Local Permaculture Organizations Team Up to Provide Scholarships

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly 04/22/2013

By Michael Burns

Since 2005, the founding members of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI, pronounced flip-see) articulated a goal to improve access to its intensive Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course held each summer. Eight years and eleven permaculture design courses later, FLPCI has a growing alumni network that is helping this goal become a reality. Thanks to support of alumni and community members, FLPCI is offering two initiatives to increase the affordability of their popular course this year.

Permaculture is socially and ecologically conscious design method for creating sustainable and productive systems. Permaculture design is a discipline that is popularly applied to gardens, agriculture and homes. Because it is based on ecological patterns and principles it can be used to assess and design a broad array of living and social systems.

The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute is just a part of an expanding local ecosystem of permaculture practitioners. All around the Finger Lakes region homesteaders, farmers, gardeners and community organizers are learning and experimenting with permaculture design and strategies. Permaculture clubs and gardens are thriving at both Cornell and Ithaca College. New Roots High School is offering its students a permaculture intensive this spring. Permaculture authors like Dave Jacke, Peter Bane, and Johnathan Bates have visited the Ithaca area in recent years on book tours, greeted by enthusiastic audiences wishing to deepen their understanding of permaculture. Many area Cornell Cooperative Extension agents are trained in, and using permaculture principles in their work.

Completion of a Permaculture Design Course provides students with an internationally recognized certificate, but more importantly, brings students through an integrative curriculum that explores topics such as managing woodlots, natural building, utilizing renewable energy, water conservation, soil improvement, and of course, growing food.  Experienced instructors teach through presentations, demonstrations, case studies and practical applications of permaculture design principles. Former student Jake Delisle says the course “leaves you with the feeling that you’ve learned something you can actually use” and encourages students to put their new knowledge to work.

Steve Gabriel, a cofounder of FLPCI, said that for a person seeking to design sustainable systems, the 15-day course is a worthwhile investment in their future and current work. He described that the students’ commitment of time and tuition drives the course organizers to create a well-designed curriculum and a comfortable site for the temporary permaculture camp. He also mentions, “Running a PDC is not cheap.”

Board member Becky Bowen explained that “camp infrastructure, support staff and teachers, plus providing living space for a robust learning community of up to 30 people for 15 days adds up quickly.” She is proud that they have been able, despite challenges, to offer the PDC each year to a wide range of students. Recognizing that not all can afford the full tuition, they have developed options for reduced tuition. Becky describes these opportunities as “coming from an abundant yield from years of successful courses and generous alumni and community members.”

Prospective permaculture students with more free time in the summer can consider a work trade for half-price tuition. Hard workers are sought who will prepare the infrastructure for a learning community devoted to permaculture education at a small woodland farm in Cayutaville, NY where the annual summer permaculture course is held. Work traders experience an intense and fun two weeks of community living prior to the Design Course, which begins on July 26th.

For permaculture students that are already involved in community organizing and activism, FLPCI has partnered with the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast (PINE) to offer four partial scholarships to the 2013 Permaculture Design Course.  This fellowship is both need-based and merit-based. It aims to support community organizers, educators, and activists to share their permaculture knowledge with their communities. Each fellowship award is $700, half of the course tuition, and is awarded upon course completion. Women, people of color, and individuals from other historically marginalized groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

For the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, the annual PDC is at the core of its mission: To provide education to connect people to the environment and each other. Join fellow permaculture students this summer and immerse yourself in a learning community that is sure to leave you ready to design a world that works for both the earth and the people living on it.

To learn more about permaculture, to sign up for the PDC, apply for the work-trade or fellowship programs, or to find out more about FLPCI visit http://FingerLakesPermaculture.org.

Michael Burns is Co-founder and Education Director of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute.

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles