Permaculture is a design science of sustainable and regenerative systems, both agriculturally and culturally. It begins with the most basic of questions: How do we build a permanent culture, one that does not destroy and degrade its home for future generations?

Unlike most design systems, permaculture embraces a set of ethics that guide its designs: care of the earth, care of people, and a sharing of the surplus.

Over the past several years, I’ve had several opportunities to teach permaculture-related classes, including co-teaching a full Permaculture Design Course with New Community Project, teaching a weekend retreat with Shalom Mennonite congregation in Harrisonburg, as well as smaller engagements such as workshops with the Shenandoah Permaculture Wellness Institute, the Lexington Master Gardeners, and the Staunton Parks and Recreation Department. In the fall of 2014, Kate Hopkins of the Valley Conservation Council and I co-taught a class (or perhaps better to say, a group exploration) on financial permaculture.  My own permaculture training comes through a permaculture design course offered by the Blue Ridge Permaculture Institute as well as a healthy dose of experimentation and observation.

New Community Project's Permaculture Design Course. Photo by Aaron Harper Johnston Photography

New Community Project’s Permaculture Design Course. Photo by Aaron Harper Johnston Photography

I have been incredibly well compensated over the years for my time and efforts in facilitating permaculture workshops, almost exclusively expressed in the gift economy. Students have built my offgrid home, inspired me continually, and taught me more than I had hoped to teach.  As I continue to both learn and share permaculture principles and ethics, one of my ongoing areas of inquiry is how permaculture design can inform our critique of existing economic systems and in turn the creation of alternative ones.