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how to learn permaculture/organic with no skills, no money, and no land?  RSS feed

 
Evelyn Bryndas
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Hi Everyone. I wasn't really sure what board to post this in. All of you older (or younger) permies who somehow figured out what to do with your life... please help!

A little background on myself: I'm 23, female, graduated from college a year ago with a degree in Sociology with a minor in Environmental Studies (and Film Studies, but that is kind of irrelevant). This year I am doing Americorps (nothing related to permaculture). By the end of this year I should only have 2,000 in student loan debt left to pay off, and I have no other debt. Other than that, I have $0 savings. I moved back in with my mom after college.

I am totally convinced that we, as a society, need to scale down, power-down and become more sustainable and less dependent on fossil fuels. I really support movements like Transition Towns, and other eco-communities. I am currently reading "The End of Growth" and find it really fascinating. Etc...

However, I am not one to want to do outreach, education, or campaigning. I did enough of it in college and found out that I just don't have the patience for it. Not that I don't think it is important, but I, personally, am sick of trying to convince the 'masses' that we need to change. It just isn't my thing.

I enjoy more hands-on work. Things where you SEE the results. Specific jobs that have a start, a middle, and and end. I get along with people best if we share a common goal and work together to achieve it. Hands-on projects that require ingenuity and creative thinking.

I got the chance to study our agricultural system to a certain extent in college. Basically, I know that it is totally a mess and unsustainable. I want to be a part of the solution... but not 'changing' the old (industrialized) way. I want to be a part of the 'new way.' But, I have no skills or in-depth knowledge. I have a small garden in my backyard and a compost pit. I have worked many times with my dad, who owns a construction business, and did a habitat for humanity trio

So finally... to the question!! How can I get involved in permaculture/organic growing with no skills, no money, and no land?

Would you suggest that I go back to college for horticulture or another sustainable-ag related field? Or, should I just get a random job doing something farmey/hands on from goodfoodjobs.com? Or, WWOOF, and then get a job?

I saw a 2 year 'degree' in permaculture at Kinsale Further Education college in Ireland, which I think sounds really cool, but I hesitate to do that for 2 years without any idea of what I could do with a degree like that.

I'm sure there are others out there like me with similar questions.... If you have any suggestions, don't hesitate to reply!


..Sorry for the long post!
 
Peter Mally
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Hi and welcome.

If you are really interested in doing some kind of permaculture agriculture, check out local farms that are practicing in such a way that you agree with (or as close as possible). You may be able to find some that are either looking to hire (either pay or trade) or are looking for interns (most likely not paid). It's the best way to get started. Not only will you get hands on training but you'll be able to pick the brain of someone thats been doing it longer than you and start to build a network for a time if you decide to go out on your own.

Listen and learn, work hard and get your hands dirty.


a good place to start is craigslist
 
Evelyn Bryndas
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Hi Peter,

Thanks for responding, and thanks for the advice! That is why I was considering WWOOFing at first. It would be a short, temporary first "taste" of this kind of work. Do you think that would be a good idea?

So you don't think pursuing a college-level degree in horticulture or sustainable agriculture, or something along those lines in necessary?
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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Evelyn Bryndas wrote:Hi Peter,

Thanks for responding, and thanks for the advice! That is why I was considering WWOOFing at first. It would be a short, temporary first "taste" of this kind of work. Do you think that would be a good idea?

So you don't think pursuing a college-level degree in horticulture or sustainable agriculture, or something along those lines in necessary?


all depends on how you personally learn best. WWOOF could be a good idea either way just to get a taste of the life. there are plenty of stories of folks who felt taken advantage of, though, from both hosts and workers.

internships can also go sour in a hurry, though I'm sure plenty of folks have had good experiences.

there is a series of videos of a college course on permaculture available free that might be a good place to start. there are some links on here someplace that I'm sure a search would turn up. if, after those, you're inspired to get started on your own, go for it. if you're inspired to learn more by watching videos and reading books, go for it. if you're inspired to take a class in a formal setting like a college or university, go for it. or take a permaculture design course. or find somebody locally who needs some help. or write up a business plan and look for ecologically and socially inclined investors who might help you lease some land and buy some nursery stock. or maybe you're not inspired at all.

you've got a lot of options. which one or three or all you choose is going to depend a lot on what your particular skills are, what you enjoy, how much drudgery you're willing to endure, and who you know, among many other things.

keep asking questions, keep exploring options.

also, tell us where you're at. members here may know some local resources for you to look into.
 
