Remembering Patrick Whitefield

Written by Caroline Aitken on . Posted in Uncategorized

With a teaching career spanning more than a quarter of a century Patrick taught and influenced thousands of people. Many of those continued on the permaculture path and are now inspiring others to do the same.

Katie Shepherd

lambing finishes

I first met Patrick when I attended his PDC at Ragmans Farm in summer 2011. Those 2 weeks were amazing. from Patrick’s formal teaching sessions to the energy and gentle depth and care he brought to the community of folk attending the course. I gained so much from the experience. I know I don’t really need to tell anyone about the unbelievable level of knowledge and experience Patrick had in Permaculture Design for temperate climates, but his ability to share this with the diverse bunch of students there was like a beautiful (humerous!) work of art.

The following winter I returned to Ragmans for a further week to complete the Organic Horticulture course with Patrick too, which was just as fantastic. Over those few months I also read and listened to/watched everything that Patrick had to teach me about his knowledge and experience of Permaculture theory and Practice. Although I’d had some knowledge about permaculture prior to the PDC, the inspiration and motivation Patrick delivered took it to a whole new level.

When I look back over the 4 years since that first PDC, I cant believe how much I have developed as a permaculture designer and practitioner. I’ve undertaken numerous other permaculture courses and workshops and facilitated and taught on others. I’ve created and implemented many, many designs from farm scale on the upland farm where I have lived and worked (which Patrick really gave me confidence about), and then health related projects at potential strategic level ,through to designs for my own wellbeing that have transformed my life. In addition, a really important yield from that initial time at Ragmans was a wonderful group of other PDC graduates who have now become part of my whole development as a designer as we share our permaculture journies together.

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Patrick showing me how to dowse

I kept in touch with Patrick via his reflections and wisdom on social media, and the occasional email, but in the last few weeks of his life I’ve felt especially connected to his energy and experience . During this recent time time I’ve been writing up designs for my Diploma (in Applied Permaculture Design ) portfolio, several of which were started just prior to meeting Patrick, so very much influenced by him. As I’ve been working hard towards finishing and accrediting my Diploma later this year, I’ve often found myself thinking about the empowering influence Patrick has had on the direction my life is now taking.

 

Chris Smaje

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Patrick taught the permaculture design course I took at Ragman’s Lane Farm in 2000. At the time I was a teacher myself, albeit a pretty disgruntled one, on the point of jacking in my academic career in order to…do what? A land-based rural life had never really crossed my radar screen and had seemed at best a romantic dream, until over the two weeks of the design course Patrick systematically dismantled my assumptions and reassembled them into something different – something more attentive to detail, more connected to the underlying spirit of things, something more expansive, something basically just better.

To be honest, I don’t remember all that much now about the incidental details of those two weeks. There was a lot of social good humour on the course – music, friendships forming, joking around, and Patrick in shirtsleeves mode genially allowing the various personalities in the group to come into play. But when the teaching sessions began I remember a feeling of seriousness – not because he was a stern teacher or a sombre man, but because of an underlying sense that I’ve carried forward into my second career as a farmer, grower and writer that this stuff matters, that there are realms of knowledge outside the official story that need to be kept alive. Initially I was a bit awestruck by Patrick – I, the initiate, struggling to comprehend the strange and compelling new world taking shape from his words. When he visited our holding a few years later he picked a sorrel leaf and chewed it, then hefted some soil between his fingers – simple rituals of connection, speaking volumes. As time has passed, I’ve gone my own way, questioned aspects of permaculture’s received wisdom, and sometimes tangled, usually amiably, with Patrick over this issue or that. Always, he brought a keen intelligence and a weight of earned knowledge to these exchanges. I’m still a bit awestruck. And I’ll miss him.

 

Sandra Campe

 sandra campeMy connection to Patrick started with the Sustainable Land Use Course at Ragmans Lane Farm in 2002. I had heard about the course while WWOOFing for one of the SLU-teachers, Jo Newton the year before. When I finally arrived at Ragmans I had some of the best weeks of my life, full of practical & theoretical inspiration, new friends, a supportive learning environment and beautiful landscape. All of this in addition to Patrick’s wealth of knowledge in so many areas and his belief in permaculture. I felt close to Patrick due to our shared background in agriculture and after I had got my degree in organic farming in that same year I continued to stay in touch with permaculture and sustainable design, which put what I had learned at university into so much more of a sensible context. During all those years that followed the course (during which I moved to Sieben Linden Ecovillage, began the Permaculture Diploma Pathway, got my diploma in 2008 and started teaching), Patrick and me loosely stayed in touch and in 2012, my colleague and I decided to organise an international PDC with him as the main teacher here in Sieben Linden.

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The main house at Sieben Linden Eco Village in Germany

Patrick’s way of making Permaculture concepts accessible to a wide audience cannot be underestimated. With his continuous teaching and the written legacy he left, he gives many people simple, clear and straightforward introductions and starting points for learning about and practicing Permaculture. This is especially true for the German speaking part of Europe, since two of his most fundamental works (Permaculture in a Nutshell and The Earth Care Manual) have been translated to german language, which form standard works in teaching Permaculture. I really hope that the books about his passion for reading the landscape will be translated too. If I am asked about inspiring permaculture books I always recommend these works. There is a gap now in the permaculture world, where Patrick’s presence was. I really hope that during his life he got a feeling for how much his ‘walking his talk’ made him an example to people all over Europe, and how important his contribution is to a thriving planet. I am grateful that he was – and is – part of my life.

 

 

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Permaculture Design Course on Dartmoor