May 202015

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Miriam Volat

My guest for this episode is Miriam Volat the director of Farm School, a project located in Sonoma County, California, in cooperation with the Permaculture Skills Center.

The program she is developing takes an intense long-term approach to training up a new generation of regenerative farmers from all walks of life who will then return to their communities to become engaged according to their own interests. Whatever way they walk this road they will do so fully prepared, including business plans, farm designs, and a network of mentors to support them. Though not a permaculture design course in and of itself, it is a parallel kind of program that we would do well to replicate in order to expand upon the Permaculture Design Course and better prepare students to begin applying permaculture whatever their occupation and wherever they call home.

Listen to Miriam’s description of the project, including a number of points we discuss applicable to permaculture design. Whether you are an instructor or not, there is much to learn during this conversation.

You can Find out more about this project by going to and clicking on “Farm School.”

Two things, it always seems to be two things doesn’t it, stand out for me from this interview. The first is the reminder that we need to take a long term approach to working with permaculture and applying it to the various systems of the world that we are a part of, while training those who will follow us. Together those actions continue to make the changes necessary to live in a regenerative world. As much as I would like to see something happen overnight, to do so too rapidly is foolish and dangerous. It’s one thing to uproot our own lives to try something new, but we cannot expect the same of our family, friends, or larger communities. Take one step today, another tomorrow, and over a lifetime you can make a difference to the world.

The second part for me is the need to expand the pool of permaculture education and permaculture educators. There are many great classes and teachers out there, including some you’ve heard of and hundreds you have not, but we do not have enough to train up the numbers that we need to bring about broad systemic change. The permaculture design course is a great place to get started down this path formally, as are the advanced trainings, but we need more of them, with greater variety. Niches to fill to get this information in the hands of gardeners, home owners, community leaders, and academics. Community programs that fill the role of a PDC-lite, and longer, more intensive ones, like Miriam outlined, that take a particular subject underneath this big umbrella and expands upon it to fill a specific role, be that for a farmer, a community leader, a physician, or parent. Everyone can benefit from permaculture, but we have to bring it to them in a way that is useful and functional to their lives, not ask them to come to us.

Eventually I’d like to see a formalized program where someone can earn a multi-disciplinary Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and, eventually, PhD, in Permaculture Design from a regionally accredited college or university. Then we can start getting into the 37,000 public and private high schools, and 2,000 non-profit colleges and universities. By doing so we can step out of the niche we currently inhabit with the support of even larger communities.

This second piece comes from my own journey and biases, I’ll readily admit. I’ve experienced the difference, repeatedly, that a set of credentials can make in opening doors and garnering immediate acceptance and credibility. Just by mentioning “graduate student” I was able to interview a number of guests who had hesitated before to do so. Coming as an academic equal shows our own seriousness and interest in the subjects at hand. Just the same, now that I’m through, mentioning “Master’s degree” opens up other opportunities to teach on college campuses or to act as a corporate trainer. The education isn’t a prerequisite, but it really does shorten the line we’re standing in.

To keep the ball rolling, if we want to take permaculture mainstream, we need to dig into the system that exists and leverage it to our needs. To be subversive and use what works for us to make a difference. To help students gain access to this education in a way that is equitable to everyone involved. I’m not saying that the educational institutions as they exist are perfect, but we can’t change them if we don’t get engaged. We must do something. We must, each and everyone of us, take action, or these systems will never move in a direction that makes the difference we want them to.

As a result of this interview and many other conversations over the past few weeks I’ve decided that I am going to continue on my own personal journey to eventually be able to call this show The Permaculture Podcast with Dr. Scott Mann. Though I don’t know how things will work out, as there are many steps in the process, I’ve begun the application process to Penn State University for a D.Ed. in Adult Education, with the plan, should I be accepted, to start this Fall, 2015. During that time I will continue to be available to the community as a resource by email or phone, and will keep creating the podcast in one form or another.

