PA member Meg McGowan does a bit of everything. Author, artist, designer and coach is the best way to pin it down. Meg’s approach to teaching and living permaculture focuses on the three principles of earth care, people care, fair share and her primary goal is to find ways to get more permaculture happening on the ground.
Meg and her husband, Graham King, have developed a model they call “Permashare”, where students trade helping in the garden for learning. Courses range from introductory courses to a full Permaculture Design Course, all available without money changing hands. The model ensures that permaculture knowledge is accessible to everyone, and is based around a one-for-one calculation: an hour of training is paid for with an hour of labour. Students are learning equally in the classroom and the garden (some believe they should be paying for the gardening days as well!). This alternative to the mainstream economy is a social permaculture venture.
Meg is an advocate for Rosemary Morrow’s teaching methods, particularly the principle, “we are all teachers and learners”. She makes the observation that people with limited income are used to being resourceful and creative and Meg regularly updates course content based upon student feedback.
To reduce fossil fuel use, all students live within a defined geographical area. People from outside the region are referred to local trainers and Meg happily promotes the courses of other people in the industry. Limiting participation to those living locally ensures that they have the opportunity to build community and to continue their friendships beyond the course. Meg considers these social networks as critical to the successful implementation of students’ designs. Visiting each-others homes also beds down the design lessons as students see first-hand what has only been a two-dimensional plan.
Meg and Graham have also designed a hub for qualified permaculture designers wanting to earn right livelihood. The business, Permacoach, connects clients with designers that are prepared to come to their homes and teach them design skills on their own property. Graham runs the hub and receives a contribution from the coaches (which can also be paid in labour) towards maintaining the web site and promoting the business. The coaches all operate independently, but come together to support each other and to build their skills.
Similar to many people within the permaculture community, Meg and Graham seek to demonstrate the application of the ethics and the principles in everything they do. Course participants contribute to a shared vegetarian meal that everyone can eat, waste is minimised, a share table is available for anyone’s surplus and people care is emphasised in both the design and delivery of courses. Both Meg and Graham are active in their local community, volunteering with the Rural Fire Service, writing a permaculture column for the local community newsletter and using permaculture to redesign the ‘crop swap’ into a monthly produce share, where people give joyfully with no expectation of return.
As one student puts it very articulately in evaluating the course, “You don’t just teach permaculture. You permaculture your permaculture”.
You can find a longer interview with Meg about her permaculture design process here.
You can check out Meg’s (active) blog here.