By: Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Permaculture enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond gathered at the Solar Living Institute to attend three days of workshops, keynote speakers, panels, skill shares, ceremonies and so much more.  This was a gathering of authentic people genuinely working at creating a world that works for everyone.  I walked away from the convergence inspired by the community initiatives. Here are a few that stood out:

Ann Kreilkamp, the founder of Green Acres Permaculture Village, spoke about this intergenerational, intentional community.  Located in a suburban neighborhood in Indiana, it includes three adjacent homes, permaculture gardens, pathways and common areas (two greenhouses, a workshop space and a chicken house). A small CSA has evolved from the garden and every Thursday, a meal is shared.  Ann aims to transform the paradigm from a culture of complaint into a culture of creativity.  She gave an example of a “mistake” made in the placement of a structure.  A cob wall and pizza oven was built in a location that resulted in a neighbor complaint to city officials.  Ann was angry at the neighbor yet had the wisdom and self-reflection to pause before acting.  The residents at the village recognized that this structure was placed on the edge of the property and saw the flaw in the design.  They decided that instead of fighting the complaint that they would break down the wall through a “Ceremony of Impermanence” and have a community potluck.  More time was spent looking for solutions in a group as opposed to brooding on the problem.

A network of changemakers is growing through NorCal Resilience.  This organization was founded in 2013 by Susan Silber and is committed to building resilience in our communities.   The Resilient Hubs initiative is a new project aimed at creating neighborhood centers that demonstrate ecological features, prepare for disasters and engage the community.  Jessica Bates owns Rising Spring Farm, a private home in the El Sobrante hills that is a growing example of this model.  This urban farm displays many elements of permaculture design (swales, berms, perennial vegetables, composting and greywater use).

While working in her front garden, Jessica naturally began to talk to inquisitive neighbors and a connected community started to emerge.  Now a group of 12 neighbors shares a tool library and hosts work parties, crop swaps, and monthly neighborhood gatherings. They even purchase bulk food together.  During one meeting they made a sign to place in the front window in the event of a disaster; one side it said OK, the other side said Need Help.  It was a simple way to prepare for unexpected challenges during the times we live in.

How do we begin creating a site like this within our own communities?  Community hubs are based on relationships. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Go to where people already are. Work with existing networks within the community and begin to partner through shared goals.
  • Show up to events and share what you have to offer. What are the needs and assets of each person, organization?  How do we begin matching the needs of one person/organization and the assets of another?

There was synergy at the Permaculture Convergence.  I was inspired seeing so many people and organizations partnering on projects, trying new initiatives, making mistakes, learning and actively working at building community.