My name is Sam Parker-Davies. I am a young man currently travelling the world helping permaculture projects through my labour, design work and teaching skills. I have taught and assisted on 13 different permaculture courses, and worked on countless different projects in 9 different countries in the last 12 months without buying any plane tickets or starting with any spending budget.
After over a year living on Zaytuna Farm with Geoff Lawton I was given a ticket to the UK by an English traveller who learnt of my story and desire to help the world. When she bought my ticket I began my travels through Australia, and then the UK, starting without money, and now being able to use it to further my learning and assist projects in need. In the year I have been traveling I have survived solely from permaculture work, and have become very aware of just how much of it there is to do.
These articles are an invitation for any person considering their next step to focus on an education and career in permaculture. There is a huge need for it in every corner of the world, from the impoverished to the hyper-wealthy, there really is no limit or end. For anyone reading these articles, I hope it will serve to inspire you.
The United Kingdom
I jumped on a plane and 35 hours later I landed at Heathrow airport. For all foreign visitors, they ask that we fill out a form detailing our occupation, intentions in the country, and so on. I completed the form without much thought and arrived to the desk quite excited to be in a new country, having already seen it from above. I gave my form to the airport security officer and grinned. “Hello, I’m really excited to be here.”
Security Officer: “First time in the UK?”
“First time out of Australia really.”
Security Officer: “What’s the purpose of your visit?”
Security Officer: “What do you study?”
Me: “Agriculture and settlement design.”
Security Officer: “With which university?”
Me: “I don’t go to university.”
Security Officer: “So how do you study?”
Me: “It’s independent.”
Security Officer: “So what’s the name of the institution?”
Me: “Umm, the Permaculture Research Institute is where I was living in Australia.”
He looked down at my card.
Security Officer: “Peerma-culture? What is this?”
I pulled out the designer’s manual. He was understandably a bit perplexed by the cover.
Me: “I think you’d really like it. It’s this way we can redesign human settlement and agriculture to be totally beneficial to all life of earth.”
He looked a bit confused “So there’s an institute you’re coming to here?”
Me: “Not really. I’m studying with permaculture professionals at their homes and projects throughout the UK.”
“Right.” He asked me lots of questions. I explained how we could redesign farms and villages, re-green deserts and restore ecosystems in a way that would meet human needs, making us an extremely beneficial element of the earth, rather than a destructive one.
Security Officer: “Do you intend to work?”
Security Officer: “Well, yes.”
Security Officer: “How much money do you have?”
I got a little worried and told him an inflated amount that I thought would be more than enough for the 2 months I intended to stay.
Security Officer: “Euros or dollars?”
Security Officer: “Do you have a working visa?”
He asked me if it was ok if he held onto my passport. I told him it was no problem. He said that just because it was my first time overseas they would like to ask me some questions. On our way over he asked me more about permaculture and it became the theme for my next 4 hours of interrogation.
For 3 and a half of the 4 hours it looked like I was going to be deported. Worried that I didn’t have enough money to be in the UK for 2 months without working they asked me how I would live. I showed them my diary entries of living without money and explained free travel and my intention to use it to educate myself and access opportunities so that I could help people and pull myself out of my low socioeconomic status at the same time. Curious about everything I said, I explained permaculture to them in greater and greater depth. With the help of my friend, who waited the whole time for me, and through the kindness and interest of one security officer in particular, I was allowed into the UK with new friends at Heathrow.
Upon arrival I went to Coldstream to visit a permaculture teacher and author Graham Bell. I lived with him and his wife Nancy for 3 weeks learning about their 30 year old cold climate forest garden.
While I was there Graham went through great lengths to help me figure out my curriculum for the PDC I was to teach in Greece. I read the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilisations by David R. Montgomery and had a sense of my travel taking me from the colonised land of Australia where the modern methods of destructive agriculture had been introduced, back to where it had sailed from across the oceans. I learnt about the organic agriculture movement in the UK at the dawn of the industrial revolution, with Darwin writing his last book on the profound service of earthworms, with many other key figures warning against the destruction of past agriculture and what was being suggested by industrialising agriculture. I was then going to Greece from where a destructive form of conquer and degrade organic agriculture had made its way through the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia, later furthered by the Romans. My last stop was then to Jordan, the fertile crescent where it is thought this agricultural attitude was born. It is no wonder the rest of the earth is turning into a desert when you see this place.
My trip in the UK passed on 4 more farms; I had a crash course in cold climate agroforestry with Mark Shipperlee, met the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, learnt about the river restoration work reintroduced beavers were doing in Scotland with Kate Everett, and had a trip to Totnes, the home of transition towns, doing very similar work to my friends in the Blue mountains on an international level.
Hitchhiking great distances and being gifted bus tickets by some very kind people I spent very little on some food and gifts for my family.
From Totnes I hitchhiked to Martin Crawford’s food forest tour on a whim. The cold climate diversity packed into the little forest he had designed was absolutely beautiful. Japanese berries and mushrooms to Siberian pea trees and North American paw paw. From there, with no place to go next, I got in a car with a family from Southampton and ended up in their house, where they had a very young Martin Crawford inspired food forest, building towards self-sufficiency. I stayed and worked here for a week.
I left for London, where I was to fly from, and was welcomed by Salah Hamad, a great man and long-term student of Geoff’s.
He showed me some allotments and city farms in London, and I went to the biggest botanical collection in the world, Kew Gardens.
From here I thanked Salah for his hospitality and left for Greece.