Mentorship may be one of the biggest opportunities for growth in our fledgling permaculture movement. There is interest in professional careers as permaculture designers, but the field lacks quality mentoring opportunities. By these I mean mentoring in a specific field, by a professional who has years of experience, with the goal of developing a specific skill set and livelihood.
Nearly a decade ago I moved to where I live now-- a tiny, isolated, town in rural Latin America. Its charms include lush towers of tropical rain forest, rainbows of succulent fruits, and a nightly chorus of a thousand frogs. A single disheveled bus leaves in the morning and returns at night, except on Sundays, or when the road washes out. The place is home to farmers, families, and a spattering of eclectic foreigners. The town's namesake, the Mastate, is a tree that bears a thick white sap which people sometimes drink in coffee, like milk.
If you’re anything like me, then you will find Rancho Mastatal to be a place of incredible beauty, endless inspiration, and powerful community. Even if we have very little in common, you will certainly find it to be unique. Among ecovillages and permaculture communities, over the years Rancho Mastatal has developed a reputation for its intricate systems, well organized educational programs, and gorgeous natural buildings that sprinkle the 300 + acre Ranch.
Developing the physical infrastructure of our campus gets me up every morning. I don't need coffee nor an alarm clock; I'm just excited to keep building. Building the orchards and earthworks, furniture for my home, a better feeder for our chickens; these are the projects that rev my permaculture engine. They are concrete, you can see the results of your physical labor immediately, and they are often the first projects of burgeoning permaculture sites. It requires little effort to dedicate the time, space, resources and money to these projects. Yet their impact on the success of a project, despite all this dedication, pales in comparison to another type of infrastructure; the invisible infrastructure.
"Everyone is looking at my feet," I say to my dad.
"No they're not," he scoffs back. Sure enough, he glances sideways at a group of teenage girls eying my dirty toes clad in Chacos.
We are not in the jungle any more. It's December in New York City, I am traveling on the subway with a large backpack, and five layers of sweatshirts, never having worn more than one at a time in the tropics. Fresh off the airplane, here I am with my exposed feet and disheveled appearance-- "Is she homeless?" the girls snicker.