"The first thing you have to do is learn how to farm and do so in a manner that is not only in a value and belief system environmentally sustainable, or ecological, but is also economically and energetically sustainable. Me telling you, "You should go start a farm. Good luck! You're going to lose all your money!" is not a really sustainable operation. "
Permaculture gardening is starkly similar to the proverb, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Each landscape is as unique as the human fingerprint. Success cannot be had by simply "copy and pasting" a system already in place. Leaders in the agroecology, permaculture and regenerative movement simply give the tools to achieve positive and sustainable outcomes. Once the foundations are built, it becomes easier to take models from different permaculture systems around the world and alter them to suit the needs of a landscape. The Ecology Center is a learning hub for those ready to begin their journey into regenerative agriculture and permaculture design.
"Not a lot of farmers' kids or grandkids are raising their hands to say, "I'd like to take this up." We are actually losing a whole generation of knowledge and skills in agriculture... So we're working in this geography to build ecological literacy in agriculture to replicate this model. And it doesn't need to be The Ecology Center. It can be your farm, my farm, his farm."
If you're a hands-on learner, the best way to learn about permaculture is to connect with a local regenerative farm and inquire about what programs they have available to the public. Luckily, you don't need to be in Southern California to get a taste of their work. There are other, varied models available across the United States and the world that also serve as blueprints for helping you establish your oasis.
"How can you on half an acre, one acre, two acres, or three probably, create a profitable, energetically sustainable, environmentally viable farm operation? What are the tools that you need? What is the crop plan? How do you operate it? How do you build relationships with chefs? How do you go to direct-to-community farmers' markets or a farm stand? That's what we are teaching our farm apprentices. What we are doing through our Farm Apprenticeship Program is demonstrating on a small footprint, which is what's available to us in Southern California. Most of us aren't coming across 20-acre or 280-acre farms. There are scattered plots of land owned by cities, school districts, and housing developers that want to see more of this work in action because of the value of the energy it creates for that community."
Farm apprentices are trained in the methodology of The Ecology Center and scale the operations by going offsite to help build the foundations for schools, communities, parks, or anywhere they are needed. An example of this was a school in Encinitas, which was the first organic school farm in the country. They also broke ground in Anaheim, a second school district inspired by the impact of the farm's work in Encinitas, and wanted a piece of the pie. In both places, The Ecology Center apprentices designed, built, staffed, programmed, and maintained the farms to their blueprint. In order to be sustainable, the apprentices hand ownership back to students and the staff so they could run the farm.