Fair Harvest Permaculture has been twenty-five years in the making, but when Jodie Lane – the well-known local behind it – is asked what the business is about she has to pause because the business focus has come to include so many different products.  In 1995 Jodie started developing permaculture gardens on an old dairy farm in Margaret River, planting food gardens and trees, and building animal systems, “very much with a focus on planting for the future”.  Today, bees hover over rosemary as sunlight reflects off a water tank, and everything from the solar panels on the roof to the timber milled onsite from trees planted decades earlier tells a story of sustainability and local connection.

Jodie’s strong vision for a sustainable way of working with the land had seen her, decades earlier, protesting the logging of local forests.  She reminisces that “constantly having to look at the sad and depressing things happening in the world was personally taxing, and permaculture became important to me as a way of creating a more positive world for the future.”

In 2012 Jodie and her partner Dorothee decided to renovate the old farm shed as a business space and launch Fair Harvest Permaculture as a business teaching Permaculture courses.  The most popular course is the Permaculture Design Certificate – a two-week, live-in course drawing on knowledge and expertise from the best practitioners in the region. Their next course will be the 14th such certificate taught from the property, with course attendees coming from all around Australia.  Interestingly, it is not uncommon for roughly half the group to comprise locals.  “Our focus is the fact that we use local people with local knowledge, and the people that do our courses end up connecting with each other and the teachers and help build the permaculture community”.

So what is permaculture?  Permaculture is about a permanent culture and agriculture, and Jodie says that more than just learning the skills to grow vegetables, most people coming to courses on the farm are “really concerned about the direction that we’re going – environmentally, economically, socially – and they want to do something positive for their family or the community.”  Permaculture has three ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of People, and Fair Share, and Fair Harvest Permaculture focuses on sharing both produce and knowledge.  With education being Australia’s third biggest export, they are providing a service much in demand, and simultaneously building the local community’s knowledge and capacity for self-sufficiency and sustainability.  But education is just one of Fair Harvest Permaculture’s offerings.

There are two venues available for hire, with regular yoga and meditation classes available, weddings held onsite, community events, and a commercial kitchen.  The latest project is a sustainable campground, providing a space not only for course participants but for a wide range of visitors to the Margaret River region.  The campground provides a ‘soft’ introduction for visitors into permaculture practices – composting toilets, worm farms, grey water systems, and herbs available for campers to cook with!

Our focus is the fact that we use local people with local knowledge, and the people that do our courses end up connecting with each other and the teachers and help build the permaculture community

With travel and events on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in-person education unable to happen onsite, Fair Harvest Permaculture has turned to producing food boxes for locals as means of bringing an income in.  When asked further about the impact of the pandemic, Jodie shared an insight very much aligned with the spirit of giving that has emerged in the Margaret River community:

“I think it’s pushed people really into thinking about where their food comes from – where everything’s coming from at the moment – and anybody that’s been sitting on the fence about maybe one day having a veggie garden is jumping into it now.  When lockdown started and everybody was having trouble getting seeds we went through our seed bank and packaged up a lot of seeds – there must have been two hundred packets of seeds all up – and we put them out the front gate in a box, and it was a bit like the supermarket rush, with a queue of cars!”

This community spirit was recognized in 2018 with Fair Harvest Permaculture receiving the runner up Community Spirit Award at the Telstra Regional Business Awards, where they also received the Environmental Excellence Award.  With construction materials sourced onsite, food produced onsite, and teachers and labour coming from within the community, Fair Harvest Permaculture is a shining light of localism.

For those interested in sampling what Fair Harvest Permaculture has on offer you can attend a farm Open Day, one Sunday per month, where you can take a self-guided walk, meet the goats, and eat at the Farm Café.  If you’re keen to buy local, it doesn’t get more local than the Fair Harvest Sunday Lunch, with all of the fruit and vegetables from the garden, honey from the farm, and local goats cheese or meat from surrounding producers.  Using seasonal produce, the café offers just three meal options – usually a vegan, vegetarian and meat option.  In addition to the Open Days, locals might want to even try a “staycation” – the pandemic alternative to a vacation – and book a campsite for a few days, ordering a  basket of vegetables on arrival, and maybe trying a yoga or sound meditation class.  Check the website for details of upcoming courses and events: www.fairharvest.com.au