About admin

I lead on the Cwm Harry Skills and training enterprise, am a qualified teacher and permaculture design tutor and garden designer and project consultant. I write several blogs and am an avid networker and communicator on the subjects of sustainability, transition and co-operatives. I have written an occasional column for Channel4/green and have worked for Channel 4 on their 'Dumped' seriesworked as well as for BBC Wales as a green advisor on their Changing Lives- Going Green series, Nov-Dec 2009. I have been working in sustainable development, on project management and development, teaching, growing and small business development all my life really. I also grew up living and working on farms and have a broad experience working in Britain and Canada and Zimbabwe on sustainable agriculture, grass roots permaculture projects, micro business development and housing and worker co-ops. I have been based in Wales since 1994 and currently live in the Welsh borders.

Powys Food Alliance Support Worker – job opportunnity

Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations has the following vacancy

Powys Food Alliance Support Worker

This fixed term appointment is funded until 30th September 2014

The purpose of the post is to work with colleagues in the Powys Food Alliance

The successful applicant will have an understanding of how networks/alliances work

• Experience of working with networks

• Experience of research

• Understanding the rural nature of Powys

Salary:- £14,367 per annum (£23,945 pro rata)

Hours of Work:- 21 hours per week. Hours to be worked are flexible and subject to agreement but will include working on a Friday

Post based at PAVO Offices Unit 30 Ddole Road Enterprise Park in Llandrindod Wells

For job application packs or further details please contact:

Lisa Banfield
Plas Dolerw
Milford Rd
Powys SY16 2EH 

Email: lisa.banfield@pavo.org.uk

Tel No: 01686 621537


All applications must be returned to Lisa Banfield

Closing date for applications: 4.00pm Tuesday 10th December


Interviews will be held on Monday 16th December 2013.

Permaculture design, training for a sustainable world


Understanding compost is an essential skill in building sustainable alternative to the current way of doing things.


View over the community micro allotment plots at the Pen Dinas garden in Newtown. Home to the Get-Growing project and deliberately set up to demonstrate the key principles of organic horticulture and community growing

Understanding how the natural world works and building an economic system that understands and respects those processes is at the heart of what permaculture design is about.

As global leaders wrestle with Climate Change policy, resource depletion and the like what is perhaps being overlooked is the potential of working with the wider community to incorporate a much wider and more fundamental way in which we do things to reflect these changing priorities.


Inspecting a batch of compost from food waste. Between 30 and 50% of food produced is wasted, turning this into a stable organic compound, i.e. compost means it is no longer wasted can help build soils and food security going forward

So part of our work towards a secure food system, and finding ways to contribute to the global change to sustainability we have developed a series of courses and projects that communicate the ideas of sustainability in a clear and meaningful way.


Compost worm, or brandling worm: a key alley in turning food waste back into useful soil

The core ideas behind the Get-Growing project has always been to demonstrate the potentials and techniques necessary to start a local food revolution. It is our contention that we will never have food security until at least a third of what we consume is being generated from local resources and from with the community. The idea that we have food banks here in the UK in 21st century seems untenable  and also should be sending signals and making alarm bells ringing, something about the current system is obvious not working.

Cwm Harry as an organisation made its name from food waste composting.. but really this is only the first step in  a series of things that needs to happen to make food security real on a local level. Towns and suburbs are full of unused spaces, verges, lawns, dead spaces between things.. all of these could be bought into useful production and could contribute to developing a vibrant local food economy.
img_6918 Of course gardens produce a lot more than food plants and there is another whole new area of opportunity around growing and working with natural materials, such as willow, rushes, wool and the like. Good management of soil can also sequestrate carbon dioxide, locking it up in the soil in the form of humus. No one is pretending that such measures are going to be some magic bullet to our Climate Change problems.. but if people across the world were to switch to these kind of measures then the impact would start to accumulate. It is this kind of thinking that is going to be required.img_6920
Permaculture is a design system that has triggered a grass roots movement around the world. It is the application of the principles of ecology to design systems that also have the properties of natural systems. Self regulating, made of local and natural resources. The more we can learn to work within the principles of nature the more we can create resilient and abundant systems.

Our energy hungry world is ripping its way through the carbon fossil reserve at an alarming rate, and the onset of Climate Change is sounding alarm bells around the World.

img_6923 To my mind this also heralds a new way of thinking, of planning and of using resources. Permaculture gives us that framework to begin to frame the kind of responses that are going to be required for society to respond to the on going challenges it is facing. Rather than seeing this as a whole lot of doom and gloom, the fact is we are entering a new paradigm, and with that will come a whole new range of opportunities.

Relocalised food supply, working much more with local and natural resources, moving away from making everything out of plastic

img_6935 and instead moving away from the consumerist throw away society will create numerous new opportunities.


