For the last decade, my life has been dedicated to building food autonomy, developing an ecological skill set and organising for liberation in various ways. I started Empty Cages Design (now Nicole Rose Ecology) in 2011 to offer design consultancy services and community education in liberatory forms of land use.

I wish I had a wholesome story of how I began this work. In a single-parent family, I never grew up with access to land. I left home at 16 and the opportunities of higher education were a pipe dream. The reality is my relationship with the land formed when I was in prison as a young adult after several years of state repression to destroy the campaign that I was part of in trying to close down Europe’s largest animal testing company. In prison, I found plants. Or they found me. This led me to later write the book The Prisoner’s Herbal about how to prepare plant medicines in prison using the weeds in prison courtyards. Inside, I received a grant to study a permaculture course via distance learning and my life changed forever.

By far my biggest teacher has been the land where I live – the 6-acre permaculture project called Brook End. We manage the land using agroecological practices and without farmed animal inputs, feeding the family and visitors year-round. We are a registered learning and network demonstration centre with the Permaculture Association.

In 2013, I co-founded Feed Avalon, a workers cooperative that works for socially-just and ecologically sound food production in Glastonbury, Street and surrounding villages. We run grassroots projects, organise courses and events, and do a ton of local community organising. I co-ordinated the EAT Project for five years, organising accessible education and training in food system skills that supported hundreds of people to learn how to grow food. Feed Avalon has a community kitchen we built from scratch, two community gardens, a forest garden, wildflower park and a burgeoning mushroom farm.

I complimented this grassroots work with studying for a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, as well as a BSc Integrative Ecosocial Design and MSc Applied Agroecology with Gaia University. I was incredibly grateful to access financial support and a work-trade to complete these programs. All of these courses enabled me to develop as a designer and organiser due to their action-learning approaches. Gaia University is the most radical education institution on the planet and has changed my life in untold ways. I also worked as an Advisor for 6-years with the honour of mentoring people engaged in ecological design from all over the world including Mali, Syria, Kenya, Thailand, the US and Europe.

As a designer, I specialise in designing plant-based systems, without farmed animals (but with an abundance of wildlife and self-determining animals). I combine my knowledge and experience as a grower, with research from around the world from fields such as veganic horticulture, forest gardening, agroforestry and more. I share this knowledge on an annual Vegan Permaculture Design Course each summer. I have undertaken consultancy projects with home gardens, smallholders and farmers, as well as community projects and animal sanctuaries.

I also have a serious passion for soil and helped to organise the first SoilHack Gathering in the UK. SoilHack is a knowledge-sharing network focused on the soil. I believe we already have the knowledge and understanding of regenerative soil care, but need to do the movement building and organising work to get those practices implemented around the world. I have a growing interest in bioremediation and how we can heal from the toxic legacy of capitalism. In 2019, I joined the Soil Food Web Consultant Training Program to develop my skills in microscopy, composting and compost tea making as well as soil remediation.

As an organiser, I now mostly focus on prisoner support and supporting grassroots ecological campaigns. Some of my proudest moments were being part of a coalition that stopped fracking in Somerset, closing down a greyhound race track and rehoming more than 60 dogs, supporting groups across Somerset to start community food projects and access land, organising the first Radical Herbalism Gathering and building up the Reclaim the Fields constellation of anti-capitalist food producers across Europe. The huge amounts of work involved, plus ongoing PTSD let me to burnout pretty hard in 2016. I documented my recovery in a series of blogs that were read by people all over the world and have now become a book called Overcoming Burnout that was published in August 2019 by Active Distribution.

My second love beyond agroecology is herbalism. In 2018, I founded the Solidarity Apothecary which aims to provide mutual aid through herbal medicine. I make and distribute medicines for people experiencing repression, overcoming burnout or otherwise experiencing structural barriers to herbal medicine. I also make medicine for Herbalists without Borders groups. I am partway through a four-year training to become a medical herbalist studying with the Plant Medicine School in Ireland. I am passionate about integrating my knowledge of medicinal plants with ecology and supporting people to grow medicinal herbs and protect and tend their habitats.

My long-term plans are to write a book on anarchist agroecology, start a mobile People’s Soil Laboratory, develop an online course in Medicinal Ecology and create the Rosehip Community Herb Farm of my dreams!