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August 7, 2020
Lisa Kivirist Though this series on regenerative farming has covered a ton of different farming models, land management techniques, food production methods and design methods, one of the glaring absences in the perspectives I’ve included has been that of women, and I’m well aware of it. I did reach out to a lot of women farmers in an attempt to set up interviews, but many of them either didn’t want to be interviewed or were simply too busy to be able to schedule a call. I can imagine that with all of the nonsense and instability around the pandemic it must be really challenging for all farmers in the last 6 months. I was however finally able to get a hold of Lisa Kivirist, one of my favorite authors of homesteading skills and small scale farming. She’s the author of the farmstead chef, rural renaissance, ecopreneuring, homemade for sale, and the book that will be the center of our interview today “soil sisters: a toolkit for women farmers” She’s also the host of the podcast: “In her boots” which focuses on interviews with and about modern women farmers, which I’ve been a fan of for over a year now and highly recommend to anyone interested in farm stories and general advice in the USA. In her extensive work helping to build support for women in farming and to create a community network of their peers that they can rely on, Lisa has helped to highlight the stories and experiences around the immeasurable contributions from women in agriculture and set stronger foundations for their continued success into the future. In this interview Lisa helps me to understand the complex history of women farmers in the US and the obstacles that they’ve had to overcome in the past as well as those that are still in their way. She also explains the unique talents and perspective that they bring to this fast changing sector along with the growing support network that they’re building together.  I’ve been a big fan of Lisa’s books for a while and her podcast is a really valuable resource too, but this book Soil Sisters really opened my eyes to the blind spots that I’ve had and that the farming industry at large has had to the essential role that women have played in advancing and strengthening farming through some of America’s toughest times.  Resources: https://homemadeforsale.wixsite.com/freshbaked http://innserendipity.com/ http://innserendipity.com/news/news.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Kivirist
July 31, 2020
Over the years I’ve been hearing about a new pedagogy of land management that has been gaining in popularity, especially in agroforestry circles. The trouble for me has been that until recently a lot of the resources have been in portuguese, and so I kept my eye on it from a distance. Syntropic farming is a term first coined by Ernst Gostch, a swizz farmer who emigrated to Brazil in the 80’s and pioneered this new form of farmland management on his land in Bahia. But today, to speak about the principles of syntropic farming and how he’s adapted them to the unique mediterannean climate in the southern region of spain known as Andalucia I spoke with a good friend of mine, Jacob Evans. Jacob has been working for 4 years now at the Suryalila yoga retreat center as their permaculture farm manager. In that time he helped to establish some impressive agroforestry and food production systems with limited resources in a region best known for rapid desertification and extremes of hot dry summers and frigid winters. Their 20 hectare property stands in contrast to the desnuded plains around them and is beginning to change the hearts and minds of people who think that there’s little that can be done to reverse the damage done to the land there. In this interview we talk about what syntropic farming is and what it represents. Jacob walks me through some of the ways that he’s applied its principles to his context in Andalucia and how the trials have been working out 4 years in. We also go over some of the specific plants and methods that have been successful for him there and a lot more.  I was actually able to meet Jacob after this interview in person the other week when he came up to Barcelona for a trip and we got to hang out a bit and talk about our projects and ambitions here in Spain. We also did a little fermented food and seed swap from our respective gardens. I’m really looking forward to further collaborating with Jacob since he’s already been a great contact for me as I get to know this new country and region by sharing planting lists and advice from his experience.  I’m also looking to get  in touch with other innovators and practitioners of syntropic farming, especially here in Spain or the Mediterranean region, so if any of you out there know of someone who fits that description, please pass their contact on or share this episode with them. Resources: https://www.instagram.com/wizard_permaculture/ https://vimeo.com/429258015 http://www.lalomaviva.com/syntropic-farming https://lifeinsyntropy.org/ https://agendagotsch.com/en/
July 24, 2020
As I’m slowly becoming better connected here in Spain in the last year, one of the main projects in regenerative agriculture that keeps coming up in my research and the conversations that I have, is a fairly new project called AlVelAl which is located in Southern Spain, roughly in between the cities of Granada and Murcia. The name AlVelAl relates to the first letters of the comarcas (or counties) where the initiative started: Altiplano de Granada, Los Vélez and Alto ALmanzora. Today, the AlVelAl territory covers more than 1,000,000 hectares of degraded steppe called the Altiplano Estepario. I first found a connection with this organization through some other work that I was doing to help consult on the Ecosystem Restoration Camp known as Camp Alitplano which is actually a 5 hectare portion of the largest farm in the organization where they’re trialing various agroforestry and holistic grazing techniques in an effort to restore the degraded site though economically viable production methods. The coordinator of the camp who I’d been in touch with connected me with the owner of the larger farm who also happens to be the president of AlVelal, Alfonzo Chico de Guzman.  Now Alfonzo is a unique example of a young man who decided to return to his origins on the land and help to his family farm after graduating with a degree in business administration. He immediately dedicated himself to transforming the farm through innovative and regenerative methods and set up an organic market garden as well as fruit production, and began to develop agroforestry methods through systems involving almonds and pistachios. He’s also implemented broad water harvesting earthworks with swales on contour and keyline ponds to help to restore the watershed of this parched and arid region. Aided by a team of international non-profit organizations he’s become instrumental in showcasing and pioneering many dryland agriculture best practices and helping to motivate other producers in the region to follow suit.  In this episode we talk about many of those methods that I glossed over as well as the overall response from the community in this transition. We discuss barriers to progress and the challenges and roadblocks that he and others have faced in transitioning their farms as well as some of the successes along the way.  I was really excited to tap into such an inspiring movement and am really looking forward to working more actively with both Alvelal and Ecosystem Restoration camps here in Spain as these projects continue to grow. So look out for updates in future episodes if you enjoy this talk Resources: https://alvelal.wixsite.com/website-6 Alvelal YT channel https://earthmind.org/vca/alvelal https://eu.patagonia.com/gb/en/actionworks/grantees/alvelal/
