Celia Ashman - Main Profile

Graduate in BA (Hons) Environmental Sustainability (Industrial) from the University of Leeds, 2013.

I am a co-operator and permaculture practitioner based in Leeds, UK. I completed my PDC in 2012 with Andy Goldring, Joe Atkinson and Niels Corfield, and am currently working towards my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.

I have been involved in the Permaculture Association since I undertook a voluntary internship at the charity during my undergraduate degree. Beginning as Farming and Research Intern, I continued to be involved in the Farmers and Growers Network after my internship ended. I was also a co-organiser of the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC15) in London, designing the Convergence programme, workshop support, and coordinating the Welcome & Wellbeing group of designs.

Currently, I am very actively involved in a number of co-operatives in Leeds, which all aim to provide sustainable and secure housing, food and work in the community. I am very interested in how permaculture design can best be used in community-led initiatives, and am passionate about cross-pollinating lessons from with the permaculture and co-operative movements.

To any student considering undertaking a placement at the Permaculture Association, I would highly recommend it. A brief review of my internship from 2012 is below:

"My placement was based at the Permaculture Association, a national environmental education and research charity, where my role as Farming and Research Intern consisted of four main parts. My main role was supporting the participatory development of a project aimed at supporting sustainable farming in the UK. In addition, I was supporting the Association’s two participatory research trials, which were investigating the productivity and sustainability of two different annual and perennial polycultural growing systems. Finally, my role involved providing general office support, particularly in preparation for and during the various national events run by the Association. As I was working for an environmental charity the placement was voluntary, enabled by support from a student loan and a part-time job. I would highly recommend a placement in the charitable sector as it is a fantastic learning opportunity for students as well as a chance to make a real difference to an organisation carrying out really important work.

Working at the Permaculture Association was a great opportunity to practice many of the skills I had learned at University in a real-world environment, as well as learning new ones. For example, developing the farming project involved a huge diversity of tasks, some of which I had no experience of before. Beginning with researching permaculture farming practice in the UK, my work on this project varied to include survey design, data analysis, report writing, event coordination, presentation of research findings and contributing to a funding bid – all of which will be useful in both my final year as well as any future career opportunities I wish to pursue.

The opportunity to attend a number of national events and visit different projects demonstrating sustainable settlement design was useful not only for networking and gaining valuable contacts, but gave me a much deeper understanding of the sustainability challenges in the UK and the level and diversity of work being led by NGOs, academia (research) and individuals to try and tackle those challenges. Furthermore, as the Permaculture Association is a membership organisation, the placement gave me the opportunity to work with hundreds of grassroots organisations and individuals who are living and working in ways that are making significant positive contributions to the many sustainability challenges we are currently facing. Witnessing their dedication, creativity and incredible hard work was inspiring and has strengthened my own commitment to this cause.

Finally, taking a year out of university has allowed me to reflect on what I had learned and consider how it will be useful in the future. This has been particularly useful in the development of my dissertation, which has changed significantly since I left university at the end of second year. It has also given me a much better idea of what options will be available to me in the future, and how I am going to decide on which options to pursue." August 2012

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