“My garden is an evolving work where I am constantly experimenting and creating. I love sharing what I have learnt and I am always willing to help others create their own garden as a space which is as regenerative for the gardener as it is for the plants they grow. I’m looking forward to the Samford Edible Garden Trail and hope my experience and passion inspires others to give gardening a go.” Jenny Kato, PA member and Samford Edible Garden Trail Committee
In 2020, a group of four Samford Mums had an idea to approach some of the gardeners in Samford Valley who we knew had amazing private backyard edible gardens – and ask them if they would open up their garden to the public for one day. We hoped they would share their inside knowledge about growing food in our area, and in the process inspire more of us to give it a go. However, 2020 lockdowns put a hold on our plans. Rather than be deterred from our vision, we grabbed our phones, and in an appropriately socially distanced way, we visited each of the gardens ourselves – and filmed it.
We posted the videos up online on our Facebook and YouTube sites. We were blown away by the support we received, and we had viewers from all around Australia and even abroad following the Trail. With a resurgence of popularity in cultivating gardens to grow food by people of all ages, people were buying seeds and wanting to plant gardens and yet many were stuck on where to start! Fast forward to May 2021, we are still filming and posting our virtual tours online, AND are getting ready to open the doors to nine inspiring edible gardens for the inaugural Open Day on May 16 2021.
“Over the years I’ve become passionate about how we can reduce food miles by growing more food ourselves. I wanted to inspire other people to try growing food and the idea of visiting a local garden to see what grows well in the area, just seemed like the best way to do it. I put a message out to see if anybody else thought it was a good idea too, suddenly we had a committee, and now the inaugural Samford Edible Garden Trail Open Day!” Susanne Engelhard, Co-organiser
These are just some of the things you will see in the Gardens on the Open Day on May 16th:
a suburban back and front yard fully converted into raised garden beds
a stunning permaculture garden blending perennial vegetables, fruits, and flowering plants
a ten year old subtropical food forest built on what was some of the poorest soil in the region
a tradie’s garden complete with mini swale vegetable garden and orchard built on a slope
a tree changer couple’s cottage garden, complete with vegies, orchard, a herbal tea garden and of course… chickens
clever landscaping to capture water run off into swales of dwarf bananas
a sustainable house and garden, with 220 trees, 80 bush tucker trees, and an aquaponics system you won’t believe
plus two of our local farmers showcasing their small scale diversified organic farming methods.
How can I attend?
Ticket sales for the Event on Sunday May 16th, running from 9am-3pm can be found here. The event is an amazing opportunity to sample the delights that can be found in the beautiful Samford Valley, only 40 minutes drive from the Brisbane CBD in the stunning Moreton Bay Shire. There will be offers for ticket holders, cooking demonstrations, a craft and local produce market. Tickets are limited, so don’t miss out!
The Samford Edible Garden Trail is a not-for-profit, and (the Trail) was started in 2020 by Susanne Engelhard and her small volunteer team of local residents local to the beautiful Samford Valley and surrounds. Connect with the Samford Edible Garden Trail Facebook page, our Instagram Account, or our YouTube channel to join in the fun, learn more about growing your own food, and let’s all grow together!
“As we face what seem like insurmountable challenges, or what design theorist Horst Rittel described as ‘wicked problems’, it’s easy to sink into despair and anxiety about the future. Naomi Klein has said, ‘we’re f#*ked if we believe we’re f#*ked’. I’ve been so grateful to Rowe Morrow for introducing me to permaculture in 2006 – the year my twin boys turned five and I sank into despair about the future.”
This months guest post is written by PA professional member Lis Bastian in the Blue Mountains. Lis is involved a range of different projects including The Big Fix, Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute and the Blackheath Community Garden. She was also recently awarded a Community Service Award at the Australasian Permaculture Convergence for exemplary service to permaculture. Read more about her story below.
