The crew arrived at Pechanga Resort and Casino on Wednesday evening, to a slew of flashing lights. They were everywhere: on stop signs, on crosswalks, and in fountains. Directly ahead of us was a parking garage, easy to enter but hard to exit. In fact, the whole resort was interesting to navigate; it was a confusing mix of buildings and winding roads. It was easy to find valet parking, but time consuming to drive to the lot on your own. After six and a half hours of driving, from Zion to Temecula, it just felt funny. A permaculture conference at a casino. What the hell?
Registration for the conference was quick, once we figured out where to go. The building had a faint smell of cigarette smoke. Recycled, filtered air, how refreshing. The gentleman in line ahead of us, clad in a fashionable straw hat and button down, looked a bit confused as well. He was picking up materials ahead of us when the organizer’s wife walked in, baby in carrier. He said, “OK, now this looks like permaculture!”
After dropping stuff in our room, we wandered the casino. There was a noticeable lack of exits, windows, and natural light. There were stone-faced people playing games with flashing lights, pushing buttons, with no concept of time. We found a selection of nice restaurants on the perimeter, and ate Korean food. Yum! Wandering back to our room, Avery pointed to a lit up sign over the slot machines, saying, “I thought that said Pechanga Sluts. It’s Pechanga Slots!!”
Diego Footer, permaculturist in the LA scene, organized Permaculture Voices and was the first speaker at the conference. The main message I gathered from this opening is he is so very happy to have escaped his former career, 12 years in a cubicle, to explore permaculture and “do epic shit”. He showed images of people “doing epic shit”, including a marathon runner who was missing at least one leg, probably two. He spoke of how the majority of people, 80%, are in careers and/or working jobs they do not like. He spoke of a nurse acquaintance of his, who worked with dying patients in hospice. He showed an image of a bedside nurse on the screen. This nurse acquaintance said the number one thing she heard from patients is that they wished they had done more with their lives. They were filled with regrets over the things they did not do. So Diego’s message to us was, get out there and “do epic shit”! It felt like the start to some type of personal coaching conference, honestly.
I was thinking to myself, is this room really filled with people who hate their careers? I hope, instead, there were many people who had found their passions, and had traveled to this conference for inspiration and ideas to take back to their permaculture design work and classes.
The talk was in a giant room with all chairs facing a stage that had draperies that were lit with pink and blue lights. There was a large screen behind the stage. We attendees (about 600 at the conference) were all wearing name tags. Having been a former corporate employee myself, it reminded me of a corporate conference.
His last slide had one word, hashtagged: #permavoices
Next post, Day 1, Part 2, getting into the good stuff:
Joel Salatin, farmer at Polyface Farms and cultivator of charisma, opened the conference with “Fields of Farmers”.