by Erin Silva
As a student at UMass Amherst, I understand the pain of picking and enrolling in classes for the next semester. When picking, there is such a wide selection to choose from: even if you think a class sounds interesting, it may not be open to you because of capacity limits or restrictions in place that vary by major. As I sat and stared at my screen for hours last spring trying to pick classes for this semester, my sister who graduated from UMass Amherst tried to brainstorm ideas with me for what classes I could be interested in. She named off a couple of history classes, and went on to mention a class called “Permaculture Gardening”. Growing up in my family, I always gardened with my mom and always loved taking care of plants; it had been a fond memory between all of us. My sister took the permaculture class during her time at UMass, and absolutely loved it. That love of gardening rubbed off on me, to the point where I even keep plants of my own in my dorm! As my sister kept talking about her experience in the permaculture gardening class, I knew I had to take this class for this semester. I logged on to Spire as fast I could and quickly enrolled for permaculture gardening.
As this semester comes to an end, I am extremely grateful for being able to take this class because it has broadened my perspective on how to live more sustainably in society today. Permaculture was every Tuesday and Thursday morning and I looked forward getting out of bed to get ready for class; even if it was a rainy cold fall day. Permaculture has taught me lessons that I will carry with me for years to come but it was also a time where I was able to relax and to not think about the stress for the upcoming weeks. Every class started out with meditation and it was relaxing to spend a hour and a half gardening and listening to music to start off my day. This decompression ties in directly with sustainability, and more efficient methods in my everyday chores. I’ve learned how to compost, to cook with locally-grown fruits and vegetables, to make home remedies, and to be more weary with wasting food.
I am going to miss having this class every week and I recommend anyone who is considering taking this class to enroll; there’s nothing more rewarding than watching the plants you’ve cared for grow and flourish, and feel some of that growth deep within yourself, too.
By Eli Raczynski
I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world... shade, medicine, berries, roots; there would be no end to it... but this generosity is beyond my realm, as I am a mere heterotroph, a feeder on the carbon transmuted by others. In order to live, I must consume.
These words, written by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, speak to a grief I’ve felt all my life. I have always been troubled by my own need to constantly consume. Thankfully, though, through the generous teachings of those wiser than myself, I have since come to realize that consumption can be a source of joy and reciprocity, if practiced respectfully and consensually.
The way I have most often been taught to take other beings into my body is based on colonizer values – those of extraction – endless need and greed. Though I can hold complicated compassion for myself and the ancestors who have made my existence possible, I cannot make excuses for our exploitive ways of being. None of us can continue to perpetuate non-consensual behaviors and hope to ever live in a just, thriving world.
The quote above is from a chapter entitled, “The Honorable Harvest”. It can be read as a kind of beginner’s guide to building healthy, reciprocal relationships. Based on the traditional ecological knowledge present in the stories and teachings of her Potawatomi elders and ancestors, Kimmerer offers a list of practices to uphold, “whether we are digging wild leeks or going to the mall”.
The first and most important part of the process is also that which is the least intuitive for those indoctrinated into objectifying the natural world – asking for permission. She explains how the simple practice of obtaining consent, even from beings that cannot speak with vocal cords, “shows respect for [their] personhood.” It is also, however, “an assessment of the well-being of the population.” As a scientist, she can use analytical observation to deduce whether the area is home to enough healthy plants to sustain harvests indefinitely. Simultaneously, as a spiritual person, she can use intuition to listen for the, “open-handed radiance that says take me, or ... a tight-lipped recalcitrance that makes [her] put [her] trowel away.” Regardless, she is slowing down enough to notice the nuanced messages present in her surroundings.
Since the worldview that birthed this practice is shared in various iterations by Indigenous cultures globally, Kimmerer notes that, “the guidelines for the Honorable Harvest are not written down, or even consistently spoken of as a whole – they are reinforced in small acts of daily life.” Regardless, she seeks to provide a list for those of us most comfortable learning from the written word. Here is the list she provides (non-italicized comments are my own):
Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last (since the first might be the last!).