“Fifteen years later, the solutions-focused system design thinking approach of permaculture has enabled me to get a handle on tackling wicked problems and helped me focus on hope, not despair. Two of the three permaculture ethics are about People care and Fair share, so my main focus has been on the cultural change side of ‘perma – culture’. This has been a natural fit as permaculture designing has merged with the arts and cultural development work I’ve been doing for the last 40 years.
I do this via a charity I founded called The Big Fix, which incorporates the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute. Our mission is to ‘change the story to grow a collaborative solutions-focused culture’.
The Big Fix has six areas of focus for redesigning our culture. They address how we collaborate, tell our stories, learn, work, connect and care for the living systems which support us.
Facilitate Collaboration. Tackle wicked problems like climate change & biodiversity loss by avoiding social monocultures and growing cross-sector collaborations and alliances
Change the Culture by Changing the Story. Recognize that our artists and storytellers are our nitrogen-fixing species to accelerate succession. Work with them to bring back media ownership to communities and for hyperlocal and bioregional solutions media to feed up into global solutions media – a bottom up approach.
Encourage Pluriversal Learning. Create community-owned and operated intergenerational and cross-cultural learning and research opportunities that meet the needs of young people and our communities.
Create New Economies. Provide training and support the development of social enterprises that put the needs of all living things ahead of profit.
Grow the Health of our Communities. Provide public spaces and regular events that focus on what we all have in common – helping us to meet our needs for food security, social connection, creativity, physical activity and time outdoors reconnecting to the natural (versus online) world.
Involve Everyone in Redesigning our Systems through an Ecological Lens. Ensure ‘fair share’, social equity, inclusiveness and accessibility by expanding opportunities for free and adaptive permaculture design training, knowledge sharing and participation in community decision making.
On a practical level, we’ve implemented the above six areas by:
Working with local cross-sector Alliances
Producing The Big Fix Media – Australia’s first solutions media service
Trialling Australia’s first Pluriversity
Providing social enterprise design, development and mentoring as a new thread in permaculture training
Coordinating Blackheath Community Farm and Landcare
The Permaculture Garden and Micro-forest for Headspace, Katoomba; and
A new micro-farm being planned for the Lithgow PCYC
Providing free permaculture for young people in a range of settings through the Blue Mountains Pluriversity and its Permaculture Institute.
THE JOURNEY: A HISTORY IN THE ARTS AND MAKING THE MOVE OUT OF SYDNEY TO ORANGE I trained and worked as an art teacher at a number of schools in Sydney and then, thirty-four years ago, left my job as an Education Officer at the Art Gallery of NSW to take up the role of curator at Orange Regional Gallery. I was a keen whitewater canoeist who escaped the city nearly every weekend to spend time in the bush. My former partner and I had the dream of buying a farm and leaving the city permanently. The job in Orange helped that dream become a reality. We purchased 80 acres and I began gardening and experimenting with cooking the seasonal food I grew myself. This eventually led to me opening one of Australia’s first bookshop cafes and becoming a food writer for a local paper. After 3 ½ years I left the Gallery, expanded my work as an exhibiting artist and writer, ran the Bookshop Café, taught Art at TAFE, and became the Regional Arts Promotion Officer for Arts OutWest – a regional cultural development organisation servicing 17 Local Government areas in Central NSW. This involved arts reporting for Prime TV, ABC Radio and a number of other commercial radio programs and newspapers. I eventually closed the Café, became CEO of Arts OutWest, started a magazine called ArtSpeak, launched the Central West Writers’ Centre and ran the Banjo Paterson Festival in Orange.
RELOCATING TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS Just after our twin boys turned one, we moved to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. We opened a gallery called Stop Laughing This Is Serious, which specialised in the best of Australia’s cartooning and illustration. At this stage a number of people who frequented the gallery, persuaded me of the seriousness of climate change. I subsequently applied to train as a climate ambassador with Al Gore, who’d produced ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. It changed the whole direction of my life. I went on to give over 120 presentations about climate change around Australia and worked with our local community to start a Climate Action Group in Blackheath.
