The latest project from the Permaculture Research Institute comes via the years of hard work from Paul and Fiona Rossiter, active community members and permaculture enthusiasts. The long-time sustainability advocates have begun numerous initiatives on their home turf of Central West in New South Wales, Australia. Now, they’re taking their love of sustainable living a step further with a new knowledge center and the very first permaculture school and cold climate education center in the region.
A Sustainable Background
Paul and Fiona say they’ve lived most of their lives following a certain internal code of conduct not dissimilar to permaculture, recognizing the importance of using what they have, mixed with a little ingenuity, to create a healthy, equally beneficial relationship with nature.
The couple opened Bissy’s Cafe in Orange along with their daughter, Kirstin, as a community outlet for fresh, nutritious and wholesome foods, but also added family activities that derived from their interest in permaculture. The cafe’s Gymbaroo is a place for pre-school children and parents to learn together, while Fipa’s World is a natural setting perfect for communing with nature.
Family and preserving the Earth for future generations is a large concern of the couple, who have raised eight children, fostered 28 and hosted eight international children. They soon learned that sustainability was often the most cost-effective, while simultaneously healthy, means of living when it comes to feeding so many mouths, from growing their own food to collecting eggs from resident chickens.
Paul and Fiona have been striving to incorporate even more of their permaculture knowledge into their community endeavors (which has grown so much that school groups are coming to the cafe to learn about permaculture), mainly through online educational resources, and this led them to eventually attend one of Geoff Lawton’s leading international Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) courses at Zaytuna Farm.
They were encouraged to continue their own efforts while there, and they also discovered new skills and methods to increase their impact even further. Through their time at Zaytuna Farm, they learned that Geoff and the Permaculture Research Institute was looking to establish other, similar educational centers within Australia, as part of their Master Plan projects.
The Start of Something Great
As the couple owns 97 acres of untouched land, it was only a given that they begin channeling their passions for permaculture and assisting their community with this rewarding project. The plot was already perfect as a completely clean slate, with no internal fences and four creek beds, plus a vintage train converted into accommodations.
They submitted a request to Geoff to create a new Permaculture Educational Centre on the build-ready land, excited to use their qualified backgrounds to further both their knowledge and their community influence. Now that their request has been approved, they, along with Geoff, are excited to begin.
However, there’s still a long road ahead for the couple. With a pre-existing Development Application already approved by the Cabonne Council, they are setting their sights on raising the funds needed to build the education center and develop the land in a fitting way. A Go Fund Me account went live Sept. 30, with a goal of raising $200,000 for these purposes.
As recycling is a huge part of permaculture, one of the main ways the construction of the center will occur is through the reuse of shipping containers. However, even with this kind of recycling, the construction can still be costly and take a long time.
Paul and Fiona expect to work on their project in small steps, as they reach their monetary goal bit by bit. They hope the center will be complete sometime next year, but they still plan to provide on-site education within what little infrastructure is currently there.
Other additional needs include road work and water storage (as there is currently only one dam and a need for swales, more dams and other water structure in the overall site design), composting tea units and toilet systems and straw bale structures.
Paul and Fiona are also looking to hire an on-site caretaker, who has prior permaculture experience and the ability to assist with building, planting, and educational development. The WWOOF program (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) will be influential in finding the perfect team member, as sustainability and permaculture enthusiasts come from all over the world to volunteer their time and work, often in exchange for a place to stay and meals, as well as the valuable experience and connections.
In addition, they’re currently setting up trial permaculture farm gardens, with room for food forests, herb and vegetable gardens, and even taking into consideration the animal and plant relationships to make the best use of their time and space. After seeing how the small-scale trial permaculture farm gardens perform, they will expand the gardens in a much larger way. They’re also introducing other animals to the land, in addition to the wildlife already there.
Preparing For The Future
After all of these major components are securely in place, the couple plans to increase their educational opportunities substantially. Community members and permaculture scholars from all over the world will be able to visit the center to enjoy a variety of workshops, from an intensive, two-week Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course similar to what Fiona and Paul experienced at Zaytuna Farm, to five-day soil workshops and weekend courses.
The ultimate goal above and beyond is a wealth of education and to use all of the resources available on the 97-acre site to produce so much food that they actually need to give it away to the community.
For more information on Paul and Fiona’s endeavor, and to either help or learn how you can get involved in this exciting permaculture project, keep up with the couple and educational center online. You can find them on Permaculture Global and on Facebook, where they post regularly on the Bissy’s Cafe Orange page. Plus, keep up with them on both Twitter and Instagram. The couple is also open to any ideas, advice or assistance you’d like to offer, and invite you to reach out and connect.