Our goal as a species is to be around a long, long time (as it is for most species) in a habitat that is just right. The right climate, the right conditions for living and feeding ourselves, and raising our young. As we are learning now, this requires a gazillion other species, from the microorganisms in the soil and in our gut; to the plants that transform sunlight into food (oh yeah and make oxygen); the many animals that help plants reproduce; and the mycorrhyzal network that connects it all.
For millennia, our species learned how to fit in to and thrive in every ecosystem on the planet. Even though we were active participants in natural processes sometimes radically altering habitats, we could sustain ourselves well without negatively impacting their functions. We cannot say that anymore. In the last 150 years, our global industrial economy unleashed destructive, polluting technologies that have severely threatened all our ecosystems. We have forgotten how to co-exist and how to live in place. We are severely weakening Earth’s ability to sustain life. In short, we have forgotten how to fit in as a species.
One definition for perennial is “lasting an indefinitely long time; enduring” (Freedictionary.com). Perennial Culture is about remembering how to fit in indefinitely; how to create relationships with the natural world in the places that we live so that they, and we, are viable for a long, long time. We must re-learn to feed, house, and care for ourselves from within our local ecosystems with altering their life-giving functions. A tall order perhaps, but it could also be adventurous and fun.
At Earth Learning, we have decided to take on the task of spreading this idea of Perennial Culture in and adventurous and fun way, by exploring what it means for us here in the Greater Everglades.
We are learning and teaching Permaculture, an ecologically restorative way to grow food, organize our households and communities, and do business, amongst other things.
For food production, this system implies using perennial plants (those that live more than ones season) in polycultures (diverse arrangements that mimic natural ecosystems). By growing food in this way, we are regenerating soil and biodiversity and healing the land. Doing so means growing many foods that are not common to most people who live here; like Malabar spinach, jakfruit, chaya, eggfruit, moringa, pigeon pea to name a few. We are growing farmers and entrepreneurs who understand this and are passionate about bring it about. But this cannot happen in a vacuum or there will be no demand, no market for these.
We recognize that simultaneously, Earth Learning must be supporting the resurgence of a culture that values and knows how to live gracefully, here in our home region. For us at Earth Learning, culture and relationship begins with food because we believe there is no greater expression of culture than what we take into our bodies daily. So we are intent on inspiring the evolution of a culture that thrives on the kinds of things that grow here in South Florida effortlessly, gracefully; a culture that knows what to grow, how to prepare it, and how to preserve and share it.
To this end, Earth Learning is launching a series of workshops called Cooking Up Culture, where we learn how do just that. The first series of classes will held during the month of June, every Saturday morning at the Homestead Harvest Market. Our very own Chef Aaron, will be leading these explorations into fascinating cultures, empowering skills and techniques, and amazingly interesting perennial staple foods.
Please join us in this effort to find our way back to a sane, human scale way of living that enhances that natural world that we so very much depend on to live well.