POLITICAL ACTION AND PERMACULTURE AS A RESPONSE TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS In my search for solutions to the climate crisis I heard about permaculture and enrolled in a PDC with Rowe Morrow. She subsequently invited me to start teaching with her and we set up the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute in 2007. I was attracted to permaculture because it was about redesigning systems and looking at everything we do through an ecological lens. I loved the focus on People care and Fair share (as well as Earth care), and the concept of the problem being the solution. At the same time I was working closely with Catherine Fitzpatrick, an inspiring climate strategist from Greenpeace (who went on to work for Greenpeace in China). She kept reminding me that our current situation is so urgent that individual action alone will never produce the change we need in time to avert catastrophic climate change. We need political change as well.
Our Climate Action Group began exploring how we could build fair share and resilience into our local community. Our projects included starting a community market with a Kids Toy Swap Table (run by kids), and a local produce co-op with our own seed company: Crazy Climate Seeds (if they could grow in Blackheath they could grow anywhere). We did bulk buys of solar panels and hazelnut trees, selling over 400 of each and creating a distributed hazelnut orchard through the Blue Mountains; and my husband and I produced a booklet: 101 Cool and Green Things to do in Blackheath, financed by the Blackheath Chamber of Commerce and Blue Mountains City Council.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND BIOREGIONAL SOLUTIONS
I became one of Australia’s first Climate Adaptation Officers at Centroc (the Central West Regional Organisation of Councils). After being briefed by the Department of Agriculture and others about future climate predictions for Central NSW, I wrote a speculative fiction story about living in Central NSW in 20 years’ time, imagining we’d ‘permacultured’ the region. I then worked my way back from the story to identify the steps that needed to be taken to get there. These steps became the basis of a 103-page Regional Resilience Strategy Options Paper for Central NSW. It was very well received by all the Mayors and General Managers because it took a practical win/win approach to meeting their communities’ needs.
THE GENESIS OF THE BIG FIX: RECOGNISING STORYTELLERS AS THE NITROGEN FIXING SPECIES THAT CAN ACCELERATE SUCCESSION The most important observation I made during this time was that there was a huge gap between what the media said government believed, and what local governments were actually doing to address climate change – which was a lot! I realised that the reason we weren’t making the progress we should be making, was that mainstream, top-down, for-profit media was controlling the story. I realised that the problem needed to be the solution, so I moved on to take on the challenge of redesigning the way media could operate in our world.
Our Blackheath Climate Action Group morphed into the charity The Big Fix. Our mission became to ‘change the story to grow a collaborative, solutions-focused culture’. We started The Big Fix Solutions Media in 2007 (Australia’s first Solutions Media service), sharing solutions stories from every sector around the world. We wanted to inspire people to action, to keep hope alive, to grow collaboration and to accelerate change by sharing knowledge and thereby reducing the need to reinvent the wheel.
In 2017, Muhamad Yunus identified that the eight richest people in the world owned as much as four billion of the world’s poorest. They also controlled most of the world’s media. To regenerate our social desert, hyperlocal storytellers can give us the nutrients we need to grow bigger and stronger – they can ‘fix nitrogen’ and inspire collaboration between the many grassroots movements to create a mycelial network. This then can generate a healthier and more biodiverse forest from the bottom up.
THE BIG FIX: MEDIA
In 2016, informed by the knowledge and experience I’d gained working in all sectors, I began to work full time on The Big Fix. I started a ‘Youth Café’ weekly drop-in space for young people in Blackheath and we ran a campaign against single-use plastic that resulted in Blackheath becoming the first town in the world where all the businesses agreed to phase out plastic straws. This became the lead story of our first Solutions Magazine which was distributed to every household in the upper Blue Mountains. We partnered with the Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre to ensure their voice, and the voice of the community, continued to be heard, despite funding cuts. We now also run a monthly hyperlocal print news service for Blackheath which is funded by a different individual, community group, organisation or business every month.
