Ballarat Permaculture Guild grew out of the BREAZE Local Food group (formed late 2006). Steve Burns and Michelle Harvie were co-convenors of the BREAZE Local Food group. After a BREAZE event where many people requested locally-based permaculture training, Steve sent an email inviting some of the most interested people to come together. In early 2008 Ballarat Permaculture Guild was born.
About 20 people came to the first meeting, which was held at Ann Goeman’s home in Mt Helen. The group met almost bi-weekly for 8 months with the goal of creating a student-centred Permaculture Design Course (PDC). They opted for an extended format of 12 weekends over a year and named the course All Seasons PDC (ASPDC).
Original committee members included Ann Goeman, Mick O’Meara, Miles Pigdon, Peta Jeffries, Steve Burns, Simon Reid, Melissa Pirie and Heather Grenon.
Although BREAZE encouraged the ASPDC committee and gave great organisational support, their insurer was nervous about some of the activities proposed in the course. As a result, BPG needed to find another ‘umbrella’ organisation with appropriate insurance and subsequently became a sub-group of Permaculture Melbourne.
In November 2008, we ran an Introduction to Vegetable Growing, led by Graeme George and held at Steve Burns’ property.
In January 2009, 45 people started the inaugural ASPDC, held at the Ballarat Observatory.
The BPG entry in the Permaculture Melbourne Annual Report shows we had 43 members in 2009. Office bearers were Melissa Pirie (Convenor) and Steve Burns (Treasurer). There were no separate ASPDC and BPG committees until after ASPDC graduation in December 2009.
In 2009 and 2010, quite a few ASPDC students also enrolled in the accredited Certificate III in Permaculture, which required a lot of additional work outside class time. Virginia Solomon and Beck Lowe provided guidance and Beck was our workplace assessor. Although many enrolled, only 13 Certificate III students completed the qualification and this was largely through the efforts of a small volunteer support team comprising Angela Enbom, Steve Burns, Pat Arnts and Ann Goeman. It was a massive effort and all those who completed the qualification are to be congratulated.
BPG has continued to deliver the PDC since 2009, almost every year. Different formats have been tried, including ten weekends across a year, one day a week and the current format of eight weekends over six months, starting late January.
The current PDC format avoids running too far into Winter (cold and flu season), gives us site visits in good weather when garden produce is abundant and allows students time to integrate learning between weekends.
In February 2011, Steve Burns was appointed part time project worker for the Backyard Bounty project, funded by Sustainability Victoria. Steve worked 3 days per week and the three project goals were:
- Workshops program developed and implemented
- Permablitz established in Ballarat
- Social media connections developed (primarily through growth of BPG FB page)
The BPG FB page went from about 30 members to 300 in the first year, more than doubled in 2012 and has continued to grow, with the number now approaching 2000 (May 2019).
For several years after 2012, extensive workshop and permablitz programs continued to run, guided by volunteer committees. Our level of activity in these areas is directly related to our level of volunteer involvement, so please consider finding your own place in helping make things happen!
Over the years, BPG has held stalls at local community events such as the Ballarat Show, Rural Living Expo, FORP Sustainability Festival and Ballarat Community Garden Harvest Festival.
Social events like Permies at the Pub and Permies at the Market create opportunities for people to get together informally and have been ‘first contact’ points for some of our FB friends. The annual Winter Solstice and Christmas Parties have also been highlights.
In 2017, BPG began a new project: The Hidden Orchard, which harvests fruit from ‘forgotten’ or neglected backyard fruit trees and distributes the yield to home owners, pickers and charities. More information at hiddenorchard.org
In mid 2016 BPG incorporated in its own right, becoming Ballarat Permaculture Guild Inc. We now have over 100 financial members and have graduated 150+ PDC students.