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Roanoker Helps To Make Permaculture A Way Of Life

Ron McCorkle preaches permaculture to the Roanoke Valley.

by Gene Marrano

“Permaculture” is all about finding ways to live more naturally, and Ron McCorkle says it’s part of a movement that is becoming more mainstream all the time. The Urbiculture Foundation will display some of that permaculture movement – living “off the grid” so to speak – at the Grandin Road Earth Day celebration on April 23rd.

The exhibit will also feature pedal-powered devices that “will be inspiring to a lot of people,” said McCorkle, who calls permaculture “a way of life that allows us to more fully integrate with nature.”

Meanwhile McCorkle, an accountant by trade and owner of Sharebike, will host a brainstorming session for those interested in aspects of permaculture on Tuesday, March 1 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Sharebike, which is located at 513 S. Jefferson St. Anyone with a permaculture idea or method is also welcome.

Sharebike is a 3-year-old company that lends bikes free of charge at various sites in Roanoke, encouraging people to leave their motorized vehicles behind for a while to explore the streets and greenways of Roanoke on two wheels.

“Sharebike is going really well,” said McCorkle, who hopes to have bicycles available at Vic Thomas Park and other venues this spring. “We’re taking the next step forward and that’s good for everyone.” Grandin Gardens and Black Dog Salvage hosted Sharebike locations last year; only one has not been returned on the honor system program over the past three years.

“Hundreds of people have used them,” noted McCorkle, who is studying for a master’s in integrative eco-sociology. That focuses in part on permaculture, which he said has “exploded over the past year.  A lot more people are interested in it.”

Never heard of a rocket stove, a cob structure or a rainwater collection system? That’s what permaculture is all about said McCorkle. Rocket stoves are very efficient wood stoves used for heating, the most efficient available at 90%. “They are used a lot in other countries [and] a lot of people are making their own.” Cob structures are 100% natural buildings made using materials like clay and straw. Many have “living roofs,” with plant materials that help to heat and cool more efficiently.

“The generation now in their 20s are seeing permaculture as something great. They grew up in a world that is finally seeing the importance of reducing our energy consumption and recycling,” said McCorkle. Many of the older ways of doing things he adds “don’t make sense to them.”

The Internet, noted McCorkle, has made it easier to share knowledge about permaculture techniques, and a realization that the earth’s natural resources are indeed limited have inspired many young people. “They’re doing amazing things … it’s way different than it was in the 70s and 80s.” A Pittsburgh native, McCorkle said he had changed his perspective over the years, helped in part by joining the Roanoke Permaculture Association. “I was really intrigued,” said the now-certified permaculture instructor.” The Permaculture Association has held workshops on rocket stoves, harvesting shiitake mushrooms, rainwater collection systems, etc.

As for the pre-Earth Day session next Tuesday, McCorkle said all are welcome. “A lot of people have really great ideas. Brainstorming sessions are great for harvesting all of that inspiration.”

See for more information or contact McCorkle a [email protected].

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