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Bill Bilodeau: urban permaculture and community building

Right: Bill and Grow Permaculture student volunteers at the Faith House

Bill is to be lauded as a real pioneer species. After taking the first two-week, on site permaculture design course taught in the state of Florida at age 77, braving primitive conditions, unexpected wind and freezing temperatures to gain the knowledge, Bill started a small book-study group on the book Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, in his home town of St Petersburg. This group helped build our permaculture meetup site to over 500 members, and created a groundswell of permablitzes, backyard and front yard permaculture gardens, and introduced hundreds of people to the concept of Permaculture. When it came time to choose a name for themselves, they became Gaia's Guardians, a fitting name for what this group is doing.

As a veteran native plant landscaper and now a permaculture designer, Bill was the ideal person to help establish a permaculture project at the Faith House, a transitional housing organization with 1/2 acre of land now devoted to growing food for program participants. Along with Emmanuel Roux, another energetic pioneer, and many volunteers who lent their hands and backs to the project, Bill has created an organic garden paradise on this lot. Complete with several dozen chickens, a kenaf forest to feed them, an exotic looking banana lined and papyrus stocked pond, native pollinator borders, numerous productive vegetable beds and a budding food forest, this plot provides a large amount of food for the Faith House, with leftovers for volunteers. A number of 275 gallon containers catch rainwater from the roof, and a well provides clean water to the garden. The site gives a boost to new community gardens by collecting pallets and dock wood for raised beds, and tools and other materials. You can find Bill working in the garden on just about any Wednesday or Sunday morning, and you're welcome to come see the place and even pitch in and help, if you like.

Right: Chicken and kenaf symbiosis

Bill's own home permaculture garden is a regular and favorite stop during the permaculture home tour that is organized by Gaia's Guardians. From the weeping yaupon holly and other beautiful natives, the huge kale and watermelon growing on tge hugulkulture garden bed in his front yard, the large abundant backyard overflowing with perennial edibles and potted permaculture plants for sale, to his greywater and rain catchment systems and pond, Bill's garden is a great example of how permaculture style organic gardening can create abundance, and a real nice place to hang out.

Bill regularly tours permaculture students, school classrooms, and others through the Faith House, and shares his wisdom and experience on creating community through permaculture style gardening, in our Permaculture Design Courses.

Right: native pollinator hedge

Bill has taken his activity up yet another notch as one of the original members of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition of St Petersburg. This Coalition is a diverse group of individuals from many walks of life who want to see both the city and the environment become healthier and reap all the other benefits available through growing much more local food. Bill heads the Education committee and is very active in the Board selection committee, Community Gardens committee, and as an advisor for new community gardens. He has continued to share his successes and resources such as seedlings, cuttings, soil and reclaimed wood for raised beds that he has gathered at the Faith House, with a number of community gardens. Bill's community involvement is truly inspiring – he has gone above and beyond to bring permaculture to his community.