Garden of knowledge: Permaculture on campus

From an institution of higher learning, you expect a certain amount of enlightened thinking inside the classroom.  But what about outside the halls and dorms?  Wide swaths of manicured lawns are nearly ubiquitous across the nation, standing as somewhat unimaginative and wasteful examples of collegiate landscaping.  What if these carpets of monotonous green could be transformed into productive, informative, and efficient spaces?

Students at the UMass Amherst have been working to turn campus lawns into no-dig permaculture gardens for over a year.  Now, the school is set to host a Permaculture Your Campus Conference in June.  Featuring keynote speaker, Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, the gathering will introduce cultivation practices and methods of how to begin initiatives in universities across the country.

Permaculture practices take into account the region, size, and biological nuances of the space in which the gardens are located.  While layouts for each site would depend on environmental context, many share common features.  Adhering to principles that emphasize care for the earth and community ethics, permaculture plots incorporate food forests, animal husbandry, rainwater harvesting, composting, biodynamic agriculture, cultivation of heirloom species, habitat restoration, and waste management.   Such a complex combination of elements lends itself to a great deal of planning and consideration.  Universities are the perfect places for these living representations of sustainability.  Acting as progressive models of how we produce food and community, permaculture aligns itself well with the schools we count on for dynamic, enlightened thought.

Looking for permaculture resources and workshops on the Central Coast?  Take a course with Earth Flow Design Works based in San Luis Obispo, or visit the Santa Barbara Permaculture Network’s site to stay up to date with happenings in the world of sustainable agriculture!

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