Take only what you need.
Take only what is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others (human and more-than-human!).
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. (Efficiency isn’t everything!)
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken (even if you make a mistake and cannot consume what you’ve harvested, always compost organic material so death can nourish life!).
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
Another book I’ve had the honor of reading that speaks to similar themes is Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask by Mary Siisip Geniusz. It is brimming with wisdom that sits at the nexus of practicality and spirituality. I will not attempt to sum up this book, it is too deep and varied for me to do justice to in a few paragraphs. Instead, I will encourage you to read it yourself and share just one example it offers of how to cultivate reciprocity in dire circumstances. It is easy to think that harvesting honorably can only happen when one is blessed with a luxurious amount of time and energy. However, the true wisdom of these principals reveals itself when practiced even in trying times.
Once when the author’s teacher, Keewaydinoquay, was spending the winter alone in the middle of Lake Michigan, she broke her leg. She ended up having to harvest all the boneset growing on the island to help her heal before she could make it to hospital for a cast. After this, however, she sowed boneset seeds on the island for the rest of her life. “In her need she took the boneset, but she well repaid her debt.” This story shows how reciprocity is a long-term practice that increases plant populations in the end, even when they must be temporarily over-harvested during emergencies.
I want to stress that all actions can be done with the Honorable Harvest as a guide. For example, Geniusz begins her book by offering respectful thanks to the sources of the wisdom she shares. The preface states, “the knowledge that has been recorded in these pages has come to us through countless generations of the Gete-anishinaabeg, the Old Ones, our ancestors, and the Aadizookaanag, the spirits who hold our teachings, including those of the plants, trees, and animals who brought this knowledge to our ancestors. We first and foremost would like to say Miigwech, thank you, to all of them.”
In our daily lives, we can strive to reach this level of respect and integrity with each breath. If we see all things around us as gifts, instead of “resources” to be exploited, we can learn to receive each moment with real gratitude. This could look like anything from taking stock of what we already have in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards before grocery shopping or eating out, to resisting a chance to get drunk or high or impulse buy something on the internet. It can even look like simply catching ourselves before speaking unkind or untruthful words to loved ones. When we take the time to ask ourselves tough questions about what we really need, what we really want, and where those wants and needs are coming from, healthier relationships can begin to grow. Consent is not an easy concept to navigate in practice, but it is necessary to engage with if we ever hope to break harmful cycles of behavior.
I know, as a descendant of colonizers, even my simple presence on the land I call home did not occur consensually. Because of this, I believe non-native people (particularly white folks such as myself) need to think as deeply as possible about what it means to live in right relationship with the land and our fellow community members. This begins with acknowledging history, as well as present realities. Acknowledgement, however, is not enough. We must first listen to and then take action to support our neighbors who belong to Indigenous nations. They face countless forms of discrimination and oppression under ongoing colonization and yet still thrive while sovereignly stewarding land and waterways all across turtle island and the globe.
We need to remember this especially if we are Permaculture practitioners. As UMass alum, Shannon Mo, wrote in a previous blog post about the land on which UMass is built, “it is... important to acknowledge that Permaculture itself is synthesized Indigenous knowledge. The creators of Permaculture simply wrote down what Indigenous cultures around the world have been doing for thousands of years.”
In their post, Mo shares a variety of helpful links and resources for learning more about Indigenous communities past and present. I encourage you to check it out, and afterwards to look into opportunities to take action shared on the website of the local Ohketeau Cultural Center. If you are reading this from another location, you can search for the nations of the land where you live via this site: native-land.ca and research ways to get involved from there.
The unsettling and decolonization the Earth badly needs will not happen overnight. It took generations create the global systems of oppression that churn out suffering on a daily basis. Intergenerational healing takes intergenerational action. The only way this ideal can become reality is for each one of us to commit to an ongoing practice of respect, reciprocity, and consent, within and without.
