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Offered at Dig In Farm (a ten-acre perennial farmstead) in western Massachusetts, Spiral is a month-long residential Permaculture Design Course, aimed to empower young women through regenerative agriculture. Permaculture is a design process that helps people design systems (be they agricultural, social, financial, or other) that nourish the earth, care for people, and bring a more just world into being. Students will graduate from the program with internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificates.

Students will complete the full 72-hour course load of a permaculture design certification, and importantly will also gain daily hands-on experience tending a real permaculture farmstead.  As students learn the theory of resilient design, they will simultaneously practice it alongside experienced farmer mentors and teachers. Planting, tending, clearing, harvesting, grafting, cooking, weeding, building, mulching, shoveling, crafting, scheming, dreaming, and more, all form our daily work.

As another component of every Permaculture Design Course, students work in small groups to complete their own site designs, cementing their real knowledge of the design process. Since this will only be Dig In Farm's second year on this land, students in 2016 have the unique opportunity to design for the site they are living on and see their designs implemented.

We will also explore other applications of permaculture (beyond agricultural) for what a resilient, just future might look like throughout the program. We will dig deeply in to social justice work and activism as well as creative expression and art-- these elements are crucial for a thriving world! Professional organizers, poets, artists, teachers, herbalists, chefs, and more will come to teach sessions to our students on how they spread light in the world.

Justice activism at Spiral will include an experiential art project that is part of a larger effort called Mending Patriotism. Mending Patriotism is a series of participatory workshops that teach quilting, sewing, and dyeing to engage with the issue of migration across the US-Mexico border. The workshops use clothing cast off in the desert by migrants attempting to cross the border.  These workshops explore the connections between a globalized economy, agriculture, social and environmental justice, migration, and “women’s work”. This project will offer Spiral participants a way to engage with social justice and art both as important elements of a resilient culture.

As a group at Spiral, we will create a quilt with clothing left behind by migrants. We will learn to use traditional Mexican dyes, first as farmers by tending dye gardens, and then as artists by dyeing fabric. We will brainstorm ways of telling stories visually and engage with issues of agriculture and social justice from an art-as-activism perspective.

Strong communication forms the backbone of the program. Students will gain basic non-violent communication skills, as well as participate in consensus-style decision making at community meetings. Through these tools everyone gains equal space to give input and shape their experience of the program.

Finally, fun! As much as we like grinding down on some hard work (trust us, we do!), we equally like to dance, feast on fresh berries and chocolate, sing, howl under the full moon, shower outside, build cob ovens, and bike into town for ice cream. (Working hard makes us like these all the more!) We build ample time into our days to play, rest, dream, and wander in the woods.

Living

Students will live on-site at Dig In Farm in bell tents in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. Learn more about the site here. 2015 was our inaugural year, so students in 2016 will witness year one, transitioning land from overgrown forest back into resilient perennial farmstead. This year will focus strongly on the beginning steps for site design: how to observe a place, craft an intelligent design for it, and begin implementing the design.

Students will live with mentors, women in and recently graduated from college. All students will be organized into different groups, each guided by its own mentor leader. There are three program heads/ permaculture instructors who oversee the farm mentors and direct the course. The program heads, mentors, and students all work together, eat together, and play together, building deep connection and trust.

We all take turns cooking meals and share delicious, decadent feasts three times a day. The food is all organic, all nourishing, and all insanely delicious. We share the work of washing dishes, cleaning communal spaces, tending the chickens, and all the wonderful quotidian chores that help us turn our beliefs into action.