Adult Learning for Sustainability and Resilience

Dani, Verti and I have been in North America visiting family. We flew over primarily to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, but in the week before the big day we were able to briefly stop in to my old farm, named Trollbakken by a previous owner. Although the farm has been in the hands of a Springboks supporter for the last five years (a South African immigrant to the U.S.) it has remained in relatively good nick.
Verti has curbed her enthusiasm. 

The sights, sounds and smells of the place reminded me of the days, weeks, months and years I spent building soil fertility, growing organic veges, and renovating the farmhouse. When I bought the farm in 2000, I had no formal training in agriculture or building. I had been an environmental studies teacher for the previous ten years, and so I knew about crop rotation and solar energy on a textbook level, but had never done them.
The next eight years could be described as learning-by-doing. Although I acquired a large collection of books on organics and eco-building, the real learning took place through trial and error. There is no substitute for experience.
The kitchen at Trollbakken mixes the new with the old (see below). 
A number of unique features of the farm made for an unusual learning experience. First, it was the last property on a dead end road, a kilometre beyond the nearest neighbour. It was quiet, and days could pass without my seeing anyone.
Second, the house was wired for low voltage DC electricity powered by two small solar panels. Aside from a chainsaw, I rarely used power tools for building and renovation.
Third, I chose to manage my market gardens entirely by hand. Aside from transporting hay and compost in the back of a ute, I grew all of my veges without fossil fuels.
New white walnut (butternut) floor milled from a tree on the farm.  
To some readers this may seem like a Siberian work camp, but to me it was a postgraduate education in eco-thrifty design/build. Similar to the PhD I just completed through the University of Waikato, my ‘studies’ at Trollbakken required independence, determination and self-discipline. As I have come to understand, these are some of the key characteristics of adult learners.
Some vintage wallpaper was preserved during the kitchen renovation. 
When we are no longer in compulsory schooling, it is up to us to get off our bums and take ownership for our learning. I would argue that this is the best type of learning because adult learners usually undertake education – be it informal or formal – that is relevant and meaningful to their lives. This could include job training and career advancement programmes, or, as I’ve been involved with, sustainability workshops based on saving power and money while protecting the environment.
Any adult that lives in a home, pays a power bill, or eats vegetables may see some relevance in one or more of these upcoming free and low-cost presentations scheduled to mark Adult Learners’ Week/He Tangata Mātauranga, 2nd – 8thSeptember. The programme is a partnership between the ECO School, Adult and Community Education Aotearoato, and Community Education Service Wanganui.
Monday, 2nd September – Warm, Dry, Healthy Homes
5:30-6:30 pm. Gonville Café Library, Abbot St. – Free
Tuesday, 3rd September – Understanding Your Power Bill
5:30-6:30 pm. Gonville Café Library, Abbot St. – Free
Wednesday, 4th September – Organic Vege Gardening
5:30-6:30 pm. 10 Arawa Place, Castlecliff – Koha
Thursday, 5th September – Ask a Solar Question
7-9 pm. $20. Registration essential. Ring CES – 345 4717
Friday, 6th September – Composting
5:30-6:30 pm. 10 Arawa Place, Castlecliff – Koha
Saturday, 7th September – Fruit Tree Care: TBD (Ring 344 5013) – Free
Sunday, 8th September – Eco-Literacy Day.
3-5 pm. 10 Arawa Place, Castlecliff – Koha

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