July 17, 2020
Though I’ve spoken to some great orchardists through this podcast, many of them are growing cold tolerant trees in far northern climates, but I wanted to get a perspective on running a holistically managed orchard in the tropics to explore how the beneficial interactions between some of the most prized tree and perennial products in the world can be grown in a way that fuels the restoration of these incredibly biodiverse and robust ecosystems. I’ve known quite a few orchardists from back in Guatemala where I used to live and work, and I’ll link to those interviews in the show notes for this episode for a wide perspective on the topic, but in this interview we’ll take a look in the cloud forest of the Ecuadorian Amazon to see how the team at Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate have brought their piece of land back from being a degraded and deforested pasture to a thriving rainforest cacao plantation that has brought the biodiversity back to their forest through a method they call analog forestry. In this interview I spoke with Alejandro Solano who co-owns and manages Mashpi Chocolate as the resident reserve ecologist. Apart from knowing in depth everything that has to do with the cultivation of cocoa and working directly in its production, he is in charge of planting other species that accompany the cacao trees and ensures their health through whole ecosystem management. He also conducts ongoing research on biodiversity and is a naturalist with a sharp eye and intuition. Along with helping to manage the business and land, he also guides visitors, and gives workshops on the farm project and the reserve. In this interview we start by defining analog forestry and it’s defining aspects. From there we explore the larger vision of cloud forest restoration that the cacao production is merely one aspect of. Alejandro also explains how the preservation of the genetics of his cacao is helping to preserve the biocultural heritage of Ecuador and its history as well. Towards the end we also go through all the steps of producing some of the highest quality chocolate available from seed all the way to the chocolate bar.  Resources:http://www.analogforestry.org/ https://www.chocomashpi.com/ https://www.facebook.com/Mashpi-Artisanal-Chocolate-154631088076997/ Other tropical forest management episodes: https://abundantedge.com/abundantedge-kristen-krash/ https://abundantedge.com/abundantedge-jairo-rodriguez/ https://abundantedge.com/abundantedge-alex-kronick/ https://abundantedge.com/how-to-grow-a-healthy-native-forest-in-record-time-with-afforestt-founder-shubhendu-sharma-146/
July 10, 2020
Shane with his goats Though I’ve been inspired by all the amazing examples of regenerative farming through the people that I’ve interviewed through this series, there’s one glaring commonality between all of them and that’s the fact that the success of their enterprises all rely heavily on the destructive infrastructure that we currently have in place to get the organic and feed inputs for their enterprises, the seeds or young animals that they then raise, and the fossil fuel system that then transports their food products to market. I’m not at all criticizing these people of their work. It would be near impossible to make a living and produce a meaningful amount of food, certainly not enough to base a business around, if they weren't working with the resources and the systems of our modern times, but there’s no denying that the same systems that make these business models feasible are unlikely to continue for much longer and certainly not in the way we are using and operating them now. That’s why I got really excited about the work and writings of Shane Simonsen who is conducting personal experiments and documenting the process and observations on his homestead in eastern Australia all around the concept of zero input agriculture. His blog by that same name is one of the most original approaches to large scale food production that I’ve come across in a long time and asks the simple question of “how might we still be able to produce enough food for ourselves and our communities if we no longer had access to all of the inputs and fossil fuels of our modern times.”Despite sounding like a post apocalyptic exercise in primitive living, Shane’s writing is surprisingly optimistic and pragmatic. In a small excerpt from his very first post from September 2019 he writes: In the resource constrained future ahead of us these input dependent approaches to growing food will become impractical or impossible. Instead new systems that rely on locally adapted crops and livestock, integrated into systems that are truly compatible with the local geology and climate will be required. I have taken on the challenge of developing these systems in our particular region in the remaining two decades of vigor I have left in me. This blog is an account of this journey. Hopefully I can inspire some of you to follow in my direction and develop your own locally adapted systems. In this interview we cover a wide range of topics from soil building to locally resilient plants and livestock as well as wild experiments and the challenges of adapting these ideas to your site, all with the aim of answering the question: Can humans go from a universal parasite to a universal symbiont. I highly recommend you check out Shane’s blog Resources: Zero Input Agriculture – Trialling and breeding crops and livestock that can produce without irrigation, fertiliser and imported nutrients Steve Solomon Gardening when it counts Restoration agriculture The One Straw Revolution Return to resistance Open source seed initiative
July 3, 2020
Permaculture has done an incredible job of raising awareness of natural land management techniques and teaching people to observe and read the patterns of the natural world to inform their interactions with the environment, but it often gets criticized for being impractical when it comes to apply its methods to profitable farming enterprises. There’s a long running line of questioning on this show, especially when I’m speaking with producers and farmers about where they have to compromise their choices for the earth with the needs of their businesses and the efficiency required to turn a profit, so to help me to get to the bottom of this paradox I spoke to Loren Luyendyk a Certified Teacher of Permaculture, with over 17 years of practical experience in Permaculture Design, Sustainability, and Horticulture. Loren has also studied and has loads of experience in the fields of Organic and Biodynamic Farming, Arboriculture, Agroecology, Keyline Design, Holistic Management, Natural Building, and The Soil Foodweb. is also a founding partner of Permaculture Design International, an international design collaborative, with the express goal of increasing the professionalism and adoption of permaculture globally, especially with larger scale projects. He and his wife Aubrey Falk co-founded the non-profit organization Surfers Without Borders in 2008, which promotes practical solutions to ocean pollution through regenerative design.  In this interview we break down some of the important ways that permaculture can be applied, especially to small farms, not only to improve the health of the ecology on the site, but also the financial bottom line of the business owner. Loren explains how a lot of common practices and teachings in permaculture like crop diversification, building soil health, and harvesting water on site can make a huge difference in the viability of a farm. We also talk a lot about what a regenerative food system might look like at the community level and how people can get started wherever they are by taking simple steps in the right direction. Towards the end we also nerd out on all the amazing plants and foods that grow in our respective climates since both north eastern Spain and south western California are analogue climates to one another there’s a ton of overlap in what we see and grow around us Resources: http://sborganics.com/ https://www.permacultureintl.com/
