Marrying horticulture and permaculture: graduate stories

Marrying horticulture and permaculture: graduate stories

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!

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 Accredited Permaculture Training, including the Diploma of Permaculture 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 to see how we can utilise your skills.

Permaculture Stories – Delldint Megan Fleming

Permaculture Stories – Delldint Megan Fleming

“Learning permaculture is one of those cyclical patterns, each time you go round it’s like a year: every summer is different from the summer before, you’re a bit older and wiser, it’s a different environment. It’s been really fascinating.”

Delldint chatted to PA volunteer Julia about her approach to teaching permaculture online and how she makes use of her suburban block as a permaculture canvas for the public. She also gives us a VIP tour of her amazing garden.


Permaculture Stories – Jared Robinson

Permaculture Stories – Jared Robinson

“Our main focus is to continue providing access to local food through the community garden and introducing various workshops/demonstrations that address barriers to food security, educate about good soil and plant health and offer hands on experience in growing your own food.”

Jared Robinson chatted to PA volunteer Julia about his background in permaculture, its future under coronavirus and the most underrated piece of space in the garden: the verge.


My motto? “Be nice and grow things”

My motto? “Be nice and grow things”

Rod Hughes had been working in environmental management for nearly three decades, including half of this time in his dream job running the Swan River Trust before moving into permaculture. After leaving work to study a Diploma in Permaculture with Ross Mars at Candlelight Farm, he joined Perth City Farm as Farm Manager, and started a consulting business, Leafcutter Permaculture.  He is also a PA professional member. Martina Hoeppner of the PA Education Team chats with Rod about starting out in permaculture, the impact of accredited training, and his life motto – “be nice and grow things”!


Could you tell me why you left your job and how you got into permaculture? 

I had always been drawn to the natural world and had grown veggies about the place since I was a kid. I picked up a second-hand copy of Permaculture One and then was given the Designers Manual. This crystallised my thinking and I committed to doing a PDC at wonderful Fair Harvest in Western Australia. I followed this up by doing the Advanced Certificate with Ross Mars and Graham Bell, did two permie earthworks courses (one at our place in the Chittering Valley) and then decided to take the leap, quit my job and enrolled in the Diploma in Permaculture. My whole career has been in figuring out ways for us to have good lives while either keeping the environment good or making it better.  I became increasingly impressed with David Holmgren’s thinking and how permie concepts can be applied to pretty much all aspects of our lives.

You have a Diploma in Permaculture now. How is it helping you in your current work?


Doing a series of design projects with other Diploma students really helped give me confidence to start offering design services to others.  So I set up my Leafcutter Permaculture business. I’m now really enjoying engaging with folks in helping them design garden systems which are nice places to be, grow good food and help heal planet earth. I find the design process really creative and love that your skills grow with each project.  I am very happy to keep doing that, with a view to getting more involved in rural and peri-urban projects.

Of course, having a permie background is a great help in my role as Farm Manager (other job of dreams) at Perth City Farm, which was built all those years ago by some seriously clever permaculture thinkers. The teaching angle emerged for me this year and I feel extremely honoured to have been on the PDC teaching team at Fair Harvest for the first time in January.  I have just started offering permie workshops at City Farm – something we will definitely build in the year ahead.


What would you say to someone who is just discovering permaculture and interested in working in this field?

As I stress to clients and students, permaculture is so much deeper and wider than growing veggies.  But getting engaged in growing good food is a great place to start because it connects to so many other aspects of our lives.  So…come and volunteer with me in the garden at City Farm! I would tell anyone to read lots, do an intro [to permaculture] course, read lots more, then do a PDC – it will change your life!


The last year has been an interesting one. Has this changed your thinking about permaculture?

I don’t think the pandemic has changed my thinking about permaculture at all.  I have been convinced for a very long time that being kind to each other, looking after mother earth and ensuring fair share is critical to our survival.  My motto: “Be nice and grow things”. 

Additional information

Rod Hughes 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 advocating for permaculture solutions.

Martina Hoeppner is a professional member of Permaculture Australia and an active volunteer with the PA Education team. More information on the Accredited Permaculture Training, including the Diploma of Permaculture completed by Rod, and the PA education team can be found here.

Perth City Farm is a 26 year old half hectare urban farm that provides space and opportunities to build community connections, and educates and enables people to live sustainably.  Further information on how to volunteer with Rod and the team can be found here.

Permaculture stories: Nevin Sweeney

Permaculture stories: Nevin Sweeney

“We’re realising all of these environmental and economic problems now and we’re working out what we can do for ourselves. You can start anywhere, but it’s a lot better if you have a holistic design principle that you can use.”

Read Nevin’s insights into water and heat management, urban permaculture and why its popularity is surging in the pandemic as he chats with PA volunteer Julia.


Limestone Permaculture: permaculture principled homesteading

Limestone Permaculture: permaculture principled homesteading

PA professional members Brett, Nici, Trae & Bronte from Limestone Permaculture Farm, are based in the picturesque Stroud Road Village on the mid-north coast of NSW. The property kicked off in 2010 initially as a project to move rural, design & create a productive small acre permaculture farm. Ten years on, the farm demonstrates that a thoughtful design process, based on permaculture ethics & principles, is essential to achieve a balanced, healthy & bountiful farm, homestead & garden.  PA’s Kym chats with Brett and Nici about permaculture living, the importance of community networks & the determination to continue to build resilience, skills and sharing


Tell us about the journey of Limestone Permaculture.