Eli Raczynski (class of ’21) is currently collaborating with UMass Permaculture Initiative as part of a year-long independent study focused on plant medicine, wild and cultivated. They are pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration entitled Learning from the Land.
By Eli Raczynski
It is no secret that Scorpio season (October 22nd – November 21st) is a time for contemplating the ever-present cycle of death and rebirth. This, I can only assume, is why many of the holidays celebrated this time of year (Halloween, el Día de los Muertos, Samhain, All Saints’ Day, etc.), regardless of the cultures where they originate, focus on the same themes. So, if you find yourself wanting to dig deep into the metaphors this season has to offer, I am pleased to present a guide for foraging two very common plants of the land in and around UMass: Burdock and Yellow Dock.
The first and most important part of any endeavor involving plants is to cultivate a sense of the right timing. As the air chills and plants begin to change into their dormant forms, we look to their roots and seeds not only for the promise of new life come spring, but also for the unique nourishment they offer us right now. If we want to find the most ideal time within this season to partake of these gifts, we can consult the moon.
This week (November 7th – 14th), the moon is waning and will eventually disappear completely – what's called a new moon. On the 14th, since the sun is in the sign of Scorpio, so too will be the moon. See, the light that shines at night is merely the sun reflecting on the moon’s surface, so when the moon is new, it is sitting right on top of the sun.
Traditionally, in most cultures the world over, people have understood that it is smarter to work with nature than against it. This, by no coincidence, is also a guiding principle of permaculture design. Not everyone, however, considers the moon when they first think of nature, even if they know it creates ocean tides. My question for the doubtful: why should our bodies, the bodies of plants or even the soil - all majority water - be impacted any less by the moon than the vast seas?
Though it is possible to spend many lifetimes studying the intricacies of how celestial bodies effect life on Earth, all anyone really needs to begin working with the moon is the power of careful observation. Any study of cycles inherently takes time and is relative to the location where you find yourself. Therefore, it is best to learn slowly, from many sources, over the course of your entire life. So, if all these ideas are new to you, congratulations, you’ll never know boredom again!
I was first introduced to the practice of planting, harvesting, and tending by the moon when presented with a biodynamic calendar last year. Biodynamics is a comprehensive agricultural method / lifestyle based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Today, I only wish to share one simple biodynamic practice as it relates to harvesting roots: digging them up in the early morning darkness of a day when the moon is waning. See, light and heat from the sun and moon draw a plant’s nutrient-dense fluids (the source of their medicinal properties) upwards and into their stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds. Therefore, when it is coldest and darkest, roots are most robust. So, if you find yourself brave and awake enough some spooky morning this week to venture out with a headlamp and shovel, read on for detailed root harvesting (and subsequent seed scattering) instructions!
Note: I took the pictures below in the afternoon, on a day when the moon was waxing – not ideal. This, however, just goes to show that sometimes (especially when you’re in school and forced to work on the schedule of “the man” instead of the moon), you just got to do things when you have the time. Don’t let the sun, moon, stars, or anyone stop you from getting outside whenever you’re free! No practice is perfect, that’s why it’s called practice.
Step 1: Find the Right Plants
Burdock is easy to identify by its uniquely sticky seeds. These little burrs cling to anything soft, so if you find them on your shoelaces and socks – or in my case, dog leash – you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Once you’ve made a positive identification based on these little guys, look around for a plant with the same leaves and overall shape, but no seed stock.
Being a biennial, Burdock only makes flowers and seeds in its second year of growth. By that time, the root is no longer good to eat or use for medicine, so you’ll want to leave it in the ground. If you really want to make sure you know what you're looking for, burn this image of a Burdock leaf into your brain:
Yellow Dock is another plant easily identifiable by its seeds. Unlike Burdock, Yellow Dock is a perennial. So, if you find a seed stock, you can dig up its root without worry.
Yellow Dock also goes by the name curly dock and for good reason – its leaves curl inwards around their edges.
