Permaculture. Permanent agriculture. Agricultural ecosystems designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient. If a person would ever want to learn about permaculture, may as well learn from an expert. Which is why I chose to WWOOF at Elisabeth Fekonia’s farm, just outside of Cooroy, Queensland.
Unlike the farms I have worked at thus far, where my hosts were either learning about permaculture themselves or unaware of its principles, Elisabeth’s permaculture farm has been up and running for many years. And despite the fact that it’s situated on a very steep incline, it is very productive. But at least that incline gives gorgeous views of the landscape.
As I mentioned in my Shit…I lost the pigs! post, the farm has pigs… and goats, and cows, and chickens. And all these players work together to create an almost totally self-sufficient farm. I learned something new everyday with Elisabeth.
Besides all the cute animals…
…my biggest inspiration from my time with Elisabeth was her teaching. On my third day of working for Elisabeth, I helped her out at a workshop in Brisbane making miso and tempeh. She regularly runs workshops in Brisbane, beginning again with a bang in the new year!
A few days later, I joined in on her weekly permaculture design course, where students receive a certificate at the end. We planted seeds, seedlings, and cuttings; learned about nursery design, seed saving, and planting with the seasons. We also visited a local nursery. It was a hands-on course and taught with such a genuine love and passion.
So, what do halloumi cheese, miso, and kimchi all have in common?
They are all the result of fermentation.
And fermentation is responsible for many health benefits through improving your gut flora. It was during the workshops and informal lessons, and even our shared daily meals, that Elisabeth passionately explained these benefits and different ways to incorporate fermented food into our diet. After a quick search, I found heaps more people talking about fermented foods, often trying to relieve some people’s initial fear of working with bacteria (like Roslyn Uttleymoore’s blog post for help identifying moulds, etc)
My time with Elisabeth was definitely productive – I learned many many things and, in reality, I just began to scratch the surface of what it means to run a sustainable and self-sufficient farm. Or more accurately, to live a sustainable and self-sufficient life.