by Jono Neiger
The convergence was conceived when a group of people from around the region gathered at Jono and Kemper’s house in western Massachusetts in winter 2005. The question was raised, “How can we support the growing interest in permaculture and what resources and tools are needed to support the network?” Out of this series of meetings several actions were taken, including founding PINE as a regional support organization, and starting a yearly gathering of people involved in permaculture from around the region. The central idea of the convergence was to bring folks together to share ideas and inspiration around permaculture; to support people in their local areas and encourage connection to the larger regional network. The event was conceived as a celebration more than a conference, a bringing together of people practicing and organizing around permaculture.
The convergence was also designed to move around the region and thus bring the network to the host community. In this way the local areas host an exciting, highly visible event with knowledgeable, experienced permies from around the region. The organizers can use the event to educate locally and build the local permaculture community. Additionally, the event is a chance to highlight projects in the local area. So typically the Friday before the convergence weekend there are field trips to any number of sites. This is also a good chance to share what people are doing and what is working both technically and also in communication and outreach.
The idea of moving the convergence around the region to stimulate and promote permaculture has been very successful. I remember being on the site tours at the Vermont convergence in 2009 and we heard a radio program interview about the event. The interviewer was trying to understand what exactly permaculture is. In this way the event really highlighted that neighbors in the area are doing permaculture, this really exciting and transformative practice.
Each local host group designs the particulars of the event with an eye towards continuity as the years have gone by. (Incidentally the Permaculture Olympics have not been repeated since they were held initially in Holyoke Massachusetts. The saladathalon and dale swigging champions have gone unchallenged.) This allows the convergence to fit the local needs and capacity of the area.
In the early years choosing the site was ad hoc and very loose. At the 2007 event in Ithaca there was a Saturday evening keg party. I went through the crowd and asked the western mass contingent if they wanted to host the next year. In the excitement, everyone said “of course!” Little did we know what a big undertaking it would be, though it was very successful the next year at Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, MA.
At the first convergence there were only 30 to 40 people. The inspiration was David Holmgren’s visit to North America and we used his visit to New Hampshire to bring folks together to meet him and talk about what was happening with permaculture and how we could reach more people. He toured the Dartmouth College student farm, thus beginning the tradition of tours of local projects as part of the convergence.
Here is the list of where the northeast regional convergence has been held so far, and the local permaculture groups which supported the event
- 2005 – 1st NE Regional Gathering “Convergence” with special guest David Holmgren, Cold Pond Community Land Trust, Acworth, NH
- 2006 – D’ Acres Farm, Dorchester, NH
- 2007 – Cayuga Nature Center, Ithaca, NY / Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute
- 2008 – Nuestras Raices, Holyoke, MA / W. Mass Permaculture Guild
- 2009 – All Together Now Farm, E. Montpelier, Vermont / Winooski Valley Permaculture Guild & Transition Vermont
- 2010 – MOFGA Farm, Unity, ME / Portland ME Permaculture
- 2011 – Epworth Retreat Center, High Falls, NY / Green Phoenix Permaculture & Rondout Valley Permaculture
- 2012 – Soule Farm, Marlborough, MA / E. Mass Permaculture Guild
- 2013 – Frelighsburg, Quebec, Canada / Mouvement des Artisans du Changement
- 2014 – ?
[Editor’s note: Attendance at regional convergences has now grown routinely into hundreds of people, and the NE permaculture network as a community (and a network of communities) continues to evolve and grow. PINE continues to strengthen our intra-regional communication and connection and to support the local groups that step-up to host the convergence each year. We welcome feedback and input about regional-scale gatherings and other topics. Join the conversations at http://northeastpc.ning.com/ or receive announcements and discussion items on our regional listserve https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/northeasternpermaculture — A. Lo]