THE BIG FIX: BLACKHEATH COMMUNITY FARMAND BLUE MOUNTAINS BLURIVERSITY In 2017 we started Blackheath Community Farm to create a public space to grow community and food, and to build a bank of locally acclimatised seed. We meet every Sunday and whoever works at the Farm takes a share of the produce. We’ve also created a Landcare group to regenerate the Zone V bushland around the Farm. In 2018 we launched the Blue Mountains Pluriversity, providing community-owned and generated learning opportunities for young people to meet their needs and the needs of their communities. We began teaching a new type of PDC – free Permaculture and Social Enterprise Design Courses in which young people worked on designing and implementing land-based projects as well as designing and implementing social enterprises that could provide them with an income as well as meeting the needs of their communities.
We’ve just finished a free course at Headspace in Katoomba which resulted in the design and construction of a Permaculture Garden at the site. It’s providing a safe outdoor, nature based gathering and event space for young people where Headspace practitioners can provide ‘incidental counselling’. It features a micro-forest of nearly 200 natives that emerged after the fires at Mount Tomah (these were donated to us by the Botanic Garden). The wider community rallied around and donated the other materials needed to help young people build this space in the heart of the CBD.
THE BIG FIX: THE LITHGOW SPRINT In 2019, Western Sydney University invited us to be part of a community consultation to help reimagine Lithgow to enact the Sustainable Development Goals in a regional city. The WSU campus in Lithgow will now become Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra (Wiradjuri for ‘Workmanship Together, Side by Side’) – The Lithgow Transformation Hub. To support a ‘just transition’ in Lithgow we launched a solutions storytelling site called The Lithgow Sprint, in honour of Marjorie Jackson the Olympic runner who lived in Lithgow. Our goal is to change the story for Lithgow quickly. In April 2021, the Pluriversity will teach the first course on the campus – a free Permaculture and Social Enterprise Design Course. We’ll work with young people to design and build a micro-farm around the PCYC in Lithgow and mentor them to design social enterprises.
THROW THE BEST PARTY! Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt over the last 40 years is that the best way to influence opinion and encourage change is not to nag and pressure, but to throw the best party so that people want to join you!
This was part of the Permaculture Elders Award acceptance speech by Mark Brown, recalling completing his Permaculture Design Course with Bill Mollison. PA members Mark and partner Kate Beveridge, who run Purple Pear Farm, and PA member Julianne Hartman comprised three of the ten Permaculture Elder Award recipients.
PA members were well represented in the Community Service award recipients, including Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar (Milkwood Permaculture), Hannah Maloney (Good Life Permaculture), Lis Bastian (The Big Fix/Permaculture Blue Mountains), Dan Palmer (Making Permaculture Stronger) and Richard Telford, Permaculture Principles.
We are thrilled to announce that PA Board Director Wendy Marchment (pictured above right), also received a Permaculture Community Service Award, which includes her service with Permaculture Australia and previously with Northey Street City Farm.
Finally, congratulations to Virginia Solomon, outgoing PA Board Director and Permaculture Elder who was awarded a Community Service Award for her outstanding commitment to permaculture education and Permaculture Australia.
The full list of the 2021 Community Service awardees are listed below.
2021 Permaculture Elders Award recipients
2021 Community Service Award recipients
A huge congratulations to all those who received awards and for their commitment and support to permaculture in Australia and globally.
The 2021 Permaculture Australia Annual General Meeting was held on the 13th April 2021 at the Australasian Permaculture Convergence in Brisbane.
Congratulations to the following Board of Directors who have been appointed for 2021/2022:
Wendy Marchment, Victoria
Donna Morawiak, Queensland
Greg Rodwell, Victoria
Sophie Thompson, Queensland
Jed Walker, New South Wales
A huge thank you to our outgoing Board of Directors Greta Carroll, April Sampson-Kelly and Virginia Solomon, and also to Robyn Francis as the appointed Chair for the AGM.
