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Location: Regenerative Design Institute, Bolinas, CA
Featuring: Penny Livingston

Penny Livingston, a farmer and educator in Bolinas, California, stands in her garden and witnesses her surroundings differently than most. Bird migrations, deer movement, and even raccoons passing along the creek’s steep banks define a wildlife corridor — all around and above. These must be carefully preserved. Willows, native currants, and hazelnut trees line the creek. These create natural riparian buffers, earthen barriers that hold the farm’s vital soil nutrients in the ground instead of them leaching into nearby waterways. Curves gently cut into the soil to create contoured swales. These capture rainwater, redirecting it into the ground, where it can be utilized by nearby plant roots. Finally, food forests, multilayered gardens, allow some crops to be planted above and below each other. These carefully considered design principles, each inspired by lessons learned from the natural world are examples of permaculture.

Penny explains that permaculture is permanent – “nent” + culture (as in cultivate). It’s a “whole systems” approach to the design of human settlements that integrates landscape, water, plants, animals, agriculture structures, ecology, energy, economy, and social justice into a framework that provides opportunities for humans to become benefit to the planet and all creation while supplying resources for an abundant existence.

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