Connecting the community a big benefit of Permaculture Design Certification

Ten new permaculture designers were certified during the 2019 Humboldt Bay Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course. They are ready to help transform the community for sustainability and local food security. One of our students shares her thoughts below!

By Casey Jo Dascanio

My experience with Permaculture was pretty limited before I signed up for the 2019 Humboldt Bay Permaculture Design Course (PDC). I grew up on a horse ranch in southern California, have lived here in Humboldt for 16 years, and have participated in my fair share of gardening and some natural building projects among friends.

My two main reasons for joining the class were to meet a fresh set of local people with similar interests to mine, and to fill in the pieces of specific knowledge I would need to create the whole picture of a happy, sustainable and community-serving farmstead for myself in the near future. I was greatly rewarded by the experiences of the class.

The classes were formatted into weekend meetings once a month, with optional learning get-togethers in between. This format really lent itself to getting to know fellow classmates. The group was all extremely knowledgeable already and had so much to share with each other.

The schedule also allowed time to visit many different sites to see how teachers, students and community members integrate Permaculture into their personal lifestyles. Not only did we receive detailed instruction from a variety of local experts, but we also got to meet some prominent figures in our community and put our hands on some of their projects.

The course covered the practical aspects of Permaculture like rainwater collection, animal husbandry, composting and building soil, selecting appropriate garden plants for our area and needs, natural building, food preservation and much more. These were the things I had anticipated from the course.

We also covered a great deal of social change elements under the umbrella of “Urban Permaculture,” such as: integrated neighborhooods or eco-villages, alternative energy, how to locally shift the norm for consumption, cooperation between local peoples and native peoples to reinforce practices that are patterned after nature, and even disaster preparedness on a personal and neighborhood scale (which has already demanded real attention in recent weeks).

To tie together all we had been learning, we formed design teams to meet with clients and create designs for their personal properties that met their creative vision and practical goals.

Overall, this course definitely satisfied my needs. I have gained so much new information and techniques and really had a chance to hone the vision I had created for my future. I also forged connections to new friends, Humboldt Permaculture Guild members, local farmers and business people, members from Cooperation Humboldt, and community leaders; who were all there for our course completion, urging us onto new pathways to continue practicing what we have learned.

This course is a gateway to a greater lifestyle of conscious living, cooperation, and creating the idyllic life that can endure whatever the future holds. I hope you will consider signing up for the next Humboldt Bay PDC, tentatively slated for 2021!

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ADP taps watershed expert

Mark DuPont (green shirt), left, urges watershed management at the opening of Adventures in Permaculture’s permaculture design course. (photo by Steven Saint)

by Trudy Thomas

Permaculture guru Mark DuPont gets right to the point. In a recent presentation to permaculture design certification students, he didn’t talk about how to grow great veggies or his favorite composting method. He talked about climate change and how to survive it.

DuPont and his partner Blythe Reis have spent the last 27 years practicing permaculture at Sandy Bar Ranch in Orleans, Calif., where they rent out vacation cabins. The Humboldt Bay 2019 Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course opened at Sandy Bar April 13-14 and DuPont gave the keynote.

He said if we are going to survive earth’s climate crisis we must focus on our watershed. A watershed is a region’s drainage basin for precipitation, culminating in a body of water such as a river. DuPont said we must care for all of it, from its highest point or ridgeline to the river mouth where it empties into another river or body of water. 

The group heard what he has done to care for the Klamath River watershed. Through the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, he has partnered with other groups and tribes to restore fisheries habitat, implement fire and fuels management, and encourage native plant growth. In partnership with the Karuk tribe, he has helped revitalize the forest ecosystem for traditional native foods such as tanoak acorns, camas bulbs, berries, salmon and medicinal plants.

He warned that humans are blindly exceeding the planet’s limitations on multiple levels, comparing it to rowing a boat backwards over the precipice of a waterfall.

“Permaculture is about turning the boat around and facing it,” said DuPont. “It’s a way to not go over the waterfall backwards.”

In the late 1980s, DuPont studied permaculture under renowned natural builder Ianto Evans followed by a stint teaching integrated pest management in South America. With several others, he and Blythe purchased Sandy Bar Ranch in 1992 where they taught permaculture design courses and ran a fruit tree nursery. In 2010, they launched Klamath Knot Permaculture to help create resilient communities. 

DuPont is big on taking initiative. He said sometimes you’ve got to jump in and well, “try sh@%” – and some amazing things have happened. For example, DuPont and his colleagues successfully remediated a contamination site with mushrooms, a practice called mycoremediation. Mycelium, a network of filaments in the root system of fungi, use digestive enzymes to break down and absorb chemicals like hydrocarbons and pesticides, which inhibit photosynthesis and contribute to climate change.   

Watershed management also means changing attitudes towards fire. DuPont and his neighbors take a watch-and-see approach when the forest around them ignites. Resisting panic, they closely observe what the fire might be doing to restore balance. “Don’t think fire is always catastrophic,” DuPont said. “A lot of fire is low intensity and can do a lot of good work.”

Climate change will bring more devastating wildfires, floods and crop failure. It means facing imbalances not seen before. But DuPont thinks there’s something that could keep us afloat in the rising tide of calamity threatening the planet – a healthy watershed.

“Your watershed is your lifeboat,” he said.