Agricultural Hero: Kareen Erbe
Each week One Earth is proud to feature an environmental activist and hero from around the globe who is working to create a world where humanity and nature can coexist in harmony.
Kareen Erbe read Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall as a teen, her passion for justice grew as she learned that far too often economic growth is placed ahead of the health of our shared planet. This motivated her to go to school for environmental sciences and led to her living in Guatemala with the Indigenous communities. This experience left her feeling powerless though as she witnessed firsthand the effects of globalization on these local, low-income communities. However, a course called Gandhi & Globalization changed her life when she heard the word, ‘permaculture.’ Turning her continued passion into action, she headed to Australia to study at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.
Now, Erbe is a permaculture teacher, designer, and consultant at her own business, Broken Ground. Located in Bozeman, Montana, the predominantly cold winters, hailstorms of spring, and early frosts in fall typically make gardening a challenge in the region. Erbe helps people learn to grow their own food in this drastic climate. Permaculture combines traditional knowledge with modern science and adopts designs from flourishing ecosystems. The principles used are regenerative agriculture coupled with community resilience where communities work together to share available resources. This is particularly useful after climate disasters, as communities can aid one another quickly and return to normal life faster.
In addition to her business, she offers free services to the community. Erbe holds potlucks and tours of her property to grow awareness about the permaculture community. She provides free gardening talks and work study programs for both volunteers and students who work the gardens in exchange for food or education. She was also involved in the development of a quarter-acre public food forest, planting apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees, along with edible shrubs like gooseberries and raspberries.
Erbe believes that we have a lifestyle crisis where we have forgotten that “our hands can do more than text and type.” We can create beauty and sustenance through planting food while bringing us closer together as a community. Her example shows that positive change can start with just one person. Permaculture isn’t the only solution to climate change, but it is a piece and Erbe wants all to think of themselves as producers, not just consumers.