Here is a closer look at the curliest leaf this particular plant had to offer. In this image you might also be able to see that the leaf is speckled – just another detail to spot for verification in the field.
Step 2: Ask
Before taking any living being from its home, it’s best to ask permission. I’ll be exploring the logic, morals, and history of this practice in my next post, so stay tuned if you’re interested. For now, though, just try to remember when you’re interacting with the more-than-human world that the creatures you are harvesting deserve respect, then ask yourself how your actions can reflect this knowledge. Even a simple pause, breath, and “thank you” spoken inside your head is better than nothing. See, if you slow your process down, you’ll be much less likely to damage the overall population of the individual plant you’re harvesting. Taking the time to make sure you’ve selected individuals in areas where their kind grows in abundance guarantees that the present supply of food and medicine will be readily available whenever you, or anyone else, need it in the future.
Step 3: Dig
To dig roots, all you really need is a normal shovel, some strength, and a desire to be covered in dirt. But if you find yourself with access to specialized tools like the ones pictured below, give them a try. They’ll make it easier to dig deep around the taproot without risking breakage.
Begin by loosening the earth around a single plant, then carefully excavate until you’re deep enough to pull the long root up in full. If you don’t get it all, though, don’t worry! This gives the plant a chance to regenerate, which is good in a different way
\If you’re successful, the Burdock should look something like this:
And the Yellow Dock like this:
Step 4: Scatter Seeds
Another way to ensure a sustainable harvest is to scatter the seeds of the plant you’ve just dug up. When it comes to Burdock, since its seeds are sticky, you’ll be doing this without thought. When it comes to the Yellow Dock, however, seed scattering takes a conscious choice - particularly because the seeds themselves can be made into very tasty treats! After you’ve given the land its fair share of the seed bounty, run the rest through a coffee grinder or smash them with a mortar and pestle. The processed seeds can then be used in any recipe that calls for gluten free flour. To make a medicinal coffee-adjacent beverage, toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes before grinding, then brew a cup any way you’d usually make coffee. Drink it straight or add sweetener and enjoy! My favorite addition is maple syrup, yummmm…
Step 5: Process your Roots
The final step in any harvest that’s not immediately edible is to preserve it. If you don’t have the ability to wash your roots right away, remove the foliage from their tops and place them in a brown paper bag to keep them fresh. When you have the means, wash your roots with water and a scrub brush. Once they’re clean, there are nearly infinite options for consumption – a quick internet search will present you with recipes galore, as well as resources presenting facts including the medicinal properties of each root. The most immediate way to enjoy Burdock is to eat it for breakfast. Broil it in the oven like any other root vegetable or add to soups or stir-fries (don’t try this with Yellow Dock, though, its root is very bitter). Any way you take them in, both will greatly support your liver’s ability to flush toxins from your body among many other benefits.
We've all felt that these past six months have been confusing, challenging, disorienting, and even demoralizing at times. Many of us feel stuck. There's a sense that we're all living through Groundhog Day.
But even through a pandemic the garden must grow on. And thank goodness it does, for there is no better reminder of continuous change, growth, and decay than the daily waxing and waning of the garden and all of its intertwined inhabitants.
It is, then, no coincidence that these past six months have given rise to a revival of home gardening and all sorts of skills that are usually left to the homesteader. Who hasn't baked of loaf of sourdough bread or slipped some seed into the fertile earth these past six months (or at least seen their friends do it on Instagram)?
Just as in times of war or major depressions, we perpetually turn towards the comfort of the garden and hearth when life feels out of alignment. Not only are we nourished by the physical gifts that spring forth from the ground, we're also able to forget the noise of the wider world when in the garden. We are able to delve deeply into something as simple as pulling lamb's quarters, flipping compost, bundling herbs for winter. Gardening moves us away from generalities, tribal associations, and abstractions; rather, we focus on the specifics of soil, water, plant, animal. Our senses fill with the allure of color, scent, and sound. We spend time watching a goldfinch feast on Thistle seeds. All of a sudden we find that we feel no longer "socially distant" but rather "in touch" with our surroundings.