Our awakening began around 2003 when Nici became increasingly unwell with an immune-related illness whilst we were residing in Newcastle. This fuelled our need to provide a more organic life for our family & re-ignited Brett’s childhood gardening upbringing. So it started with growing, eating & living organically and grew ‘in abundance’ to encompass sharing, community gardening, researching and not long after… permaculture! In 2020 we are enjoying working as a family on our beautiful farm providing permaculture principled education & demonstration, homesteading skills & farmgate Co-op fresh produce. We also implement permaculture principled projects within our community, schools & wider region. For us at Limestone Farm, permaculture means embracing a ‘Whole of Life’ living system with an essential ‘Evolving Design Process’ at its core, fundamentally striving for a naturally sustainable & resilient life, guided by Permaculture Ethics & Principles. In addition, permaculture organically & mutually integrates human needs with climate, landscapes, plants, animals, structures & community.”


There are many examples of permaculture principles at your property – what are your favourites?

Some of our favourite principled design elements include: Catch & Store energy: our outdoor woodfired oven that gives us at least 3 days cooking from one initial burn. Design from Patterns to Detail: the orchard on water harvesting contour swales, provides a range of fruit year-round and is an evolving habitat for our farm’s wildlife. Use Small & Slow Solutions: the duck pond doubling as a silt trap that overflows into a series of smaller swale silt traps for slowing water movement, collecting nutrient dense silt/soil for re-use in surrounding gardens. Use Edges & Value the Marginal: the Hybrid Shade House for tender sub-tropical production that doubles as the Quail Amazon. Integrate Rather than Segregate: the main poultry run that integrates duck layers, duck breeders, chicken layers, exclusion grow tunnels, firewood storage and micro food forest.and not to forget Produce no Waste: the ‘Gentleman’s Pissatorium’ that inoculates hay bales in readiness for hot composting.


Your website talks about building a positive future for yourselves as well as the community. How important are community networks and what activities are you involved in?

Permaculture micro farm, Gloucester High school. Photo credit: supplied by Limestone Permaculture

Our regional network groups are the anchor to build community resilience & a skilled & sharing community! We have many hard-working groups including other permaculture educators, Permaculture Hunter, Young Farmers Connect, Hunter Organic Growers, Slow Food Hunter Valley, local Landcare groups… just to name a few. These groups along with Limestone Permaculture & our local town groups underpin our community engagement, inclusive planning, local skill development & volunteer strengthening. Our latest community initiative is the design, planning & implementation of a Permaculture Micro-Farm at Gloucester High School (NSW) with stage one earth works nearing completion.


It’s been a rocky 2020 so far for many. How has this impacted on your property – and did you make any changes in your property design?

Aerial photo of Limestone Permaculture. Photo credit: Limestone Permaculture

There is no doubt that the last twelve months has many reassessing their current way of life and future goals. Debilitating drought, devastating bushfires & pandemic isolation has proven to be an important time for observation, analysis & interaction. The pandemic reinforced our determination as a family unit to continue to upskill & educate ourselves, make & create, grow, produce, preserve and share all that we do. It also further emboldened our passion for resilience, yet reaffirmed the importance to be part of a supportive & regenerative regional network. During the drought & bushfires, the overall design held true and it made for a great opportunity to take note of the farms various systems & elements, what survived, what thrived and what failed.

Some of the changes we made and are still making include:

  • Additional north to west facing deciduous trees to eliminate afternoon summer sun
  • Additional bio-fertiliser barrel spreaders & overflow water storage to enhance water security & soil life
  • Overhead Animal Arbours to promote shade in summer and expand growing areas
  • Additional exclusion tunnels to assist shading annual crops as part of the function.


You’ve been doing Zoom presentions for community groups during the pandemic and in lieu of payment, asked for groups to donate to Permafund instead – thank you! Why did you choose to donate to Permafund? 

Apart from charitable groups & individuals, Permafund offers those making a living from their Permaculture Ethical & Principled Businesse to share the abundance on another level, not unlike sharing produce and knowledge within your community. We may not always have the opportunities or capabilities to assist with projects outside of our region but donating through Permafund, which is part of our Fair Share Ethic, is a way we can help to support those that can. This support assists projects to ‘Care for the Earth’ & ‘Care for People’ & life in general.


What is coming up for the rest of 2020 – and any final messages?

With only one PDC to complete this year due to restrictions & our shortened time frame, we are undertaking various on-farm projects & expanding upon our food production. We are constantly upgrading the farm to also enhance the experience for future students & visitors alike. Our usual busy schedule of farming, homesteading, educating, consultation, regional projects and community support continues as does our passion for knowledge & experience! We see 2020 as an opportunity for reflection and positive change for many. Daily life is no longer as dependable. We all feel the need for safety & degrees of self-reliance. From healthy soils to a healthy gut (and everything in between), we are making it our business to pass on as much of our knowledge & skills as possible to hopefully enable others to live healthier & happier lives.

Additional information

Limestone Permaculture are a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member based organisation. Not a member? Sign up and join us here today.

PA’s Permafund has provided dozens of small grants to permaculture community projects in Australia and internationally. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and can be set up as recurring or one off donations.  Find out more including how to donate here

Limestone Permaculture provide property tours, design consultancy, permaculture courses (PDC and intro courses), school farm tours and a farm gate stall. For more details check out their website, Facebook and Instagram page(s).  Watch and listen to more about Limestone Permaculture via the Happen Films podcast and short film below.