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UMass Permaculture Wins White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge!

We did it everyone! It is now official. The UMass Permaculture team will be heading to the White House on March 15! This has been an amazing and inspiring week to see the voting results unfold and be in the center of it all. I can’t thank everyone enough for the support you’ve provided us with.

I’d like to share some reflections for how this week has been for me personally.

Because this was a contest and had only a few winners, there was a competitive aspect that couldn’t be ignored. That was a little difficult for me, because I favor cooperation over competition. But I realize that there is a place for contests like these, and it can have enormous positive benefits with the right intentions.

“Even if we don’t win this or finish in the top 5, this is an amazing opportunity to bring a great deal of awareness toward permaculture and the great work that UMass Permaculture is doing.”

That was my thinking the entire week. Did I want to win? Of course. That would mean even greater awareness about our program. But just being in the top 15 finalists is a win in itself. All of the teams we competed against are winners and I hope that all of their great projects get the recognition they deserve. Fortunately there are five teams and not just one that get to go to the White House. Yet we happened to finish with the most votes of all… but just barely! The University of Arkansas was neck and neck with us until the very end.

Chart created by Craig Nicholson

What does winning this contest mean for UMass Amherst?

The UMass Permaculture Initiative (UPI), one of the first university permaculture initiatives in the nation, has helped put UMass Amherst on the sustainability map in less than 18 months. We can’t fully predict what this will mean for the university, but I imagine that it will help attract new (top-notch!) students, potential alumni donors, and a great deal of positive media attention. I think this could be the jump-start we need to really make a massive impact in the local community and become a model for others to look upon for ideas, inspiration and guidance.

What does this mean for permaculture?

I want to first acknowledge that I am a new and young person in the worldwide permaculture movement. Yet I’ve been handed an opportunity of a lifetime to help bring permaculture to countless individuals who might not have heard about it otherwise. This is such an honor, and I know that this opportunity is due to everyone who has been practicing and educating about permaculture since the 1970s. I believe that we’ve collectively hit a critical mass and now the tides are turning to bring permaculture to the mainstream. This is not at all because of me – I am only a small part of something much greater.

That being said, I see permaculture exploding in popularity (even more than now!) in the coming years. Permaculture Design Certificate courses, which already have no trouble filling in most areas, will be in even greater demand. Institutional permaculture is going to emerge at more colleges and universities which are striving for sustainable campuses. This is already happening at institutions across the Northeastern U.S. Additionally, we might begin to see a lot more funding directed toward permaculture, agroforestry and agroecology projects. I see hospitals, prisons and any place that has a campus beginning to manage their land in a more holistic and intentional way. A brighter world is coming.

Personal Reflections

The excitement that this contest has generated is by far my favorite part of it all. There were literally hundreds if not thousands of individuals around the world who kept checking the voting page each day and encouraging others to vote for UMass Permaculture. The hope that we all felt together – by permaculture going to the White House – fills me with joy and is what makes all of this worth it.

I think what we are accomplishing, together, is absolutely amazing. The thousands of individuals who helped create the Franklin Permaculture Garden, the tens of thousands who voted for permaculture and UMass Permaculture to get to the White House… it is so clearly a massive multi-community effort. I try my best to facilitate it all, and keep the excitement high, with an amazing team beside me who are called the UMass Permaculture Committee.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

There are so many groups and individuals to thank. I am going to do my best to name them all:

The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, Permaculture Media Blog, Living Routes, Regenerative Design Group, Gardens for Change, Sowing Solutions, Living Mandala, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, Real Food Challenge, Seismologik, Treehugger, the local newspapers, UMass Amherst Alumni Association, Chancellors Office, News and Media Relations, and Auxiliary Enterprises. Plus all my family and friends who spent countless hours posting links and sending e-mails to everyone they have ever met (and probably people they’ve never met as well!) For all of you, I am forever grateful and I truly believe that the future generations are as well.

Thanks for inspiring me to continue doing this important work, everyone. Your positive comments mean the world to me!

— “yeeeehawwww…way to go UMass Amherst Permaculture!!!!! mulch that white house lawn!!!!! looks UMass won the contest…I’d LOVE…to see this happen!!! times are changing…sooo much hope!!!! thanks UMass..and all who voted…please keep it coming!”

— So great to hear that you won. It’s a great thing for permaculture and obvious that there is a wonderful following of the principles. This will do wonders for permaculture.

— “This is wonderful!! Your permaculture project is the kind of thing we can really be proud of at UMass. I think it’s the best thing to happen at UMass in years!”

— “I am over the moon excited that they won – brilliant!”

— A sad part of being an on-line student is not being able to contribute to amazing on-campus efforts like yours. (However, due to family and community commitments, if it weren’t for the online option, I guess I wouldn’t be a student at UMass at all!) Anyway, I hope someday I do end up on campus for a visit–and visiting the permaculture garden would probably be first thing on my list.

— When I first saw that UMass was nominated for the award, I immediately sent the voting link to everyone I could think of. I totally support all that you are doing here, and elsewhere. Thank you for all you do, and GO UMass Permaculture!

— My husband and I have both given your group our three votes apiece. Congratulations on an amazing initiative – and have a wonderful trip to the White House!

— I first heard about this through a student, Jean Arnaud. Very nice work you all! You make us all proud.

— Just an FYI – I sent all 3 of my votes your way!!! You all are awesome!!!


  1. Great News! Congrats! I voted too last week. Sometime ago I saw that the voting had closed and we won. Keep on doing the good work.

    I think it was a very good thing that this news appeared in this site. That was a stiff competition there!

  2. GOOD JOB!!
    We all voted for you guy’s as we were doing our PDC with Parrick Whitefield in the UK…. Hey if you ever need a place to stay in London (zone 2) get in touch!

  3. Competition can lead to greater collaboration as well! I think, in general within the permaculture world, we tend to think that competition is bad, but it allows us to think about strategies to come together to solve a problem (or win a competition in this case!) whether it is against another team, a large agribusiness company, or unsustainable ways of living. I’m extremely happy that you have won and I hope that we can all continue to work towards sharing our knowledge, experience, and fruits with the rest of our neighbors! Good job everyone!

  4. Very NICE!!!! Very excited about this. Looking so forward to seeing this put to use for a more natural way of living!

  5. A beautiful and wonderful story to share. On the tail of the failure of Monsanto’s RoundUp this shows that there is a better way. Whole food, sustainable living are a new and better way of life for all of us. The true “Garden of Eden” is cooperative and sustainable. Thank you to all the permaculture folks across the planet.

  6. Wow! Congrats to all! Wonderful exposure for such a necessary part of our future. Please ask Pres. Obama: “Where are the solar panels you promised would be on the White House roof by Spring ’10?” We need the panels and the gardens! Thanks for all your efforts on behalf of Our Earth… Kirk

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