June 26, 2020
Ray Milidoni Though regenerative agriculture has made huge leaps forward in the last decade, it still only accounts for a very small percentage of the farms around the world and even less in over developed countries. While we still have a long way to go make ecological land management practices the norm around the world, there are a lot of people dedicated to accelerating the progress of recent years by creating educational platforms, mentorship programs and creating community collaboration around these important skills. In this episode I got to speak to one of my favorite new contacts in regenerative farming education, Ray Milidoni from Malbourne who works with Farming Secrets, one of the premier educational platforms for profitable regenerative farming based in Australia.  Ray states that his mission is to create a community which inspires moments of collaboration where we can all learn new ways of thinking by promoting environmental awareness. In this interview Ray talks about the patterns and commonalities in the successful regenerative farming network that he works with and the power to create change at a societal level through inspiring education and new ways of thinking. We also look into some of the biggest roadblocks that are holding the ecological farming movement back and how our generation holds the power to transform our food system by supporting and promoting the growers who are creating a new way of farming by collaborating with rather than fighting nature Resources: https://www.farmingsecrets.com/
June 19, 2020
Michael Ableman Welcome back to another episode in the ongoing series on Regenerative Agriculture. Up until now I’ve spoken with growers and producers on cutting edge of profitable regenerative landbased enterprises and management techniques in rural areas, but there’s also a growing movement to produce food closer to where the heaviest concentration of people are, and that’s in cities. While the basics of growing food are fairly universal, there are a lot of uniques challenges that farmers in the city face that just aren’t present in rural or even suburban areas. And to get an experienced point of view on urban farming, I reached out to Michael Ableman to learn more. Michael Ableman is the cofounder and director of Sole Food Street Farms and one of the early visionaries of the urban agriculture movement. Michael has worked as a commercial organic farmer for the last 45 years and is the founder of the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture. He has also created high-profile urban farms in both Watts and Goleta, California as well as Vancouver, British Columbia. Michael is the author of numerous books like From the Good Earth, On Good Land, Fields of Plenty, Street Farmand his latest, titled Farm the City in which he outlines actionable steps on how to plan, grow, and market your crops in an urban environment.   In this interview we cover many of those practical steps and much more including business planning and assessing land in the city Resources: Get the book "Farm the City" by Michael Ableman https://www.urbanfarm.org/
June 12, 2020
In the past I’ve talked to quite a few orchardists and agroforestry practitioners, especially in the series on Reforestation and Agroforestry at the end of last season, but I was really glad to be introduced to Michael Phillips’ work by a great friend of the show, Nick from Minnesota. After speaking late last year with Stephan Sobkowiak, Nick recommended that I look into Michael’s incredible books for an even deeper dive into the soil health and biological spraying mixes that MIchael has developed to promote holistic health as he pioneers the revival of the community orchard. Michael Phillips is a farmer, writer, carpenter, orchard consultant, and speaker who lives on Heartsong Farm in northern New Hampshire, where he and his family grow apples and a variety of medicinal herbs. He is also the author of The Apple Grower and The Holistic Orchard. His Lost Nation Orchard is part of the Holistic Orchard Network, and Michael also leads the community orchard movement at GrowOrganicApples.com. He was also honored by Slow Food USA to receive the first Betsy Lydon Ark Award in 2005 for his work promoting healthy ways to grow fruit. In this interview we take a deeper look at what goes into growing healthy and delicious apples beyond what most people know about. Michael talks about the essential importance of diversity in a resilient orchard ecosystem and how it has to be balanced by what you need to make a profit at market. We also cover a wide range of practical advice from pollinator and pest management, biological mowing, as well as foliar sprays, shifting climate zones and much more. I get a real thrill from talking to people with such an obvious passion and love for what they do, and in Michael’s case that passion is coupled with a deep understanding and knowledge of the science behind the health of his plants and soil. I highly recommend this one to anyone looking to grow fruit trees, even if you’re not looking to take it all the way to a production scale.  Resources: GrowOrganicApples.com Get the book The Holistic Orchard Get the book The Apple Grower Get the book Mycorrhizal Planet
June 5, 2020
I’ve been meaning to get in touch with someone who could explain to me the nebulous and exploding new farming industry around the ancient yet newly legalized hemp plant, and I found a gold mine of information in Doug Fine, the author of Hemp Bound and American Hemp Farmer. Doug is known as a solar-powered goat herder, comedic investigative journalist, and pioneer voice in cannabis/hemp and regenerative farming. He has grown hemp in four US states, and the genetics he’s developed are in five more. He’s an award-winning culture and climate correspondent for NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others publications. In this interview, Doug shares the moment that he calls his climate Pearl Harbor which set his life on a new trajectory. He breaks down the complicated history of hemp cultivation around the world and in the United States and we also explore the current state of hemp which has been recently legalized for cultivation. We also unpack the gold rush on hemp products especially CBD oils and Doug explains his caution about the potential for a boom and bust cycle that could be terrible for the industry at large. He also outlines his thoughts on a healthy and regenerative industry for hemp, not only for the land but for all of the yet undiscovered and unstudied properties of this amazing plant, to say nothing of all the useful byproducts in the stalks and fibers. I personally learned a ton from this chat and am really looking forward to watching this budding industry find its roots so to speak and am hopeful for a bright future for the hemp market. Resources: Get the book American Hemp Farmer https://www.dougfine.com/ Ted talk https://www.instagram.com/organiccowboy/
