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Margo Bettencourt

 

Before coming to the ELI program, Margo spent seven years working at the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation in Paris. Despite ostensible success, the work left her unfulfilled, belabored as it was by bureaucratic tedium and diplomatic necessities. The ELI program offered the chance to pursue a more proactive, hands-on approach to environmental work. Following the ELI program, she is working with ecologically minded businesses and innovators, such as Permaculture Artisans, Toby Hemenway and FEED Sonoma, contributing to their marketing, advocacy and organizational efficiency.

Development and Co-operation in Paris. Despite ostensible success, the work left her unfulfilled, belabored as it was by bureaucratic tedium and diplomatic necessities. The ELI program offered the chance to pursue a more proactive, hands-on approach to environmental work. Following the ELI program, she is working with ecologically minded businesses and innovators, such as Permaculture Artisans, Toby Hemenway and FEED Sonoma, contributing to their marketing, advocacy and organizational efficiency.

What drew you to the ELI program?

I was enchanted by the opportunity to literally get my hands dirty learning the nuts and bolts skills of ecological land management. Having first discovered permaculture in 2008 at an urban community garden, I knew first-hand the regenerative impact it could have on the land. The opportunity to learn to do that on a larger scale – and eventually get paid for it – was irresistible.

What would you share with someone considering the ELI program?

Permaculture and the whole regenerative approach to land management are on the frontier of steering our societies to a more resilient future.  There is no clear-cut path before us; we are blazing the trail. But the teachers and mentors in the ELI program have developed some powerful tools and approaches to advance us down that path. ELI is an unparalleled opportunity to learn from these inspiring eco-warriors while becoming one yourself. The sky is the limit, but students should bring a jet pack (i.e. motivation) to propel themselves to their personal goals.

What were some of the most valuable aspects of the program?

I found enormous value in days that were split between theory and practice. A morning lecture followed by an afternoon practicum was a beautiful and magical learning potion for me. We rarely encounter these sorts of opportunities for kinesthetic learning, and rarer still are those coupled with theory.  Offering diverse ways for people to integrate information caters to a broad spectrum of people and the diverse learning tendencies that can coexist within us.

Describe a memorable moment during the program.

Our group cohesion was a highlight throughout the program; we learned together and from each other, with everyone adding their different strengths and getting support in other areas. One day we were doing estimates for a hardscape project and everyone was calling out to each other with questions and answers about all the various calculations (how many cubic feet are in a yard, again?). I don’t think any of us could’ve come up with the right numbers on our own, but by then end of the lesson we’d all found the right answer. The cherry on the cake was seeing how different people approached the math – each group had used a slightly different method but we’d all figured out what was needed to build the project.

A close second was jumping on the keyline plow. I finally understood what Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor was on about in that show Home Improvement. We have some powerful machines at our disposal in western societies and it was exciting to put one to use to improve water retention in a drought-stricken landscape. It would’ve taken us days to do by hand what was accomplished with the plow in a matter of hours.