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Gone But Still Here

In the words of Satish Kumar : “As you learn to nurture the plants and the soil you learn to nurture each other.”

It is alarming the speed at which six months can pass. Last April I was welcoming our 10 new student food growers into the warmth of Schumacher College community and only last week bid them farewell around a fire in the woods. I am bowled over each year by the talented people we attract to the course. Their routes to the college are manifold but what bound them into a tight knit unit was a potent sense that the predominant food system is grossly out of kilter and in need of profound healing. The effects of industrial agriculture are pervasive and pernicious. Its ramifications are chilling. Once aware of what is wrong it is too easy to feel impotent to change the system and so to disengage; yet by coming to the college and learning how to grow food on a small scale using agro-ecological principles to feed themselves and the college community the growers are engaging in an act of deep resistance.

In the words of one student reflecting on her time:
“I soon learnt that a Grower’s best tool is her eyes. And I found myself among a group of people who sensitively observed rather than approximating or assuming; folk who deeply cared for and truly listened to the land and each other. I was touched time and time again by the thoughtfulness of the Garden Team and the Growers; and heartened that such sensitivity and caretaking was the foundation for the resilience of our growing enterprises.”

Permaculture Design StudentWhat pleased me greatly this year was the decision for the students to do their permaculture designs for the certificate in sites external to the college. This took the students out into the local community; to an 11 acre budding agroforestry site; to Totnes Community Hospital garden and to The Field School.

Volunteer placements at local growing projects added an extra depth to the students experience seeing differing manifestations of local sustainable food growing and land use. Importantly we had a lot of fun and joy amidst the hard graft of growing.

Now with our reduced team over winter, I find myself out in the field in the cropping alleys and as I move from one plot to another I inevitably recall which grower tended for which plots. They are there in spirit; their love is concretely before me in the plants still growing and providing nourishment. I imagine that the land feels gratitude for their care as I do.


Join the Schumacher College Practical Residency in Sustainable Horticulture 4th of April - 28th of September 2018

If you are keen to learn the practical skills needed to grow food and practice horticulture whilst working with nature and biological cycles, and are willing to try new approaches, then this six month residency is for you. You will explore how to protect and restore the soil, foster and sustain a healthy ecosystem, and limit the consumption of finite resources whilst growing an edible harvest. Application Deadline: 1st November
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