The LAND project (Learning and Network Demonstration) is a four year project run by the Permaculture Association, the main aim being to create a publicly accessible, England wide, permaculture learning and demonstration network. The project started in 2009 with funding from The Local Food Fund and the Esmee Fairburn and Garfield Western Foundations. Now in the middle of the fourth year, the LAND project is moving from strength to strength with many new projects engaging with permaculture design and developing their own local food solutions. Behind the scenes we are busy designing the next phase of the work.
The best way to understand permaculture is to see it in action, on the ground, on the land. The LAND project was set up for this reason, to give more people the chance to see and experience permaculture designed systems for themselves. Projects can join the network as either LAND Centres – approved permaculture demonstration sites - or LAND Learners - projects developing their permaculture projects with the help of a tutor and aiming to become LAND Centres. The projects in the network are run by amazing pioneers who are helping to get the permaculture principles and methods recognised, understood and valued by more people.
The LAND project has high aspirations, the main aims being to enhance the food growing, land design skills and knowledge of the public and people already doing permaculture. In order to achieve this, the project was split into five areas of work.
Like the name suggests, the main aim was to create an accessible permaculture learning and demonstration network. We had targets of 80 projects in the network by the end of this year. We've made great progress with 51 registered LAND Centres and 37 LAND Learners – 88 in total with six months to go!
“Projects and people of almost any level may develop, with support, their understanding of and utilization of permaculture. Greater understanding and familiarity with permaculture principles brings confidence to develop further and also educate and inspire others”
Heather Ruckledge – LAND Learner, when asked about the main benefit of the LAND project
We aimed to host 25 regional skill sharing/training events. We have excelled in this area with 33 skill sharing and training events so far, and wonderful feedback from attendees,
“...thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational day. I particularly appreciated the variety of subjects covered, the interactive hands-on approach of the sessions, information and references given on how to further our knowledge of topics covered, good pace of sessions, opportunities to exchange experiences and ideas with other participants the informal and friendly atmosphere and, of course the delicious lunch and refreshments!”
Keveral Farm Skill Sharing and Networking Open Day
This focuses on supporting aspiring and new permaculture teachers to give local presentations and introduction courses. So far, we've supported over 50 courses and talks with just under 1000 attendees and uploaded Introductory course materials to the website.
We've been supporting centres to provide volunteer opportunities and this is the first time we've measured just how many people volunteer with permaculture. LAND Centres have provided 10,449 volunteer opportunities since the start of the project and still counting! That's just a small snapshot and it shows just how much permaculture connects to local communities.
This is about supporting different groups to visit centres through the Group Visit Scheme. 84 groups have been to visit LAND Centres through scheme so far, and it has enabled new groups to engage with permaculture,
“The group are, for the most part, from disadvantaged backgrounds, and some experience mental difficulties so the visit has proved particularly inspirational for them. One visitor said that it 'was the best day of my life'. Says it all really! Thanks you so much, we'll remember it for years to come”
Middlesbrough Environment City
All of this has been achieved by the diverse projects that make up the network. Community gardens, smallholdings, farms, homesteads, local food networks, market gardens and community supported agriculture schemes are just some examples of projects that make up the burgeoning network. The success of the project is in no small part due to the excellent work that this wide variety of projects are doing to raise awareness of key issues related to local food production.
This great work has not only been recognised by the many visitors and volunteers who see LAND Centres on a daily basis, but by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI). The LAND project has been selected by the 'Support of Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture' (SOLINSA) project as one of CCRI's case studies. SOLINSA is a three year EU research initiative, looking at innovation within sustainable agriculture and rural development. A key aim of SOLINSA is to understand how networks develop and operate in practice. LAND has been selected as a case study because it represents a network which is facilitating learning about an innovation, in this case, permaculture.
Next steps – a soft LANDing!
With the end of the funded element of the LAND project looming the Association decided to apply to several funding bodies to enable some further development and support of the LAND network before we go fully self-funded. This will help us to continue to promote interest in permaculture and related activities to the general public and improve the overall sustainability of the project so that it can continue well into the future. We're very excited to announce that both bids made to the Local Food Fund for the 'Supporting Change' & 'Supporting Impact' grants were successful - in fact they were “excellent”! This gives us a development grant and another year to become fully self-reliant.
New learning services for groups
We'll be able to give more emphasis to engaging learner projects with the network, especially disadvantaged groups, and more support for regional organising between existing Centres. The LAND Learner scheme will be developed so that projects can apply directly for support. In 2013 we will launch a new learning service which any group can buy to help them incorporate permaculture into their projects. We will be working with the existing network of permaculture practitioners who already act as tutors for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, by training them as regional assessors for prospective LAND projects and tutors. To further learning in the network we will also be developing links with the Open College Network (OCN) and LAND Centres so that we can offer a much wider range of training for the network and wider public.
Its is a very exiting time for the LAND project as we move from the first phase of the project, which focused on setting up the network, to the second phase, with a greater emphasis on learning support and more regional networks. With both Permaculture Scotland and Permaculture Wales (Association working groups and strategic networks) also developing proposals to extend the LAND network into those countries, we will be in an excellent position to help the public learn valuable lessons essential not only for surviving, but thriving in a post peak oil society.