Craft barn above Llanidloes, where the June PDC will be held next year

Up until this point agriculture has been geared up to produce large quantities of cheap food as an over riding objective. This whilst beeing successful has come about at a significant cost to the environment, in terms of habitat loss and more. Furthermore, it has underpinned our whole food production system with the need for endless supplies of cheap oil, diesel and petrochemicals to power it. The green revolution has essentially been a system for turning petroleum into food, and for turning biodiverse landscapes into rapidly growing populations and a consumer economy.

There is a huge journey of exploration before us as we are compelled firstly to wean our-self off this oil addiction and secondly to find ways of farming that restore habitats and biodiversity.

Regenerative Agriculture

This is going to be the main driver going forward. Climate Change is set to prove itself as the overriding issue of all. Unless we can find ways to respond this crisis there wont be a future worth having. As we have just witnessed in the Philippines these highly charged super-storms cause such horrendous amounts of damage that avoiding ever more frequent occurrences of this kinds of thing is going to be an imperative.


Local Grower Emma Maxwell is someone leading the way in re-discovering a locally focused food economy using organic techniques that help build soil

Managing landscapes in a way that captures carbon and stores it as humus becomes the over riding importance in everything we do. We are starting to call this regenerative agriculture and this is gong to be a key theme in our work going forward. Building soils, sequestrating carbon, restoring damaged habitats, reconnecting with local markets and producers and moving away from fossil fuel based agriculture. It is going to be a huge and exciting journey!.

Party in the Roundhouse!

We have said ourselves a few times over that a community garden doesn’t really take off until the community take some ownership of it. Well that certainly happened over the weekend!

Roundhouse party scene

Roundhouse party scene

Aside from a few obvious infringements we are actually pleased that a bunch of presumably local youths spotted the potential of the wonderful community garden space as somewhere to have fun and have a bit of a seasonal blast for Halloween/ Bonfire night. People are really welcome to make this space their own and to use it for community functions.


More than firewood got burnt up, as a valuable had made door was used to keep the fire-pit ablaze.

So we came in on Monday morning to the realisation that there had been a very lively party in the Roundhouse over the weekend, with evidence all over of a large amount of fun having been had. Were it not for the fact that there was cans and bottle strewn about the place, tyre tracks in the field and that a valuable hand made door had been burned as firewood we wouldn’t have minded.

Guess we need a recycling facility.. cans and bottles left after the party

Guess we need a recycling facility.. cans and bottles left after the party

So it turns out that the neighbours were pretty upset as there had been thumping music all weekend and an impromptu firework display at 6 am on Sunday morning. The community police officer also said they received complaints during the night..

Due consideration to the wider community and respect for a community space are of course the bottom line for using the space here, but people really are welcome if they can stay within obvious guidelines.

Remaking the door and window frames that were burned will be a future workshop.. so if anyone out there is feeling a pang of guilt then please consider attending.

Latest from Newtown community garden

Plenty of activities planned for November in the Newtown community garden. There is now list on the right hand column of the home page with all of our up and coming training events, many which will also get featured in the blog.


We are also planning a full day course: Composting Masterclass which at the moment is planned for March 1 st next year, if you are interested in this then please let us know. This will be based at Treflach farm near Oswestry, which is a 100 acre stock farm who are dedicated to finding organic solutions to their farm waste and input challenges and there will be a chance to find out about farm scale composting processes, the possibilities for heat recovery from compost and much more. Of course compost is subject very close to Cwm Harry’s heart and Richard Northridge will also be contributing to this event, who developed Cwm Harry’s food waste composting systems in our work with Powys County Council.


The Cwm Harry staff outside the Ludlow Anaerobic Plant

It has been an incredibly busy month for the whole Cwm Harry organisation, we managed to have a staff get together to discuss plans and strategies going forward. Since Cwm Harry ceased its food waste collection and composting services for Powys council we have been busy diversifying into other areas. We have launched Cultivate.. the new organisation which will manage the Get-Growing project, plant nursery and veg box business. We are also merging with Sector39, the permaculture training partnership developed by Steve Jones over the last year and are now offering training drawing from right across Cwm Harry’s skills base, food, composting, affordable housing and much more.


Beautifully patterned romanesque broccoli, growing at Pen Dinas in Newtown


Patterning in the roof of the new erected roundhouse in the Newtown garden

The Newtown community garden is developing past and it has been a great to see the roundhouse going back up, which was a focal point in the old garden on the Vastre trading estate. This will serve as a shelter for our community mico plot holders and we are planning a series of courses to complete the sides using a range of traditional techniques such as wattle and daub, rammed earth, hemp and lime and more.


