The main facilitators are VEG’s Adam Grubb and all round legend Kat Lavers. And we also go visit in their natural habitat some of the finest quality doers, thinkers and facilitators during of the course.
Adam left a career in IT to pursue becoming backwardly mobile after learning about energy depletion. He founded the energy news clearinghouse Energy Bulletin in 2003 which became the most popular website about peak oil on the net. He got into permaculture in 2004 and helped Dan to get the global permablitz movement off the ground. He then co-founded with Dan, and now directs, the urban permaculture consultancy Very Edible Gardens (VEG) in Melbourne, and is in demand as a designer, garden creator and educator. He is a wild food enthusiast, runs popular edible weed walks, and is co-author with Annie Raser-Rowland of The Weed Forager’s Handbook (CSIRO) and Let’s Eat Weeds (Scribe) as well as The Art of Frugal Hedonism (Melliodora Publishing). For five years he hosted 3RRR’s permaculturish-themed show Greening the Apocalypse. His teachers have included luminaries such as David Holmgren, Bill Mollison, Darren Doherty and others. He visited Kinsale, Ireland in 2005 and was one of the earliest promoters of the ideas that became the Transition Towns concept. He has been a caretaker of permaculture co-founder David Holmgren and Su Dennett’s Melliodora property, and has collaborated with David on his Future Scenarios work. He looks after some bees, and lives in a beautiful garden in Brunswick known for it’s prize bananas.
Kat Lavers is a small space food production specialist, gardening educator and permaculture designer. Her award-winning urban permaculture system, ‘The Plummery‘, is a 1/14th acre block that produces almost all the household’s vegies, herbs, fruit and quail eggs (more than 450kg in 2020!). She and her garden are internet and Gardening Australia famous with millions of views on youtube, and is a case study in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia book. When she’s not teaching permaculture and organic gardening, Kat designs urban agriculture projects and education programs with local councils and communities including coordinating the award-winning education program My Smart Garden. She’s been teaching for 20 years (OMG!), which has taken her from working with refugees in Malaysia to nomadic herders in Mongolia, and she’s facilitated courses alongside international permaculture names like Rosemary Morrow, David Jacke and David Holmgren.
Dan Palmer (1974-2022)
Dan was Very Edible Gardens’ co-director and a very widely loved father, friend, teacher, thinker and mentor. He very tragically passed away in 2022 in New Zealand, leaving behind his partner Amanda and daughters Robin and Nikkal.
Despite this Dan will be very influential over this course. Around 2011, lead teaching on another institution’s PDC in NZ – and frustrated at its lack of coherence – Dan wrote an unsolicited curriculum and tested it out to much success. And this subsequently became the foundation of the first Very Edible Gardens PDC in 2013. Over the next eight years Adam and Dan would reshape and grow the course through a very fruitful teaching collaboration. Dan spent much of that time living between NZ and Australia, and 2024 won’t be the first time VEG has run a PDC without him, but it will be the first time we’ve run it without being able to workshop ideas and feed of his enthusiasm before hand – and the first time without him around to goad with testimonials of participants, and inspire his jealousy on missing out afterwards. We miss him greatly but his influence is threaded through every aspect of the PDC, from tone, format, content and spirit.
Dan was also co-founder of the permablitz movement, and had a multitude of projects like Making Permaculture Stronger, Holistic Decision Making and Living Design Process. You can read Adam’s tribute to him here.
The following folk you’ll get to meet in situ in their natural habitats, as we go visit them at their properties:
Initially we invited Joel to teach our day on appropriate technology and sustainable building because he draws on a deep well of experience (as an energy auditor, sustainable transport consultant, environmental educator among other things) which he combines with a rare knack for explaining technical issues in a clear and engaging way that cuts straight to the heart of matters. He’s now become one of the most sought after permaculture teachers in the country.
