April 9, 2014 

By Minnie Payne

Permaculture is a hot trend in landscaping and gardeners can get the scoop on it when one of its leading proponents comes to North Texas next week.

Permaculture expert Toby Hemenway and author of the bestselling Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture will serve as the star attraction at this year’s Dallas County Community College District’s Sustainability Summit. He will speak at 8:30 a.m. at the free expo at North Lake College in Irving on April 16.

In addition, on April 17, Hemenway will lead an all-day workshop entitled Urban Permaculture: Growing Food, Healthy People, and a Just Society in Cities, Towns, and Suburbs at North Lake College West Campus in Irving as part of the college’s Clean Economy Series. 

According to the father of permaculture Bill Mollison, permaculture is gardening that works with nature instead of against it. Hemenway sums it up this way: 

“I think of permaculture as relating to nature designing a sustainable way of life,” Hemenway says. “Nature has been figuring out for a long time how to use ways to be on this earth sustainably.”

Hemenway will be giving examples of permaculture in action, particularly as it relates to suburbia and cities. He hopes to educate people who are looking for more sustainable ways of growing food, water and energy, as well as more ecological ways in promoting ecologically-based schools and economies.

“What I want to do in my talk is to show that while permaculture helps us sustain our gardens, it can also help us create more sustainable communities,” he shares.  

Originally envisioned for farm and rural properties, permaculture also works in cities and towns. Urban permaculture designers are finding ways to grow food on city lots, but just as important, they are reforming food policy in cities, developing garden-based school curricula, reducing energy and water use, legalizing graywater, providing disaster relief and leading the food justice movement.  

Permaculturists are changing antiquated anti-farming laws in cities, bringing healthy food to upscale restaurants as well as the urban poor, raising the grades of schoolchildren through whole-systems curricula, providing the basis for the transition movement, and helping to convert sterile parks and office grounds into vibrant, food- and habitat-producing oases.  

Sustainability Summit

Following Hemenway’s opening remarks on April 16, DCCCD will host a free expo, featuring three breakout sessions on economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability. In addition, about 30 exhibitors will be on hand to share their green products and services.

At 1pm, there will be a screening of the documentary Arise, which presents the story of 13 women in five third world countries who have started their own environmental projects in their respective villages. In addition, a walking tour of some of North Lake College’s key sustainability projects will involve composting, the community garden and the Living & Learning Nature Trail.  

Organizer Shannon Weaver says that through the breakout sessions, North Lake College wants to appeal to business and industry, the general community, and college and high school faculty through some of the curriculum specific sessions.

“We are most excited about the film screening and the diversity of the sessions,” says Weaver. “Everybody will find something of interest.”  

Dallas County Community College District's Upcoming Programs:

April 16, 8am-3pm, North Lake College, 5001 N. MacArthur Blvd, Irving: DCCCD’s Sustainability Summit will feature green vendors, breakout sessions and a film screening. Toby Hemenway is keynote speaker at 8:30 am. Free. 

April 17, 9am-5pm, North Lake College West Campus, 1401 Royal Lane West, Irving: Toby Hemenway’s workshop entitled Urban Permaculture: Growing Food, Healthy People, and a Just Society in Cities, Towns, and Suburbs will offer specific techniques and strategies for food production, energy security and community resilience in metropolitan areas. Cost is $99. Register. 

Minnie Payne is a Carrolton-based freelance writer. She’s written for Pegasus News, Frisco Style Magazine and Seedstock. She presently freelances for Living Magazine, The Senior Voice and Your Speakeasy. She can be reached at jdpmap@verizon.net.

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