Monthly Archives: March 2014

Day 1 at Permaculture Voices, 3/13/14, Larry Santoyo “Urban Urgency”

Larry Santoyo, “Permaculture for Humanity: Moderating the Urgency of Urbanism”

Larry Santoyo, a permaculture teacher and designer from LA, brought images of his design work from urban locations around the world.  He discussed how when he first learned permaculture, he thought he wanted to move from the city to the wilderness to start from the ground up and create his own place.  So he did, moving from LA to the Pacific Northwest.  And realized it was a terrible idea.  In the process, though, he realized that “making urban centers more sustainable is how we directly preserve the wilderness.”  In the words of Bill Mollison, he said, “If we lose our universities, we would lose nothing.  If we lose our forests, we lose everything. ”

Larry has since returned to the urban setting, concentrating his work in LA.  As Larry points out, we always have human ingenuity.  Arts, science, culture, technologies, strategies.  Think of biomimetic responses–how would nature do it?  And a quote he is known for, “We don’t do permaculture design, we use permaculture design.”

Larry continues, Nature starts small, with small successful arrangements.  These can be duplicated, and replicated–solutions multiply.  Form hundreds of millions of small working groups.  These groups will work together to meet each others’ needs.  Surplus resources can be used toward unmet needs.  “Be proud contributors to the community!  Not just consumers.”

Larry had a question from the audience, “How do you define wealth?”  To which he answered, “I think every community will define that for themselves.  Try to be valuable rather than try to be wealthy.”

And probably my favorite quote from Larry, and the conference as a whole, “I think that one day we will be so embarrassed that we had to have a fucking conference to talk about doing the obvious.  Let’s never talk about this again. “

When working within the community, Larry stresses, “the person that gets listened to is the person that is quiet, confident, and speaks from experience. ”

In a particularly violent village in Haiti, Larry and a team visited to address the issue of human waste and sewage in the streets.  A previous group of permaculture designers had gone to the village, applying a solution, composting toilets, without thinking through the problem.  Composting toilets were NOT the solution, in fact, they were spreading cholera, as people carried their waste to composting piles.  Instead, Larry’s team built canals to channel sewage away from where people were standing in the village.  Larry stresses, the methodology is the same, but the programming, output and design is different.

In another village that Larry visited, a 1600s colonial town in high altitude Mexico, he felt he was more the student than the teacher.  This is a very large town, with its own bank, and agricultural trials using methods from all over the world.  Yet the people had their traditional culture intact.  They are interested in what people are doing around the world, and if they believe its something that might work for them, they try it out.  One of the main crops in the area is coffee.  If a farmer wants to grow coffee, the bank goes to the property and surveys 127 bird species and other biological indicators to make sure coffee growing will be successful, and that the bank’s investment will be safe.  Let’s learn from these folks!

Thanks to Larry for some of the greatest stories and quotes from the conference.


Larry Santoyo leads EarthFlow Design Works and City of Angels Permaculture Academy.



Day 1 at Permaculture Voices, 3/13/14, Joel Salatin “Fields of Farmers”

Joel Salatin, farmer at Polyface Farms and cultivator of charisma, opened the conference with “Fields of Farmers”.  He discussed farming as a business and developing working models for regenerative farms.  In Joel’s words:

Every place has an asset and a liability.  Every person has talents and skills to bring to the table.  Until we have two salaries from our enterprise, it is not a business, and it is not sustainable.  In the next 15 years, 50% of America’s farmland is going to change hands.  Old people [can] leverage their experience on youthful energy and enthusiasm [to develop the next generation of farmers].  When the young people can’t get in, the old people can’t get out.

So what are some of the impediments to entry?

1) Capitalization/cost of land.  2) Lack of information.  3) “No money in it.”

How do we create farms that are magnetic to young people?  First message to the group: we have not even begun to leverage the resources under our feet.  There is not a piece of property in the world that is not fully developed, ecologically speaking.

At Polyface Farms, gross is $8000/acre, versus neighbors who are grossing $250/acre.  How?  Polyface is not just cattle–they also have pigs, chickens, and rabbits, on 100 acres.  BELIEVE you can do more with the property that is being done.  Implement portable infrastructure.  You do not have to own the land when everything is portable.

Side note: the government is trying to separate Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) from produce–because of poop–Joel calls this the “poop paradigm”.

Cornell University performed a study in New York state on how much farm land has been abandoned in the last 15 years.  The result?  3.1 million acres.  One of Joel’s interns from Ithaca, NY, had 3 unsolicited offers within 30 days of returning to NY, asking him to farm a total of 1000 acres of land.  Find these opportunities!  People who own land are seeking those who wish to work it.

Farm equity is in the management and the customers.  Know how to make a beautiful landscape, a place that people want to come and visit.  Let’s let permaculture design show order that is aesthetically penetrating!  Have a place to put unfinished projects!  [Peter Bane’s Garden Farming Pattern Language, Pattern #56: Zones of Accumulation]  Look at your farm from a food writer’s or National Geographic eye.  Equity is portable, and in information and management, you have wiggle room.  You have got to create value added on your place.  Leverage your resources.  If you are not putting 2000 hours per year on your tractor, you need to rent one.

