David Holmgren, co-originator of permaculture, recently spoke out about the necessity to move towards "largely non-monetary household and local community economies" in his widely discussed recent article, 'Crash on Demand'. If Holmgren is correct, in order for permaculture principles and praxis to form an integral part of whatever comes next, permaculture is not only going to have to pioneer the practical ways in which we meet our physical needs by closing the loop, but also the spirit in which we close it. One route towards this would be for permaculture to meet the emerging, but ancient, idea of the gift economy.
If Holmgren - and many of us who share his perspectives - get something resembling their wish, how will we, as a movement, educate ourselves and others in our wider communities on the practicalities of localising our economies? Here at An Teach Saor (meaning 'The Free House' in my mother tongue), this is something we've begun creating, an innovative, but very simple, solution to.
Six months ago we took on a three acre small-holding, which has quickly moved down the non-monetary path Holmgren is calling for. By creating a design system (incorporating a forest garden, experimental nut orchard, coppice and no-dig veg garden, amongst much else) that is requiring progressively less external inputs, and consequently less money, we have enabled ourselves to use this demonstration site as a vehicle to bring permaculture education into the realm of gift culture, and do something the Tories - with their masses of financial capital - somehow cannot seem to achieve: genuinely free education for both children and adults.
When we took on this project we were lucky enough to inherit a big old pig shed, and in it we saw the perfect opportunity to transform it into a space that could fill some of the gaps of modern life - a space that nurtures the spirit, engenders community, and where both the practical skills that allow us to live in a healthier relationship to the entire community of life, and the philosophical ideas that underpin such transformational changes, could be shared.
So we had a thought: why not create a completely free space where people can meet, learn, eat, drink, dance and sleep (hopefully in that order!) without a single penny changing hands? That thought soon became the seed that is The Happy Pig, one which we are hoping you will help us germinate into something of service to the world.
We also hope that, over the coming decades, this project will help break down some of the barriers people have in accessing what we consider to be essential tools in helping us deal with the many interconnected global issues we are facing today. The Happy Pig, as a model we hope many other people will begin to replicate, is somewhere that people will be able to explore Wild food, forest gardening, gift economics, home-brewing, music and language, philosophy, bee-keeping, herbalism, perennials, natural building, no-dig annual vegetable production, writing, coppicing, storytelling, bushcraft, off-grid living and much more. We want to bring the world's best teachers here, as well as the world's foremost thinkers and speakers. All in the spirit of the gift.
However, being passionate about sharing whatever you have for free - whether that be your skills, time or resources – usually means you don't have a lot of spare cash for renovating pig barns, which is why we're asking you, the community, to help us make this happen for you: the community.
Today is the official launch of our crowdfunding campaign for this purpose. If you feel like this is something you want to support – and you will be welcome to visit here, and take our free courses regardless of whether you do or not – you can easily do so by going to our campaign page here:
If the thought of co-creating a space in which you will be free to come, learn and stay in the future isn't enticing enough, we've also put together a bunch of rewards – from native tree planting to courses with myself, acclaimed author Paul Kingsnorth and the UK's foremost Wild food forager Fergus Drennan – to treat yourself to.
We hope to see you here one day.
Mark Boyle is the co-founder of An Teach Saor and author of The Moneyless Manifesto, which we are offering for 25% off the cover price (and free p&p in the UK), available from www.green-shopping.co.uk. Also available as an eBook for Kindle, iTunes, Kobo and other devices HERE.
Fergus Drennan: Could you live on 100% wild, foraged food for a year?
Paul Kingsworth: Exploring the uncivilised
Enjoying our posts? Want to keep in touch with our most popular pages on this website? Sign up for our FREE monthly eNewsletter. You can also download an issue of Permaculture magazine totally free of charge HERE.