by Mo Lohre & William Redwine
On the Creating the Alternative tour (see our author profile) we have a procedure for finding out what is happening when we’re headed to a new town. This includes looking at a few different websites for leads.
Since we need food and want the most fresh, local, organic food possible, the first website we check out is www.localharvest.org. Local Harvest lists small farms, ranches, grocery co-ops, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), farmers’ markets… — basically anything linked to local and organic food for the entire U.S. of A. You can also use this website if you are not traveling. It will give you a good idea of what is around your area. And if you are a small farmer (or know of one) that is not listed yet, you should definitely contact Local Harvest and let them know.
We have met awesome farmers on our tour thus far that have awakened to the crucial challenges we are facing with food production. La Llama De Sutton Farm is a llama ranch out in the High Desert of California. Nanci, the wonderful manager of the ranch, raises llamas, alpacas, goats, pigs, guinea fowl, chickens, turkeys and peacocks on her ranch.
Nanci introduces us to her angora goat friends
She spins and sells the llama fur and also puts on workshops to teach people how to spin and knit their own.
Nanci’s llamas are very sweet
She also has about a quarter acre organic garden from which she donated peppers, zucchini, squash and more to the tour. She didn’t know about permaculture when we met her but now she is doing research — hoping to implement strategies on her ranch, especially since she’s in the desert. Before we left town we dumpster-dived about two trash bags of still-fresh produce from a local organic health food store and brought it to her to give to the animals. She was very pleased with that and thought about making that a regular thing for the ranch.
The bounty of the dumpster. Permaculture Principle #6 — Produce No Waste
Wild Willow Farm, down near the border of Mexico on the banks of the Tijuana River was another inspiring farm we learned about through Local Harvest. Renae, the coolest farm manager ever, gave us a tour of the non-profit farm which is primarily used as an educational site. They offer classes at their School for Sustainable Farming, workshops, field trips and a festive monthly community potluck.
Outdoor kitchen and wood-fired oven for the
monthly potlucks, workshops and other events
After showing some of the farm volunteers and staff the rig we joined them out in the field to help out. For our help they sent us home with wild arugula, beets, and eggs. Score!
Interning for an afternoon on Wild Willow Farm
They offer amazing seasonal growing programs. Check them out here.
Staff and volunteers posing with the Soltrekker!
Please call places first before showing up since information on websites is not always appropriately updated. Many farms offer scheduled tours so you get the opportunity to learn how your food is being produced.
Another food oriented tip is checking out the local Food Not Bombs (FNB). If you are unfamiliar with FNB here’s a little bit about it. It is an international movement where volunteers prepare vegan/vegetarian meals for their community with food from community gardens or food that would otherwise be wasted (from grocery stores or co-ops but also from dumpsters from large chains) .
Serving vegetarian fare downtown with San Deigo’s FNB chapter
Each chapter takes a different form, reflecting the consensus of those participating, and there are over 1,000 chapters worldwide. You can find out more and search their directory at www.foodnotbombs.net. Most chapters communicate best through their Facebook pages rather than the website. So get on your favorite search engine and see if your town or the next town your visiting has FNB and get hooked up with a delicious meal.
Last summer we helped a chapter in Northeast Portland and every Thursday we would ride to the local organic urban farm produce distributor and search through what they couldn’t sell anymore. Most of the produce was in perfect condition, the distributor just needed to make room for the next shipment coming in. So, in exchange for organizing their refrigerator and taking waste off their hands, we were given hundreds of pounds of delicious fruits and vegetables. We then biked the load to Alberta Park, made a meal with some of it and gave the rest away for free. We didn’t need to buy groceries while we participated in this chapter, in fact every week we had surplus left over for our chickens and goats. We really love being a part of this movement and highly recommend getting active with your local chapter. If there isn’t one near you then that just means you have the honor of starting a new one. It is such a great way to get to know your community and make beautiful regenerative relationships. Those connections have helped us find righteous grassroot sustainable and regenerative efforts.
Free local/organic food is pretty amazing!
Since part of our tour is finding a place to start our own ecovillage or find one that shares our value system, the next website we recommend does an excellent job at outlining that. Fellowship for Intentional Communities (FIC) maps out intentional communities and compiles all pertinent information about them, so you can have a better understanding of their purpose. This site has given us the opportunity to cross-pollinate, exchange goods, take part in convergences and workshops, build networks, find local/organic food, and learn about other crucial community initiatives. Many intentional communities have a space for travelers which is a cheaper alternative to hostels/campsites (usually free!) while giving you the bonus of making some new buddies. You’ll definitely want to make arrangements by calling or emailing.
This site has led to so many wonderful opportunities for us. For example, by emailing an ecologically focused collective in San Diego we found out about the Collective Convergence taking place that weekend. It covered topics such as real estate, communication, gentrification, consensus, and collaborative leadership.
Opening welcome session for the Collective Convergence
Here we found a number of communities that had similar value systems, learned about their efforts, were donated fuel for the RV (wasted veggie-oil) and offered hospitality.
After learning about our rig, a new friend we met at convergence was
able to supply us with some wasted veggie oil so we could make it
to our next destination petroleum-free!
This experience had a web-like effect connecting us to just about every social and environmental movement in the greater San Diego area and introduced us to inspiring individuals which we will share more about in the near future.
Mollison’s 17 acre site near Sister’s Creek, Tasmania, March 2011
The next website we utilize to find out local treasures is through www.wwoofusa.org. If you are not already familiar with the WWOOF program, it usually stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms but also can stand for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is basically a work trade relationship between farmers and people that seek to learn more about growing their own food and self sufficiency. The exchange is characterized by the farmer/host providing free room and three meals a day and the WWOOFer working from 20 to 40 hours a week. Some wwoofing farms offer a stipend and may even pay a little extra. This is not only a fantastic way to eliminate food and shelter costs while traveling, it is also a great opportunity to pick up some new skills and learn about the surrounding land (see more here). We haven’t been able to WWOOF since the tour started, but Will, one of the members of the Creating the Alternative team, has extensive WWOOFing experience in Australia. He actually WWOOFed at both Bill Mollison’s (above) and David Holmgren’s (below) demonstration sites (these of course being the co-originators of permaculture).
Melliodora — Holmgren’s 25+ year old amazingly
productive two acre site, April 2011
We are hoping to have incredible experiences here in the States and can’t wait to share them with y’all.
One last site that helps us connect with inspiring efforts is the Worldwide Permaculture Network, www.permacultureglobal.com. You all may know a little something about this site. It highlights solution-based efforts and there is a handy map for both permaculture people and projects. We found the Urban Permaculture (UP) House on this website while we were touring Los Angeles. We contacted them in hope of getting just a tour of their collective and ended up staying a week. We fell in love with their small food forest, community cob bench, outdoor kitchen and earthen oven, workshop amphitheater, and PODs (personal outdoor dwellings) made out of repurposed materials.
The many hand-built pods all made from repurposed material turn this
typical 1/6th acre urban home plot into a small ecovillage in the city
We got the opportunity to take part in their laundry-to-landscape greywater system workshop while we were there.
The laundry-to-landscape greywater system that sends water from the main
house to the tangerine, banana,and avocado trees in the food forest
It was a fantastic week of cross-pollination. They are quite the urban inspiration and we look forward to seeing what new developments they have once we return north. You can see more on the UP House on Worldwide Permaculture Network or on their Facebook page.
Hope these tips are helpful for you at both your home and on the road. Please feel free to add any pointers for travel and finding community that you have in the comments below.