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”!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
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”.
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.