In summer 2013 Clare and Andy Monson launched a campaign to help finance Enchanted Acres – a permaculture project which aims to pass on sustainable living skills, free of charge. To their delight they ended up beating their target of £3,400 and one year on they are hard at work making their dream a reality.
Permaculture is all about living lightly on the earth, in a way that is in harmony with nature. Clare and Andy’s vision is to share with as many people as possible the skills needed for healthy, sustainable and low impact living, such as eco-building, herbalism, permaculture gardening and foraging. They aim to provide workshops teaching self-sufficiency skills on their farm in Portugal as well as at locations in the UK.
Crucially, these workshops will all be free – Clare explains that some existing permaculture courses are too expensive for many people to consider. And with so many people struggling to make ends meet in a time of financial uncertainty, Clare believes permaculture projects like Enchanted Acres have never been more important.
“The security you really need is food and making sure you can take care of yourself health-wise,” she explains. “It’s even more relevant than ever to ensure people have this knowledge. It should never have been forgotten in the first place – it just seems terrible that those things have been forgotten when so many people are struggling.”
Having invested a lot of their own money in the project, they needed a final push to get the main framework in place on their site in Portugal. And that’s where Crowdfunder came in.
“A few people suggested it to us and it just made sense,” says Clare. “To one person £10 isn’t much but if a lot of people give that it makes a huge difference. We’re not in a position to be able to get a loan and we don’t really agree with that anyway. We want to ensure that we can give something back – it’s like a team effort.”
“Good old Facebook” proved a key promotional tool for Enchanted Acres, and right at the last moment Clare and Andy were lucky enough to get a couple of large anonymous donations, pushing them up to an impressive £4,127. Work is just starting to get underway, and the money raised will go towards creating rainwater harvest systems, planting trees to begin an extensive food forest, and purchasing materials to create a growing space and a straw bale, cob wall classroom to host lessons and discussions.
Clare believes that part of their success on Crowdfunder was due to the fact that their project isn’t just about helping themselves, but about educating and helping others, which inspired people to make a pledge.
“It’s a project that’s working towards the needs of others,” she says. “I’m sure that’s why we got a lot of support. And permaculture is something that people really understand now, so I think now more than ever those sorts of projects will have the support of people.”