It is with much pleasure, excitement and gratitude that I introduce you to Patrick Jones. You may remember him from a previous post on Community Gardens as he has helped establish 5 community gardens in Daylesford, Victoria all on public land. Patrick is one of those amazing people who is walking his talk so holistically it puts the rest of us to shame. His car-less, barter style, social capital full life is a testament to what can be done right now to take dramatic steps to a cleaner, less energy intensive life – a life he can proudly pass onto his grandchildren, and share right now with his children.
Enjoy this interview with a revolutionary character and be sure to check out his blog once you’re done.
Tell us a bit about your background – how did a Sydney boy end up living, working, transforming and loving Daylesford Victoria?
A friend, a former teacher of mine from art school, recommended the area for its volcanic soil and high rainfall. Previously I had been living in and out of Sydney and Southern NSW, where I grew up.
You have an incredibly varied work experience history from fine artist to poet to musician, activist, … the list goes on and on. Where did your passion for food come from and how do you let these influences affect your current work?
I would have been diagnosed with ADHD had it been invented when I was at school. I started gardening in my late primary years and it was the combination of my plant nursery, team sports and punk music throughout my teens that kept me a third commonsensical. An understanding and then a love for the weird wholefoods my mother forced my siblings and I to eat developed later. My passion for real food grew when I realised how adept it is at making life and the political imperatives of consuming such food.
Your activism and guerrilla gardening projects around Daylesford have been really revolutionary for this area in Australia. These activities are often projects executed collaboratively. Share with us how you like to collaborate, the creation and development process, and how you form the groups you are involved in. Most importantly how do the communities or groups you are involved in maintain their energy and momentum?
I think learning to do things with little expectation enables much free living and thinking. People seem to invest a lot of energy in the idea of ‘hope’, but I think this is self-deflating and renders people passively wishful that someone else will change things for them. Embracing hopelessness seems to make so many more possibilities present themselves and ‘fess up to the enormous tasks ahead. I began to learn this while working with Jason Workman developing our collaborative practice, free- dragging. This practice set out to both critique and compost careerist art and all the preciousness and anxiety involved with such narrow self-interest. I guess I’ve brought this spirit of free-dragging to the many groups I’ve been involved with since and like to work with people who don’t preach hope but rather get on with the work of ecological repair and corporate dismantling.
Despite (or perhaps because of?) all of your work and family commitments (Patrick, his son Zephyr and his girlfriend Meg welcomed little Blackwood into the world late last year) you decided to embark on a doctorate which you are now in the final stages of reviewing. What led you to decide to do your doctorate?
My friend Kate Fagan, who thought some of the things I was doing warranted funded research, encouraged me. I was pretty worn out from working as a builder so I sluggishly filled out some very lengthy forms and presto! As a result over the past three years I have had a regular income and the time to help develop a community food system. This in turn has fed back into the research and I’ve written a manuscript of poems and essays centred on our household and community’s transition towards ecological culture. Kate has supervised this work, while my family, in many cases, has made the work with me.
Your research into urban agriculture, guerrilla gardening, permaculture and poetics is really inspiring and potentially controversial. How are you finding your thesis is being received so far?
With varying amounts of exuberance and contempt depending on those in the community who embrace ecological repair and those who resist it. Then there are a large number who are, more or less, indifferent to such research and won’t be interested until their affluence falls and climate really changes.
Poetics is really the phenomenon of making (sense, thought, object, situation, response) and ecology is simply the phenomenon of making life, so the two are inextricably linked. Industrial culture, on the other hand, is in the business of damaging or destroying life and committing us to what Deborah Bird Rose calls ‘man-made mass death’. This is why I’m involved with ecology and poetics, I want life to be about making not damaging; the generative not the extractive.
Through this research what change are you hoping to bring about?
I’ve always been curious even at times in agreement with something John Cage wrote: “How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse).” But Cage is wrong on one significant account – pollution ideology. If we don’t see then act politically against our colossal intransigence to the land, the waters and the atmosphere, we will continue to tread this sad path to ecological ruination. If we cannot see how a hypermediated digital age is still highly industrial, unjust and polluting we will never understand our everyday violences and how they contribute to ecological descent. Electric cars, digital services and solar panels are no real solutions to the crises we face; we have to return to the intelligence of the land and respond accordingly. The process of acting against extractive pollution ideology while acting alongside the regenerative activities of the land is a learning I call permapoesis, a key concept of my research. Food is central to making life in an ecological context, but it is also central to destroying life in a digi-industrial one. I want people to see this difference and act upon it.
The areas you are working and researching into is addressing some significant issues, what keeps you inspired?
Courageous animals (including humans), the diversity and repairing attributes of fungi, the ethics of plants who lovingly and continuously bare themselves as food to so many, the sustainable modes of the world’s indigenous peoples, and the tenacity of parasites that make us their prey and remind us we are animals too.
+ Most inspiring public garden?
Beacon Food Forest, Seattle.
+ Most inspiring food project?
My girlfriend’s cooking.
Patrick is currently taking groups on foraging trips in Daylesford (or if you’re lucky he will travel to your local area). For more details head over here.