping on Saturday’s at the garden centre and looking after my garden design clients in my spare time.
How do you see the future of permaculture in this current climate of emergencies, including COVID-19?
I do feel that people are looking to gardening right now for mental health surrounding themselves with greenery inside and outside their homes, as well as for food security in growing their herbs and vegetables.
I actively recommend to my students the Accredited training in permaculture (as well as the PDC) and hope to have TAFE pick up the training in the future. There is a real opportunity for permaculture education at the moment. Now is the time!
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 Accredited Permaculture Training, including the Diploma ofPermaculture completed by both Martina and Lisa 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.
We are always keen to hear from PA members who would like to volunteer, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can utilise your skills.