This post is made by one of our students as part of their Work/Study Internship.
My name is Russell Thompson; I was born in the United Arab Emirates (that’s in the Middle East) with Spina Bifida (a birth defect that causes spinal cord malformation). The doctors there didn’t treat infants until they were three months old, so they told my parents they would leave me in a corner to die, but I believe and was always told that God had other plans for me, and so did my parents. My father’s company arranged our flight out of there and we arrived in Texas within 48 hours of my birth where I received surgeries to save my life. Since then I’ve grown up in a loving Christian family; my father works for an oil company and because of this we have lived in Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, Scotland, Turkey and Texas.
I thought nothing about sustainable living or health until my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (aka MS, a disease that deteriorates the nervous system) She started treating it conventionally with interferon shots, but she just knew there had to be a better way. Her research has led the whole family to take a closer look at holistic health and sustainable living. She has been living without any symptoms of MS for 7 years now.
My parents bought some land in Indiana which will be used for permaculture practices and a site for their future home. My mother, who has a permaculture design certificate, has put several hundreds of hours into planning and working out the design to this property with sustainability, beauty, physical health and spiritual well-being in mind.
Now it’s my turn: my admiration for my mother, my love for my family, God and others, and my fascination with nature have led me to take part in an internship with Midwest Permaculture, so that I, too, can help with the family project in Indiana and potentially make a living for myself and my future family. My focus on this internship in Stelle is learning hands-on about sustainable living. This, in turn, will help me be able to implement permaculture principles specifically for the 40 acre plot of land in Indiana which our family intends to turn into a food forest. The land will also be an example of alternative agriculture for the conventional farmers surrounding the family plot, and a support for other sustainable-minded farmers in our community. A few specific things I would like to explore for the family property are: making a habitat for endangered Indiana bats, growing mushrooms and making mushroom kits, using sheep, goats and other animals to selectively graze invasive plants, building eco homes and anything I can learn about food forests. All this, plus the experience of, and ability to, share what I learn with others is my intended goal.
How does my internship at Stelle help me reach my goals? I intend to reach them by helping Midwest Permaculture with their projects and class trainings over the next few months. I will be doing blogs of my experiences here, which will be a useful tool in the future for making my practices known to the outside world, perhaps to attract students and to at least raise awareness of sustainability. Part of my internship has also included raising and taking care of chicks and chickens, which has given me some insight on and appreciation for raising grazing animals. I also help in the community garden and am learning a lot about simple practices that save time and money in the garden.
Overall, I am enjoying my internship here in Stelle, hanging out with Hayden Wilson and Zach Watts, and I appreciate their willingness to work with me despite all my quirks and shortcomings. I enjoy meeting other students of permaculture at classes and I miss them since they have gone away now.
I feel that life is more fulfilling when you get to work with the natural world around you while alongside other people, even, or especially with those who think of the world in a different way than I do.
Russell Thompson currently lives in Stelle, IL, and is enrolled in our Work/Study Internship program. As part of his internship he is posting occasionally on topics related to his curriculum. We welcome him to Midwest Permaculture!