LandWorks, at the Dartington Estate in rural Devon, England, is a training center that helps former inmates develop a foundation to transition back into their communities after release. The center, largely built by the trainees, provides job training in food production, woodworking, landscaping, and construction, as well as soft skills in human interaction and home economics. LandWorks works closely with the government and employers to provide social services and job placements, and above all prioritizes cultivating a sense of self-worth, responsibility, and ownership for the trainees – reducing recidivism rates twelve-fold. Visit the LandWorks website to learn more. Photo by Antoine Taveneaux, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Arun Venkataraman, the founder of Marudam Farm School, explains: “Marudam (farmland in Tamil) was born out of a need to provide a space for ‘learning by doing’ academics, nature and ‘unstructured time.'” Marudam follows a principle of democratic learning, with two things given highest priority: students’ freedom to pursue their interests and time spent outside learning about the land. The students at Marudam grow up to 85% of the food consumed at the school. The school is partly supported by The Forest Way, a non-profit trust that also builds parks and green spaces in Tamil Nadu. Marudam is an integral part of their mission to restore wild lands near Thiruvannamalai and grow food according to nature’s ways. To learn more, visit Marudam and The Forest Way’s websites, or read Schooling for curiosity. Photo by Edu Cavalcanti
The Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, or MESA, is a cross-cultural network of farmers, elders, and educators, who share ancestral knowledge and practical skills with each other to build ecologically sound food systems. The list of their projects is lengthy, but perhaps the most unique is an on-site training program in Oakland, California, geared towards immigrants, refugees, and former prisoners who aspire to be farmers. They also have a two-way exchange program which allows farmers outside the US and inside the US to cross paths and learn from each other’s traditions. MESA’s extensive work can be explored at https://mesaprogram.org/.
One year after Timor Leste’s independence, Timorese student activists and permaculture facilitators teamed up to rehabilitate the country’s war-torn landscapes and to encourage food sovereignty through permaculture principles and traditional agricultural practices. They created the Tropical Permaculture Guidebook, now used by Timor Leste’s Department of Agriculture and by NGOs and communities in 174 countries. Today, Permatil promotes regenerative agriculture through many avenues, including a national farmers’ network and the inclusion of place-based agricultural education and school gardens into the national school curriculum. Read the story of their genesis here. Photo credit: AusTimorFN (CC-BY 2.0)
At this residential school in Pune, India, students and farmers work together to cultivate and market indigenous varieties of seeds, learning agricultural and business skills in the process. In an area once dominated by hybrid varieties, the program now produces eight tons of heritage seeds per year, and also sells produce to parents and their networks. Demand for both is greater than the supply, and the program plans to expand production to ten more villages in the coming year. Read this article and browse the school’s website to learn more about this bountiful partnership.
For the 250 residents of Smith Island, in the Chesapeake Bay just a few hours from Washington, DC, life revolves around the same things it has for more than 300 years: crabbing and oystering. The Smith Island Environmental Education Center, managed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, focuses on the integral role of the island’s watermen culture in environmental stewardship of the bay. Students and teachers throughout the state come to experience living on “island time” in tune with the cycles of nature, and to listen to residents speak – in their distinctive local dialect – about the economy, culture, and future of the island. Learn more about Smith Island in this Atlas Obscura article, and about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Smith Island program here.