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.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.