Spotlight on Orlando Permaculture

I recently got an email from Eliot Kersgaard regarding an upcoming event that he thought would be of interest to Pulptown readers. Well, it was also of interest to me — who wouldn’t be excited to learn about permaculture, aka, living off the land and in alignment with nature?

I did some legwork for you and asked all the right questions (🤞I hope) — down below, you’ll hear from Caitlin Fogarty, Jeff Trapani, and Eliot about the Orlando Permaculture community and an upcoming course that’ll teach you the fundamentals.

Pulptown: First things first, what is permaculture? 

Eliot: Permaculture is a method of looking to the natural world as a guide when designing our lives, communities, and environments. It involves careful observation of ecological processes to learn how we can create relationships that are more regenerative and in alignment with the Earth, with a strong emphasis on the fundamental life support systems of food, water, and energy. Permaculture designers are commonly involved with projects such as urban homesteads, large-scale farms, and social enterprises.

Why did Orlando Permaculture start?

Jeff: Orlando Permaculture started in 2014 with a group of friends sharing knowledge on growing food, exchanging recipes, and learning about topics such as rain collection, alternative cooking technologies, and other ways to become sustainable through connecting with nature. Eventually, our group grew so large that we decided to meet at a central location — Audubon Community Church.

Why should we care about learning permaculture? 

Eliot: Everyone in the permaculture community has arrived via a different path. In general, people are inspired to learn about permaculture because they are frustrated with the extractive, exploitative and divisive systems that seem to dominate human society today and they wish to discover new ways of relating to one another and the world around them.

What is the goal of this upcoming course you originally reached out about?

Eliot: This course, Practical Permaculture Fundamentals, is designed to train a new cohort of permaculture thinkers to bring the principles and practices of permaculture into their lives and communities. It provides an in-depth look into the permaculture design thinking process and gives you the tools you need to begin designing and implementing permaculture projects at your own home or within your community.

Will this course keep me from going to the grocery store and out of the produce aisle? 

Eliot: This course will empower you with many of the skills and social resources you need to reduce your reliance on external inputs such as grocery stores. Of course, only you have the power to keep you from going to the grocery store if that is your goal.

Will I save money later by learning from this course? 

Jeff: There are many ways that this course can save you money. We give many money-saving tips such as tree and plant placement around the home to help keep it cool in the summer. We will discuss rainwater harvesting and landscaping designs that help you capture rainwater and reduce water usage from municipalities.  We will show you many varieties of plants and fruit trees that produce year after year in Florida that will lower your grocery bill, and give you plenty of fruit, veggies, and herbs to share with friends. Everywhere you look in permaculture, the solutions produce long-term value.

Eliot: One of the goals of permaculture is to maximize the equitable distribution and abundance of capital. However, money is but one of the many ways we measure capital in permaculture. Whether you decide to use your knowledge of permaculture and the social infrastructure of the permaculture community to save money is largely up to you. 

Caitlin: Money isn’t inherently bad, it’s just another tool, but relying solely on one element to meet our needs sets us up to easily lose our shirt or worse by shocks or disasters. This is what we call a brittle system. Much of our present-day world is set up this way.

In permaculture, we teach others how to build systems that create redundancy, resiliency, and shock-padding by design. Stacking functions ensure every function has multiple elements to “stand on” and if one element fails, there are others to prevent the whole system from collapsing. We call this a regenerative system. This kind of design thinking can be applied to landscapes but also economic and social systems.

While saving you money isn’t our main objective in this course, teaching you how to think in an interconnected way and thus live in a “right relationship” with nature and humanity is. Saving money can be a by-product of permaculture design depending on your design goals.

Is the practice of permaculture better for Orlando because of our climate? 

Eliot: Permaculture is a global movement. Due to the wide variability of climate and culture around the world, the specific elements incorporated into permaculture systems vary from place to place. The climate of Orlando offers many advantages for those looking to localize their food system with plant-based foods; however, it is absolutely possible to live in alignment with the Earth pretty much anywhere.

What do I need to participate in this course? Can I participate if I don’t have a yard? 

Eliot: You don’t need anything, in particular, to participate in this course. While many of the skills introduced in the course are specific to those with land access, you will hopefully find that there are many ways to incorporate permaculture into your life; there are also many opportunities to work with the land even if you may not have a yard yourself.

For our readers who might be afraid of commitment, is there such a thing as semi-culture? (I’m kinda having some fun here, please indulge!)

Eliot: Permaculture was founded with three core ethics: people care, Earth care & fair share. In recent years (and in this course) many have introduced a fourth ethic: the just transition. The just transition ethic has to do with reconciling the tension between some of the ideals of permaculture and the reality of working within the context of the globalized, extractive, technocentric world that exists today. Permaculture is not a contest and every step we take to reach greater harmony with nature is one worth taking. Finally, while the word “permaculture” does have roots in “permanent,” as students of nature we understand that there is no “end state” of human or natural things— progress is built one step at a time, and new conditions are constantly arising that demand flexibility in how we do things. This is all to say that yes, there is such a thing as “semi-culture.” 

Caitlin: Flexibility, transience, and change are recurring themes within natural cycles. Take how a recently burnt field evolves: the first wave of succession includes pioneer species, quickly filling their purpose before being blown, carried, and/or propagated elsewhere. Seeds on the wind. And on and on this succession goes. Different species filling distinct time niches until the cycle begins again when the field burns years later. These same patterns apply to humans and social systems luckily.

The deadline to sign up for this course is Monday, March 15. 

Wanna get involved but not ready to commit? OP meets once a month. Sign up for their newsletter to learn more or follow along on Facebook and Instagram. You can also join the very active Facebook group, which is a great place to start meeting others in the community and have your questions answered.