At the end of August we’ll be running our classic Permaculture Design Course at Ragmans Lane Farm. The course will be the usual mix of classroom and outdoor learning with many experienced and exciting teachers but this time we’ll have a special visitor from further afield in the form of international permaculture ambassador Geoff Lawton who is coming to see what we’re up to.
Patrick began teaching at Ragmans over 20 years ago and since then venue and courses have evolved into an exciting ensemble which allows people to see permaculture in action and take away valuable skills and knowledge. Patrick and Ragmans are both renowned in their own right, but they are so intrinsically connected that many people believed that Patrick lived at Ragmans Farm. This was never the case, but farm owner Matt Dunwell has always played an important role in the courses and continues to teach with me now, lending his wealth of experience as a permaculture pioneer.
The story of Ragmans farm and Patrick Whitefield Associates is soon to be captured by another legend, Geoff Lawton. He is an internationally renowned permaculturist who hails from the very roots of permaculture itself. Having worked alongside Bill Mollison for some time, when he retired Mollison asked Lawton to establish a permaculture research institute on his farm in New South Wales. Lawton did so in 1997 and has been running it as a non-profit NGO ‘global networking centre for permaculture projects’ ever since. He is perhaps best known for his many short films about methods, projects, people, ideas, designs and everything you can think of connected with practicing permaculture. These films make permaculture accessible to millions and have been instrumental in spreading the message. To my mind his most important work has been taking permaculture practices to developing countries and giving local communities security and resilience. Being an Australian Lawton is particularly well-versed in water preservation and has taken his skills to many arid and barren areas where incredible transformations have occurred.
Lawton and his team are now planning to take a whistle-stop tour of the UK to film as many inspiring permaculture stories as possible. So we’ll meeting them to talk about the beneficial relationships which make our courses so special. Ragmans has been a flag ship for permaculture since the first courses were taught here in the 80’s and Matt Dunwell has allowed the land to be used for experimentation, incubation and education. The farm has been through many incarnations and now has many enterprises thriving from the fertile ground. From willow plantations to markets gardens; mushroom logs to holistically managed orchards there is plenty to see and learn. In our introduction course Matt takes students to the top of hill to look down at the farm and see permaculture on a broad scale; the location of the buildings, the location of the pond, the location of the growing areas and their relationships with one another. When they come back to the classroom they hone in on the details, with the help of Patrick’s unique course timetable and his teaching methods which I am continuing and evolving. Principles are not delivered as a list to follow, but as a holistic approach which makes everything fall into place. Our team of teachers ensure that the course is packed with experience, inspiration, knowledge and fun. So many students describe it as a life-changing experience and it’s not just about the learning. This is an opportunity to spend two weeks with like-minded people changing the way we see the world. Feeling empowered by what we’re learning and excited by possibilities. Realising that you’re not alone, there’s a global community of like-minded people out there doing positive things for the right reasons and making a difference.
Geoff Lawton’s success and popularity is largely down to his ability to let people know exactly this via his online films. I hope that in sharing our story we are able to inspire, comfort and motivate people beyond our own courses on the farm.
Geoff Lawton will be visiting us during our next Permaculture Design Course at Ragmans Lane Farm in the first 2 weeks of September. Click here for details.