This last weekend was the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence, hosted at Troy Community Gardens on the north side of Madison. It brought together people from across the Midwest to discuss ideas related to sustainability through the lens of permaculture. Permaculture is an idea started by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren to create permanent, self-sustaining agriculture and is growing in popularity (sorry, couldn’t resist), especially in the U.S. and Australia.
The convergence consisted of a few dozen presentations over three days. The institute was happy to lead a session on DIY solar water heating. About a dozen folks chatted with me for about an hour and a half while the test arrays ran. During the day, the panels got the water up to over 140°F. Siting was good: on top of a hill, just beyond the community garden plots.
It was tough to choose which other sessions to attend because of their diversity of topics. From tai chi and groves to fermentation and permaculture 101. Kid-friendly sessions were also held. I was able to go to a demonstration on composting at the community garden that made me think beyond the carbon-to-nitrogen ratios to the organization of community gardeners who have different levels of familiarity with the process. I also got to attend a home biogas demonstration, where compost, vegetable matter, manure, and other “wastes” were converted by methanogens (methane-producing microorganisms) into methane for cooking gas, as well as a session on the basic concepts of permaculture.
The backdrop for the convergence was the Troy Community Garden and Farm. This large greenspace in north Madison is home to over a hundred distinct gardens, farmed by people from a diverse neighborhood. One of my favorite parts of the day was walking among the individual plots and seeing the different ways people grew the same plants, from bean trellises and tepees to every manner of tomato supports. The working farm has a CSA and greenhouses on the property.
The convergence was well organized, with a welcome tent, space for vendors to display their services and wares, and a food area, where potluck and catered, locally sourced meals were provided to the attendees.
For me, the best part was meeting new people who were on a similar wavelength when it came to sustainability issues. From mIEKAL, who shared his great fruit wines (each had a punny name, the best of which was “Rhubarb Bader Ginsing”) to Julie, who was doing some graphic recording or sketch notes for each session. She was nice enough to let me take a picture of her and one of her drawings, which will be donated to the Madison Area Permaculture Guild.
If you’re within driving distance of Wisconsin, it might be worth checking out next year’s convergence. We’ll be there.