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Permaculture course

Jenneke Kylstra

At the beginning of November I took a 24-hour train ride north to the Permaculture research institute to take part in a Permaculture design course. I had not heard much about permaculture before but that it was an alternative way of farming that was more permanent than normal agriculture. I was hoping that the course would give me more ideas to take into my science degree.


I was picked up from the train station very early in the morning along with a Columbian boy, a man from the Philippines and an Australian girl. We drove 45 minutes inland until we were inside the Mt Warning volcanic crater where the farm is located. Many of the other 34 course participants were already there, as well as the staff members and workers. So many people all at once and from all over the world: Japan, America, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Romania, Jordan, England, and Belgium. All coming here to learn about permaculture.

What is Permaculture?
Permaculture aims to create systems that will sustain not only for the present, but also for future generations . Permanent agriculture.

"It is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."

What is the permaculture research institute?
The Permaculture Research Institute is a farm called Tagari, meaning "we, the people" in Aboriginal. It was started by Bill Mollison, the founder of Permaculture. Bill Mollison returned to Tasmania, where he grew up, and handed the farm over to others who would continue running it under the permaculture principles.
Now the farm is run by Jeff Lawton and many dedicated volunteers. The farm aims to demonstrate organic, sustainable food production systems. In an attempt to educate people about Permaculture they offer tours of the property, bed and breakfast, run courses and are WWOOF hosts. 

As a result of this, Tagari farm almost becomes a transit centre for people interested in learning about Permaculture.

The farm has food forest systems, large water harvesting earthworks, aquaculture ponds, food and timber bamboo production, organic poultry, organic dairy, farm forestry, abundant wildlife, natural waste management and also international projects.

So, we began the course. For two weeks we sat in the classroom while Jeff Lawton taught us the meaning of permaculture, the ethics, why it is needed, and ways to implement it in many different circumstances.


I noticed that many of the ideas and methods that we were taught was common sense, but still is not being practiced in farming today. It encourages you to be creative when designing your land to make it more efficient.
You must observe what the natural environment is doing around you so you can work with it instead of against it. If you work with the natural systems you not only have less work to do yourself but you become more productive.

There were things we were not able to cover deeply enough due to time restraint but we were all introduced to a new way of thinking and a new way of looking at the world we live in.

About half of the course members stayed on for an extra two weeks to see how the things we learnt in the classroom worked on the ground. Some of the things I was able to take part in were food forest maintenance and extension, planting maintaining and harvesting in the small crops, caring for the poultry and cows, bamboo maintenance, running of the nursery and composting. I helped in the kitchen often with the cooking and cleaning so I learnt how to make many different vegetarian dishes, and how to cook for large groups. 

I also helped in keeping the living areas clean. Thirty people living in one house can be a bit messy. I enjoyed living there so much that I stayed on as a WWOOFer until the end of January. I learnt more and met more people than I thought possible in such a short time. We had many adventures.

I am now living in Melbourne and have begun my degree. I am sure about the subjects I am beginning with and am excited to do my studies with the permaculture principles in my mind. Thank you Bounten-Klinkhamer funds for supporting me in this venture.

Jenneke Kylstra