May 29, 2020
A lot of the farms that come to mind when I think of regenerative agriculture are smaller, more diverse and quite intensive, with many different crops and animals working in closer proximity with many stacked functions and a niche business model, but what can be done for all those vast fields of monoculture plantings of crops like corn, soy, and wheat that take up so much space in the heartland of the midwestern and western US? Are there regenerative solutions for these massive farms of thousands of acres? Is there hope for farming the plains and savannas through ecological management? For answers to these questions I reached out to Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota. A historically challenging environment for agriculture, North Dakota is a place dominated today by massive cattle ranches and monocultures stretching beyond the horizon of dry and windy plains. But in this challenging environment, Gabe has been a pioneer of the soil-health movement and has even been named one of the twenty-five most influential agricultural leaders in the United States. Gabe, his wife, Shelly, and son, Paul, own Brown’s Ranch, a holistic, diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota. The Browns integrate their grazing and no-till cropping systems, which include cash crops and multi-species cover crops along with all-natural, grass-finished beef and lamb, pastured pork, and laying hens. The Brown family have received numerous awards including a Growing Green Award from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the USA Zero-Till Farmer of the Year Award. In this interview I asked Gabe about how he managed to persevere through some very challenging years in the beginning to develop the diversified and healthy landscape that his family manages today. He also tells me a lot about the invisible challenges to this way of farming such as the counter productive incentives of the US Farm Bill and the cultural stigma that can be difficult when making unconventional changes to your farming practices. We also dig into some crucial advice that Gabe has for farmers looking to make a transition to regenerative agriculture from industrial management. This interview gave me a lot of hope that the American plains can be restored without risking food shortages or spikes in food costs. I really hope that any of you listening to this will share this episode with someone you know who works in farming who perhaps hasn’t heard of these possibilities or who thinks that their mechanized monoculture operations can’t be converted or don’t lend themselves to ecological transformation.  Resources: Get the book From Dirt to Soil https://brownsranch.us/ understandingag.com soilhealthacademy.org Chelsea Green Publishing - the leading publisher of sustainable living books since 1985. Get the latest episodes in your inbox!Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.First Name *Last Name *Email *Sign-up to get the newest episodes?NameSubscribe
May 22, 2020
My guest today is someone who has been an inspiration to me since I first began to study permaculture almost a decade ago. Rhamis Kent has been the man behind the scenes for some incredible regeneration projects around the world through his work with the Permaculture Research Institute in the middle east, north and eastern africa, the Iberian peninsula, and many other regions of harsh and challenging climates. Though Rhamis is someone that I could talk to for days about so many different ecological topics, I reached out to him for this session because of a great article and presentation that he put together for the World Permaculture Association about how machinery can be leveraged for positive environmental impact and why we need to use it wisely to regenerate land on an unprecedented scale.  In this episode we start out by examining the economics of land degradation and how machinery has been a big driver in the ecological devastation that we are experiencing all over the world today and how it’s misuse has created the conditions for the loss of millions of tons of topsoil every year as well as massive deforestation. Rhamis then goes on to outline how the same technology can be harnessed to completely reverse these trends by outlining a number of machines and tools that work especially well in specific applications. I’ve also linked to the original article that Rhamis wrote which contains a video presentation of even more information and pictures of the machines that he highlights for those of you who struggle to picture some of the things we talk about here. All those can be found in the show notes on the website  Resources: https://worldpermacultureassociation.com/earth-repair-upscaled/?fbclid=IwAR0G0PHuXX--SwKZAYsPQb2uRQobZM3-LuQYKdyiThY_3iU3odE7JpKD3TE
May 15, 2020
Welcome back everyone to another episode in this ongoing series on regenerative agriculture. Before we get started today I want to give a quick shout out. Before starting this series I’ve been in contact with a listener of the show named Nick who has been incredibly generous and helpful in sending me links and information about other practitioners in the field that I should check out. I’ve learned so much from the ideas he’s sent me so I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thanks to Nick for all his help and guidance. Today’s interview comes from one of the people that Nick pointed out to me and who I’ve been following and listening to ever since. John Kempf is a regenerative agricultural consultant, entrepreneur, speaker, teacher and podcast host who is passionate about the potential of well managed agriculture ecosystems to reverse ecological degradation. He is also the author of  the new book titled “Quality Agriculture” where he highlights important interviews with prominent farmers and researchers on the cutting edge of ecological farming. He states that his personal mission is to have these regenerative models of agriculture management become the mainstream globally by 2040. In this interview, John speaks with me about the incredible growth of regenerative and ecological farming practices in just the last few years and what is behind this trend. He also gives great insights about what he sees as a future where industrial and regenerative agriculture merge to leverage the best parts of both worlds rather than continuing to be at odds. We also cover the real drivers of change in the agricultural sector and how the new generation of young farmers are innovating and reshaping the future of this industry.  I really liked the straight forward and pragmatic approach that John takes to these important questions. Many voices calling for a change in agricultural practices that I’ve heard in the past do a great job of idealizing a world of healthy environmental interaction but fall short when it comes to supporting evidence and case studies, but John does a great job about focusing on the realities of the world we currently have and how we can look to tangible examples of practices and methods that regenerate our damaged ecosystems while respecting the context of the globalized industry that farming is these days and what farmers themselves need to make their businesses work. I also highly recommend his show, The Regenerative Agriculture Podcast for people who want to hear from scientists, researchers and producers in the field who are making incredible advances for the ecological health of their land. I especially enjoyed a recent interview he did with Ray Archuleta, and his short video series on the five core concepts of regenerative agriculture on the advancing regenerative agriculture youtube channel, both of which I’ve linked to in the show notes for this episode. Resources: https://johnkempf.com/ https://www.advancingecoag.com/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRApdrU3BA0Pzo6MNWTD2jg Ray Archuleta episode
