Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, Florida - famous for being “the best place in the world to learn and fly hang gliders” - proved to be the perfect setting for the first annual Florida Permaculture Convergence. From Friday, January 11th through Sunday, January 13th, event organizers Tia Meer and Sheryl Dutton brought together over 150 pioneers of permaculture from nearly every county in the state, including such luminaries as Koreen Brennan of Grow Permaculture, Ken Benway and Christy Abbott of The Permaculture Guild, Jungle Jay, and Don Hall of Transition Sarasota.
Permaculture originally began in the 1970’s in Australia as an attempt at creating a “permanent agriculture”: one that can exist indefinitely into the future without destroying the natural resources upon which we all depend. It teaches that by learning from and mimicking nature, our homes, gardens, and communities can thrive self-sufficiently while generating no waste. Permaculture achieves this by carefully observing the relationships between plants, animals, people, and their natural environment and designing systems that enhance their mutually beneficial qualities.
True to the spirit of permaculture, the group bonded quickly and deeply. Although many stated that they were apprehensive at first to camp out with people they had not met before, soon everyone was talking and laughing with each other, making new friends. Each evening at camp, an interesting and relaxing array of music was played by the large campfire late into the night. Even the cows in a nearby pasture seemed to enjoy the rhythms of the drum circle and joined in with their own harmonics.
There were presentations, group discussions, and gardening activities throughout the weekend, but the most popular activity of the convergence seemed to be the Permaculture Plant Swap on Saturday afternoon. An abundance of unusual plants and seeds were available that not only provide edible fruits, vegetables, and tubers, but also have medicinal properties and add fertility to the soil.
On Sunday afternoon, it was sad to leave such a memorable event. Luckily, I still have something to look forward to: towards the end of the weekend, there was call for all of us “converge” on Cuba for the 11th International Permaculture Convergence later this year.