Mountain Gardens
A botanical garden of useful plants specializing in Appalachian and Chinese medicinal herbs

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APPRENTICE PROGRAM (2009)

I have been having apprentices at Mountain Gardens for more than ten years. At first, the intention was the same as most farm / garden apprentice programs: to get help for the tasks that we do in exchange for providing a learning opportunity. For many years my goal was to have three or four apprentices. Recently, I have been exploring the ‘carrying capacity’ of our facilities, having six and sometimes as many as eight interns. At the same time the focus has been shifting, with education becoming more central to my goals, to the point where I have begun thinking of Mtn Gdns as primarily a school.

From the very beginning of Mtn Gdns, 35 years ago, my goal has been to develop, demonstrate and promote a radical alternative way of living on earth, which I call Paradise Gardening; and over this time I have only become more convinced of the importance and urgency of this work. Turning 65 last year of course adds another dimension of urgency.

Elsewhere on this website, you can find plenty of information about the philosophy and how it works out in practice here. Over the years, I have assembled an extensive collection of resources (books, tools, apparatus, plants) which, combined with our situation (adjacent to the National Forest, at the foot of the tallest mountains in eastern N. America) make Mtn. Gdns. a unique laboratory to develop a truly sustainable way of living. If your idea of a good time (the best time) is to integrate your mind, body and spirit in such an endeavor, in the company of like minds, I invite you to join us.

At this point and going forward, I envision Mtn Gdns as an ever-shifting community of individuals dedicated to developing and maintaining a Paradise Garden, and learning how to do it by doing it. Thinking in terms of an ‘apprenticeship program’, I realize, has blinded me to the much more appropriate community / fellowship model.

Why community? Because we all have ‘social needs.’ Because working together with friends on a common, shared project is among life’s greatest pleasures. Because developing and maintaining a Paradise Garden is a group project. Because the basic unit of human society is not the individual, or the family, but the band.

Joe Hollis