Hi I'm Bela Beke, Director of F.O.O.D, a designer of regenerative systems and an ideas man!
In my childhood home in Europe my family engaged in subsistence farming and we grew all our food. Some of this food has been consumed fresh and some of it we preserved for the long winter months. At that time there were very few jobs and most people were self-employed in the village of my birth in a variety of trades and professions. As a village community we had to provide for most of our needs locally and only purchasing manufactured raw materials as needed.
Our village community engaged in all kinds of trade and barter as a means of exchanging goods and services. This process worked fine, and it is still working. I now live in suburban Melbourne, Australia and feel we need to develop that sort of local community self-reliance and local resilience.
Permaculture has been a long term interest of mine from its early beginnings here in Australia. In the late 1980s I happened to hear a radio broadcast of a Bill Mollison interview on a local radio station. My life in the subsistence farming community of my childhood was still fresh in my mind and I thought that with the help of the permaculture tool box we could make the subsistence farmer's life a great deal easier.
It took until 1991 before I was able to participate in a Permaculture Design Certificate course. Since there were as yet no PDC courses available in my part of Australia I first had to convene a PDC in my local area. We had 45 persons joining us.
Over the years I have collected and read all the permaculture texts I could lay my hands on and contemplated endless hours of audio visual materials from around the world.
Recently I completed a two year full time Diploma of Permaculture, and while working on my Diploma I designed a series of permaculture projects from balcony size to hundred acre farms.
Over the next 20 years, I trialled and implemented permaculture techniques while working at my Kinglake property. I have been experimenting and adopting permaculture techniques and therefore improving my skills in:
Design and implementation of a permaculture project
Water collection and filtration systems
Grey and black water recycling
Composting toilet (eg. safely storing excreta and making use of the resulting compost)
I have also worked on and researched appropriate and alternative technology systems (eg. researching wood gas producing systems, distilling alcohol fuels, design and building of steam engines and electricity generating systems
Hailing from Europe, everything was human and/or animal powered with very little machinery so I decided that I would need to learn how to be able to design, build and maintain distributed energy generating systems. So for this reason, I learnt woodworking that was also useful in building my post and beam mud brick house – making windows and doors out of recycled timber. I experimented with passive solar design and a variety of building techniques such as mud brick making and laying, cob and straw bale. Another reason I learnt woodworking is to make patterns to be able to cast parts in metal for steam engines or other machinery as required.
After completing the Permaculture Design Course in 1991, I was spurred on to further studies for my own self-development, self-reliance and to teach others:
I did a series of regular workshops over 2 years with an Austrian trained ornamental blacksmith (Oscar Heucherig, a member of the Australian Blacksmiths Association and TAFE trainer).Blacksmithing was important to me in order to be able to be self-reliant in making and repairing tools and machinery as well as making decorative and practical house-hold items.
Gold & Silver Smithing
I completed this course to learn design, drawing and fine motor skills as well as be self-employed selling my own hand-crafted wares at markets and galleries. I have my own lapidary equipment to be able to cut and polish my own precious and semi-precious stones.I researched and used traditional techniques from Sumerian, Egyptian and other traditional cultures which didn’t use the equipment and machinery we have today.
Diploma of Permaculture, Eltham College of Education
I felt permaculture was my calling and I was keen to gain further knowledge and demonstrate how I wanted to live more simply and use some of the skills I learnt in my old traditional village in Europe, the previous courses I completed and the skills and experience I gained over the years.
Masters in Integrative Ecosocial Design at GAIA University
Furthering my thirst for knowledge in all things permaculture, I am now studying the above course which is teaching me more research skills and I’m able to communicate with people who have advanced permaculture skills.