May 8, 2020
Welcome back everyone to this ongoing series on regenerative agriculture. Last week we kicked off with an interview with Joel Salatin and in this session I’ve got another great interview with one of the most influential regen ag practitioners in Europe. There are a lot of inspiring voices in the regenerative agriculture community, but few have done such a thorough job of documenting and publishing every step of the development of a small profitable farm the way Richard Perkins has done with Ridgedale Permaculture. Especially now that I’ve decided to put down roots in Europe, I’ve been looking for examples of profitable small farming models for inspiration for my own project here, and between Richard’s youtube channel and two books, Making Small Farms Work and the new volume titled Regenerative Agriculture, there are few better resources to guide you step by step through all the design considerations, from landscape analysis, business planning, crunching numbers and creative paths to market. Though I spoke to Richard for the first time back in season 1, I invited him back for this episode to talk about some of the massive changes that are coming about from the COVID health crisis and how he’s seen it affect small farms around Europe. We explore topics like farm enterprise analysis, suggestions for direct to consumer marketing and collaboration, and Richard also talks about his observations over the years of transformation of his small farm in northern Sweden, not only from a land health perspective, but also things he’s noticed about his teaching and mentorship strategy as well as the characteristics he thinks are essential for succeeding in farming. Resources: https://www.youtube.com/user/mrintegralpermanence https://www.facebook.com/ridgedalepermaculture/ https://www.regenerativeagriculture.co/
May 1, 2020
My guest today needs little introduction. Joel Salatin has been one of the most prominent voices in regenerative agriculture for many years now and I thought he’d be the perfect person to not only kick off this new series on regenerative agriculture, but also for his optimistic perspective on the future we are collectively heading into as our countries continue to grapple with the social and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and its response. Though I had always planned to speak with Joel about the future and opportunities in regenerative farming in the US and around the world, I had no idea just how relevant these topics would be as we find ourselves questioning the future of just about every industry and its environmental impact at this unique moment in history. Though many of us are looking at the bleak predictions for the world economy and all the other looming catastrophes that involve everything from our environment to the food supply system, we are also seeing an unprecedented review of priorities and focus.  In this episode Joel and I discuss how this crisis has affected the farming industry at large but also the incredible impact it’s had on small local farmers. He tells me how he can see this event as a blessing if it’s managed correctly and if we use it as one. Joel also gives details about how his own farm is adapting to the restrictions and finding opportunities to bring his community closer and connect them with other local producers in their area. We also muse over the likely changes that our culture will experience for a long time in the wake of this and what the good and worrisome aspects likely are. In the end though, I left this chat feeling inspired and much more optimistic than I was before and I hope that’s how you feel by the end too. Resources: https://www.thelunaticfarmer.com/blog/ https://www.polyfacefarms.com/
April 24, 2020
Download the free ebook below Welcome to another special episode! This week we’ll be wrapping up the series on modern homesteading by reviewing some of the most important information from the last 7 interviews. In those episodes we covered a ton of exciting topics from some of the best authorities in their fields from animal husbandry, becoming self-sufficient by living off your land, myth busting, small enterprise planning, making money on your homestead, and much more. I’ll also be giving some advice and observations from my own experience living and working on homesteading projects and starting my own homesteads all over the world in the last 15 years. What’s more is that I’ve just published a new ebook all about homesteading and resilient living titled Homesteading for Every Home that you can download now on the website for free and use to plan your own homestead and start building a profitable land based business right away. Both in this episode and in the ebook, I’ll be talking about what modern homesteading actually is, how it looks in different living configurations, how you can start taking your first steps towards a homesteading lifestyle, even if you’re living in a tiny apartment in the city, what it means to work towards self sufficiency, ideas for ways to make a living on your homestead, as well as some ideas and advice from my experience homesteading in foreign countries and what the advantages and disadvantages are. Resources: What to do and not to do in your first year on a homestead Good forums for homesteaders https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/self-reliance/guide-to-urban-homesteading-zm0z14amzrob
April 17, 2020
Today’s guest, NIcholas Burtner, is a permaculture designer, consultant and educator through his organization The School of Permaculture. I caught Nicholas in a good moment for this interview because like many of us he’s in a period of transition with his family in which they are looking to move to a more resilient and independent homesteading lifestyle. Though he’s been gardening and working on self sufficiency projects from his suburban home for years, he and his family are looking to expand to a larger space where they can provide more of their own needs from the land. In this interview we talk about the thought process behind looking for a good homesteading site and what options the new space could provide. Nicholas talks about the unique context and climate where he lives in Texas and how that influences his options as well.  We also break down the importance of community for resilient living and how investing time and resources at the local level can be one of the most important aspects to urban and suburban homestead living.  In the next couple of weeks I’ll be putting out new content around resilient living during the challenges of this health crisis and techniques and projects you can start from anywhere right away to help prepare yourself and your community for the transition out of this lockdown period and the economic challenges that are likely to affect us all.  Thank you so to you listeners who’ve been writing to me to check in and share ideas and ask questions in the last few weeks. It means the world to me to connect with those of you in the Abundant Edge network and to know that this information is making a difference in your day.  The best part about making this show has always been the connections and relationships that it’s helped to build and I appreciate you all more than ever.
