Permablitz – what’s it all about?
This article was first published in the Coffs Coast Advocate, 20.11.10
First there was ‘guerrilla gardening’. In the dead of night, hard core local food activists would surreptitiously sow brassicas, leafy greens and even the odd citrus tree on urban nature strips.
Now there’s ‘backyard blitzes’ or, more commonly, ‘permablitzes’. So what is it with all these psuedo-military metaphors to describe new variants on the gentle art of gardening for food?
According to the www.permablitz.net, a permablitz is “an informal gathering involving a day on which a group of people come together to achieve the following:
- create or add to edible gardens where someone lives
- share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
- build community networks
- have fun.”
Permablitzes are the inspiration of Melbourne-based permaculture designer Dan Palmer and a South American community group. Since their beginning in 2006, over 100 permablitzes have been held throughout Melbourne, and now the movement is spreading across the rest of Australia.
Permablitzes are typically held in a private household, and indeed half a dozen permablitzes took place in people’s homes in and around Bellingen over the last 12 months.
The Coffs Coast Local Food Alliance however decided to expand the concept by working directly with local schools, using the design and labour-sharing that a permablitz offers to help schools construct a school garden or improve and expand upon an existing one.
And so the first LFA Permablitz was held last month at the Bellingen Public Primary School. Thirty-five enthusiastic volunteers – students, parents, teachers, and the principal, as well as friends and supporters – turned out to transform the bare lawn at the school’s entrance on William Street into a food oasis. The day was a fantastic success, and it was a sheer joy to be there and just experience how much a group of people working together to a shared goal based on an excellent design can achieve.
Relieving school Principal Elizabeth Mulligan spoke movingly of the ‘huge community spirit’ she witnessed on the day. “It’s just so good to see parents here with their children, also community members, with no attachment really to the school, but who have come to find out about permablitz”, she said. “And then people from organisations who are here to help us to learn about the whole procedure, and how it can be useful and good for us.”
The design was prepared by long-time permaculturalist, land-carer and market gardener Charlie Brennan, together with his son Bede, a former student of the primary school. Charlie celebrates the emergence of permablitz as a new wave of permaculture community activism.
“It’s great that permaculture has come back in again”, said Charlie. “For about 5-10 years I was really involved with permaculture here in town. We had a permaculture group, we had working bees, we had events like this – then it seemed to go quiet for a while – and now it’s back with a vengeance”, he added.
The next LFA permablitz will be held in Boambee on Saturday 4th December, at a private property. Anne, the host of this permablitz, also attended the Bellingen Primary event with her partner Tim. “We’re really keen to be involved and get some permaculture happening at our own place, so it was really good to come to the school and participate and learn, and meet other people’, Anne said.
A short video of the permablitz at Bellingen Primary, put together by local short-doco maker Mick Parker, can be viewed at the LFA website – http://coffscoastlocalfood.ning.com/.