If you like this show support it however you can. Tell a friend. Share a link on your favorite website, forum, or blog. Listen to your favorite episode with your friends or family. Talk about it. Make a donation via the PayPal link on the left-hand side of the website. Ask your boss, or yourself if you are the boss, to sponsor an episode. Go to and become a member. Send me an email to letting me know what a difference a particular guest had on your life. If I’ve said something that inspires you, or that got your fired up enough to take action, call me: 717-827-6266.

You can also use that email address and phone number to get in touch if I can help you in any way along your permaculture path.

Until the next time, take care of earth, your self, and each other.

Farm School
Permaculture Skills Center
FEED Sonoma
California Climate & Agriculture Network
Sonoma County Heirloom Festival
Laguna Farm
Bohemian Farmers Collective

May 132015

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My guests for this episode are Caroline Wallace and Jesse Peterson, pictured here with their mentor Dave Jacke. Caroline and Jesse are the owners of Inside Edge Design, LCC, a permaculture design firm based in Helena, Montana, that applies the social system design framework of Dave Jacke to their municipal scale projects.

During this conversation we talk about niche analysis and social system design and how to apply it to our work as permaculture practitioners to make the invisible structures a more visible part of the process. We use the 6th Ward Garden Park as an example of how they work with a local parks department and government in order to gain approval for the installation of a 1 acre food forest.

A niche analysis of a European Pear showing the products, needs, characteristics, allies, and predators of this plant. (Click to enlarge)

I find that this interview complements the conversation I had with Steve Whitman in Episode 1517: Community Planning, very well, so after listening to this one, go and check out that one if you haven’t already. Together they help to prepare you to be better prepared to engage the society where you live.

Before we begin, a reminder that the Traveling Permaculture Library Project is now being managed by Matt Winters, author of The Gift, and it’s a great time for you to get involved. Email your name and address to: and he will add you to the mailing list of this cycle of virtuous giving.

Find out more about Caroline, Jesse, and their work, including their design document for the 6th Ward Garden Park (PDF), at

The same niche analysis applied to a human social system, the Helena Parks and Recreation department.(Click to enlarge)

Stepping away from this conversation I’m left with the feeling that their work will have a huge impact on our ability to design with the social and economic systems of our communities in mind in a way that insures we are able to use permaculture in the process. We could use the principles that currently exist, but we are trained up to look to the landscape as the metaphor and sometimes that frame of reference gets stuck. Here with the niche analysis, the axises of social system design (PDF), and Elinor Ostrom’s Eight Principles of Managing A Commons, we can leverage other tools into our toolbox that break us out of that strictly permaculture mindset, without having to start from scratch, and then expand upon them based on our own interests and abilities and with permaculture in mind.

The road ahead for social systems is an incredible one to be a part of and likely to face numerous challenges as we move forward. I say this because of numerous conversations I encounter online where permaculture is still viewed strictly as a means of permanent agriculture, rather than one of permanent culture.

Where do you see permaculture going from here? Where are you taking it that you would like to share with the world?

Get in touch. Call: 717-827-6266. Email: or write me a letter and drop it in the mail:

The Permaculture Podcast
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018

You can also join in the conversations at or follow me on Twitter where I am @permaculturecst.

I’ll do whatever I can to assist you on this path. If you can help me, I would greatly appreciate it. Share a link to your favorite episode on your blog, a forum, Facebook, or Twitter. Tell a friend. Or support the show with a one time donation using the PayPal button on the main page of the website at or by becoming an ongoing monthly member at Anything you do to help keep this show on the air and growing lets, together, reach more people and bring ecological design further and further into the mainstream consciousness. One person, one story at a time we can make a difference.

Until the next time, take care of Earth, your self, and each other.


Inside Edge Design, LLC

6th Ward Garden Park Design Report and Implementation Plan

Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Prinicples of for Managing a Commons

May 092015

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Today’s episode is a permabyte review of the forthcoming book by Toby Hemenway, The Permaculture City.

Exciting, isn’t it? Toby Hemenway has a new book coming out and I’ll just go ahead and say it: it is incredible. I received an advance copy, clocking in at 288 pages, from the publisher Chelsea Green and, even though I’m a slow reader, sat down and read the whole thing, cover to cover, in a day.

