USU Permaculture Initiative

    USU Permaculture Initiative

    The Utah State University (USU) Permaculture Initiative started with a vision by USU’s Tamara Steinitz of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences and Roslynn Brain McCann of Environment and Society and USU Extension Sustainability to bring research-based permaculture design to the University via a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on teaching gardens.

    This vision was enacted in 2013 when Tamara and Roslynn received permission from USU Facilities to trial a garden space on main campus between the Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences and Facilities buildings. Roslynn then secured grant funding to bring New Mexico-based permaculturalist Joel Glanzberg to Logan and Moab to teach the basics of permaculture design, facilitate a garden visioning process, and gauge community interest on main campus, a regional campus, and their respective communities. During the Logan 2013 workshop, 75 professors, students, and community members envisioned how the garden space could be redesigned following permaculture goals and principles.

    Landscape, Architecture, and Environmental Planning student Keni Althouse turned the community vision into a garden design plan. Since that time, hundreds of professors, students, and community members have dedicated their time and energy to making the main campus garden a success. Key players throughout the process have included USU students James Wirth, Keni Althouse, and Esther Davis, USU facilities employees Bret Leckie, Jim Huppi and Charles Darnell, USU faculty Roslynn Brain McCann, Tamara Steinitz, Sheryl Aguilar, and Phil Waite, and permaculture designers Joel Glanzberg, Jason Gerhardt, and Jeffrey Adams.

     In 2013, Emily Niehaus (Moab City Mayor and Community Rebuilds Director) and Roslynn Brain McCann of (USU’s Environment and Society Department and USU Extension Sustainability director) collaborated to host a permaculture workshop with permaculture design instructor Joel Glanzberg of New Mexico. Following this workshop, Jeremy Lynch (In Transition Permaculture) was hired as a USU Extension Sustainability intern to help bring permaculture to the USU Moab campus.

    Jeremy and Roslynn secured grant funding to bring permaculture designer Jason Gerhardt (Real Earth Designs) to Moab to facilitate a community visioning process for the campus and to develop and implement a design plan. USU Moab Dean, Steve Hawks, provided full support for the permaculture design plans on campus, and within a few short years, the team installed permaculture gardens on two-thirds of USU Moab’s Campus.

    As a collaboration with the USU Moab permaculture project, a Moab Bee Inspired Gardens Initiative was launched in the Moab community “To inspire efforts toward pollinator health, water conservation, and food and forage systems using gardens, workshops and resources in a way that benefits our community and ecosystems.”  The 13 gardens to-date installed in and around Moab include a total of 82 trees and 1,337 plants. These trees store enough carbon to offset 4,279 miles of driving an average car. Along with carbon storage, these gardens also have great value in providing flowers for local pollinators, native species habitat, and environmental education.

    Given the success of the USU Moab permaculture garden, permaculture design was incorporated into the new USU-Moab campus feasibility study with a dedicated chapter on the topic. The design includes 100% rainwater-fed gardens, plant guilds, and infiltration basins among other permaculture concepts. The feasibility study can be found here. The USU Moab permaculture gardens design plan was also featured in Toby Hemenway’s most recent and final book, entitled The Permaculture City. See for more information.