Bill Bilodeau: urban permaculture and community building

Bill and Grow Permaculture student volunteers at the Faith House

Bill and Grow Permaculture student volunteers at the Faith House

Bill is a real pioneer species. After taking the first two weeks, on site permaculture design course taught in the state of Florida at age 77, braving primitive conditions and unexpected wind and freezing temperatures to gain the knowledge, Bill started a small book study group on the book Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, in his home town of St Petersburg. This group helped build a permaculture meetup site to over 500 members, and created a groundswell of permablitzes, backyard and front yard permaculture gardens, and hundreds of people introduced to the concept of permaculture.  When it came time to choose a name for themselves, they became Gaia’s Guardians, a fitting name for what this group is doing.

As a veteran native plant landscaper and now a permaculture designer, Bill was the ideal person to help establish a permaculture project at the Faith House, a transitional housing organization with 1/2 acre of land given over to grow food for the participants in the program.  Along with Emmanuel Roux, another energetic pioneer, and many volunteers who lent their hands and backs to the project, Bill has created an organic garden paradise on this lot. Complete with several dozen chickens, a kenaf forest to feed them, an exotic looking banana lined and papyrus stocked pond, native pollinator borders, numerous productive vegetable beds and a budding food forest, this plot provides a large amount of food for the Faith House, with leftovers for volunteers.  A number of 275 gallon containers catch rainwater from the roof, and a well provides clean water to the garden. The site gives a boost to new community gardens by collecting pallets and dock wood for raised beds, and tools and other materials. You can find Bill working in the garden on just about any Wednesday or Sunday morning, and pitch in and help, if you like.

Chicken and kenaf symbiosis

Chicken and kenaf symbiosis

Bill’s own home permaculture garden is a regular and favorite stop during the permaculture home tour that is organized by Gaia’s Guardians.  From the weeping yaupon holly and other beautiful natives, and the huge kale and watermelon growing on his hugulkulture bed in his front yard, to the large abundant backyard overflowing with perennial edibles and potted permaculture plants for sale via his permaculture nursery, to his greywater and rain catchment systems and pond,  Bill’s garden is a great example of how permaculture style organic gardening can create abundance, and a real nice place to hang out.

Bill regularly tours permaculture students, school classrooms, and others through the Faith House, and shares his wisdom and experience on creating community through permaculture style gardening, via our Permaculture Design Courses.

native pollinator hedge

native pollinator hedge

Bill has taken his activity up yet another notch as one of the original members and continuing very active member of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition of St Petersburg. This Coalition is a diverse group of individuals from many walks of life who want to see both the city and the environment become healthier and reap all the other benefits available through growing much more local food.  Bill heads the Education committee and is very active in the Board selection committee, Community Gardens committee, and as an advisor for new community gardens.  Bill’s community involvement is truly inspiring – he has gone above and beyond to bring permaculture to his community.

Jayne Cobb does it at school

jko-carica-papaya-00412

Jayne Cobb and Ellen Teeter got their permaculture garden going strong after the course that was taught in Sarasota, and have been adding things ever since. Their small yard is packed full of perennials like papaya, edible hibiscus, cranberry hibiscus, purple okinawan sweet potato, moringa, galangal, as well as a full serving of annuals. Jayne puts her cooking magic to the task of combining her backyard food supply into gourmet heaven.  She has also co-created a garden with her classroom at the local Montessori school, where she teaches kids how patterns in the garden harmonize with larger universal patterns, and shows them how much fun gardening can be from seed to table.

Eric Stewart walks the talk

eric stewart

Eric is one of the more dedicated and enthusiastic designers we have met. He didn’t wait to finish the course, but got one project started during the PDC itself, creating a food garden at a Habitat for Humanity site in Pasco County. He has shown many other people the advantages of permaculture through personal contact and an active permaculture web site, Codegreencommunity.org, that provides support and information to permaculturists in the greater Tampa Bay area. And most recently, he has become co-founder and one of the driving forces of a local food co-op in Pasco – Suncoast Food Co-op. https://www.facebook.com/groups/264378686981983/?ref=ts&fref=ts

He has transformed his yard into a food forest jungle complete with a pond ecosystem and much more – showing his neighborhood how to make food, not lawns. And he is selling the food he grows to the cooperative. How much carbon is he reducing by growing and selling food locally, eliminating thousands of miles of travel and the energy and pollution associated with pesticide and herbicide use, and by setting the example, influencing others to do the same?