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Cultivating Sustainability: Reflections on Antioch College’s July 2023 Permaculture Design Certificate Course,

Community-Based Learning on the Antioch College Farm: Permaculture Design Certification

Antioch College is proud to have implemented a vibrant and successful Permaculture Design Certificate Course in collaboration with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute (CPI) in July 2023. Held on the Antioch college Farm, the program offered students and community members a unique opportunity to aquire advanced knowledge and skiils in sustainable farming practices and community-centered agriculture over the course of three intensive weekends.
This transformative course was intended to provide a foundational understanding of permaculture principles that animate current thinking on sustainable living. From the intricacies of soil health to the magic of mushroom cultivation, participants delved into the interconnected web of natural farming systems. This training course emerges from the hard work of Bruce Linebaugh and Dan Dynan of the Antioch Farm in collaboration with Eric Miller and Luisa Bieri who are spearheading Community-Based Learning at the College. The trainings were led by Susan VonderHaar, Director of the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute. Together this group assembled twenty-three community members and six Antioch College students who were eager to go deep in the study of ecologically sound farming practices, thoughtful permaculture design, and the creation of harmonious systems for community agriculture. The outcome was a model for hands-on engagement and collaborative learning. Program participants commented on the fine balance between the sharing of technical information and hands-on engagement with the ideas. Working in small groups, participants produced plans for various kinds of educational gardens, campus production farms, family homesteads, and community agriculture facilities. The themes were carefully chosen to create a holistic perspective on permaculture design. These included: 1. Soil Health: Participants learned how to rejuvenate soil through regenerative practices, ensuring the foundation for healthy plant growth and ecosystem vitality. 2. Planting for Succession: The art of planning and planting crops to ensure a continuous yield throughout the seasons, promoting self-sufficiency and resource optimization. 3. Seed Sovereignty: The significance of preserving indigenous and heirloom seeds, as well as practical approaches to seed-saving to promote local biodiversity and resilience. 4. Mushroom Cultivation: Understanding the role of fungi in ecosystem balance and how to cultivate mushrooms to build nutritious food systems. 5. Sustainable Building and Appropriate Technology: Exploring eco-friendly construction methods and technology that align with nature’s patterns highlighted the importance of resource-conscious design. 6. Food Forests: Participants discovered the beauty of creating self-sustaining edible landscapes, blending with natural forests for a continuous supply of diverse foods. The course’s success was attributed to its balanced approach between theoretical knowledge sharing and hands-on engagement. With more than thirty people involved, the learning atmosphere was rich with diverse perspectives. Small group activities allowed participants to apply their new skills, fostering creativity and collaboration. Their practical application of permaculture principles empowered participants to envision and contribute to a more sustainable future. Feedback from program participants echoed the sentiment that the course struck a very good balance between theory and practice. The hands-on experiences, coupled with the guidance of expert instructors, made complex concepts accessible and applicable. Many participants expressed a newfound confidence in applying permaculture principles to their own lives, gardens, and communities. As the summer of 2023 draws to a close, the Permaculture Design Certificate course conducted in collaboration with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute and Antioch College will be remembered as one of the highlights. With a diverse range of topics, hands-on engagement, and a focus on community-driven sustainable design, this intensive training has sown the seeds of a more resilient and harmonious future. The course not only equipped individuals with the tools to cultivate their own sustainable futures but also fostered a sense of Antioch College as a center for new thinking on agrarian design.
Written by

Richard Kraince is an Associate Professor of Cooperative & International Education at Antioch College. Teaching in Antioch's historic Co-op Program, he concentrates on the role of higher education in social change as a scholar, an educator, and an international affairs specialist focusing on Southeast Asia. A two-time Fulbright recipient, he conducts research on relationships among religious movements, environmental conservation campaigns, and progressive higher education networks internationally. Richard has previously held posts as Research Professor of Southeast Asian Societies and Academic Coordinator of the Center for Asian & African Studies at El Colegio de México in Mexico City, where he taught graduate level courses on contemporary movements, social research methods, and the political sociology of Islam in Southeast Asia.

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