April 10, 2020
My guest today is someone I’ve followed and looked up to since I first began to learn about permaculture and homesteading. Ben Falk is not only a badass homesteader and self-sufficiency pioneer, he’s also an accomplished designer and consultant, primarily through his company Whole Systems Design. For years I’ve even had a video tour of his property in Vermont saved on my computer that I watch from time to time as inspiration for what can be done on a small degraded plot if you take the time to observe the context and patterns of the place and are not afraid to fail in your experiments. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur Ben Falk, founder of Whole Systems Design, holds bundles bundles of short grain brown rice grown in terraced rice paddies at his research farm in Moretown. Ben  is also the author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, a comprehensive manual for developing durable, beautiful, and highly functional human habitat systems fit to handle an age of rapid transition. With that description I knew Ben would be the right person to speak to about the need for resilient living systems in this time of unprecedented upheaval in our global society.  In this interview, we break down the elements that have to be in place for a system to be considered resilient as well as the essential things that someone has to understand before they can start to interact with their land in a beneficial way. Ben also talks about some of the practical aspects of homestead living such as what he’s found to be the best “bang for your buck” enterprises and time investments which include some surprisingly simple and basic things. We even cover resilience at the community level and dig out some essential advice from Ben’s years working with clients to build their own systems and what considerations people often overlook when they first get started. Though I spoke with Ben before much of the pandemic lockdown had started in the US, this interview has turned out to be very timely for the huge surge in interest all around the world from people looking to reclaim independence from the global economic system and reclaim more self reliance in reaction to seeing how fragile our support systems really are. A renewed interest in everything from growing your own food garden to repairing common household appliances has grown as more people recognize that there is real value in knowing how to provide for your most basic requirements and being able to care for the needs of your community.  In the meantime, I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy in this difficult time of epidemic. My best wishes to all of you and your families. Resources: http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/ https://www.youtube.com/user/wholesystems https://www.facebook.com/ben.falk.14
April 3, 2020
In this ongoing series on homesteading I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve given us really practical information on how to make the transition to a more self-sufficient way of life and connect with nature in the process. We’ve explored how to start businesses on your land, grow and produce your own food, as well as forage for wild food and medicine. In this episode we’ll take a look at the softer side of the homesteading lifestyle in talking about the inner transformations and the feelings connected to rewilding and reconnecting to the land. For this perspective, I spoke to Ayana Young who made a drastic change in a short time from living in downtown Manhattan to living with minimal amenities in the redwood forest in northern California. We explore the motivations behind such a drastic change as well as the inner transformation that can take place during the journey. We also explore the personal sides of managing expectations, mental adjustments to a new environment, and the benefits and drawbacks of living so removed from modern life. Given that I’m normally very focused on the practical, logical and hard science side of ecosystem regeneration and lifestyle transition, it did me a lot of good to take the time to ponder the inner journey that takes place and to consider how others think and feel about the upheavals of these transformations and transitions.   Back when I spoke with Ayana we were not yet in pandemic lockdown here in Spain, but now that we are and now that the quarantine has been extended until at least April 11th, it looks like we here, and many people all around the world are getting a taste of isolated living, even though we may not have moved at all or are only one door away from many neighbors. These drastic transformations are bringing out extreme and unusual feelings in people, myself included, and I’m hearing more and more urgency in developing alternative livelihoods and support systems for ourselves and our communities. I myself was in the process of purchasing a small farm with my partner when everything shut down here in Spain and the process has been suspended indefinitely, but the two of us feel more committed than ever to move to a situation in which we can be of direct help to our community here by providing healthy food and offering learning opportunities to the people around us who are also looking to make a transition. We are living in uncertain and stressful times, but know that you’re not alone in this journey. We will all need to work together and help each other out in the coming transition to a regenerative society. Though I certainly have low moments and doubts these days, I’m also confident that truly good and beautiful examples of human ingenuity and compassion will come out of this pandemic and that our communities will band together in new and inspiring ways to lift us collectively out of this and away from the trajectory of destruction and consumption that we’ve been on before now.  If you’ve been enjoying these episodes I’d encourage you to look through the archives of the Abundant Edge podcast for more inspiration and practical information on everything from natural building for low cost, high quality housing, to growing your own food, planning regenerative farms, and much much more in over 150 episodes. This information and the community connections that it can create are more important and urgent now than ever. Thank you all so much for listening and supporting this show. I hope this finds you all safe, healthy and in good company. Resources: https://forthewild.world/
March 27, 2020
Continuing with our ongoing series on homesteading I wanted to talk to someone with a bit more of a similar experience to my own. More than once now I’ve found myself in a new country and starting to build a permaculture inspired, self-sufficient, homestead lifestyle. There are a lot of unique challenges and difficulties when operating in a new place, a different country, or a whole new continent. Zac Barton contacted me a while ago after listening to this podcast to tell me about his own story of settling in a foreign place to pursue the permaculture dream and I felt compelled to share it with you in this episode. Zac first went to visit Nepal back in 2005 on a short volunteering trip and immediately fell in love with the country and the people there. Since then he has worked with a diverse group of projects through the Kamala Foundation which he founded, all based around ecosystem abundance and healthy community building. In this episode we talk about the climate, land and cultural context of Nepal which has fascinated me for a long time. Zac also talks a lot about the challenges he had in getting his homestead and permaculture teaching site off the ground, as well as the influence and impact that it’s had on his surrounding community. Just as importantly he shares the impact and influence that the community has had on him and how it has informed and altered his own goals. Homesteading in a foreign country is a topic that I really love, not only because I’ve lived it myself a few times, but because every region has its own traditions of working the land and rich knowledge bases to draw from and inform a healthy relationship with the local ecology and communities. If you’re listening to this and have your own foreign permaculture story to share, please tell me about it.
