The permaculture community in Florida converged in Lake Wales and celebrated their third year of gathering on March 27-29, 2015 at H.E.A.R.T. Institute (Hunger Education and Resource Training). H.E.A.R.T. staff and students welcomed a diverse group of permies one hundred strong! Students and teachers from three permaculture design courses attended the convergence. Loretta Buckner’s class traveled from the Tampa Bay area and Marcus Thompson’s class joined us from Miami. A week prior, Mario Yanez hosted an Edible Forest Garden Design intensive with Eric Toensmeier at Big Small Farm and they also attended the convergence as a group. There were many familiar faces, new people to meet, young families and even pets camping together in the ancient Florida scrub of the Lake Wales Ridge.
The convergence began with rain, just like last year! Folks started arriving on Friday afternoon to set up camp in between downpours and gusty winds. We started the night off with a potluck dinner and some mingling! Saturday morning we got to work. The schedule for the weekend was co-created using Open Space Technology and was skillfully facilitated by Judith Gulko. After an introduction to the process, participants posted their topics of interest around the theme Creating Resilient Culture on the community bulletin board. Then after the village marketplace was complete, we created the agenda with a variety of discussions, workshops and demos that were held at different locations around the site.
The property at H.E.A.R.T. lends itself to a rich learning experience with preserved native habitat, magnificent gardens and thoughtfully designed agricultural systems. It was a great place to explore the variety of topics that were proposed and led during the weekend like foraging, lessons on soil diversity, bamboo planting, composting toilet designs, rocket stove demos and more. Judith, Loretta and I held a discussion on who the future organizers of the Florida Permaculture Convergence (FPC) would be and how we would make that transition smoothly in support of a new team. There were many who eagerly stepped forward to take it on. The hope of our current organizing team is that under new leadership, the FPC will continue as an annual or biennial event. We also hope that more localized, bioregional gatherings become commonplace. Its important to note that there already are many opportunities throughout our state to connect and share our work as permaculturists, so many in fact, that sometimes its hard to choose! There was also an open space talk led by Mario Yanez and Blake Santifer Robbins about the North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC), where it might be held in the future and how it might join forces with the FPC. It was suggested that the NAPC could possibly be held in Florida, which was an exciting prospect.
Saturday night, there were festivities around the fire and the weather was perfect. On Sunday we had regional round ups, getting to know people and permaculture projects close to home. Each breakout group gave a summary of the goings-on in their area during the large group harvest session. It was amazing to see how much had taken place, how many people had stepped forward and taken leadership in their communities. It led me to imagine a very rich and diverse social landscape taking form. On Sunday afternoon we traded plants and seeds with one another. As usual there was plenty to choose from and learn about.
There were many energetic, kind folks who volunteered their time in exchange for attending the convergence who played a large part in making the event so special. Their willingness to work together was inspiring and productive. I want to thank everyone who lent a hand even if they weren’t asked to. I want to thank everyone at H.E.A.R.T., Director Phil Murphy for his warm welcome, Heather Webb for coordinating all that she did and for working so closely with me over the past year. A huge thank you also goes out to Josh and Emily Jamison for such excellent food and for such well designed compost toilets!
I’d like to ask that all who were in attendance share their pictures, notes and experiences via social media or better yet at a local get together. Everyone who has attended the FPC in previous years is part of the Permaculture Florida email list on riseup.net It’s a member’s only list so either send a request to join at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re already a member, send an email to the to email@example.com. There is a Permaculture Florida Facebook group and the Convergence Facebook page to post on too. In the spirit of continuing the conversations and relationships that were nurtured at the convergence, please take a moment to share your notes, some pictures or just send a friendly hello!
As I take a step back from the FPC organizing team this year, I want to acknowledge everyone who has helped organize the event in the past (you know who you are), all who contributed their knowledge and energy to past convergences and most recently this spring! Thank you. I want to remind each of you who come across my words, that in each of us exists such brilliance, compassion, the ability to take action. There is immense possibility in the merging of our skills and passion. Permaculture Design, its ethics, principles and methods are what we all have in common. What we choose to say and do, as a collective is beyond powerful. You all give me hope!