Evelyn Bryndas
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Wow, thank you guys so much for responding... this forum is awesome! I never expected such quick and helpful responses!

I am in Western NY, Monroe County. Yes, I am very familiar with sour internships. I am really not looking to go through that again. That's why I thought WWOOF seemed like a good option. If I don't like it, I'm not really expected to stay for very long, so I can just leave. I also just do not have the ability to afford an unpaid internship. WWOOF would be better for me because you are provided with housing/food. I am under the impression that internships don't provide these things, is that right?

Thanks for suggesting those videos, I will definitely look for those.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1931
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Welcome Evelyn,

I think there is probably a lot of variance in internships. Some will feed/house you in exchange for work. Others may not. I think the biggest thing is to really doing your homework about the place you intern/wwoof. I'm 30 with two kids and wish I had found out about Permaculture in my early 20's. I think my homestead could really have benefited from such an experience. Even still, I'm so glad I started when I did 3 years ago. I know my kids will have a great place to grow, learn and thrive. And even if I split my 7 acres into two pieces ( one for each of them when I'm dead) they will have the ability to raise families of their own without concern for outside inputs for the most part. That peace of mind is very reassuring.

You are in a very similar situation now that I was in at your age. Similar college degrees and financial situation. Those conditions drove me to begin homesteading and developing a food forest when the economy and social craziness got all wild and unpredictable. I can tell you that the most important lesson I've learned is that great things take time and lots of planning. Planning prevents a lot of errors but not all errors. And errors instigate more learning... so make errors. Don't be afraid to jump in and screw things up a little. As your knowledge increases, you'll learn how to fix problems... eventually. The folks here on Permies are incredible and loaded with info so ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS. And once again... welcome.

 
Peter Mally
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Evelyn Bryndas wrote:Hi Peter,

Thanks for responding, and thanks for the advice! That is why I was considering WWOOFing at first. It would be a short, temporary first "taste" of this kind of work. Do you think that would be a good idea?

So you don't think pursuing a college-level degree in horticulture or sustainable agriculture, or something along those lines in necessary?


no problem, I've never heard of WWOOF till just now, so idk how good it is.

The biggest problem with Internships is that rarely do you get paid for your work, which in turns makes wanting to work less desirable. If you are getting something for the work then it makes it much more enjoyable. My wife worked for a half share at a CSA last summer. This year we took it over as they moved to a bigger place. If you can find something like that, it may be a good way to get the experience you want.

As for college. Well that is really up to you. However just think about whether you want to spend more time in school or if you really just want to get the experience. IMHO actual hands on work is more valuable than a school setting. Theory is great, but application is much more important.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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Evelyn, you do not want to teach or convince, so why would you want to continue an education that would lead you into a job to convince and campaign for something..if you are a designer, you'll have to campaign for permaculture, convince people it is right and to hire you to do it, or to teach about it..

i would guess you are needing something more hands on?

IF you have already worked a little construction and gardening, you are heading toward doing something on YOUR OWN property in the future..I would suggest getting a job doing something you love and pay off those debts and get a small nest egg toward your land. In the meantime be shopping for your land, and discovering where you really want to live..check out laws, prices, soil, etc.
I would suggest you avoid places that are zoning home ag out of the picture..find areas that accept it or even promote it..where I live in N Mich it is highly promoted...some other states also.

when you find your dream area that has land avail..then find a job nearby and work toward getting the land under contract. For the next year or so there will still be forclosures..maybe your father would be willing to co sign with you for a nice forclosure if you had a good job near it..maybe a fixer upper if you and he could repair it. Plan something with a real future..enough land for what you want to do with your future permie wise..but not more than you will need. Most women your age have other things on their mind than getting some land and working with it, so you'll be heading toward a sustanable future where the others might not be..you are heading in the right direciton.
 
Evelyn Bryndas
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Thank you craig and brenda for your comments! I am so glad I found this forum.

Brenda Groth wrote:..if you are a designer, you'll have to campaign for permaculture, convince people it is right and to hire you to do it, or to teach about it..


People work as permaculturists (?) and have people hire them? To do what? Make their house self-sufficient? So to do that you would get a degree in permaculture design? I didn't know that! I thought people just learned this stuff to do it at their own homesteads. I wouldn't mind that (working with people in that manner) so much as general "public outreach."

As far as buying my own land... I imagine it will be SEVERAL years before I can afford something like that. Also.. I feel like it might get lonely? What about a more communal living situation? Are there perma-communes out there? I think I would really like something like that.. but I am not going to lie, it seems like it would be really scary to jump into something like that.

Brenda Groth wrote: Most women your age have other things on their mind than getting some land and working with it, so you'll be heading toward a sustanable future where the others might not be..you are heading in the right direciton.


Thank you for saying that. It makes me feel a little more sane since I'm kind of the black sheep in my family/ immediate social circle... no one else seems to care about this stuff! haha.


 
William James
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John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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As intriguing as that two year degree in Ireland sounds, I see some drawbacks for somebody in your position.

It will cost you money to support yourself for those two years. You will incur new debt, and you will have no way to begin paying off your current student loans. Once you get that degree, your financial situation will be worse than it is today, and you will be 'across the pond', far from home.

You have some big decisions to make that will greatly influence your future.
Let your heart and soul help you make the decision...it's too big for the brain to do by itself.
Whichever way you decide, I wish you luck.

 
Kate Nudd
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Evelyn,Hi
Are you aware of what the people at Possibility Alliance ( in Missouri) are doing?
There's an article (online) at Mother Earth News ( I believe April 2011) about them.
I greatly admire their choice of a giving community, free permaculture education, radical simplicity, ect.
All the best.
Kate
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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This is a very rewarding direction you are heading, but you are truly heading out alone.

Would contact the alternate money folks in Oneida, and see if they have some ideas. They are working with lots of ALT communities and may know of some crew that desperately needs your skill set.

That said, without a grandma crone to teach you canning, cooking, sewing, and childcare, you got a tough row to hoe.

We typically tell folks to get a copy of gaia's garden to start. Is very accessible to newcomers, and condenses a lot of other books into one stream of thinking and planning.
and
http://www.permacultureprinciples.com/principles.php

You also need to find some electronics geeks in your life. Is there a Makers group near you? Is nice to make chicken door openers, solar charge controllers, fix baby monitors, etc.
Check Meetup for organic gardeners and permies. Find some basketmakers. Move to British Columbia. Just kidding (sorta)
Go to the library , and start working your way thru the Firefox series. Learn to make twig furniture. fix a running toilet, check for spark in an old pickup truck, measure for masonry block bond.
Skin a chicken, raise a hatch of chicks. catch a vole. move something five times heavier than yourself.

When you go this route, you become very confident in yourself, because you learn by doing. You can save a lot of missteps by learning from others mistakes, but you have to know what you don't know.

Gardening is the zen part, there is still a little chemistry you need to pick up to really make it blossom. A lot of the farmers programs have basic classes on soil chemistry.
You may be the oldest one there, and won't be able to use any of the fertilizing techniques they teach, but basic soil science is , well , basic .
You will also meet folks that will trust you, and want you to work for them. You probably shouldn't. Don't be an employee, if you can be a contractor.

https://punkrockpermaculture.wordpress.com/resources-lots-of-em/
and
http://a-homesteading-neophyte.blogspot.com/2011/06/homestead-after-dark.html

This is supposed to be rewarding, and fun.
Make it so !





 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1931
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Evelyn Bryndas wrote:Thank you craig and brenda for your comments! I am so glad I found this forum.

As far as buying my own land... I imagine it will be SEVERAL years before I can afford something like that. Also.. I feel like it might get lonely? What about a more communal living situation? Are there perma-communes out there? I think I would really like something like that.. but I am not going to lie, it seems like it would be really scary to jump into something like that.




Don't be so sure. It's all about mindset. I was working 6 twelve hour nights a week at a dead end job while my wife earned a degree in nursing and it seemed that we were making ZERO progress. Debt, bills, loans, cars, tv, cell phones... we were caught up in the "rat race" real bad. Then I had a "mental moment" and started making radical decisions about my life. I turned off the tv Stopped listening to the news fools, stopped eating junk, started cooking at least one meal a day from scratch and made serious slashes in my budget. We traded in our 2 phones for a single TrackPhone which we almost never use and began a family.