It is no wonder, then, that the therapeutic benefits of gardening are becoming increasingly well-known and utilized in clinical practices. In her book, The Well-Gardened Mind, the author Sue Stuart-Smith writes that "when we plant a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility." Gardening is a constant reenactment of life's greatest miracles. And it is also a reminder of our power to create and steward, to feed and nourish ourselves and our community. No surprise, then, that as our political and social worlds spiral into upheaval and uncertainty that we should return to the seed, the soil, and the soul of creation.
For those looking for a moment to forget the noisy world and remember the immutable change of nature, we invite you to step into your garden, or ours. Plant a seed. Give it space, water, nourishment. No doubt you too will find yourself nurtured.
The UMass Permaculture Initiative (UMPI) is looking for a new part-time Student Garden Coordinator! You can find details about the position here.
The Student Garden Coordinator works under the Sustainability Coordinator of Campus Gardens to support the planning and upkeep of the UMass Permaculture gardens and education of garden visitors. For this role, the Student Garden Coordinator will work part-time for two semesters and the summer. This position works with all those who come through the garden, including volunteers, tour groups, and the UMass Permaculture Garden Crew. We consider the Student Garden Coordinator role an apprenticeship, to be fully immersed in all elements of the UMass Permaculture program.
This is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to cultivate an eco-conscious community on campus. An ideal candidate would be someone with some practical experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture design along with the ability to skillfully work with diverse groups of people in an educational setting.
To apply, please fill out this form. For more information please contact Dan Bensonoff at info@umasspermaculture.
Angele Noel was a Permaculture Gardening practicum student during Fall 2019. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Political Science.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning when I first encountered the UMass Permaculture garden by Franklin DC. A beautiful garden oasis amid the cement and concrete-filled campus. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to get involved in one way or another. Looking back, I am so glad I made that decision. Amid the hustle and bustle of college, it was refreshing to take time to reconnect with my thoughts and nature. Dan, our professor, would start every morning off with a breathing exercise where we took time to reflect and center ourselves.
Although learning to forage, ferment, and harvest were all great and practical lessons that I will one day utilize, the most important lesson that I learned from the permaculture practicum, by far, was the importance of slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life. This is a simple truth that I seldom realize. I am a self-proclaimed control freak. I’ve had my ten-year plan mapped out since I was twelve, and I am always thinking ten steps in advance. Taking the time to slow down and enjoy the present moment was a foreign concept to me, but nonetheless a concept I needed to learn.
Taking the time to slow down, feeling the damp soil between my fingers, and inhaling the fresh scent of parsley and calendula became a great source of joy. Prior to taking this practicum, I always viewed gardening and permaculture with a pragmatic approach. Neglecting to acknowledge the ways the act of gardening affects us as human beings. Through the act of cultivating the earth, a process of self-cultivation occurred. This caused a shift in my perspective where rather than just focusing on what I could receive from the earth, I also started to ask myself what I could give. The core permaculture principles of earth care, people care, and fair share permeated the other aspects of my life.
The core permaculture principles form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. The first ethic centers around caring for the earth includes all living and nonliving things, such as animals and plants, as well as land, water, and air.
Because all living and non-living systems are interconnected and interdependent, when one is affected, all are affected. The second principle focuses on caring for ourselves and others.
All living things are dependent on one another, including people. Human beings by their very nature are communal and social animals. Cooperation is essential for effective change to come to fruition. The last principle, fair share, is also described as the ethical principle of “Return of surplus to Earth and people”. This principle encompasses the notion that, rather than hoarding excess, it is important to share the bounty with those around us. For example, established fruit trees are likely to produce more than one person can eat, and there are limits to how much fruit and individual can use. There are many ways that we benefit from giving a fair share of the bounty to others in our respective communities.
