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whole-life skills for a radically different future

Interview with Andrew Magazine

Andrew Magazine“It was a total whim,” says Andrew Magazine of his decision to first come to SOIL for the Permaculture Design Course in 2016. Encouraged by a friend to go on an adventure, he recalls, “I hopped in a car and went to this weird community in the middle of the woods. We were terrified and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into—and very quickly fell in love!”

The native New Yorker has since returned to Earthaven Ecovillage twice for SOIL’s Ecological and Natural Building workshop and Shoemaking class. The inspiration Andrew found through SOIL led him to pursue a path of personal development, ethical food, and hard skills—first with a high-school mentor at Vinland, a 100-percent locally sourced restaurant in Portland, Maine, and then at Fleishers Craft Butchery in New York City. Last month, he accepted a position at Hudson and Charles, a New York shop for grassfed and pastured meats recently featured in The New York Times.

Andrew recently spoke with SOIL about his experiences and lessons learned at Earthaven. If you'd like to learn more about SOIL, contact us at info@schoolofintegratedliving.org or (828) 669-2204.

SOIL: How did you first hear about SOIL and the Permaculture Design Course?

Andrew Magazine: I came to the PDC on a total whim. My friend Anna-Beth, who works in environmental science and is sort of my adventure soul sister, asked me, “Do you want to do this?” I had been wallowing in my own lack of clarity on my path and was ready to cut myself off from the things that were perpetuating the overwhelming and mundane in my life. So I said, “Sure, let’s go an adventure and learn something new.” I hopped in a car and went to this weird community in the middle of the woods. We were terrified and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into—and very quickly fell in love!

When you first arrived at Earthaven, what surprised you the most?

As a New Yorker, I was so ready to judge people, and I was really surprised at how easy it was to give that up. I felt like I was given the freedom both to be myself and to receive other people as they were. I was also surprised by how quickly I became tied to the land, learning to value and be curious about the water supply and the fungus and the tiny critters I couldn’t see.

Can you talk about the lessons you learned at the PDC?

I thought I’d just be learning about how to be a greener person, but I also learned so much about myself from the inside out and the outside in. I was certainly surprised with how much I cried at the PDC, because so much of the work is innately tied to self-succession. And I didn’t expect to develop this connection with 20 strangers that I still value. I’m so grateful for that, especially for the connections with people far outside of my age range. Not just mentors like Patricia [Patricia Allison, SOIL permaculture instructor]—an incredible human being who I wish to be like when I grow up—but other students in the PDC, like a pair of 16-year-old twins whom I really got to know and developed hopes and wishes for.

Why did you return to SOIL for the Ecological and Natural Building course and Shoemaking class?

Throughout the PDC, I got a pretty clear vision of my very long-term goals in my life, and one of them is to develop a space for my grandchildren. I want them to be able to run and play, grow things and watch me grow things, so I think at some point in my life I’ll need to know how to build things. It was also my birthday weekend, and I thought, what better way to spend it than to be at Earthaven learning how to do stuff?

Shoemaking was another hard skill I wanted to develop—and I also really wanted those shoes! When I was at Earthaven for the PDC, I saw everybody wearing their handmade shoes, and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Beyond that, I found that developing competence in these different skills continued to develop my confidence.

How have you made changes in your life due to your experiences at SOIL?

I left the PDC knowing I wanted more clarity and intentionality in my life. I remembered listening to Farmer [Chris Farmer, SOIL renewable energy instructor] give a speech about how, if you don’t know what you want when you’re waking up in the morning, go develop a skill. So I wrote a letter to my ninth-grade advisor, who had just opened Vinland, a 100-percent locally sourced restaurant in Maine, pouring my heart out about what I’d learned in the PDC. A few weeks later, I was up in Portland, learning how to cook in a kitchen with no citrus, nut or olive oil, or peppercorns. It was a real challenge, and I thrived on the freedom in limitation.

There came a point at the end of my time there when the chef handed me a piece of lamb and asked me to clean it—and I didn’t know what I was doing. It became instantly clear to me that I needed to learn how to handle animals well after they’re dead and how to prepare them both respectfully and indulgently. So I took an apprenticeship at Fleischers, a whole-animal butchery in New York. I don’t think I threw anything away in three months—by the end of my apprenticeship, I could break an entire cow down by myself in five hours and knew exactly what to do with every piece of it. Now, I just accepted a job at Hudson and Charles, a New York shop with 100-percent grassfed, grass-finished beef.

What would you tell someone who is on the edge of considering a SOIL course?

Listen to your edges, but push them. Breathe there. Discover what’s there. Push them if you’re ready—and if you’re not, jump anyway! The community at Earthaven is so welcoming, and their love for new people and learning is infectious. I could gush forever about how grateful I am.

Learn more about the Permaculture Design Course, which begins on June 12, at this program page. Remember to subscribe to SOIL’s newsletter for the latest program announcements, sustainability tips, and radical inspiration.

Experience a developing ecovillage for yourself!

Most of SOIL’s classes take place at Earthaven Ecovillage, giving participants a hands-on, skill-building immersion within an authentic community-based, village setting. Tours of Earthaven are also available on a monthly basis, a great way to dip your toe into this long-standing, intergenerational social experiment.

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