Finally we are thrilled to announce David Holmgren, the co-originator of permaculture, has been appointed a Patron of Permaculture Australia. This is an enormous honor for Permaculture Australia and we look forward to working with David and the team at Holmgren Designs to further advocate for permaculture solutions.
(L-R) Kiran Charlie (PA Webmaster), April Sampson-Kelly (Outgoing Director), Robyn Francis (AGM Chair) Sophie Thompson (PA Board Director), Wendy Marchment (PA Board Director), Donna Morawiak (PA Board Director) Jed Walker (PA Board Director), David Holmgren (PA Patron), Virginia Solomon (Outgoing PA Chair) and Kym Blechynden (PA Membership & Marketing Manager).
The Turtle Survival Alliance – India has a focus on conservation efforts with local communities to safeguard threatened freshwater species in four (of the five) turtle priority areas in India. The project received a 2020 Permafund grant to offer training in vermicomposting and food growing to reduce the reliance on aquatic wildlife for food.
In the three months leading up to February 2021, the project outcomes include the:
successful completion of a household-based survey to gather nutrition information of riverine women communities. Preliminary analysis of data suggests the women living in riparian and fishing hamlets bear major responsibility for their families, work harder in the agricultural field and poor economy, and have limited access to a nutritious diet.
completion of an awareness and capacity-building program providing training in nutrition, small-scale farming and the benefits of Indigenous crops, and
provision of vertical bamboo frames to use for gardening in water logged areas, as well as vegetable seeds and gardening tools.
To reduce the use of chemical fertilizers a large vermicomposting pit has been developed. The lined pit was filled with manure worms, organic materials (such as straw, grass clippings, vegetable peels, manure), and covered with soil.
This is what PA’s Permafund is all about – enacting the the three ethics of permaculture (Earth Care, People Care & Fair Share) and supporting grassroots projects around the globe to build stronger communities.
How can I get involved?
Want to make a difference too? Donate to PA’s Permafund today here and help build food security and stronger communities across the globe. Donations over $2 are tax deductible.
“The Adelaide Edible Garden Trail celebrates the many ways Kaurna Land residents are creating food sovereignty while saving money and the environment — and enjoying the health benefits of homegrown fruit and veggies.”
On Saturday, April 24 2021, six urban food gardens will open to the public during the very first Adelaide Edible Garden Trail – aimed at inspiring more South Aussies to get growing at their place.
Growers large and small from across Adelaide will share their knowledge via informative video garden tours, which will be released online and are accessible to all by donation.
The tours showcase sustainable garden practices for South Australia’s local growing conditions, including water conservation, composting, increasing soil fertility, planting to encourage beneficial insects, home food production and organic growing techniques.
Event Coordinator and PA member Jacqui Garcia, one of nine volunteers organising the first-time event, said growing even just a little food at home can have a positive impact on our environment, health and local food sovereignty.
“We’re all passionate about urban food growing and all into permaculture. We call ourselves the Growers’ Collective. The idea came about when we were discussing ways we could celebrate Urban Agriculture Month, which is about raising awareness about urban agriculture”
Several of the organising team are PA members, and permaculture ethics are incorporated into the event including:
‘Fair Share’: This is a volunteer-run event. We are very thankful for receiving a micro-grant to get this project going from our local chapter of the Awesome Foundation, which has volunteer-run local chapters funding awesome local projects.
Event proceeds will be reinvested into local community food growing projects through grants to schools, community gardens & community groups.
‘Earth Care’: the featured gardeners are all sharing sustainable and organic gardening practices and tips for our local growing conditions.
‘People Care’: price for a ticket is ‘pay what you can’ to ensure our videos are accessible to all.
“I’m looking forward to sharing the videos of our featured gardeners with growers – and hope to see garden trails hosted by other South Australian communities, in places like the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu peninsula, Barossa, regional and remote towns too,” Jacqui Garcia.