Have you spent thousands of dollars on books, webinars, and experts to find out how to design and develop your own dream permaculture property….but you’re still stuck in overwhelm?
“Where to begin? What to do next?” Everyone can help with one piece of the puzzle, but nobody has a strategy to make all the pieces fit together!
In celebration of our brand new book, “Building Your Permaculture Property: A Five-Step Process to Design & Develop Land”, my co-authors and I are hosting a three day live, free, online global permaculture summit – April 23rd, 24th, and 25th. This event will feature nearly 20 prominent names in permaculture and regenerative agriculture, including: Geoff Lawton, Ben Falk, Peter Bane, Rosemary Morrow, Richard Perkins, Morag Gamble, Starhawk and more. Each will be sharing a case study including their own struggles, successes and lessons learned while building their own permaculture properties. Click here to register or learn more.
The following excerpts, including a foreword written by Geoff Lawton, appear in “Building Your Permaculture Property: A Five-Step Process to Design & Develop Land”, by Rob Avis, Michelle Avis and Takota Coen, published by New Society Publishers. Copyright 2021 by Rob Avis, Michelle Avis and Takota Coen and used here with permission of the authors.
Foreword for Building Your Permaculture Property
By Geoff Lawton
I had the pleasure of learning from and working directly with Bill Mollison, the co-founder of permaculture, and during our many years together he passed along three pieces of advice that I offer to you now.
One morning in the mid 1980’s I was camped out in Bill’s food forest. I hadn’t slept all night because a question was bothering me. Finally at dawn I climbed out of my tent and made my way towards Bill’s home hoping to find an answer. The light was on in the window, and as I quietly approached, I could see that Bill was already at his desk ferociously reading and writing (he could actually do both at the same time). Although I hadn’t intended to intrude, Bill spotted me quickly and beckoned for me to come in. “What’s up?” he asked once I had joined him inside. I replied, “I need advice… How do I know if I’m on the right path?”. Bill contemplated for a moment, then answered: “You’ll know if you are doing the right thing and on the right path if resources start to gather around you, and a lot of those resources will be really good people”.
Bill was absolutely right. During my more than 30 years of working on the permaculture path I have had some incredible people gather around me and three of them are the authors of this book. I first had the pleasure of getting to know Rob Avis during his internship on Zaytuna Farm over a decade ago. On one particular night, I was awoken by the sounds of a very large tropical rain storm thundering down onto the tin roof. I quickly started getting dressed as I knew that we were going to have big overflows from our dams, swales and other earthworks and I always like to keep an eye on them. As I was exiting the house onto the veranda I was surprised to see a flashlight out in pouring rain coming towards me. “Who is that? What are you doing?”, I called out. “Hi… It’s Rob” replied a voice, “I just thought you might be going out”. I chuckled and invited Rob to join me. So off we went to the top of the property where we started trudging through the swales in thigh-high water. We were returning from having inspected several dam sites when suddenly Rob jumped up out of the water and yelled out, “What the heck was that?”. I chuckled, and responded, “Likely an eel, mate!”. Rob then burst into laughter and continued right along to check out the next spillway. I knew at that moment he was going to do great things!
Michelle and Takota are also past students of mine, which reminds me of something else Bill told me once: “If you are a good teacher, for every 350 to 400 students, you should have produced one permaculture teacher. And they, in turn, should go on producing permaculture teachers.” At the time of writing I have taught over 15,000 students and I am proud to know that Rob, Michelle and Takota are some of the most active educators in the permaculture space.
One of the last pieces of advice Bill gave me was: ”You’ve gotta have dogged persistence”. I in turn pass this onto all my students and there is no question that this book is proof that Rob, Michelle and Takota took it to heart.
I couldn’t be more pleased to count the authors of Building Your Permaculture Property as past students, friends and colleagues, and I’m very excited about this significant and unique contribution to the existing rich collection of literature on the subject of permaculture design. I’m confident that it will become a go-to resource for a significant number of permaculture designers and consultants.
Clarify, Diagnose, Design, Implement, Monitor
I first met my co-author Takota Coen in 2014. He grew up on an organic mixed farm in central Alberta and after completing his first permaculture design course a few years prior had already spearheaded some major changes on his family farm. He called and asked if I would mentor him to start his own permaculture education and consulting business. Impressed with his initiative and his knowledge, I agreed, and it wasn’t long before he was teaching in Verge Permaculture classrooms and co-consulting on our projects. We discovered that the combination of his on-the-ground practical organic farming experience and my process-oriented engineering background allowed us to tackle complex, multidisciplinary projects with a very unique perspective.
We began working on another project as well — to distill, articulate, and improve upon the process I had been using in my consultancy practice. We had a vision to be able to share this process — the way to think about and ultimately solve problems — in a manner that others could follow and apply to their own permaculture property projects. Leveraging our combined foundational experience, we tested ideas and tools with clients and their real-life projects. As we filtered and ordered our own practices, the patterns began to emerge, and five distinct phases, or steps, became apparent:
Step 1: Clarify your vision, values, and resources.
Step 2: Diagnose your resources for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Step 3: Design your resources to meet your vision and values.
Step 4: Implement the right design that will most improve your weakest resource.
Step 5: Monitor your resources for indicators of well-being or suffering.
Soon we began teaching this process and sharing the accompanying tools to small groups of students. To our surprise, our students started producing designs that exceeded anything we, as consultants, could have ever created for them, and best of all, they were successfully implementing those designs. When we finally stood back and asked ourselves why does it work, it dawned on us. Each of the five steps corresponds directly to the five most common struggles we had noticed for years in our clients and students, and through our own personal experiences practicing permaculture. The following table shows each step in relation to the biggest struggles it addresses.
As our students followed this process with great success, we not only realised that it addressed these five common struggles, we also had a second major epiphany. In our private consulting engagements, Takota and I both had to spend hundreds of hours to get acquainted with the land, identify the client goals, translate it all into a design, coordinate the implementation, and then finally train the landowners to manage it all for themselves! This was not only cost prohibitive for most land stewards, it was also hard for us to scale our land regeneration efforts. Distilling and teaching our own internal process to others meant we could help an exponentially larger number of people, and motivated students were producing better designs than we could have ever done for them, for a fraction of the cost. It is for this reason that we say the best person to design and manage your land is you. No one knows you (and what you want) better than you do. No one knows your land better than you do. And no one else is going to be interacting with your property, your own masterpiece, in an ongoing way like you will be.
“Building Your Permaculture Property: A Five-Step Process to Design & Develop Land” will be available starting late April 2021. Look for it anywhere books are sold or learn more at www.mypermacultureproperty.com