We’ll get to visit his permaculture-designed property and truly beautiful owner-built strawbale house which features impressive passive cooling, heating, lighting and water strategies and a beautiful curved roofline that follows the path of the winter sun. Soon we began working more deeply with him in his capacity as an innovator in DIY technology and he became one of the forces behind VEG’s Appropriate Technology workshops and helped design and illustrated the revolutionary cooking method in the publication The Rocket Powered Oven. When he’s not doing these things, Joel makes sculptures of steel and wood, runs cider workshops, is a cooker of food, an avid gardener, radio DJ and musician. Phew.
David Holmgren and Su Dennett
David Holmgren is one of the co-originators (with Bill Mollison) of the permaculture concept. Unlike Bill he spent decades out of the public eye refining and testing his vision and developing several permaculture properties including what is now one of the best demonstration sites in the world, the semi-suburban, semi-rural Melliodora in Hepburn Springs. That’s where we’ll spend a day with David and his partner Su Dennett (see below) on this course. In 2002 he published the seminal Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, which redefined permaculture and brought him back to international attention as one of the deepest thinkers in the grassroots environmental movement. He’s also author of Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (2009) and the epic Retrosuburbia: the Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future (2018), and has published on topics as diverse as holistic bushfire safety, the ecosystems of Central Victoria and the ecological role of weeds. We doubt we’ll ever stop being impressed by both his insights, and his impressive skills in areas such as reading landscapes and sustainable carpentry!
At turns playful and fun, and equally fierce and committed when facing challenges, Su Dennett’s persona and commitment to practising all aspects of sustainability makes her one of the deepest inspirations to us. Both in the community and on the farm, Su lives a life of powerful values and deep integrity. www.holmgren.com.au
(Photo: courtesy Milkwood)
Katie Finlay is a living legend and with her partner Hugh and dad Merv long-term organic fruit orchardist in Harcourt with Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens. We’ll hear from Katie about the amazing steps currently being taken on their farm where a new organic coop is bringing together the orchard, a fruit tree nursery, a market garden, and a micro-dairy.
Meg Ulman and Patrick Jones
Meg and Patrick are part of Artist as Family and we’ll visit their beautiful property in Daylesford. In their words “We practice an art that participates in what it represents; an art of social warming in an era of global warming. Food ethics and politics are central to our practice. Generating food that brings human and ecological health and global justice is our creative call to arms, within the sphere of the local. We teach a unique skill set of radical neopeasant homemaking and other accountable living skills to volunteers called SWAPs who come to live with us. We are bloggers, fermentors, writers, public speakers, poets, artists, video makers who also make music, but mostly we’re a family who belong to a bloody great community and therefore we’re much more than the sum of our parts.”
We’ll visit our dear friend and intuitive living design maestro Louisa at her incredible one acre Paradiso del Amore. Mark our words – you will not want to leave. Louise has hand created one of the most beautiful homes and gardens we’ve ever experienced on top of what was a low rainfall and poor soil bare paddock in Guildford.
Paul ‘Speedy’ Ward
There is no one like Speedy. He’s humble and down to earth but at some point in knowing him you’re guaranteed to do a massive mental double take as you come to realise how what an inhuman ability to integrate knowledge he has. He may have as much knowledge of practical plants and fungi of anyone in the country. Testimony to his good nature he’s one of the few people to ever tolerate living along side cantankerous permaculture co-founder Bill Mollison for more than a few months. Speedy is a botanist and a highly skilled tinkerer, gardener, forager, mushroom grower, blacksmith and metal worker, fermenter, cook and musician and we’ll visit him and his partner Kate and kids on his impressive new garden full of one of his passions – weird and wonderful food crops.
The spectacular Carolina Coreiro is a market gardener and caterer with her business Malmsbury Kitchen Garden. She’ll be there pretty much every day of the course providing the incredible food, with much of the produce in the meals coming from her own gardens. Carolina will share both her wonderful skills as a grower, fermenter and cook, and if you’re lucky (you will almost certainly be), her amazing talents around the camp fire as a formidable singer of traditional Portuguese ballads. Trust us, this is something else.