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Antioch college to launch permaculture design certificate for home gardeners, farmers

The PDC is open to beginners as well as experienced home gardeners, farmers, homesteaders, artisans, nature enthusiasts, and more.
Dan Dynan
The PDC is open to beginners as well as experienced home gardeners, farmers, homesteaders, artisans, nature enthusiasts, and more.

Antioch College to launch permaculture design certification program in partnership with Cincinnati Permaculture Institute.

Antioch College will launch its first permaculture design certification later this summer in partnership with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute. It will be a 72-hour intensive for beginning or experienced home gardeners and farmers.

People enrolled in the intensive will learn ecological design and integrating patterns of nature as guides for creating resilient landscapes in home gardens, communities, and habitats.

“Permaculture is a system of ethics, principles, tools, and skills that help us understand the role humans play in the ecosystems we inhabit and how to make choices to affect those ecosystems for the better — protecting, preserving, and healing the earth even as we harvest from it,” Susan VonderHaar, who will be leading the intensive and is the director of the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute said.

The intensive will be held over three weekends starting July 14 through 30. For more information contact Eric Miller at emiller@antioachcollege.edu.

WYSO’s Alejandro Figueroa spoke with Dan Dynan, Antioch’s assistant farm manager, about permaculture and how people can learn ecological design.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Alejandro Figueroa: Can you talk about permaculture and what it is? Is it an environmental philosophy or is it an agriculture practice? Can you talk about that?

Dan Dynan: So normally when you see permaculture or you hear about it in the mainstream, it's connected to agriculture in some way. And when you look at it through that lens, they're really inseparable. So when you're looking at these permaculture systems, oftentimes they may look a little bit more wild or they may look a little bit more busy with more life and different species that you may not be familiar with.

For example, you could combine a productive tree that bears fruit with another tree or shrub or groundcover that fixes nitrogen. And so basically the nitrogen fixing plant is providing nutrition for the heavy fruiting plant that requires a lot of fertilizer or nutrition.

Figueroa: What is the benefit to that? To both the land and the environment.

Dynan: So integrating these ideas and philosophies and practices into more of the conventional model of agriculture is really becoming essential because if you look at the past few years and the price of fertilizer skyrocketing, you're seeing more and more conventional farmers actually moving into utilizing the technique that we're talking about. Corn requires a lot of nutrition in the soil, especially a lot of nitrogen.

And so you'll see now that farmers are experimenting with wider rows of corn and intercropping something like clover or a legume that will fix nitrogen and will help to offset that demand of the corn. So in turn, when you're using these ecological ecologically sound systems, you will be able to actually grow a better product.

Figueroa: Who is this certificate for? Is it for someone who perhaps already has had an approach to farming? Or is it for someone who maybe doesn't know anything about farming and wants to get to know more about this?

Dynan: A permaculture designer certificate is for everybody. It's particularly well-suited to people who do have an interest in gardening and agriculture. There are a lot of implications for it. Professionally, for many landscape designers, it's become industry standard to have something like that if you're going for more of a holistic route. You can make a whole career of being a permaculture designer and become a consultant for that. There's many, many people who are doing that and doing it very well these days.

So there's space for somebody who just wants to acquire some skills and knowledge for personal use. But then also anybody sort of in an environmental arena professionally will get a lot out of this.

Figueroa: Why does this specific practice matter? Especially when we’re talking about people who might not do any sort of growing or might not be in this agriculture industry or space.

Dynan: When you see conventional ag and industrial agriculture, right now it's mono crops, it's a single crop and it's tractors, there's tons of inputs, there's energy inputs from human factors, from natural resources, time, all of these things are going into a single crop and it depletes the soil. Whereas with the permaculture mentality, it's always seeking to emulate the processes that you see in nature.

So as the world is moving more toward sustainable and regenerative ag and we have the climate crisis, all of these topics about the environment and challenges that we're facing presently, there is a huge demand to have people who have hands on practical experience with these types of techniques and strategies and just understanding the foundations of that approach. And that worldview is a huge asset to anybody working in that type of field.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943