Echo Earth Care

Project 4: Scottish Smallholders' Festival

The Scottish Smallholder Festival is Scotland’s largest smallholder event, celebrating the best of Scottish smallholding, growing and craft. Organised by smallholders and growers, it is aimed at all those with an interest in the productive use of small land holdings. Having attended this event several times myself as a smallholder, I strongly believed that this would be a great opportunity to introduce other smallholders to the amazing world of Permaculture.

Great thanks go to my good friend, Permaculture practitioner and smallholder Kate Everett with whom I created and implemented this design.

Part way through this design, after confirming our stall and workshop with the Scottish Smallholder Festival organisers, I received an invitation to the wedding of my very good friends Deirdre and Kevin, along with a request to make the wedding cake, for the same day as the Smallholders Festival. Both events were important to me and so, with Kate's help and commitment, I was able to adapt the design to allow me to attend both. I have presented the original design here, with the wedding related adaptions shown in italics.

Permaculture Design Web

This design was created using the Permaculture Design Web, created by permaculture teacher Looby Macnamara, as explained in her book 'People and Permaculture'.

The design web is a framework created specifically for people based designs. The web has 12 anchor points, each focusing on a detailed, holistic picture of where we want to go and how we are going to get there. These anchor points can be visited in any sequence appropriate for the design. After each anchor point there are many directions you could move in and solutions can emerge from any of the anchor points. In this respect it is different from more traditional linear design tools.

The Permaculture Design Web


allow yourself to dream and create goals
identify the things that are going to help
identity the helpful and unhelpful patterns
gather inspirations
look through the lens of each one of the Permaculture Principles
bring it all together
make a plan for getting things done
how to keep going
focus on things to be thankful for
evaluate progress
incorporate times of rest and rejuvenation

I have highlighted below how each of the anchors I chose were used to shape the design.

Vision - allow yourself to dream and create goals

I strongly believed that smallholders could benefit greatly from learning about what Permaculture has to offer. So many participants at Permaculture Design Courses complete the course dearly wishing they could get a small plot of land to implement all that they've learned, so it made sense that those already with land would be in an ideal position to implement a lot of Permaculture principles to significantly increase their productivity and efficiency. I set myself the following goals for the event.

  1. Talk to 50+ new people about Permaculture.
  2. Leave people with a happy feeling and strong interest in Permaculture.
  3. Show Permaculture as a professional design tool as well as something fun.
  4. Collect contact details for anyone who wants more information from the Permaculture Association, Permaculture Scotland, or on local courses.
  5. Make sure that both myself and the wedding cake get to the wedding on time!

Helps - identify the things that are going to help

Permaculture Magazine

I wanted to create a stall that was inviting to passers by, to have literature to give people to take away with them and to make sure the presentation left people wanting to know more.

  1. Permaculture Association Literature - flyers, leaflets etc.
  2. Permaculture Association banners and posters to bring people over to the stall and give the stall a clear and professional looking identity.
  3. Copies of the Permaculture Magazine - this is what got me interested in Permaculture.
  4. Giving a talk and making the talk fun, informative and interactive if possible,
  5. Being well prepared and confident.
  6. Inviting other Permaculture practitioners, Kate and Nenya to come along to help man the stall, share the presentation and generally make the day more fun.
  7. Having the wedding cake collected the day before the wedding.
  8. Setting up the stall the night before the festival and then staying the night at a relatives house who lives close to the venue to minimise driving on the day and make my start time on the day as late as possible.
Permaculture stall

Limits - identify the things that might block your path or keep it small or slow it down

Given that I had to get a wedding in the afternoon, time was going to be a seriously limiting factor to what could be achieved on the day.

  1. May not receive materials and banners from Permaculture association.
  2. Not enough time to prepare slides.
  3. Working remotely with Kate, using Dropbox to share slides.
  4. Cold venue - need to wear plenty of warm clothes.
  5. Would really like to do" interactions web" game, but participants may not be willing and there may not be enough space.
  6. I need to leave by 1pm to get to the wedding on time, so will only have time for stall and one presentation, and not time for games as originally intended.

Patterns - identify the helpful and unhelpful patterns

I didn't find any relevant patterns for this particular design.

Ideas - gather ideas and inspirations

  • need to have as much information as possible to demonstrate the wide range of topics available through Permaculture - Permaculture Magazines, PA leaflets, my own Permaculture books covering an array of topics etc.
  • Need to make it attractive to bring people over - try to get hold of Permaculture Association Banners and posters
  • Bring along a large tub of chocolates to entice people over to the stall.
Web of Interactions Game
  • Bring string, laminated drawings of relevant elements
What to wear
  • Find out if there is a Permaculture Scotland fleece as it is always very cold at the Smallholders festival - too cold for just the Permaculture T-shirt!
Presentation to include
  • Brief introduction to Permaculture
  • Comparison with ergonomics
  • Explain Zoning and interactions
  • Share data from Graham Bells Garden Cottage
  • Share examples of design from my own garden (Croftgary) and Kate's garden (Inverquiech)
  • Include list of useful links, e.g. finding nearest Permaculture designer, consultants, events and courses.
Logistics to facilitate festival and wedding
  • Stay at Thankerton the night before the festival. Deliver cake to venue the day before wedding. Go straight to friends house in Edinburgh to get changed for the wedding and stay over after the wedding.