Farm with 1) the belief that the farm is not anywhere near its potential; 2) portable infrastructure, information and management; 3) value-added, stacked enterprises.  You need marketing.  Go with a last-born child; 80% of marketers are last-born; you need a “gregarious, storytelling schmoozer.”  These things have to be done to make a magnetic, profitable farm.  Multi-generationalism, with at least two salaries, is necessary for a regenerative farm with a continuity plan.  Remember: production, processing, accounting, distribution, AND marketing.


Day 1 at Permaculture Voices, 3/13/14, Part 1

Wednesday evening

The crew arrived at Pechanga Resort and Casino on Wednesday evening, to a slew of flashing lights.  They were everywhere: on stop signs, on crosswalks, and in fountains.  Directly ahead of us was a parking garage, easy to enter but hard to exit.  In fact, the whole resort was interesting to navigate; it was a confusing mix of buildings and winding roads.  It was easy to find valet parking, but time consuming to drive to the lot on your own.  After six and a half hours of driving, from Zion to Temecula, it just felt funny.  A permaculture conference at a casino.  What the hell?

Registration for the conference was quick, once we figured out where to go.  The building had a faint smell of cigarette smoke.  Recycled, filtered air, how refreshing.  The gentleman in line ahead of us, clad in a fashionable straw hat and button down, looked a bit confused as well.  He was picking up materials ahead of us when the organizer’s wife walked in, baby in carrier.  He said, “OK, now this looks like permaculture!”

After dropping stuff in our room, we wandered the casino.  There was a noticeable lack of exits, windows, and natural light.  There were stone-faced people playing games with flashing lights, pushing buttons, with no concept of time.  We found a selection of nice restaurants on the perimeter, and ate Korean food.  Yum!  Wandering back to our room, Avery pointed to a lit up sign over the slot machines, saying, “I thought that said Pechanga Sluts.  It’s Pechanga Slots!!”

Thursday morning

Diego Footer, permaculturist in the LA scene, organized Permaculture Voices and was the first speaker at the conference.  The main message I gathered from this opening is he is so very happy to have escaped his former career, 12 years in a cubicle, to explore permaculture and “do epic shit”.  He showed images of people “doing epic shit”, including a marathon runner who was missing at least one leg, probably two.  He spoke of how the majority of people, 80%, are in careers and/or working jobs they do not like.  He spoke of a nurse acquaintance of his, who worked with dying patients in hospice.  He showed an image of a bedside nurse on the screen.  This nurse acquaintance said the number one thing she heard from patients is that they wished they had done more with their lives.  They were filled with regrets over the things they did not do.  So Diego’s message to us was, get out there and “do epic shit”!  It felt like the start to some type of personal coaching conference, honestly.

I was thinking to myself, is this room really filled with people who hate their careers?  I hope, instead, there were many people who had found their passions, and had traveled to this conference for inspiration and ideas to take back to their permaculture design work and classes.

The talk was in a giant room with all chairs facing a stage that had draperies that were lit with pink and blue lights.  There was a large screen behind the stage.  We attendees (about 600 at the conference) were all wearing name tags.  Having been a former corporate employee myself, it reminded me of a corporate conference.

His last slide had one word, hashtagged: #permavoices


Next post, Day 1, Part 2, getting into the good stuff:

Joel Salatin, farmer at Polyface Farms and cultivator of charisma, opened the conference with “Fields of Farmers”.

Chicken Keeping 101 at The Savvy Hen, Sat., 3/29

From The Savvy Hen:

Chicken Keeping 101, Saturday, March 29, 3-4pm, at The Savvy Hen, 1908 Pearl St., Boulder

Please join us for this great introduction to life with chickens!  This is a perfect class for new chicken keepers and those considering getting chickens.

We’ll cover the basics of chicken keeping, including chicken care, necessary supplies, coop construction, the ups and downs of chicken keeping and more.  We’ll leave time for questions too!

Space is limited.  Please call, email or stop by the shop to sign up.  Registration closes on March 27th, 5pm.

Cost: $10

Contact The Savvy Hen for more information.


Forward Food Summit, 4/5 & 4/6/14, Boulder

From Boulder Food Rescue and Impact Hub Boulder:

The Forward Food Summit is a two-day conference focused on raising awareness about food justice and food security issues, by bringing together the general public and activists in these two fields to enhance their scope, communication, and abilities to do their work. The Summit will include workshops, speakers, panels, field trips, and more, all geared towards engaging and educating folks regarding these crucial issues. We hope that attendees will gain a new, holistic perspective on food issues, allowing them to make positive change in their own communities. We have free housing and transportation options on a first come, first serve basis. Please contact us at for more information, or if you are interested in a scholarship for the registration fee. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. All people are welcome.

