CORD – Community Outreach Regenerative Development

Summary: We are developing a Learning Center for sustainability education. The Center will facilitate advanced permaculture apprenticeships, and become a workforce development training center for sustainable agriculture and local entrepreneurial businesses.

Three guys starting FF

We are developing a non-profit Learning Center for teaching advanced permaculture design. Permaculture is a term referring to whole-systems design for all aspects of sustainable human settlement on the planet. It draws from the wisdom of indigenous cultures and from observations of the patterns and principles of natural systems. Permaculture is an oral tradition that has eminated from its two co-founders in Australia in the late 1970’s. The founders developed a 72-hour international curriculum with an initial Permaculture Design Certificate. They also created a two-year Permaculture Diploma process to develop competent design practitioners.

Chuck first imagined creating a Permaculture Diploma Program as a member of the founders which co-created the Cascadia Permaculture Institute. Chuck recently became a Permaculture Mentor for Gaia University’s online Permaculture Diploma program. His background, along with years in public education – have inspired him to create a Permaculture Diploma program on Kauai. To learn more about Chuck, please see his CV at http://biosdesign.us/about .

The Center will offer diverse learning in all areas of the permaculture domains. We would include plant-related areas – farm and landscape design, research projects, sustainable agriculture, water catchment and storage, aquaponics, alternative energy, eco-village design and more. There will be project-based learning opportunities for the permaculture students.

From conversations with tropical agroforestry expert, Craig Elevitch, it appears there is a dearth of educational training opportunities for students of permaculture and sustainable agroforestry in Hawaii. Kauai Community College recently utilized state grant funds to hire one sustainable agriculture instructor. We believe a whole-community based Permaculture Diploma system could be a powerful means to accelerate the development of food self-sufficiency and economic localization.

The entire community, with its farms and knowledgable farmers, local product and service businesses (edible landscaping, permaculture design, traditional Hawaiian knowledge, value-added food products, food distribution “food hub”, etc.) will serve as our learning “classroom” for Diploma students. Students may document their competencies in the diverse permaculture domains with digital portfolios. For Graduation we would expect a business plan – ready for support from a “business incubator” to become a viable community business. The Center will be a workforce development institute for teaching skills and knowledge needed for entrepreneurs to incubate valuable local enterprises.

This community-based learning program could also engage the public by offering learning workshops for all ages (some taught by the apprentices) in home gardens and food forests, sustainable agriculture, and diverse permaculture skills. The Center might attract local capital investments by demonstrating its value for community self-sufficiency. Private land owners might offer leases for sustainable agriculture production by new farmers.

The Center will be a non-profit research and educational institute, and will sell products related to its purpose. The student learning projects will produce food, products and services to help fund the program. We are currently developing three businesses:

  • Biochar marketing throughout Kauai

  • Mushroom cultivation

  • Permaculture Design/build

The more successful our own businesses are, the more we will move toward financial sustainability. The Center must “walk its talk” of ecological, social, financial and spiritual sustainability.

“Retrofitting” the community to become a learning resource is more cost-effective than building a de-novo bricks-and-mortar conventional college. It has the added benefits of outreach to build a sense of community involvement and ownership. Learning is a powerful positive-feedback mechanism for driving growth and development, and whole-community learning would additionally be fueled by the local businesses and their multiplier effect on the local economy. The concept of a distributed learning system fits the permaculture principle of recycle and reutilize. We must learn to live more efficiently with existing resources and transcend sustainability – to regenerate the gifts of our planet.

We believe this Learning Center could be a catalyst for a more collaborative, resilient community, a robust local living economy and a model for “accelerating succession” of other communities. We are now in the times of planting seeds. We offer this dream as a seed planted to inspire further conversation.

Bios Design
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