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Schuylkill Permaculture Guild

7 February 2009

Today I went with several other Swarthmore students to a meeting of theSchuylkill Permaculture Guild at the Pottstown Coffee Shop.

Besides very good coffee, the discussion was fascinating.

Our seed topic was talking about “What is Permaculture“? Answers included describing it as “ecological living”, a reintegration of humans and nature, as a way of designing our lives and the landscapes we living in to be in harmony with the earth, a way of acknowledging our interconnectedness to nature – “we feed the Earth and the Earth feeds us”.

I chimed in an economic view: Permaculture is a way to pay the full cost of what you grow up front while producing the maximum sustainable output from the land.

The conversation ranged from discussion of Sheet Mulching and the newly popular Biochar initiative, to philosophical discussions about the necessity of being connected with where our food comes from, to dismay at the lack of environmental awareness.

But the tone was overall cheerful and optimistic; these were people who were intelligent and eager to learn and teach and pool resources. I have a page full of recommendations for books, websites, and Pennsylvanian organizations to check out.

Mark, a land use engineer who also owns an herb farm admitted that he was a permaculture advocate because he was cheap and lazy. He also recommended that to be effective, you need to start small, with actions that give assured results, or you can easily become overwhelmed or disheartened.

For those of us interested in urban and land use planning, he warned us that many building and zoning codes are outdated. He urged us to research how those codes came to be and how they work together so we could find ways around them or to overturn them.

When I asked him advice on what to grow in my dark and sometime damp basement apartment, he suggested mushrooms.

Overall, the meeting was exciting, and I hope to stay in contact with them as spring planting draws near.


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