The Praxis Festival: permaculture and New Brunswick’s leave-no-trace agricultural movement

Written by Lisa Jodoin on June 27, 2019

South Knowlesville during the Praxis Festival 2019. Photo by Lisa Jodoin

The Praxis Festival recently took place in Knowlesville, New Brunswick. Happening annually on the first weekend in June, the family-friendly permaculture-inspired art festival gives people the chance to gain skills and hands-on experience with a variety of agricultural practices. Past workshops have covered topics such as herbalism, preserves, living soils, off-grid power options, fermentation, mycelium, yoga, and permacultural practices.

Situated within the Appalachian Mountain Range region, the Praxis Festival happens on the South Knowlesville Community Land Trust. The festival, offering both adult and youth programming, is a great opportunity for teachers to bring their students to experience an outdoor classroom and reconnect with the land.

The workshops give people the knowledge they need to incorporate permacultural practices into their own lives and land use. The emphasis is on using and mimicking the land’s natural processes in order to practice sustainable agriculture with the end goal of leaving no human trace on the environment. Workshop leaders share information about the importance of responsible harvesting, stressing that the rule of thumb is to take no more than 30% of whatever you are harvesting from the wild, whether it be mushrooms, berries, wild herbs, or fish.

The combination of experiential workshops, local vendors, art, music, dancing, and local sustainably-sourced food, made for a vibrant and magical event this year.

During the festival, the land was divided up for different uses, including campgrounds, a relaxation area, a large outdoor kitchen and a space for making art, as well as areas for workshops and guided farm tours.

The area surrounding the dance floor was particularly striking. A large stage was set up with speakers and a turntable for the DJ. Beside the stage, a hand-crafted sign indicated an area of land called the Regenerative Forest. On the other side of the dance floor, forming a kind of wall, was a vast and stunning art piece illustrating the landscape of New Brunswick. One side showed a pristine, untouched wilderness, and the other, the environmental destruction that resource extraction inevitably creates: smoke stacks pumped smog into the air, dead fish lay in toxic rivers. It was striking to see the two potentialities side by side.

As the DJ played, people gathered together on the dance floor with handfuls of barley seeds. They sowed the seeds as they danced, their feet embedding the seeds into the soil, so that their very dancing contributed to the regeneration of the forest. Someone had pulled out a clarinet and was giving the great Artie Shaw a run for his money. People of all ages danced barefoot in the sunlight.

I stood there looking at all the people dancing together, the numerous solar panels servicing the property, the lush greenery of the valley, and the rolling hills in the distance, and I felt truly hopeful for the future.

Lisa Jodoin is a doctoral student at the University of New Brunswick and a researcher and videographer with the RAVEN project.

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