Principles - look through the lens of each of the Permaculture design principles

I have only written below those principles that I found most relevant to the design.

Permaculture principles

Obtain a yield - collect contact details of anyone wishing to know more about Permaculture or wishing to sign up to newsletters from the Permaculture Association.

Integrate - work with Permanent Publications to publicise Permaculture Magazine and their books

Use edges (important things happen at the edges/intersections) - request a stall position near to the cafe and toilets to maximise footfall.

Creatively use and respond to change

  • Presentation will be in auction hall rather than conference room so not conducive to interactive games etc.
  • Agree handover time with Kate to allow me to attend good friends wedding.
  • Banners not available from Permaculture Association so print out posters from website.
  • Nenya not able to come to festival.
  • Accept Carolyn's offer to collect cake in advance of wedding, and of invitation to use her house to get changed and to stay over.

Use and value diversity - invite Kate and Nenya to share the stall and presentation. The more people with different experiences the better - also good for covering lunch and toilet breaks!

Action - make a plan for getting things done

An action plan was created and followed through.

Appreciation - focus on things to be thankful for

  • Hugely grateful that Kate and her husband Bill were able to share the day with me, contributing some of the slides for the presentation and their own inimitable sense of humour and warmth during our shared presentation and throughout the whole design and implementation process. This was doubly appreciated given that they drove a very long way to be there whilst Kate was suffering from the flu.
  • Grateful to Tony at Permanent Publications for providing free copies of Permaculture Magazine and flyers for Permanent Publications and Green Shopping.
  • Thankful for my sister-in-law Darlene for cooking me dinner and providing Bed and Breakfast the night before the festival.
  • Many thanks to Carolyn for collecting the wedding cake and offering a place to get ready for the wedding and a bed to sleep in afterwards.

Presentation given to the Scottish Smallholders and Growers Festival September 2016

The design of the presentation and slide pack was aimed at demonstrating that Permaculture contains a suite of professional tools that can deliver fantastic results

  1. Introduction to Permaculture as a toolbox of methodologies that can be applied where most appropriate.
  2. Explanation of zoning and interaction analyses as an ergonomic exercise by comparison with everyday object, such as a car.
  3. Demonstration of how zoning and input/output analysis on real life scenario using Carole's site at Croftgary as an example.
  4. Demonstration of results of permaculture in a proven garden scenario using Kate's garden at Inverquiech and Graham Bells gardens as examples.
  5. More information on how to find out more, and how to get involved.

Evaluate progress

The Smallholders festival was a great success for us. We had a constant stream of interested and enthusiastic visitors to the stall all day and Kate received very positive feedback about our presentation from people who visited the stall after the presentation (by which point I had left to attend the wedding), saying that the presentation left them wanting to know more.

We certainly achieved the aims that we set out at the start, through chatting to people and demonstrating the potential of the design tools via the presentation.

We also collected the contact details of 25 people who wanted to hear more from the Permaculture Association. Unfortunately we were so busy that we didn't have time to take any photographs of people at the event!

I'm very pleased to say that the wedding was also a great success and a lovely time was had by all.....the cake wasn't too bad either!

The happy couple


Using the design web

This was my first time using the design web, as previous designs were all completed using SADIMET (Survey, Analyse, Implement, Monitor, Evaluate, Tweak). I liked the web in that it wasn't a linear process, so I could go back forward, refining ideas and tweaking as I went. I especially like that it encourages me to pause, rest, reflect and focus on things to be thankful - this is really important as it is very easy to get bogged down in what isn't working.

However, due to the non-linearity of the process, it does make it more difficult to write up the design. In future I might try to combine the design web with mind-mapping tools as I think they would be complementary processes.

Working with Kate

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Kate Everett on this project. We created the presentation together, discussing our ideas and objectives by phone first and then using Dropbox to each contribute half of the slides. I set up and manned the stall in the morning and Kate and her husband Bill took over in the afternoon, despite Kate being distinctly under the weather, and packed the stall away at the end of the day. We co-presented the slide pack on the day, with Kate's warmth and personal testimonials regarding her orange feet really drawing the audience in from the very start. And as always, Kate and Bills inimitable sense of humour can always be counted on to lighten the mood should our stress levels ever get too high.

As with the Secret Garden design, I believe that this design benefited by having input from other people as it really helps to have different perspectives.