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Cultivating Tomorrow's Future Today: Sustainable Communities and Economies

UMass Permaculture, the product of students' wholehearted committments to making a positive change in the world, demonstrates that sustainability for communities and economies is more than a passing go-green fad.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This famous quote, by Margaret Mead, couldn’t be truer when it comes to the UMass Amherst Permaculture Committee. Before I go into detail about what we do, I want to describe permaculture as a concept.

Permaculture is a vision for creating a more sustainable world. It is a regenerative design science that involves people working together to build ecological and edible landscapes, which are just a small piece of the sustainable communities and economies that we must act now to create. It is based on thoughtful observation of the patterns and relationships found in nature.

The UMass Amherst Permaculture Initiative is a unique and cutting-edge campus sustainability program that transforms grass lawns and neglected landscapes into edible, educational and ecologically designed gardens. Our student group designs and implements these gardens, hosts events, organizes volunteers, and networks with surrounding communities and beyond. Together, we have created one of the first university permaculture initiatives in the nation that has involved over 1,000 individuals and 300 local youths from K-12 schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization. By establishing new gardens each year, we demonstrate how permaculture can feed an exponentially growing population in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner.

This initiative has truly been a campus-wide effort with both administrative and student support from the very start. We wouldn’t have been nearly this successful without the collaboration and teamwork that is at the core of what we do. Permaculture is not just about growing edible gardens and reconnecting people to the Earth; it is also about building healthy and heartfelt relationships with one another. A real “permanent culture” must rest upon caring for one another and sharing what we have.

UMass Permaculture is a prime example of what can happen when individuals follow their hearts and commit to making a positive change in the world. I am beyond excited about this opportunity to bring national attention to the amazing efforts of UMass Amherst and the amazing permaculture initiative that so many people have co-created together. All of us who are part of UMass Permaculture are proud to be White House Campus Champions of Change and are honored to be recognized for our hard work.

The most exciting fact in all of this is that we are just getting started.

Ryan Harb, MS, LEED AP, facilitates the UMass Amherst Permaculture Initiative, a unique and cutting-edge sustainability program that transforms grass lawns and neglected landscapes into edible, educational and ecologically designed gardens.