We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

Cultivating Community:  The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence


Category            Social Permaculture


The very first thing which comes to my mind post-convergence is this now-famous quote:  “The map is not the territory”, after months and months of meeting and planning and discussing and deliberating, we pulled it off—a ‘more mature’ event than the first—a progression down the path to mapping and connecting our community.   And what a community!  Holy cow, as I go through, card by card, the results of the Regional Roundup (yes, actually—I did in fact volunteer for this honor, as oftentimes this sorting and compiling is somewhat soothing.  Must be those 20 years in accounting, I dunno.)   I am amazed, yet again, at the extraordinary glimpse of the underbelly of this State such a gathering allows.  We are more diverse…stronger, hardier, and far more connected than we know.  Aho.  (Yes, I meant that to rhyme, yet another oddity.)

As in virtually every permaculture gathering, it rained.  It didn’t just rain, in fact—the deluge on opening day Friday was such that it, no doubt, kept many arrivals from happening that day.  The 2 – 2½  hour trip it should have been for me turned out to be five hours, most of it at a jerking, clunking, sputtering 35 miles an hour—the truck does not like rain.  The soaked, shivering, dripping bunch in the registration tent when I arrived were so reminiscent of Cuba that I immediately felt at home.  There is something about the state of discomfort, that once it has been reached—that’s it–there you are.


Sandhill Farm

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We easily managed to cobble together 20 or so people for a tour of a local tiny eco-home, with its amazing array of fruit trees and organic and biodynamic methodology.  The area surrounding Crooked Lake on the Lake Wales Ridge is an awe-inspiring pocket of diversity, and both Hunter and Linda, our hosts for the tour, really know their history, so the tour was quite the treat!

The rest of the weekend went pretty much the same way—nothing quite as planned, perhaps, yet still rich with the compost of the community already formed.  To say the event was ‘enriching’ would be an understatement—it truly was cultural cultivation.  We could not have chosen a more fortunate spot for this gathering–H.E.A.R.T. is not only one of the best examples of permaculture principles and applied ethics in Florida, it is also located in one of the most diverse regions.

officerfriendlyAnd, now I must digress into the realm of Pinellas County authorities, and “Officer Unfriendly”—the harsh glare of reality outside of those happy permie, weed-infested weekends.  Because, no matter that I have taken great care to remain under the radar, regardless of my hours upon hours (upon hours and hours) of back-breaking labor and uncharacteristically pleasant and neighborly demeanor… ‘the man’ is after me.   Because I chose to share my journey with the public, and divulged such things as the (extra four) loads of mulch I had to scramble to deal with, once Pasco County deemed my yard their new favorite dumping ground.  Because I like to experiment with designs, such as combining my freestanding water colleBee Happytatction and hopefully graceful, artistic structure with a Warka, now used in Ethiopia for village water collection, miles from other potable water sources.  Because I like to share my findings with other like-minded people in the community.  Because my yard(s) do not look like cookie-cutter manicured, chemical-laden, water-sucking, bee-hating landscapes—I get to take my time to pay a visit to the County courthouse, to apply in retrospect for permits for dirt which has been used, and for structures and cultivation which no one has complained about.  Yes, this is a rant, because I chose to invite the public in, thinking that if only they knew what I was about, that the whole idea is about helping people (People Care), and saving the planet (Earth Care), that ‘they’ could not possibly choose to stop me, and even if they did try, they would not succeed.  So much for thinking.

As was said at the convergence—in my intro to the keynote speaker panel, I compared this group of permies–not as ditch-diggers, ‘in the trenches’–but as a swale, the event on the whole was very swale-like, an appropriate application of a design technology for the purpose of slowing down, absorbing, and creating an absorbent layer of material, which all of us have access to.  The panel participants have been at it here, in this state, for anywhere from one to ten years, and there are those not present who have been at it twice as long.  One might think we’d have re-charged the aquifers by now, but there are forces, still, running contrary to our ‘Mother Nature’.  The greatest of these forces is not, as one might think, “The Man”, but is ignorance.  It is the sheer weight of mis-information fed to the masses every day, the tick-tock sleepytime lull of our society’s metronome and mantras:  “get a job”, “pay the bills”, “sit still”, “mind your manners, ”be good, Johnny”…”clean your plate”.  Nobody warned us (ok, a few did), that our plates were heaped with poison.

It should come as no great surprise to those who know me that I have taken on the task of undermining such acceptance of “ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise”, when said folly leads us to…well, pretty much where we are, on this planet.  I’ve pretty much had it, in fact—for one who does not believe in terminology or strategies of war, this uphill battle has become, for me, much as I remember the battlefield of Gettysburg—over a century later, the stink and despair hang over the place like a dark cloud of carrion birds.  So, my mentor Dave Jacke says:  “…instead of focusing only on the size of our footprint, we need to increase our handprint”  [paraphrased].  I will not share my evil visualizations of how one might just go about increasing ones’ handprint, flapping and jazz hands notwithstanding.  It is encouraging to know, to be in the company of others who know, that the future lies, not in the hands of those who have already done so much damage, but in our own hands.  The simple act of being in the presence of, granted, a very small percentage of the population, but one which is growing daily—less than half of our 200 or so attendees this year were also part of the 200 last year—is an indication of the hidden masses underlying this great, green iceberg.  Or, perhaps a tree is an even better metaphor, as our glaciers are melting, because over half of the body of trees and many other plants, is below the ground.  Like mycelium, the invisible structures we are forming through these convergences are creating a tightly woven web of inter-connectionThe basic idea, and evidence from our experience…is that as people feel more connected and aligned, the thought of collective action becomes that much more inviting and its potential impact that much greater and longer lasting.”  The more people I meet and converse with from these connections, the more I hear how good it is to have someone to talk to who “gets it”.   These connections are now forming on a very basic, root level—deep, shallow, or broadscale.  As we continue to grow, as a community, and as each of us individually takes a look at our own inner landscapes, and whether that design serves us—the entire ecosystem will mature, revealing the natural, inherent design.  Eventually, the hope and design is that this polyculture will eventually sort itself into guilds—true, needs-and-yields based design, where the overall stress to each component – what Dave calls ‘resource partitioning’, in which cooperation is essential, and competition minimized.

In people systems, this requires a high level of self-actualization from the individual components—again, the requirement here is that each person does, has done, and continues on a regular basis to do the work on his or her own inner landscape.  Unless we understand what our own needs really are, we can’t hope to become enmeshed in a highly developed system based on needs and yields.  This process cannot happen, outside of a community, which is what is at the core of the current PDC certificate debate—many feel that “permaculture is a design science”, therefore can be taught virtually.  I believe that the environment of the digital age is very efficient for delivering the bulk of the informational goods, and it completely ignores the majority of what makes this study a ‘culture’, and not a ‘science’ alone.  Culture does not occur in a vacuum, and we cannot effectively teach or learn the components of social permaculture unless we spend time in a group with other people (uncomfortable though that may be, at times!).  So…when would now be a good time to get out there and learn some, hands on, with some other like-minded people?


© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

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Thomas Gray “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”

scold’s bridle

Why Networks for Social Change?   “Thinking in terms of networks can enable us see with new eyes.”

– Harold Jarche

2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence





3 thoughts on “Cultivating Community:  The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence

  1. Pingback: Cultivating Community: The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence | Beat the rich

  2. Pingback: Cultivating Community: The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence « Truth Is Rising

  3. Pingback: Cultivating Community: The 2nd Annual Florida Permaculture Convergence « Document The Truth

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