THOREAU COLLEGE SUMMER WALKABOUT
THOREAU COLLEGE SUMMER WALKABOUT: JULY 18 – AUGUST 6 2021
A three-week adventure in the heart of Wisconsin’s Driftless region. We explored Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, famous for its ancient topography of rolling hills, sandstone bluffs, and rich valleys, with a thriving community of organic, biodynamic, and permaculture farms. The Thoreau College Summer Walkabout is an opportunity for exploration, cultivation, and creation in the company of a small community of fellow travelers. We embarked on our journey with a group of about 15 people aged 18 and older who were ready to take up the call to adventure, to walk and work the land, to learn from the people who live here, and to gather skills and inspiration for the future. This program took place on the ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk nation, whose culture and voices are an important component of our studies and experiences.
WEEK 1 – EXPLORE
During the first week of the program, participants traveled through the landscape of Vernon County for 5 days on foot and down a section of the Kickapoo River via canoe. Through this intimate shared pilgrimage, students experienced the extraordinary biodiversity of this region first hand, and also learned about its rich human history and cultures, including the Ho-Chunk, the unique African-American settlement at Cheyenne Valley, the Amish community, Norwegian, German, and Bohemian farmers, the back-to-the-land movement, and more.
WEEK 2 – CULTIVATE
After a week of traveling together, participants split up in Week 2 to live, work, and learn on one of several local farms in the form of 4-day residential micro-internships. Participating farms include dairy farms, rotational grazers, vineyards and orchards, organic produce growers, practitioners of biodynamics and permaculture, and more. We get your hands dirty and while receiving a deeper understanding of agricultural practices, while building friendships with local farm families. Participants will be placed on farms in groups of 2 and then reconvene at the end of the week to share their experiences with the other groups.
WEEK 3 – CREATE
During the third week, participants will took up residence in the town of Viroqua (Pop. 4,500), the county seat of Vernon County and the home base of Thoreau College. The focus of this week was an intensive workshop offered in collaboration with the Driftless Folk School entitled “Walkabout Permaculture” led by permaculture designers Dr. Charlie Brennan and Bridget O’Brien of the Garden Juju Collective and Paula Westmoreland and Lindsey Rebhan of Ecological Design, with help from several local instructors. The 4-day workshop provided an introduction to permaculture, which the instructors define as “the conscious design, redesign & practice of ecological living for all aspects of life – this includes movement towards regenerative cultures and healing of selves and places.” Some of the topics addressed included food growing and foraging, self-care, housing, social permaculture, conservation, ecopsychology, wilding and more. In addition, participants had the opportunity to participate in one of four afternoon electives on folk arts and crafts or more advanced permaculture design concepts.