Project connects students, farmers, developers to design sustainable strategies for Valley

Local university professors, farmers, businesses, community development leaders, and students are gathering together this spring for a Permaculture Design Certification Course. Organized by New Community Project and hosted at their new Sustainable Living Center at 715 N. Main in Harrisonburg, the course is bringing together people and talents from all different areas of the Valley to design a more sustainable region.

Based on patterns and processes of ecological systems, permaculture is the art and science of creating healthy and resilient human environments abundant in food, water, shelter, energy, and community. This course will focus specifically on exploring sustainability strategies for the Shenandoah Valley, and participants will emerge as a thriving practitioner network, each with the ability to design and build gardens, homes, and communities modeled on living ecosystems.

“This is a great opportunity for partnership building in the Valley,” said Tom Benevento, director of New Community Project in Harrisonburg. “I am very excited to see this course unfold, and I’m especially inspired by its nontraditional approach that emphasizes hands-on work and play, group discussion, local site tours, student-driven design projects, and work parties that create a dynamic learning environment.”

Meghan Williamson, executive director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund and one of eight individuals on the teacher team, concurs. “Creating vibrant and sustainable local economies cannot be accomplished through the efforts of a single sector – it is inherently a community wide collaboration. I am honored to be part of a course that celebrates the interdependence of agriculture, economy, community, and family,” Williamson said.

Course registration emphasizes the creation of meaningful local connections between students and teachers, farmers and business owners, and public and private sectors. “We are limiting the course to 24 participants and prioritizing admission for residents of the Shenandoah Valley,” said Adam Campbell, Education Outreach Coordinator for New Community Project. “There are still slots available, but it is filling fast.”

The dates for the four weekend, 12 day course are: February 18-21, March 11-13, April 8-10, and May 14-15. Full bios for course instructors are available on New Community Project’s website at

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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