GROWTH + CHANGE

we just wrapped up an incredible summer of programs on the farm. between having women in high school spend the bulk of the summer with us at spiral, studying the intersection of social and environmental justice, and having adults stay for shorter, skill-based preservation workshops, and doing permaculture design work for clients, it's been rich, intense, joyful, and full.

we wanted to put up a post to let our community know about a shift coming for Dig In Farm. we have so loved running programs on our site in Shutesbury, and have cherished these last two years as an 'incubator' time to try out new programs, projects, and plantings. we have been so fortunate to have family, friends, donors, collaborators, students, mentors, teachers and conspirators, all come together to make that happen. we couldn't have done what we have done in the last two years without all of your support. thank you! we are humbled and honored to have you at our backs. 

over the last two years, we have grown in size and scope of project. we have connected with more people, and begun to dream big dreams about what kinds of projects we want to take on in the future. we have so much excitement and sense of possibility about a number of different land-based projects, that we decided we need to give ourselves a break from running programs in order to set the bigger vision.

to make space to develop a larger project plan that combines education, social and environmental justice, permaculture, youth, land-based skills, and community, we have put together an advisory council of friends, students, collaborators, and mentors. this incredible team is committed to visioning together for the next couple years to develop a long-term plan to help flesh out the next project. our culture often celebrates fast, quick thinking, and we want to push back against that, to give the full time + space to gestate our next project iteration into life. we are excited to do this work together and see what emerges. we are all smarter together than any of us alone. our advisory council is diverse by design; we want as many viewpoints as possible to help hone the vision together so that we can best serve our community.

in this visioning time, Juna will be living and teaching at Quail Springs Permaculture in California where she will be program coordinating. Jacob + Grace will be primarily living in Burlington, VT, returning often to the Shutesbury farm site to tend, prune, harvest, and share. (Yay for low-maintenance perennial crops, and for a gorgeous, multi-purpose classroom that we will also stay in when there!) We plan to continue to use + share the site we have developed with plantings, gardens, and a yurt classroom in Shutesbury as one of our teaching sites.

In Vermont, Grace will be serving as Executive Director for a progressive synagogue, helping to foster an inclusive, warm, alive spiritual community. Jacob will continue to do permaculture design work for clients, play with and plant nut and fruit trees everywhere, as well as serving as the primary parent at home with Amos.

we wanted to share our transition with our wider community to update you, and also to invite your thoughts, visions, and feedback for us. thank you for supporting us this far, and we can't wait to share with you what is coming next!

 

SPIRAL 2016

we are filled up with gratitude for the incredible cohort who gathered to dive deeply into social and environmental justice, farming, feminism, radical community building, feasting, play, joyful living, and truth- talking this summer. it's hard to sum up the project neatly-- easier to let some pictures do the talking.

we would like to thank all our collaborators, supporters, and friends who helped make spiral come alive. it truly takes a village to hold a project like this, and we thank you for showing up in all the ways you do-- as teachers, donors, mentors, conspirators, farmers, allies, herbalists, and supporters of all kinds. we are humbled and beyond grateful.

 people power confronts shutesbury's best crop: rocks

people power confronts shutesbury's best crop: rocks

 field guides, all day every day as part of our sit-spot daily practice

field guides, all day every day as part of our sit-spot daily practice

 making paper as part of a mending patriotism project exploring the politics of daily materials

making paper as part of a mending patriotism project exploring the politics of daily materials

 dye test fabric as part of a fibers + global trade class

dye test fabric as part of a fibers + global trade class

 presenting designs for a 170 acre property

presenting designs for a 170 acre property

 medicine wheel/ natural cycle

medicine wheel/ natural cycle

 visiting rice paddies, learning about traditional miso-making

visiting rice paddies, learning about traditional miso-making

 guest teacher prof. sommers (who builds bridges between the academic and practitioner spheres) teaching us about archival documents, particularly old cookbooks, diaries, and other amazing primary sources from the pioneer valley that connected us to the land's history as seen through the lens "women's work."

guest teacher prof. sommers (who builds bridges between the academic and practitioner spheres) teaching us about archival documents, particularly old cookbooks, diaries, and other amazing primary sources from the pioneer valley that connected us to the land's history as seen through the lens "women's work."

 all. the. waterfalls.

all. the. waterfalls.

an elevator speech for 'permaculture'

I have taught permaculture for several years, guest-teaching in other people’s permaculture design courses (PDCs) and running my own. And yet when people ask me what ‘permaculture’ means, I often still falter when trying to scrape together words to quickly present what I spend all my time doing.

It’s challenging to put complicated ideas into a short sound bite. Much of what I love about permaculture are its broad-reaching implications and infinite permutations. Permaculture isn’t just “a method of gardening” (often how I hear it discussed). Permaculture informs us about the ways we might educate our children, work out our conflicts, invest our money. It can serve to help us puzzle through complex, systems-level problems. It challenges us to seek long-term, collaborative, creative solutions. I love permaculture’s wide array of uses and feel myself shrinking back from limiting permaculture to one quick definition.

Many permaculturalists struggle with how to summarize permaculture. I have attended the wonderful 'Women in Permaculture' conference that happens at the Omega Center every year. Two years ago we spent much of our precious time together discussing the need for and “elevator speech” – an accessible way to present permaculture to those unfamiliar with the movement. Needless to say, we didn’t get around to creating one.

We may also shy away from trying to agree on one succinct explanation of permaculture because of the nature of permaculture itself. We know that permaculture must be, due to its nature, of and for each specific place and person who implements it. We want to allow it to take on a local flavor and use and don’t want to box it in to what it “should” look like everywhere.

I do not want to prescribe what applied permaculture will look like everywhere. But I do want to suggest that not sharing more of an easy sense of how to present permaculture to the wider world may be holding permaculture back from gaining broader traction. Toby Hemenway has a great article extolling the importance of naming what permaculture is and isn’t, in order to not allow permaculture to spiral out of control, cult-like, gobbling any good idea in its path and naming it “permaculture.”

We must speak with simplicity and clarity to a world unfamiliar with our jargon-heavy language. How can we work together to find clear language that invites others in rather than keeping them out? How can we name the work we want to do so that others can easily see what kind of tool permaculture is?

Mollison (one of the people who coined the term) says permaculture “is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.” While I don’t disagree, ‘sustainable’ has lost much of its meaning. His definition falls short of naming the importance that justice has in permaculture design. [You can read through other folks’ offering their definitions here.]

When I think about the core of permaculture, I look to its ethics. The ethics of 'earth care, people care, and fair share' are the pillars on which all of permaculture rests. And so, when people ask what my work is, I say, “Permaculture is a system to help come up with creative solutions. It is a tool that helps us solve problems in ways that are good and just for the earth and are good and just for people.” That’s it. I'm trying to drop jargon-y words like “regenerative” that have little meaning to the wider world and start getting specific, simple, and clear.

This little pitch is truly what I think permaculture is, and any strategies that might emerge from it (like community schools, rain barrels, co-housing or urban tree planting) are simply solutions people have come up with while using the system. Permaculture isn’t the answer. It’s just a tool for figuring out good solutions.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how you explain permaculture. I welcome feedback or critique; I hope to use this blog as a way to puzzle through my own questions and gain community around this work!