Senior Project

In order to receive my Interdisciplinary Studies B.A. in Permaculture at Humboldt State University, California, I needed to complete a senior project synthesizing the focus areas of my major. Permaculture integrates the disciplines of soils, alternative agriculture methods, appropriate technologies, and ethics, specifically environmental ethics. Permaculture is, in its’ theories, ethics, and philosophies, an interdisciplinary study. Permaculture is not simply a gardening or agricultural system, but a way to observe and learn from nature and incorporate it into our lives and our landscapes. It is a way to see interconnectedness in the relationships between plants, animals, others and ourselves.

In order to show the interrelatedness of my three areas, (environmental ethics, appropriate technology, and soils and alterative agriculture) I worked with the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC). This is an organization for the homeless residents of Alameda County. The APC has a four-acre community garden for its residents. In the garden and surrounding area, the supervisors of the APC have chosen to use permacultural principles in an attempt to connect its residents with the land and empower them thru community building and gardening.

At the APC, I helped to set up a children’s garden to be used in the after-school program. I also taught two groups of kids about composting and we also made worm bins. With some help from a few residents, I made a large herb spiral in the garden, as well as planted dozens of fruit trees. This Website is a collection of pictures, a simple guide to teaching kids about composting and worms, and instructions on building an herb spiral.

Permaculture Background Information

“Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all forms. The philosophy of permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature.”
-Bill Mollison in Permaculture: A Design Manual

Prime Directive
The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

Permaculture has three main tenants to its Ethical Basis:
1. Care of the earth
2. Care of people
3. Sharing of surplus

From this directive and these tenants, comes a set of design guidelines. One of these simple guidelines is that each “element of the design should perform several functions.” (Mollison, 1988) An easy example of this principle can be found in the children’s garden. The main function is to grow food, but in that process, the children have the opportunity to learn about how plants grow, what the plants need to survive, and how compost and worms help the plants grow. Once the food is grown, they have the opportunity to eat healthy and nutritious food and can even learn how to prepare it during one of the APC’s kid’s cooking classes. Possibly the most important function are the lessons that the children can learn about nature and lifecycles, while at the same time learning about patience, responsibility, and pride in growing your own food.

Alameda Point Collaborative Background Information

The Alameda Point Collaborative is an umbrella organization of several homeless service providers. It began in 1995 when the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority adopted the Community Reuse Plan. Among other things, this plan set out to address the problems associated with Alameda County’s homeless population. The APC was granted 34 acres of a recently closed naval base on Alameda Point. There are 239 housing units with nearly 500 residents, over half of which are under eighteen. It has a community center, community garden, a large childcare program, and other facilities. It offers affordable housing and hires a minimum of 15% of its residents. There are five main homeless housing developers that make up the APC, including: United Indian Nations, Resource for Community development (HIV/AIDS positive and survivors domestic violence), San Leandro Shelter for Women and Children, Operation Dignity (homeless veterans), and Dignity Housing West. One of the main goals of the APC is to maximize the resources available to homeless people. They offer a variety of services that include, drug and alcohol counseling, mental health services, life skills education, childcare and youth programs, employment training and placement, transportation, and primary health care.

The area around the former naval base was primarily a lower income African American community, most of whom rented their living spaces. Much of what used to be the naval base, with the exception of the Collaborative’s land, will be developed in to a residential area with new homes ranging from $800,000 to $1,000,000. One of the APC’s goals is to attempt to build community in this area with radically different economic classes across the street from one another. The community garden is open to all neighborhood residents not just the APC’s residents.



garden enteranceView from the Community Garden Entrance
Herb Spiral Worm Bins Fruit Trees Children's Garden


Thanks to the Alameda Point Collaboaritve staff and residents, Humboldt State University, Kat Steele, Jessie Huff, Stella and Tobias.