March 20, 2020
In the first half of this interview I spoke with Pam Dawling, the author of “The Year-Round Hoop House'' about the most important information about siting, building, irrigating and soil care for extending crop growing in hoop houses. I tap in to Pam’s extensive knowledge of feeding 100 people in the Twin Oaks Intentional Community in Virginia, mostly from her 30’ by 100’ hoop house and the details of that particular setup. In the second half of the interview we turn to a topic that so many of you listeners have written to me about, and that’s communal living. These days there’s a renewed interest in ecovillages, intentional communities, and various configurations of communities like that. Many of you who’ve been listening for a while know that I’ve been fascinated by these dynamics and community configurations for a long time too.  Pam gives great insights about her personal motivations for moving to a communal living situation as well as the decision making structure, and many other dynamics that have kept Twin Oaks together since its creation in 1967. Though we recorded this interview a while ago, there’s a lot of relevant information to the current world pandemic situation in that we talk a lot about the resilience and security inherent to land based and semi autonomous living.  I want to also send a quick message of solidarity to all of you around the world who have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and economic impact of the response. As I’m recording this we’re in the second day of a nationwide quarantine here in Spain where all but essential services and businesses are closed for a two week minimum in order to halt the infection rates. Now more than ever we have an opportunity to rethink the way our communities and lifestyles are configured and how they interact with the environments immediately around us and around the world. In times like these it’s impossible not to see how every part of the planet is connected and how all of our actions, habits, lifestyles and consumption affect everyone else, more directly than ever. To prevent tragedies like this from becoming the new norm we urgently need to restore our damaged environment and work to create earth-wide resilience by regenerating the foundations of our food chains in the form of soil and water resources from which all other life is derived. We must find a way to create societies and cultures based on the care and creation of life in all its forms, not just our own. This unfortunate epidemic can serve as a positive event if it becomes the wake-up-call that inspires massive action on a global scale to completely reinvent the way our economies are structured from those based on resource extraction to those based on resource creation and stewardship. Many of us who have benefitted from the sequestration of wealth from around the world to afford us our comfort and relative abundance, including myself, have the choice to use this privilege to lift other people and other forms of life up, even though it means we compromise our own comfort and ease of living.  On a more personal note, I truly hope that this message finds all of you in good health and in good company. We need each other. We need community. You’re not in this alone. If any of you feel like reaching out through the comments on the website or by email, I would love to hear what you find inspiring and uplifting in these difficult times.  Resources: https://www.sustainablemarketfarming.com/ https://newsociety.com/books/y/the-year-round-hoophouse https://newsociety.com/books/s/sustainable-market-farming
March 13, 2020
Welcome to another episode in this ongoing series on homesteading. In this session I reached out to John Moody, the author of many books including “DIY Sourdough, The Elderberry Book” and the one we’ll be focusing on today “The Frugal Homesteader.” John is also the founder of Whole Life Services and Whole Life Buying Club and is the former executive director of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Like many of the people interviewed in this series, John decided to make a major transition in his lifestyle when he discovered that his diet was literally killing him with duodenal ulcers, seasonal allergies, and other health problems, so he and his growing family began to transition to real local foods and local food distribution and life on a homestead on 35 acres in rural Kentucky. Since then he has become a well-known speaker at conferences, events, and media including Mother Earth News, Wise Traditions, and others.  In this interview we focus on the many creative ideas that he covers in the “The Frugal Homesteader.” More than just a list of tips and tricks, John promotes a mindset of resourcefulness and problem solving that is based on long term thinking and looking at the bigger picture. We cover a lot of real examples from his own experiences in setting up a homestead for the first time and both successes and failures that lead to great solutions.  The best part is that listeners of this show will have the opportunity to win a free copy of John’s book “The Frugal Homesteader.” Here’s how it works, just leave a review of The Abundant Edge Podcast on iTunes and take a screenshot of your review. Send it to info@abundantedge.com along with the address where you’d like to receive your mail and I’ll send the book to the first person I receive an email from. If you live outside of the US or Canada, you can just send the email and we’ll send you a digital copy. If you don’t win this time, don’t worry, I’ll be giving away a ton more books from new society publishers this season so stay tuned each week for your chance to win more books. If you’ve already left a review on iTunes you can share this episode on your prefered social media platform, take a screenshot and send an email just the same. These steps really help us to reach a larger audience with this information and message of actionable steps that anyone can take towards ecological regeneration so I really appreciate you all who’ve been helping me get the word out. I’ll be looking forward to your emails and sending those books out soon. Resources: https://johnwmoody.com/ Get your copy of "The Frugal Homesteader" The Whole Life Buying Club
March 6, 2020
Continuing with this ongoing series on homesteading, I reached out to Deborah Niemann, the author of many books including “Homegrown and Handmade, Eco-thrifty, Just Kidding and Raising Goats Naturally” which is now in its second edition. She also blogs at thriftyhomesteader.com, hosts the podcast “For the love of goats' ' and co owns Antiquity Oaks, a small farm in Cornell, Illinois. Like nearly everyone in this interview series, Deborah didn’t grow up on a farm or a homesteading lifestyle at all. Her transition to a healthier and more earth connected way of living lead her to teach others how to care for animals, grow their own food and much more. In this episode I talk to Deborah about just how realistic it is for someone to hope to produce all their own food and how much time it takes her and her husband each week to produce 100 percent of their own meat, eggs, maple syrup, and dairy products, as well as a good portion of your vegetables, fruit, herbs, and honey. We also dissect her book “Homegrown and Handmade to understand some of the most important considerations and plans that she recommends for people looking to get started in a whole range of small farm enterprises like market gardening, small orchards, micro-dairy, meat animals, poultry, fiber and sugar production. This is a really inspiring interview for people who think that you need a whole team, a bunch of machinery or a ton of land to produce an abundance of a wide range of products. Deborah does a great job of breaking things down into manageable steps that you can follow to grow and develop your homestead operations sustainably. The best part is that listeners of this show will have the opportunity to win a free copy of Deborah’s book “Homegrown and Handmade.” Here’s how it works, just leave a review of The Abundant Edge Podcast on iTunes and take a screenshot of your review. Send it to info@abundantedge.com along with the address where you’d like to receive your mail and I’ll send the book to the first person I receive an email from. If you live outside of the US or Canada, you can just send the email and we’ll send you a digital copy. If you don’t wind this time, don’t worry, I’ll be giving away a ton more books from new society publishers this season so stay tuned each week for your chance to win more books. If you’ve already left a review on iTunes you can share this episode on your prefered social media platform, take a screenshot and send an email just the same. These steps really help us to reach a larger audience with this information and message of actionable steps that anyone can take towards ecological regeneration so I really appreciate you all who’ve been helping me get the word out. I’ll be looking forward to your emails and sending those books out soon. Resources: Homegrown and Handmade Raising Goats Naturally Ecothrifty Goats Giving Birth For the Love of Goats Podcast Antiquity Oaks