The event is Saturday, April 5th, from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday, April 6th, from 11am to 4pm, at Impact HUB Boulder.

Event and speaker schedule

Hosted by Boulder Food Rescue in partnership with Impact Hub Boulder

Southwest Seed Library Seed Starting Party, Sunday, 3/23

From Southwest Seed Library in Durango:

Hello and happy Spring!

Please join us for our opening day at the Discovery Museum with music,
snacks, seed saving talks, and a houseplant exchange/starting party!  We
look forward to seeing you all and thank you so much for your support!

Sunday, 3/23/14, 1-4pm, 1333 Camino Del Rio, Durango.

Grand Opening Flier

A Passing View of Ivanpah Solar Thermal Farm

On our drive, about 45 miles past Las Vegas and just over the California border, the massive Ivanpah Solar Thermal Farm came into view.  It was extremely bright, and steaming, with over 300,000 mirrors, or heliostats, that track the sun over the course of the day and concentrate the sunlight onto three, 459-ft towers.  At the top of the towers sit solar receivers, or boilers, which capture the sunlight and heat water to create superheated steam.  The high-temperature steam is then pumped to a turbine, where electricity is generated.  The electricity is then channeled through transmission lines to homes and businesses, providing enough to power 140,000 homes.  The Ivanpah project, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc., and BrightSource Energy Inc. came at a cost of $2.2 billion, with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.

Local wildlife organizations are dissatisfied with BLM’s work to relocate desert tortoises and assess the impact on bighorn sheep and birds at the five square mile site.  The concentrated sunlight creates intense heat around the towers, which can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  The project has already scorched and killed a number of birds, which may be mistaking the reflection from the mirrors as reflections from lakes.  For more on this plant, which opened in February, 2014: The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project.

A photo of one of the towers at Ivanpah from the highway, hard to capture well without a filter:


It’s Springtime in Springdale, UT

On our way out to Permaculture Voices, the crew was delighted to have an overnight in Rockville, UT.  Waking up to a gorgeous morning in Zion National Park… who could ask for anything more?  We saw many garden farms and small animal husbandry operations along the road into Springdale.  It’s springtime in Springdale, with all of the fragrant fruit trees in bloom.  The plants in Zion National Park were beautifully green.  The town was a hub of activity, with guiding operations preparing for the influx of springtime explorers, and baristas serving up lattes with their best rosettas to locals and visitors alike.

Springdale is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7b, a favorable microclimate nestled at the entrance to Zion, and a full month ahead of Boulder (Zone 5b) in spring growth.  Word on the street is, there are a few permaculture designers in the area, just getting started with small farming operations.  At this warm and happy stop, I felt even more excited for seed starting and observing spring growth in the upcoming weeks in Boulder.

Thanks to friend Toni from Zion Mountain School for showing us around!!

Denver CSA Fair, March 25, 5-8pm, at The Horse Barn

The Denver CSA Fair on Tuesday, March 25, 5pm-8pm, at The Horse Barn, 1031 33rd St., is produced by Denver Urban Gardens, Grow Local Colorado, Slow Food Denver and Veterans to Farmers. “By creating this one-time event where farmers can secure shareholders early in their planning and decision-making, we help them save valuable outreach time and resources,” reports Dana Miller of Grow Local Colorado. “We love being part of their success!” RSVP here.

The Boulder Beet is going on the road… to Permaculture Voices!

The Boulder Beet is going on a road trip this coming week, to the Permaculture Voices conference in Temecula, CA.  Check back for updates from the road and the talks at the conference.  It’s looking to be a great week!

From Permaculture Voices:

“We want big change.  We wanted to make an impact.  So we have put together over 60 sessions featuring over 40 world reknown speakers including Geoff Lawton, Michael Pollan, Dr. Elaine Ingham, Allan Savory, Joel Salatin, Mark Shepard, Toby Hemenway, Paul Wheaton, and Jack Spirko.  Just like you, all are committed and motivated to inspiring and enacting positive change in the world.

The Permaculture Voices conference will host hundreds of like-minded individuals in Temecula, CA (between San Diego and LA) in a forum designed to motivate and inspire you, so you can go be the change in the world through permaculture.

As an attendee you will get to participate in over 34 hours of talks, discussions, and presentations.  At Permaculture Voices you’ll rub shoulders with the biggest names in permaculture, learn, countless new strategies and permaculture tips, and enjoy extensive networking opportunities in sunny Southern California.

Most importantly you will be motivated to go home and challenge the impossible, push the limits, and be the change you want to see in the world. 

My goal?  To create an experience that ignites your fire to be an initiator of change.  Because we need your help and your journey matters.  Together we can do this.  We can change the world.

Where will you be on March 13-16, 2014?

And more importantly, what will you be accomplishing after March 16, 2014? 

Whether you’re with us in March or not.  I challenge you to go do epic sh*t and live the life that you want to live.  Because it is worth it.

If you want join us in March, there are still some tickets available.”