New permaculture garden flourishes at Macdonald Campus

Following a successful first season, Garden Coordinator shares vision for years to come

This summer, a passionate group of students transformed an unused outdoor space at the Macdonald Campus Farm Centre into a beautiful demonstration site for permaculture techniques and principles. The Macdonald Showcase Permaculture Garden was created to raise awareness about permaculture by serving as an example of a productive, diverse ecosystem that can be studied and used for academic research.

The new garden was co-founded by Audrey Wagner and Chris Wrobel this spring. Wagner is a fourth year student studying Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and is the President of the McGill Permaculture Club. Wrobel is completing his Master of Science in Plant Science at Macdonald Campus. Sharing a passion for permaculture, the two students established the garden after receiving funding from the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF). Resources from the SPF were used to purchase materials and to hire a full-time coordinator, Ella Martin, who helped to design, plant and care for the garden throughout the summer months.

Because of its focus is on perennial production, most of the garden’s plants are not yet producing fruit. Thus, the group of students chose not to sell produce from the garden this year. In future years however, the group would like to expand their revenue sources by selling produce to the McGill community. “We have a bunch of ideas for our business model,” exclaimed Wagner. “We would really like to provide food to the student-run café at Mac Campus, the Out of the Garden Project. We might also like to jump alongside the Macdonald Student-Run Ecological Garden and sell our produce to community members in weekly baskets,” she said. Wagner also envisions the garden as a plant nursery, propagating plants and selling leftovers to generate extra revenue.

The Permaculture Club hosted a number of successful events based out of the garden this fall, the most successful of which being Permaculture Week in September. The event was a weeklong celebration of permaculture philosophy, which featured presentations, workshops, guided tours and other hands-on activities in the garden. Encouraging students, faculty and staff to spend time in the garden is of most importance to its founders. “We want people to feel comfortable coming to the garden. It’s a public space that everyone should feel welcome to come to and study or meditate,” said Wagner. “We want it to be an attractive space that people can enjoy.”

Permaculture is increasingly regarded as an important approach to promoting sustainable agriculture. In the years to come, the garden will serve as an opportunity for student research on permaculture techniques. “We want to encourage research to be conducted in the garden. We want students and faculty to do applied ecological research at the garden but we also want faculty to bring their students to the garden for course trips,” said Wagner.

To learn more about the Macdonald Showcase Permaculture Garden, visit the garden’s website. The garden is one of more than 170 projects at McGill funded by the SPF. To learn about other projects or to apply for funding to kick start a project of your own, visit

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