In the following TWO YEARS we saved enough money to put a serious down payment on a piece of land in Maine and I committed myself to "making it work". Since then every purchase has only one prerequisite... Does it get us closer to our goals? At first it was difficult but as long as you keep educating yourself and moving towards the "ultimate goal" you'll be surprised how fast you can make serious progress. Now we are on track to pay off the mortgage in 15 years, have at least some of our food needs met by raising chickens, wild foraging, hunting, fishing, trading and growing our own food and we've cut our work hours from 100 to 40. I'm able to stay home with my kids while my wife works a relaxed nursing job in a quiet office with regular hours.

I never would have thought that I would be in this situation 5 years ago but here I am and WOW! I could never trade this for anything (except maybe one of geoff lawton's places) EVER. I love it.

It was scary to jump into the deep end like that but once I did, I realized it's only as scary as you make it out to be. And there's a lot of comfort in knowing that yo have at least SOME of your needs met on your own terms. Confidence grows with new experience and fresh stimuli so... JUMP ON IN! The water is fine and there's lots of help here on permies to keep you afloat. Best wishes





 
Sam White
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Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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Hey Evelyn, welcome to the forum. I wish we had something similar to Americorp here in the UK!

I'm in a very similar situation to you - same age, recent graduate (BA in business and enterprise management), in debt, and dedicated to living my life in a conscientious manner - and I'll try and describe my 'plan' for achieving my goal.

Firstly, I've spent 2-3 years casually reading about and researching Permaculture, and will continue to do so, and I'm attempting to temper this theoretical knowledge with practical experience. My parents bought a smallholding late last year and, while struggling to convince them that PC is the way forward, I can still influence their decisions and apply PC thinking. I also get experience growing thing, improving soil, using tools and planning.

Secondly, I decided to do some postgraduate studies for the purposes of improving my knowledge and meeting like-minded individuals - my university is called the Centre for Alternative Technology so you can imagine the type of (great) people I've met - and because getting a MSc was always an ambition for me. My MSc (Architecture: advanced environmental and energy studies) isn't necessarily Permacultural in approach but I learn about building fabrics, renewables, sustainability, ecology/ecosystems, politics and economics, and get some hands on experience. It's the best (and only) thing I've spent £6000 on.

Once I finish my MSc and make a little cash I'm planning to travel around Europe. Rather than doing the touristy thing I'm intending to travel from farm to farm (preferably Permacultural, bio-dynamic or organic) gaining experience, meeting people as I go, and generally having a life-affirming time. I only had this idea recently but it would involve spending 1-4 weeks at various places found on WorkAway.info, HelpX.net and WWOOF.org, starting in Scandinavia and working my way South. While I'm here in the UK I'll continue to gain experience by volunteering around the country, preferably doing things which relate directly to my plan and goals, and working on my parents' land.

Thirdly, similar to Craig, I've decided to adopt a low impact, frugal, self-sufficientish lifestyle. I abhor the idea of working my life away doing something I don't enjoy and I'll be avoiding the 9-5 grind as much as I possibly can. The caveat to this is that I wish to earn money in order to purchase land and, this being the UK, I'll probably need a fair whack of cash. I don't now how I'm going to do this but I'm intending to take the 'one bow many strings' approach involving multiple forms of income. Part of this will involve getting a PDC and possibly the Diploma, but also setting up various ecologically sound/low impact enterprises (only one of which I've settled on) that involve a lot of time outdoors.

Anyway, I've prattled on a fair bit so I should probably stop. Hope this helps (at least a little),

Sam
 
Hanley Kale-Grinder
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WWOOFing can be great if you don't mind trading work for food and an old trailer to sleep in. There are as many different situations as there are hosts so you can look through the directory and see if one speaks to you. Interns generally get food and board as well. Sometime they make a bit of money but you probably have to first get the experience WWOOFing.

My main advice is to

Empty your mind and listen to your heart <3
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Hey. I droped faculty at 22 and just went to study permaculture. Workshops, PDC, gathering ... all this was basically getting to know new people who share common thoughts about life. And this is priceless. Getting to know people. This just opens up your life optons and new ways! And, my life is great now! Go for somehthing new, if you are afraid of it, that's a good sign. Be well, i wish you all the best.
 
Brenda Groth
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Evenlyn, I think maybe you need to make some pro and con lists..and start doing some comparisons between what you would love to do and what you have to do to reach your financial goals and try to line them up to each other.

