Jean holding vegetables

Permie Spotlight – Jean Werk

Jean is a long standing Permaculture Central Coast member and has held many committee positions over the years. He is also one of the nicest people you could hope to meet…and he has a very impressive and productive garden. Jean is this month’s Permie Spotlight.

1. When and how did you find Permaculture?

In 2009, we had the Global Financial Crisis followed by the swine flu and I realised how vulnerable we were to catastrophes. Without regular supplies from the shops, we wouldn’t be able to survive very long.
We only had a small townhouse garden back then and I researched how to make it productive. I found good books that explained how to grow food plants using crop rotation on an ideal block of land. But no book had a logical approach to set up a specific garden.

With my professional background in IT infrastructure, I was looking for a garden design methodology. At the library, I borrowed the “Introduction to permaculture” by Bill Mollison and this was the lightbulb moment.

2. What Permaculture training / studies have you undertaken?

I read all of Bill Mollison’s books from cover to cover. I understood most of the concepts, except patterns. This was enough to hinder my design process because you need to “design from pattern to details” (David Holmgren’s Principle # 7).

So I enrolled for a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) course online with Permaculture Visions, because I didn’t have time to attend a 2-week face-to-face course.

I joined the Permaculture Sydney North group to socialise and expand my knowledge during their monthly meetings. And I learned a lot of practical know-how during working bees. I also attended a few workshops at the Permaculture Sydney Institute in St-Albans.

3. How has Permaculture changed you / your life?

Our first home had a small south facing garden that couldn’t produce much in winter. Using what I learned during my PDC, we searched for another property that would have a good sun aspect, low risk of flooding and that was close to public transport and shops. This is why we moved to the Central Coast.

Permaculture design is now second nature to me. I apply permaculture ethics and principles in my personal life (e.g. to design my home office) and my web design business.

4. What has been your biggest ‘aha’ Permaculture moment?

I read a couple of books on soils but they were either aimed at chemical farmers or geologists. An article on the Permaculture News blog introduced the soil food web and explained why soil is alive and dirt is dead. To learn more, I read the Teaming with microbes book by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis, which every organic home gardener should read. Then I understood that you don’t actually feed plants but the soil microbes that will provide nutrients to plants roots.

5. Is there any Permaculture principle or aspect of Permaculture that resonates most with you?

Some garden projects didn’t work as expected and I’ve had some health challenges in the past few years so I’ve had to “Creatively use and respond to change” (Holmgren Principle # 12). This means that I had to redesign part of our property to make it easier to maintain without losing productivity.

Jean Werk has held various roles in the PCC Committee in the past 10 years. At the moment, he manages memberships and the PCC website.

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