Cameron McMahon: Marine, Student, Entrepreneur

In 2012, I completed my service to the United States Marine Corps Infantry. Thanks to the GI Bill, I was finally in a place financially where I was able to pursue my plans full time.  I had heard of Yestermorrow for years and even helped a friend tow an outhouse that a class built over the Ap. Gap to their home. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the school. After seeing an ad in Seven Days (a weekly local news, culture, and arts newspaper for Vermont) and discovering the breadth of course offerings, I thought Yestermorrow would be a good fit. At the time they were offering a Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design which was unique because after taking the Core, I was able to take electives in a variety of courses.

This flexibility was perfect as my vision for my future was still a little hazy. I would be able to learn a variety of skills and then perhaps take additional classes as I narrowed in on my true passions. Sounds pretty perfect, right? Well, there was a hiccup in this perfect plan. There was no way I could afford this program out of pocket and Yestermorrow wasn’t able to accept my GI funds for all of the programs I wanted to take. Others might have seen this as an insurmountable roadblock and start to explore other options;I was determined to find a way to make it work. After jumping through numerous hoops, I was able to help solidify a partnership between Yestermorrow and the Veterans Affairs Office which now gives all Veterans the opportunity to apply their GI Funds to any Yestermorrow Certificate Program.

Since first enrolling at Yestermorrow nearly four years ago, I have taken 28 courses including the Woodworking Certificate, Certificate in Natural Building, and the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. The Yestermorrow experience was a real eye opener and I experienced countless “ah-ha” moments. I would hear a new idea or be introduced to a new topic and suddenly something would just click - everything just made sense. The most notable “ah-ha” moment for me occurred when I was first introduced to the topic of permaculture  and was taught by instructor Mark Krawczyk to think in terms of watersheds. I’m pretty sure the sound of my mind exploding was audible. Over time, I came to think of permaculture as a form driven protest. Attracted by the beauty, simplicity, and practicality of the principles, I’ve come to realize that the power of permaculture lies in having a set of practical methods and tools for approaching problems, and a mindset that sees problems as opportunities.

With a strong foundation in the principles of permaculture, I began to accumulate hands on practical skills that shaped my long term goals. My experiences  at Yestermorrow, in higher education, and in the military have contributed to my plan of building an ecovillage - a community of people who aim to live according to ecological principles, reducing their impact on the environment. This ecovillage will provide agricultural systems to support up to 400 residents with a range of community services. In addition to providing services for residents, I envision this village will serve the greater community as an educational resource and provide aid to climate refugees.

The main feature of this property will include a medieval style village with a castle, utilizing ecological design, and modern systems where appropriate. Why a medieval style village complete with a castle? Because this property will also serve as a wedding venue and tourist attraction. The profits from tourism and hospitality will help fund the rest of the design and community scale systems.

    After taking nearly every course I possibly could at Yestermorrow, I decided to enroll in a Sustainable Development program at Columbia University. After I finish my studies at Columbia, I intend to return to Vermont and pursue an MBA in Sustainable Business at the University of Vermont. After I complete my MBA, I intend to pursue the development of the ecovillage as a full time career. Armed with a solid education, technical skills, and the confidence that comes from learning at Yestermorrow, I’m confident that I can make this dream a reality.