Tag Archives: PDC

Land as Teacher: The Permaculture Campus

When students enrol in our PDC internship programme they soon learn that human instructors take a backseat to the real teacher: the farm itself.

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Farm life often revolves around problem-solving: restoring degraded soils; stabilising vulnerable slopes; re-establishing a former wetland; planting riparian corridors; mending fences; caring for animals; dealing with drought; dealing with floods; clearing drains; digging drains; addressing pest outbreaks; treating diseased plants; protecting chicks and ducklings from predators… The list, at times, seems endless.

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But it makes for an endless stream of teachable moments over the course of our 8-week residential PDC programme, alongside other projects such as erecting new fences, putting up wood for the winter, propagating grape vines, harvesting garlic, pruning fruit trees, ringing pigs, clipping goats’ hooves, processing cockerels, building chicken tractors, scything tall grasses, dehydrating fruit for storage, or breaking in new annual beds.

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These experiences are overlaid on top of daily and weekly chores: turning the compost; feeding animals; collecting eggs; milking goats; harvesting fruits and vegetables; weed management; solar cooking; making cheese; baking bread; and, starting seeds.Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 6.04.56 am

Interns come to Kaitiaki Farm from around the world – most with little or no farming and building experience. For many, English is a second or third language. Some have already completed a PDC elsewhere. Some left well-paying jobs while others are military veterans. They may be vegan, vegetarian, or paleo.

But what they all share is the desire to learn in an authentic context. This creates an amazing community of highly motivated learners. It’s serious business.

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While we follow the PDC Curriculum, the way in which we do so is responsive rather than prescriptive. In other words, we let the land cover most of the topics and we step in only to round it out. Interns not only learn by doing, they learn the how, why, where and when of managing a permaculture farm.

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Above all else they learn four-dimensional design thinking that can be applied to all aspects of their lives after leaving the farm. In other words, what we really offer is a two-month immersion programme in systems thinking.

Connecting the dots, I believe, is the most essential skill to address the many challenges facing humanity. Not all of our graduates will go on to become organic farmers or green builders, but they all have a role to play in creating a better world through holistic understanding and creative problem-solving.

 

Peace, Estwing

Slow learning in an age of instant gratification

It takes eight weeks to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) on Kaitiaki Farm. We are slow learners.

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Holmgren’s 9th Principle, Use small and slow solutions, should especially be considered when it comes to teaching and learning. Humans learn slowly, and as our digital worlds speed up, the need for slow learning only increases.

Many PDC classes happen too fast with little time to reflect on the learning and little experiential learning. As someone who has spent their entire life as an educator with multiple education degrees, I steer clear of two-week residential PDCs.

That’s one reason we developed our eight-week PDC internship programme that includes total immersion in the patterns and flows of a permaculture farm. Alongside learning permaculture our interns are living permaculture.

Cultivating learners is what we do.

We start by pulling and straightening nails.

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Holmgren’s 6th Principle, Produce no waste, is experienced by transforming materials that others have destined for landfill into valuable resources for future building projects.

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We often straighten a nail and reuse it within a matter of minutes on the farm. Going back seven years, all ECO School interns have learned this as an essential first lesson.

Another skill taught on Day One is managing hot compost. We usually have three individual piles running: one we build through collecting materials; one that is ‘cooking’; and one that is finished and ready to use. Interns turn the active piles three times each week.

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Finally, we emphasise the permanent in permaculture by planting and caring for trees, whether in the orchard or the zone 5 wetland we are establishing alongside Purua Stream.

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Without fail, four to five weeks pass before we see lightbulb moments happening when interns really begin to understand holistic and four-dimensional design. That’s the payoff as an educator – when you know they get it.

Our PDC internships consist of a thousand teachable moments. 

One insightful intern said, “You really need to learn to do things properly because there is no control+Z function on the farm. You can’t Undo something with your fingertips.”

Indeed.

 

Peace, Estwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Free PDC: Permaculture Design Certificate

Is it possible that the best permaculture learning experience is also the most affordable? Absolutely.

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We awarded our first ever PDC qualifications yesterday afternoon after Rikke and Liz presented their amazing projects.

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Here is a look at the designs each of them did for their respective parents’ properties in Denmark and rural Illinois (USA).

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Rikke’s family farm in Denmark

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Liz’s parents’ ‘retirement’ property in Illinois

Both young women have been living and working with us for the summer growing season as part of our internship programme on Kaitiaki Farm. We have hosted 16 interns over the last two and a half years as we transform the worn out horse property into an exemplar permaculture farm. Interns have stayed for eight to 16 weeks.

Rikke arrived just in time for the garlic harvest in December when Oliver and James were still here.

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Liz arrived in early January. Here is a look at their classroom.

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Yesterday was a landmark day for us as we took another step in realising our vision of providing outstanding educational experiences affordably. Liz and Rikke paid nothing for their PDC – a course that usually costs $2,000 to $2,400 in New Zealand. Granted, they ‘paid’ for the course with their efforts on the farm, but that is also the best kind of learning – and endless series of ‘teachable moments’ and design discussions in a real-world context.

We are proud of their accomplishments this summer.

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While we cannot continue to offer a free PDC, now that the pilot work-study PDC is complete we are ready for the next intake of interns starting…tonight. We will continue to offer affordable top-notch education, just not for naught.

But for now, these two young women can boast of something extraordinary.

Peace, Estwing