What I like about this book is that the way it is written and organized reminds me of my own permaculture path. In the beginning there is an examination of the ethics and principles and why they matter. Then there is an look at design and considering techniques, but then stepping back and to organize our thoughts with the tools provided by the permaculture design process. To re-examine the elements and how they relate to systems. As that understanding grows to take another step and use small examples, such as water systems, to expand our thoughts further and realize there is more to this work than just the land and includes the people involved with caring for it, for maintaining it, and that those living communities matter. They embody why we care for Earth, care for people, and share the surplus.

As importantly Toby also addresses the real fact that we can’t expect everyone to become hunter-gatherers again or subsistence farmers. Even if we could that idea isn’t reflective of the resiliency that permaculture design engenders. Using resiliency as a basis he uses several examples, including home and community gardening, water, and energy use, as informal case studies to explore how to apply the principles to step back and ask bigger questions so we can create useful strategies.

This last point is important because, to me, The Permaculture City is a book about better understanding our design strategies, those often nebulous ideas that separate the philosophical underpinnings of permaculture, the ethics and principles, from the techniques that represent the physical practice that all of our on-paper design results in. There is time for techniques when we implement, but that can only come after consideration and design.

For those of you familiar with the Zone and Sector design models in permaculture, they are both upon throughout the provided examples. I was left with a new understanding of how to apply these, especially to social systems. Chapter Nine in particular, on Placemaking and The Empowered Community, took me in a whole new direction. Though I’ve used these methods repeatedly in the past after seeing them applied in the context of the various examples I come to agree with what Larry Santoyo says, which is quoted in this book, “Sectors trump everything.” I’m now going back and examining some of my designs, including landscape, social, and economic, to see where my sector analysis may be weak.

My thoughts on permaculture moving beyond the the landscape started several years ago when I interviewed Dave Jacke, Larry Santoyo, and Mark Lakeman in short succession. Reading this book has helped to continue my shift in thinking about permaculture, and in about the time it would take you to go back and listen to those interviews you can sit down and be well into this wonderful book and have an even greater understanding of how permaculture applies to so many human systems, but also how to start asking the questions that can take your understanding of design to the next level.

I’ve been in this field for half a decade now and this book is a welcome addition to my library. It came at the right time, but I can’t help but wish that I would have been ready for it and received it sooner.

Overall I like Toby’s latest book so much that I’m putting it on my recommended reading list, especially for someone new to permaculture. After you’ve read Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution, Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems, Rosemary Morrow’s Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, and David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, read The Permaculture City and take your design well beyond the landscape.

The Permaculture City goes into publication on July 15, 2015 and you can pre-order a copy through the Chelsea Green website for $24.95.

I am expecting to receive a final print copy of the book when it goes to press and will include that in the Traveling Permaculture Library Project. If you’d like to be a part of that cycle of giving, and receive a random book related to the broad umbrella of permaculture, email your name and address to and Matt Winters will take care of you.

Until the next time, take care of Earth, your self, and each other.

Correction: When originally recorded and posted the publication date for this book was September 14, 2015. The release date has since been moved up to July 15, 2015.

May 062015

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After a short break to wrap up graduate school, today’s interview is with Steve Whitman, a permaculture designer and planner from New Hampshire. In addition to all of his work on various planning boards he also runs Resilience Planning & Design, LLC.

During our conversation today Steve and I talk about engaging in government and community planning in order to inject more permaculture into the process. This is the beginning of an examination of how to make permaculture a part of the mainstream discussion by including holistic design into city and community development. To change the laws, codes, and ordinances in ways that allow us to have a more active role in what happens where we live. As the population continues to grow and more people live in towns and cities we can bring permaculture to the forefront and get involvement at all levels.