Rhys and Jonno working on the turf roof on the roundhouse


Volunteer Alex with one of his beautiful hand crafted garden gates


Late crop of grapes in the Newtown garden

Essential Growing Skills

Cultivate is a new enterprise with a community focus that manages the Get-Growing project and delivers training and project support for community growers, organic horticulturalists and permaculture students. We are passionate about local food and sharing the skills and building networks for local food security. We run regular courses and training events, one off visitors welcome or get involved with some of regular local and outreach work.

Booking essential, via the Get-Growing website, £7 for a day course, only.. please ask.


Seasonal craft events coming up in Newtown



Some of the participants and products of the wreath making workshop we ran previously

With the Winter season fast approaching we are pleased to be  announcing a couple of seasonal craft courses which we will be running at the Get-Growing base, Pen Dinas in Newtown.

We are excited to be working with crafts artisan Beryl Smith from Llanidloes, one the regions most versatile and experienced teachers and practitioners.

Follow the links for more details. Advance booking required.

Designing productive public spaces

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Urban areas are full of dead spaces. Disused land, vancant lots, verges ad roadsides and the spaces in between bigger buildings. They either require maintenance, become blighted and neglected or a just a wasted potential. With the prospect of escalating energy and food costs and tightening of government budgets it makes increasing sense to turn these spaces into productive ones that can be maintained and harvested by local residents.

Planning and building public productive gardens still takes some careful planning and consultation and to that end we have developed a 5 day how to design a community garden course. We use this learning process as a design workshop to design a real garden and as a way to train future community garden designers.


Study group working on the Llanidloes community growing space design at the Get-Growing project base in Newtown

We are really pleased with the outcome and the work on the new growing space in Llanidloes has already begun. The process is based on the permaculture design tools part of the permaculture design course, alongside intensive sessions on organic principles, soils and gardening for nature. The course was delivered by Emma Maxwell, Steven Jones and Sue Stickland.

We are currently using he same process to design a community garden on a high rise estate in Liverpool and working with local residents from the Stockbridge estate to design a build a community forest garden on top of what was the footings of where one of the 1960’s high rise blocks had been taken down.


Carole one of the volunteers on the Liverpool project, with some of the produce we grew on an unused space on the Stockbridge estate


The Denecliff high rise overlooks the area where we have been allowed to build our next community growing space.


Our project polytunnel in Liverpool is behind the service area of the local shopping precinct. We have been busy propagating plants for the garden there over the last year,

“Nothing less than a paradigm shift in agriculture is required” UN report

Developing and developed countries alike need a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to a “truly ecological intensification” approach.

This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.

We need to see a move from a linear to a holistic approach in agricultural management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation)
UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2013 (TER13) contends

(My emphasis) This is a global call up for permaculture and it is about time too. All over the World there is a huge groundswell of interest (and lack of funds for alternatives) in organic, diverse systems. Working with nature means copying its patterns, its chaos, its diversity. These kinds of practices tend to regenerate not just soils but the whole ecology surrounding and supporting productivity. Permaculture, holistic, bio-mimicry practices, often called agro-ecology also sequestrates carbon and builds stable and sustainable revenues from the land. Large corporate and global markets also need to be kept out of especially developing world subsistence food market. The economics had be right as well as the farming practices.

It is a very powerful report, I urge anyone with an understanding in food security to at least read the key abstracts and summaries. 

Cuba leads the way in sustainable agriculture


Click to hear the interview with Roberto Rerez

Here is Cuban permaculturalist and agro ecologist Roberto Perez talking about sustainable agriculture in Cuba.

Roberto was a main voice on the successful and powerful documentary ‘The Power of Community’

Micro allotment feedback

Hello Emma,

I wanted to take this opportunity of thanking you and all at Cwm Harry for a wonderful growing year.   Since I took on a micro plot at Pen Dinas, I have learned so much, made new friends, attended courses.   I want to thank everyone for all their help and kindness and never ending support.   At first it was all a bit daunting but with the help and encouragement I have received, I have been able to grow so much and most successfully too!   It has been a very happy time for me.     I also enjoyed the recent micro plot holder’s reunion which gave everyone a chance to catch up and exchange news and tips.   The support has been tremendous and I can’t wait to get growing for a second year.   I have much more to learn and no doubt will make many mistakes along the way too but I know that I can count one hundred per cent on everyone’s help.

View over the micro allotment plots at the Pen Dinas garden in Newtown

View over the micro allotment plots at the Pen Dinas garden in Newtown

What Cwm Harry is and has been doing is so tremendous, giving people in the community a chance to grow for the first time with a small plot, just big enough but not too overwhelming either.   Just right I say.    Keep up the good work and goo luck with all the various launches in Llanidloes and hopefully Welshpool and others.    £10 for a plot is such good value for money.   Nowhere can you get so much for such a small amount.   I don’t know how you do it.   Keep going Cwm Harry.   From a very grateful and happy micro plot holder at Pen Dinas.

Kind regards to you all.