Bill Bilodeau: urban permaculture and community building

December 3, 2012 by Koreen  
Filed under Grads in Action

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.

Taste of Freedom Farm

CIMG0046Andrew Wolfe wasted no time using the techniques he learned about in the permaculture course held at the Florida Earthship in March of 2009.  His goal is to get completely off the grid and make a living from what he produces in his yard. He named his urban Pinellas County homestead “Taste of Freedom Farm”, and in a few months has created a fish farming pond, planted citrus trees, grape vines, blueberries and a raised bed garden with rainwater catchment, composting bins, greenhouse, roof-top beehives, chicken coop and brooder box, duck house, a well, and wood source for his Franklin stove.

Here’s a note from Andrew about his project:

Thanks for the interest in my progress. I have not yet found it necessary to hire a board of directors to help manage my vast enterprise. But I have since the start of my little endeavor, seen almost nothing but advances and very few set-backs to acheive success.

My background has been in construction. I was a sheet-metal worker for 6 years and before that a renovater. My choice to change direction was fueled directly by my reading. I’m an avid reader of the classics and early American literature. I was reading some founder comments when I ran across one quote that struck a chord with me. It read “A person who wants to be ignorant and free, wants what never was and never will be”-Thomas Jefferson. It was at that point I reflected on whether my intrinsic right to be free made me free in actuality or just in theory. I rationalized it in this way; I may in fact be free to take a stroll down my street, but am I actually taking the stroll, or just sitting on my rear thinking about it. I was done wearing the vestiges of freedom without being so. All of it was hinged on me providing for myself. And all though it’s a very respectable thing to go to work and make a living wage, and as a result of your labors bring home bread for the table, you can never be certain that your job will be there forever. The stability of my lifestyle was rooted in the stability of my job, the stability of my job in the stability of the economy. There were far too many things in control of my destiny! So I set out to find what I could do to start to provide for myself and my family in a way the was tangible and concrete. The answer???—Overwhelmingly AGRICULTURE!!!! The wellspring of  functional freedom in society in my humble opinion is Agriculture. So I set about learning the “trade” so-to-speak. I have learned a basic working knowledge of: gardening, fish farming, beekeeping, and the raising and keeping of chickens and ducks. My hope is to try and be as self reliant as possible. The attainment of that final goal is yet to be had but the pursuit is a pleasure, and that is success.

CIMG0047

To answer the specific questions you had

1-I have been tending bees for about 8 months now.

2-I decided to sell the honey when I found out it had value:)

3-My plans for the future are to expand my honey production by finding more suitable bee yards within the county, increase the number of stores it’s available at, and lastly, which happens to be the most ambitious, try to show people the value of providing for themselves.

4- People can find my “Taste of Freedom Farm Honey” at Rollin’ Oats on 9th St, Natures Food Patch on Cleveland in Clearwater, and many of their local fresh fruit and vegetable stands. If your local stand doesnt carry it, that of course is a problem I would love to remedy!–Andrew Wolfe 727-439-4885.