Story & photo Eve Jeffery
Though Ben Ellison grew up on an intentional community in Elands and was exposed to an alternative lifestyle at an early age, his partner Alicia James had no interest at all in permaculture. ‘I could make mud pies with the best of them but I was more interested in riding my bicycle through the sprinkler than planting food. The interest and inspiration for me started with our dear friends up in Federal who have been growing amazing produce and living off the land.
Now Alicia and Ben are studying a Certificate III permaculture at the Byron Community College and that is pretty much their lifestyle as well.
‘We chose this course primarily because we wanted to grow our own organic fruits and vegetables and meet like minded individuals, but also because we wanted to increase our knowledge base on topics such as self sustainability, community living, market gardening and advanced soil and compost fundamentals.’
The couple say they chose BCC because of the various options to study permaculture in the area. ‘The college has a reputation for great tutors and facilities, affordable course fees and an advantageous course layout of two days a week over an eight month period.’
Alicia and Ben say that gaining the Cert III means a foot in the door in a burgeoning culture both here in Australia and countless countries abroad. ‘We have dreams to continue our education in Canada and throughout Europe’, they say. ‘There is a real change coming about that has been brewing since the permaculture pioneers from the mid sixties and seventies with conscious communities popping up in British Columbia and places like Italy and Morocco based on permaculture principles.
‘Organic food, slow food, community living and buying seasonally and locally are all amazing steps towards a happier, sustainable future and a great alternative to the ever growing fast food and supermarket culture of today.
Living on a beautiful off the grid property in the Wollumbin Caldera surrounded by rainforest and artesian spring water, the pair are busy putting their newly learned permaculture principles into practice.’We’re making compost, growing veggies and experimenting with our own homemade sauerkrauts, pickles and fermentations. We have some wild plans in the works for the next few months, so watch this space…’
The Byron Community College have some NSW government subsidised Nationally Recognised Training starting early May. Courses include: Aged Care, Early Childhood Education and Care, Horticulture, IT Skills for Small Business and Computer Skills for Work.
Call the College on 6684 3374 for more information or to see if you are eligible for a subsidised place – limited places available.