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Co-Directors: Erik & Olivia Peterson

Erik

“I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and have lived in the Southeastern Ohio region for more than a decade. After graduating from Ohio University with a degree in English, I went on to work with Community Food Initiatives (CFI), also based in Athens, Ohio. CFI focuses on issues pertaining to food security and resilience in the region through a slew of effective programs, workshops and community and school gardens. During my two years with CFI, I had an epiphany. Delivering fresh, healthy produce to folks in underserved areas is a positive and necessary endeavor, but nonetheless I was reminded of the old adage:

“Feed a person a fish and they eat for a day.
Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.”

During my time with CFI, I began to explore the teachings of permaculture via various books by Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, David Jacke, Starhawk, Toby Hemenway and others. I was elated to discover that Permaculture is a wide ranging, umbrella term which pertains to most everything we as humans need to know and act upon in order to sustainably thrive on this planet in peace, and I realized that Permaculture was also the missing thread between so many of my seemingly varied personal interests. I underwent my first Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Solid Ground Farm outside of Athens, Ohio, in the early Spring of 2014. This is where I also met Olivia!

Having taught English abroad in China and Thailand (TEFL), and having worked with youth, young adults and adults in an educational setting at various times in my life, I had always known that I wanted to be a teacher. What better fit then, but to teach Permaculture? In order to effectively teach though, it is best to live what you are teaching...

In July of 2015, I attended a Permaculture teachers’ training with Midwest Permaculture (MWP) based in Stelle, Illinois. Towards the end of the course, Bill and Becky Wilson of MWP asked me if I would be willing to join them as an intern at their Cal-Earth Center for Earth Art and Architecture PDC and assist them with the course. After undergoing the Cal Earth super-adobe training, my first Midwest Permaculture PDC began. By the end of 2018, I will have taught or co-taught 15 PDCs here in the US and in Canada.

In early 2016, I co-founded Wood & Stone, LLC with a long-time friend. Wood & Stone is a cooperative business model, designed from the ground up with Permaculture principles and ethics in mind. Our business offers Permaculture design, masonry, construction, natural building and other ecological landscaping services with a strong appreciation for native plants and ecology. As a working permaculture designer, I have experience designing and installing polycultural and perennial based food systems in Southeastern Ohio and in Missouri. I am also a Master Gardener through the Ohio State University extension program and aim to complete the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program in the near future.

Ultimately though, I am a perennial student, constantly learning, growing and finding new applications for the Permaculture curriculum as it continues to evolve, thanks to the many contributing hands and minds across the world. My partner Olivia and I steward our farm, Fern Hollow Farm, as a living laboratory for regenerative practices, ranging from soil health to eco-therapy and community engagement. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and to meeting you and hearing your story -- let’s help each other learn to fish!”

Olivia 

"Coming across the concept of Permaculture was like finding a long-sought conclusion encompassing many previous questions and quests. Questions about justice, sustainability and regeneration, and right livelihood.  

I  began asking these questions when I was 17 and heard a powerful talk by human rights journalist Nicholas Kristof. Less than a year later, I was on a plane for India to volunteer with women and girls' empowerment initiatives. I was filled with youthful idealism and this trip challenged me in many ways. Issues of inequality, poverty, pollution, hunger weighed heavy, and it was then that I committed myself to a life of service and solutions. 
 
Upon returning home, I earned a degree in Environment, Economics, Development, and Sustainability. During my studies I worked at Ohio State's Department of Agriculture and Environmental Economics working on policy research related to deforestation and climate change. Though I learned a great deal, the work could be quite grim, and I quickly became frustrated with equations attempting to monetize the value of trees and fresh water for the sake of policy solutions. The root of these environmental crises seems to be a disconnect in values resulting from individuals far removed from nature and from their communities. I believed then as I do now that achieving real sustainability is more aligned with strong, interconnected communities and intact ecosystems and that perhaps deriving this value is a great deal more intimate in its work and application. Attending a permaculture design course in 2014 connected and transformed my ideas and pursuits, and I found myself with an inspiring framework and set of tools to begin designing these community connections... 

I returned to my home in Southeast Ohio and began consulting with several different community development projects revolving around local food development and food access - including the creation of a community learning garden with at-risk youth and the creation of a regional farmer's cooperative and food incubation kitchen. 

My favorite exploration has been designing and growing this farm. A day doesn't go by where I'm not learning something new. I recently completed a Masters of Social Work specializing in Mental Health and Community and Social Justice. The Care Farming model, popular in Europe, has served as major inspiration in our permaculture journey. The model links social services and restorative justice to land and to farms, acknowledging the healing power of nature, and of caring for the earth. We hope to help promote this model in the US, by offering therapy and other programs at our farm.  

My life's work is dedicated to facilitating intimate connection between people and nature in the hope that we might value each other and this beautiful Earth we all inhabit."