Through engaging in this course, I have been able to cultivate a deeper connection and appreciation for both the natural world and the communities I am a part of.
Catherine Urbano is a senior studying Biology at UMass Amherst. She was enrolled in the Fall 2019 Permaculture Gardening practicum (STOCKSCH 198P)
I was one of the students in the Permaculture practicum course offered at UMass Amherst this past semester. When I first signed up for the class, I didn’t really know what permaculture was. In my mind, I thought it was gardening. Which to some extent, it is. However, permaculture has certain ethics and principles that make it more than just your typical gardening. Permaculture can be defined and interpreted in different ways, but it is essentially regenerative agriculture based on whole systems thinking and maximizing the use of features in the natural ecosystem.
This course opened my eyes and reminded me how important it is to connect with the world we live in. It also taught me about designing, creating, maintaining, and improving a garden using pretty much just the nature around us. We spent time harvesting vegetables, processing herbs, planting seeds, weeding, relocating plants, and more. Getting my hands dirty and thinking about how all the plants interact with one another gave me a better understanding of why permaculture is so important. As humans, I feel like it is easy for us to remove ourselves from our natural environment. As more time goes on, it seems like most of us have lost our connection to the earth and everything it provides us. It is so easy to go to the store and get any product we could ever imagine. We turn on our sink and clean water comes rushing out. We go to grocery stores and buy food that grows nowhere near us and/or isn’t in season. But do we know where this food came from? Do we know how it was grown? Permaculture allows us to connect with the environment and the food we eat. I think people would have a greater appreciation for their food if they planted it, watered it, watched it grow, harvested it, and eventually eat it. So much hard work goes into producing food, both for the human and the plant. There are few things that are more satisfying that eating a fresh pepper or tomato that you helped grow. If you are looking to learn some helpful gardening tips and respark your connection with nature, I highly recommend it!
Shannon Mo (class of 2019) is currently a student in the Permaculture practicum course. They are an undergraduate student studying Sustainable Food and Farming, interested in how garden-based education can spark larger social change.
This post is my attempt to better understand the history of the land that I have been able to learn and garden on. I would like to acknowledge the Nonotuck people whose land was stolen and acknowledge our privilege in cultivating it.
The Nonotuck people are named for the Algonkian term “Noah-tuk” meaning “middle of the river.” They lived on the geographical center of the Connecticut River, planted corn on the banks, and managed the land through ritual burnings. This was in addition to the seasonal hunting, fishing, and gathering that made up a resilient, diverse diet.
In the 1640s, a trader named William Pynchon, with support from the Court of Massachusetts, began to cultivate and settle on Nonotuck land. Documents like Indian deeds falsely indicated a legal sale of the land in order to justify the English colonization of these ancestral homelands. However, these treaties reserved the right for Nonotuck people to continue hunting, fishing, agriculture, etc. in order to preserve their cultural right to the land. Another form of land theft employed by the English was the practice of taking land as debt repayment. This primarily happened in the 1660s when Native fur-traders found themselves unable to pay back their debts after the beavers were hunted to near extinction.
During King Philip’s War, many Connecticut River natives joined in the attacks on English townships. This rebellion was brought to an end after the English massacred 400 Native refugees at Peskeompskut, now known as Turner’s Falls. After this, tribes were invited to live in the upstate New York village Schaghticoke and often traveled back and forth between there, the Pioneer Valley, and Canada. White people continued to colonize the banks of the Connecticut River forcing Native communities off their lands. Some Native people chose to stay in towns, such as Sally Maminash who died in January of 1853 and is buried at the Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton. Her tombstone falsely names her the last of the Indians here, a popular English trend at the time and a precursor to historical and modern claims of Native American extinction.
Ten years after Maminash’s death Governor John A. Andrew signed the charter for the beginnings of what is now the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Almost 150 years later and the Franklin Permaculture Garden is implemented on campus in 2010.
