Saturday, 7 November 2015

Working as a permaculture teacher

I make my living primarily as a teacher of sustainable living and permaculture, and by helping groups and individuals to design their edible landscapes. I find my work as a permaculture teacher extremely rich and extremely rewarding. I love that it has taken me to twenty countries in the past twenty years. I have never applied for a job - my work just evolved, and continues to do so.

My son leading the seedling activity at the Real Food Festival 2015
I love too that I can take my kids to work. They are my trainee teachers and workshop assistants. It constantly amazes me how much they know, how willing they are to share it and how confident they are to speak in front of large groups of teenagers and adults - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have said 'boo' at that age!

I also mentor the children at the local school to do presentations about their kitchen garden. They are so articulate because they love the garden and are deeply connected to it by being involved in the design, garden making, planting, harvesting cooking, composting, chicken care, worm care and more ...,

Introducing the combined hinterland Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Kids at the Real Food Festival 2015

Most weeks I run at least one workshop, sometimes several. This week has been a busy and productive one:
  • a weekend  Introduction to Permaculture workshop at Northey Street City Farm
  • an sustainable soils workshop at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre (part of a 4 part program sponsored by the Sunshine Coast Council).
  • a sensory garden design session at the University of the Sunshine Coast
  • a personalised tour of my permaculture garden for local and overseas visitors
  • a stall at the local community market 
Teaching permaculture at the Moving Feast garden at the University of Sunshine Coast.
In a way I fell into this work by following my interests and passions in life, and by doing things that I believed in - that fitted with my ethics and values. I just started doing things that fascinated me and felt meaningful.  Along the way, I have actively learnt from others and openly shared sharing what I knew. Before I knew it, people were asking me to teach and help to design.

The variety is great - some days I am helping to create an edible education garden at the local university with a range of faculties, other days I am leading Nature Kids programs based here at the ecovillage.  I regularly work with children in school gardens, kindergartens and libraries, and also arrange senior school permaculture school camps and senior school field trips. Individuals and professional groups come for personalised guided tours of our garden and ecovillage. And, the regional council commissions me to lead permaculture gardening sessions at neighbourhood centres to help people learn how to grow abundant food - to help support a healthy and food secure community.

A few years back, I led a Food Politics course at Griffith University. Even then. I couldn't resist weaving some practical permaculture into my sessions. I would begin each lecture with an exploration of a perennial permaculture plant and how it can contribute to an ecological agricultural approach and good health. I invited students to take cuttings home and plant them. At the end of the semester so many students came in early to ask me more questions about permaculture and to tell me how wonderfully their gardens were now growing. The end of semester celebration was a visit to my garden to harvest, cook and share a meal. I stay in touch with many of these students still!

Speaking at the Climate Change Conference at QUT
Before kids, Evan and I taught permaculture regularly around the world. Sometimes we still do, but at a much slower place and in a way that involves the children. As a family we have taught in Korea and been involved with permaculture projects in Indonesia. We are currently planning our next big family permaculture journey and are all very, very excited.

My permaculture focus wove itself through my university studies too. At landscape architecture school I designed edible landscapes (I think to the dismay of my teachers), and the focus of my masters of environmental education thesis was permaculture education.

My home life, my work, my family life, my recreation seem to all be interwoven with the multi-textured thread of permaculture.

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