Who Am I?
My name is Rowan Cignoni, and this We The Trees fundraiser is all about supporting me in becoming a certified permaculture designer as I move toward a career in permaculture design and installation. I have a BS that I earned in 2011, in the multidisciplinary field of Environmental Science. For the past five years I had pursued a career in outdoor education and wilderness therapy, working for a variety of organizations focused on work with youth. While I found this path rewarding and challenging, I have always felt the passion to create my own business someday, centered on building community around a unifying vision of outdoor recreation, respect, and food systems. Last Spring I seized the opportunity to take a week-long course, “Permaculture for Regional Planning,” at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, VT, where I realized that permaculture provided the perfect platform for me to unite my broad array of interests and disciplines into a core career goal. Like a spectrum of light returning to its prism, I see permaculture as a unifying force that transmutes many ideologies into a solid vision, turning a rainbow into white light again.
Recently, I unexpectedly lost a job that I'd had for quite a while, but one that was also holding me back from pursuing my passion in permaculture. Now freed from those responsibilities, but lacking the financial stability and resources I once had, I find myself in this quandary, asking for your support!
What Am I Doing?
I plan to attend the month-long Agricultural Systems Design Concentration at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont, attaining a certificate in Permaculture Design (PDC) complimented by a two-week Farm Design course and two short courses in root cellar and greenhouse design. The concentration is an opportunity to learn about permaculture design within the bio-regional context of New England, where seasonality and local food infrastructure are topics of deep interest. The courses, taught by Andrew Faust and Chris Chaisson, will help me become knowledgeable on a wide variety of design concepts and issues; farmyard infrastructure to barn, greenhouse and root cellar design; from business plans to local food distribution approaches; from permaculture principles to value-added production strategies. The intent is that by training individuals in a core set of design principles, those students can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — development that reduces our reliance on industrialized, petro-chemical systems of that are fundamentally destroying Earth's balanced systems.
What is Permaculture To Me?
Permaculture can be a confusing idea to wrestle with, because it's so multi-dimensional and encompassing. Sort of like the Medicine Wheel of American Indian tribes, that exists within all things while simultaneously including all things in itself. To me permaculture is a sustainable, regenerative methodology and ideology for land-use design and development. It's rooted in biological, ecological, sociological, and even economical principles, and uses pattern-recognition and whole-systems thinking to maximize outputs (i.e. food, fuel, etc.) while minimizing external inputs (like labor, fossil fuels, fertilizers, etc.). Permaculture aims to create systems that are productive and stable, with the goal of meeting human needs while regenerating landscapes.
The ecological behavior of plants, animals, nutrient cycles, macro and micro-climatic factors weather, and soil dynamics are all incorporated. Peoples’ need for food, water, energy, shelter, and community are provided for through resilient infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in symmetry with each other, where the outputs of one piece become the inputs to another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimized by following Nature's lead; “wastes” are recycled, productivity and yields increase, and ecology is restored and rehabilitated. Permaculture design can be applied to any environment and at any scale, from urban to residential, from backyards to bioregions.
In many respects, Permaculture is a form of agriculture - and much more - that maximizes the ability for humans to affect their landscapes, food systems, community health, and personal vitality in a way that is both nurturing and intentionally development-focused. It rejects the idea of pure wildness, and embraces human beings as being active, well-balanced participants in the natural cycles we depend on.
My Goal and Vision:
My goal following (and during) this concentration is to create my own pop-up design studio and begin practicing freelance permaculture design, building a portfolio to (maybe) land a job at a reputable design firm. Through this experience, I hope to learn the ins-and-outs of the consultation, design, installation, and maintenance of permaculture landscapes, and eventually purchase my own farmland through a land trust, and start my own business in design, education, and food production. It's still a rough draft, but it's growing and it starts with this course. Donating to this fundraiser is all-or-nothing, and it doesn't guarantee my success in my future ventures. It does, however, provide me with an opportunity to take the leap and join the ranks of permaculture heroes that are inspiring people everywhere, every day. Succeed or fail, I'll be armed with a vision and the know-how. Help me jump-start this vision!