I was hoping to go beyond acknowledging indigenous history, and give suggestions on actions we can take to support indigenous people in America. Here are some resources that I have found useful:
Remember the Native people of New England did not disappear! Native people are still here, respect their existence.
It is also important to acknowledge that Permaculture itself is synthesized indigenous knowledge. The creators of Permaculture simply wrote down what indigenous cultures around the world have been doing for thousands of years. For example, in our garden, we plant the Three Sisters polyculture, a technique where corn, beans, and squash are planted together. The corn stalk serves as a trellis for the beans, who provide Nitrogen for the corn, and they both provide shade for the squash. The squash provides ground cover and protection with its spiny leaves and stems. This practice is a traditional Cherokee agricultural method based on the story of the Three Sisters. Check out this link for a few variations on the legend!
To uphold Permaculture’s principle of Fair Share it is important that we continue to use our privileges to make sure that all marginalized communities are uplifted and respected. “Many hands make light work,” let’s all work together to create equity!
Erik Vegeto is currently a member of the Permaculture Initiative Practicum and garden crew. He is a student of Plant, Soil and Insect Science at Umass Amherst. His passion for restorative agriculture and environmental stewardship drives him forward into new frontiers of thought. Our appreciation goes out to Erik for allowing us to publish this post.
What is permaculture? Permaculture is a vision for creating a healthy humanity. But it is not just about creating a healthy humanity, it is about creating a humanity that is a blessing for the universe. Our shared destiny involves overcoming the residual effects of historical oppressions, rousing ourselves from the sleep of myriad kinds of ignorance, and remembering the instructions which lay dormant within our instincts. These instructions guide us to be happy people, loving neighbors, and dutiful contributors to the global ecosystem. Permaculture believes that we are fundamentally worthy creatures, naturally capable of symbiotically relating to all beings. It is the belief, finally, that the Earth is a kind of cradle for the birth of a grand jubilee of life, of whose ultimate destiny is mysterious and cosmically important.
In this reimagining of civilization, we hear the voices of our ancestors, whose primary concern was to ensure that whatever it was about human life that made it so beautiful, so rich and so good - that that survived. Our imagination about what’s possible seems to reach up to the stars. This ancient wisdom ensures we have no reason to be afraid: everything is in process like the development of an embryo or the germination of a seed; everything has a purpose, and everything is holy. There is no sting in death, only rebirth into newer forms and broader horizons. Though we have become estranged from nature, we are still invited back into the community of life, to prove our worth as creatures--as long as we are brave enough to venture into the mysteries of the wilderness unprotected by a sense of anthropocentrism.
At the heart of permaculture is a mystery: what does it mean to be human? It seems our answer to that question has defined much in history. If our answer to that question is wrapped up in behavior that is harmful towards ourselves and others, as is the case when we measure human worth by our ability to dominate and exploit, then we have avoided a real answer to that question. Everyone shivers at the thought of death, at the existential question of--what is it all for? But if one sits with the fear of nothingness, and is able, though great courage, to look beyond it, they will find a definitive answer. Love is what makes all things in the universe meaningful. That is the basis for all that we do in the world. Permaculture, then, is the practical application of the presence of love in all of our relationships, efforts, and moments of wonder. With this in mind, it should be remembered always that taking caring of ourselves, each other, our neighborhood, our community, town, country and planet, is a behavior that has a cosmic basis and ultimate importance, because it all finds a place within the story of love.
UMass Dining's Sustainability department is now hiring a Student Auxiliary Sustainability Coordinator. The Student Auxiliary Sustainability Coordinator supports projects currently in progress and works to promote new programs around purchasing local foods, reducing waste, engaging the campus community, etc. The majority of this role will be focused on supporting the community engagement and marketing objectives for the UMass Healthy and Sustainable Food System Initiative (UMHSFS).
Start date is as early as March 5th, 10 - 15 hours per week at a rate of $13.00 per hour.
Please see job description and application attached.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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