Government and planning are some really big picture issues and I know that they can be intimidating, but speaking with Steve we kept things very straight forward. There’s plenty of discussion about how planning works, the various ways we can become part of the decision making, and how to bring about change, but this isn’t a technical conversation. It’s not full of jargon, but, honestly, is probably the most approachable conversation we could have on this complicated subject. I enjoyed talking to Steve and between the two of us we broke this down into something you can get started using today just by making a couple of phone calls.

Find out more about Steve and his work at His door is open if you want to get in touch with him to talk about planning and getting involved in the process so that you can begin having a direct effect on the policies that impact your life, so feel free to reach out to him through his website.

If there is anything I can do to help you on your path, let me know.

Call: 717-827-6266

Of write if you would prefer:
The Permaculture Podcast
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018

If you want to get started in changing policies there are a few steps I recommend from my own work in doing this. Throughout this next section I’m going to refer to the government body for a specific region as a municipality. In saying that it is a placeholder for anything from a town, to a city, county, state, province, or even national government.

First, contact the municipality you want to work with and ask where you can find copies of the local ordinances. More and more, as part of open records and documentation projects, these are available online, or you may need to request a hard copy. Those are usually at a reasonable price. I think I paid $20 for the most up-to-date version from my township, a fair price given the large page count of this book. It’s comparable to Mollison’s Designers’ Manual in page count.

Once you’ve got this, begin reading through it and get an understanding for what is on record. Check the dates of when certain things were put on the books, that might give you some insight into, as Steve suggested, how and where things changed in your area. Yes the language can seem rather specific and shrouded in legalese sometimes, depending on how things are written, but I’ve yet to find something that is completely incomprehensible, but if you do have questions feel free to call and ask for assistance in understanding what something means. It’s a great way to get to know a code enforcement officer on a first name basis.

Next up foster a relationship with the administrative assistant for the municipality, if there is one. I’ve repeatedly found that people in this position are the gatekeepers to power. Having a good relationship with them can get your passed directly to various officers, or provide insight into where to go next.

Finally, start attending board and planning meetings. Use the principle of observation to understand what is happening. Look for places where you can add your voice to the discussion and ask pointed questions. Listen to the responses and consider your suggestions. Weigh in on areas you have expertise and push the edge towards more holistic design.

One of my friends is often asked, “How did you get that done?” Their response?
“I showed up.”

Being present makes all the difference in the world.

From here, an update on me and where things are to wrap things up.

As of the release of this show I will graduate from grad school with my Master of Science in Park and Resource Management. If all my numbers are right, I will complete this two and a half year process with a 4.0 overall. It’s been a long hard road, particularly while raising a family and continuing to produce the show, but the results are worth it. I’ve learned a plenty that can be applied to the podcast in particular and permaculture education in general. There is lots and lots to do, and my next step is to continue my education and pursue a doctoral program. I’m still researching where to go and what exactly to study, but now is the time if I’m ever going to breath life into The Plan and see it spring forth into the world.

Doing so brings me to another crossroads, though not quite like the one last year. I know I’m on the right road for myself, but I am in a place where I need to find a place to live and take care of my children and, as much as I want it to, the podcast as a sole pursuit isn’t enough at the moment to do so. The show is financially self sufficient at this point and pays for itself, but I am looking for a full time job to keep myself going while I keep this show and everything else in the air. The website, the podcast, all of that is going to stay on the air, but there will be changes coming in the future, I just don’t know what yet. Once things start to settle out, I’ll let you know more as I do.

Beyond that there are other fun things coming up. June 4 I’m scheduled to record a round table discussion with Charles Eisenstein, Dave Jacke, and Ben Weiss which will come out a few weeks later as a two part (or more) episode. There is also another round table recording scheduled for September, and another road trip to Virginia is in the works to do a one year follow-up with the guests from that event and to add some new interviews to that journey. Plus, in August, I get to go to Canada and be the best man at a dear friend’s wedding. I won’t be recording anything there, but it will be some good fun.

Whatever the future holds, wherever my path leads, I will remain here as a resource for you however I am able. You are not alone on your permaculture journey so contact me, however you would like, if I can help you.

Until the next time, take care of earth, yourself, and each other.

Resilience Planning and Design, LLC.