Don't worry so much about lonliness..esp if you plan to work and save to buy..find an area that would interest you to live in...esp where there might be land and or house/land availalbe in the future that would support your permie needs..and then look for a job that might interest you in that area of the country ..so you'll be there and be getting involved in the workforce community in that area..

when you do find the right job and get it, then you might be surprised at what land you might find nearby, cause you already did your research on the area you chose your job.

many people around here have rented places and eventually bought them..banks might be willing to rent out a forclosed farm on a trial basis, just to have someone in there to maintain it?..maybe a rent to buy situation
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Good job getting college w/o debt. That makes a big difference.

There is a difference between ideas and vision and a business plan. No matter if you are going to be an itinerant laborer, live off of wild meat and live in a shack, or make money in a corporate job to buy large parcels of land, you still need a business plan. Then everything becomes a tool towards your end. I got through graduate school without debt by evaluating the scholarship and teaching assistant opportunities, and so chose ecosystem science over landscape architecture. My goals was to change my status in a natural resource industry without creating a fiscal burden. What I mean is... we all have to contribute and trade in some way, and you might as well be conscious about what that way means in terms of your power and financial relationships. You can spend a lot of your life waiting for revolution or armageddon. Until then you might as well have a business plan.

I figure anything worth accomplishing takes at least 10 years.

I think there is a lot of value in making a commitment to a place. And so evaluating different places might be a good use of time. WWOOFing is a useful way to do that evaluating, as concentrations of organic farming also makes for interesting communities in which to make a commitment or build your business plan. You can go look at and work within other peoples business plans and see how they work. Lots of people are struggling to figure out how to make their values align with their daily lives, and it doesn't always have to look like a farm.

I think that figuring out how to wander the globe a little is good use of the footloose 20's. Developing an international perspective on life can help when you have been submerged in a single culture.

Good luck and Gambatte!





 
Taylor Maxson
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Location: Asheville, NC
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I agree with the chorus about WWOOF-ing. My wife and I are in our upper 30's, and WWOOF-ed as a way to locate us in a new state just a couple of years ago. We found a situation with a great couple who are homesteaders in a beautiful area in the mountains of Western North Carolina and moved our dog and cat with us to their place. I had completed the Permacutlure Design Certificate in 2009 and came out with a fire for practicing permaculture...but with no land and no degree to support making an income from anything close to what I wanted to do. So we just started getting into the things we love. We've taken workshops, and classes, and brought permaculture into our jobs (I'm a teacher) and I'm now at a place where I've started my first professional permaculture design and own a couple of acres where we're building (slowly, over time) a model permaculture farm and homestead. You are very fortunate to be asking questions about permaculture at your age, though anytime is better than never.

It can be very difficult in a society structured like ours to navigate your way into a seemingly nebulous arena like permaculture. The entire set of "self-branding" tools, (resumes and cover letters and traditional job histories) while they have their purpose, aren't easily traded for a professional vocation in permaculture. You've got to study with highly knowledgeable and skilled people, meet lots of kindred spirits, and ultimately create your own entry point. Permaculture is NOT just a land-based art, science, or practice. It is a way of thinking in whole systems that can be applied at many scales and orders, i.e. to institutions, schools, businesses, marriages, architecture, and on and on. It is a way of relating to--and designing for--the world that is more like how nature actually functions than how advanced, highly specialized capitalist societies tend to do things. It is based sound, time-tested guidelines, soundly rooted in physics, ecology, and biology, and can be understood differently at many different scales of resolution. It can be approached conceptually, but to really get it "in the body" you've got to implement the principles and ethics in some really concrete way, whether it's growing things or starting a business. I think a permaculture design certificate is a great way to start. But also, just read a ton. Pick up Gaia's Garden for sure. And Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language." Also, read deeply into this site, because there are a lot of useful threads.

There are endless useful things you can do this year if you want to become a professional permaculture designer. Start taking landscape architecture classes. Learn horticulture. Become a master gardener. Take an AUTOCAD class. Mess around with Google Sketchup. Intern on a permaculture-bases farm (NOT just an organic one...not the same, though some are BOTH). Get fired up. It's a wonderful journey, this.





 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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forgot to tell you to get a copy of Botany in a Day. Eppel

and probably Seed to Seed too.

You are going to need it !
 
Do not set lab on fire. Or this tiny ad:
Permaculture Playing Cards
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards
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