February 28, 2020
In the past I’ve done a lot of episodes focusing on specific skills and enterprises that people integrate into a regenerative lifestyle, but in this series I’m going to be speaking with people who’ve put a bunch of those pieces together into a lifestyle centered on positive interactions with nature and a move towards self sustainability. Homesteading is a general term that originally comes from the homesteading acts in the United States which were a series of laws enacted between 1862 up until the 1930s which allowed an applicant to acquire ownership of government land or otherwise public land for free or very cheap if they lived on and farmed that land for a set period of time. Canada and Australia also had similar policies in their past to promote expansion and settlement of their large countries when they were newly colonized. These days, since the acts have long since expired, homesteading has come to mean a lifestyle of self sufficiency and is more characterized by subsistence farming, back-to-the-land movements and small scale home economics. Different areas around the world have different names for this concept, for example a smallholding or a croft in the UK are fairly synonymous with a homestead. Given the rise in popularity of homesteading and people wanting to reconnect with nature and learn to work more intimately with the land to produce their needs and livelihood, I wanted to create a series that helps people who are aspiring to this kind of lifestyle prepare themselves for the dramatic changes and the many wonderful options available to them. Homesteading isn’t just one thing. Far from it in fact. The people interviewed in this series will explain how they made the transition from a more conventional and dependent life, to one of more autonomy. They’ll explain the struggles, lessons, victories and failures that got them to where they are and what advice they would give to others starting out. So especially for those of you who dream of making a big lifestyle change, this series is for you. Now let’s jump into the first interview in this series. Many of the people I know who’ve made a big change in their life towards self sufficient living in nature were inspired to do so after a major wake-up call event, and Natalie Bogwalker was no different. After a serious bike accident caused her to re-evaluate her life choices she decided to go “all-in” and went to live primitively in the woods at the Wild Roots community in North Carolina. After years of immersion and learning in that lifestyle, she became motivated to share her knowledge with more people and create a larger community movement.  In this interview Natalie talks about her journey of making such a drastic change early on in her life, what she learned from the experience and how it has informed the way she lives and teaches on her homestead now. She breaks down a lot of the routines and time investments on the different operations of her place and how the dynamics of having different operations like the classes and workshops, apprenticeship programs and other community connections affect everyday life. Some of my favorite moments are from Natalie’s observations from experience living very primitively to the more modern and connected way she lives now and her recommendations for people weighing their options and considering a move to one of these lifestyles. She also gives great practical information on wild plant resources as food and medicine and much more. Like every interview in this series, Natalie’s setup and lifestyle represent a few of the millions of options out there for how to plan, build, and run a homestead and it’s meant to give you ideas and pragmatic insights from people who are doing and living this every day Resources:
February 21, 2020
After 11 interviews with experts on native reforestation, holistic orchard management, water retention landscapes, perennial crop agriculture and more, I learned a lot of new things about the state of the world's forests and the tools and knowledge we have to regenerate them. In this special episode wrapping up the series on reforestation and agroforestry I’ll break down some of the information and statistics that will help you understand the major role that forests play in maintaining a healthy climactic balance on earth. I’ll also break down how both past and current practices have put forests at risk all over the world and how even many well intentioned projects are causing unintended damage. By the end I’ll replay a few of the key insights from the experts that I interviewed in this series that will give you hope that we already have successful examples of effective native forest restoration and management to help to carve out a new future for these crucial ecologies moving forward. I also highly recommend taking the time to listen to the full interviews with Jairo Rodriguez, Alex Kronick, Kristen Krash, James Potter, Pieter Van Midwoud, Peter Khan, Neal Spackman, Darren Doherty, Stefan Sobkowiak, Mark Shepard, and Shubhendu Sharma. Don’t forget to reach out if you like these kinds of episodes so I know to make more. Resources: Interview with Jairo Rodriguez Interview with Alex Kronick Interview with Kristen Krash Interview with James Potter Interview with Pieter Van Midwoud Interview with Peter Khan Interview with Neal Spackman Interview with Darren Doherty Interview with Stefan Sobkowiak Interview with Mark Shepard Interview with Shubhendu Sharma http://www.fao.org/3/XII/1018-B2.htm https://www.reuters.com/article/ozatp-climate-forests-idAFJOE7AN04G20111124 https://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14112-how-long-does-it-take-a-rainforest-to-regenerate/ https://fellowsblog.ted.com/how-to-grow-a-forest-really-really-fast-d27df202ba09 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/how-to-regrow-forest-right-way-minimize-fire-water-use/
February 14, 2020
[powerpress_player] Welcome to the last interview in the Reforestation and Agroforestry series. We’ve covered so many important aspects of this topic in 10 interviews over 4 months. I’ve spoken to homesteaders regenerating cloud forests in tropical climates, tech companies with more than 20 tree planting initiatives around the world, agroforestry and orchard advocates and everything in between, and this last conversation is the icing on the cake. If you’ve ever wondered how to restore a mature native forest in record time and on a modest budget, this is the episode for you, because today I’ll be speaking with Shubhendu Sharma, a former automotive engineer for Toyota who has planted both small and large native forests around the world through this company Afforestt which specializes in making natural forests of native trees. In this interview Shubhendu talks about how he applied his engineering mindset to systematize accelerated native forest planting and create open source manuals that anyone can access and follow. He explains in detail how a dense mature forest can be planted, even in a desertified region, by taking care of soils, selecting the right species, and planting densely.  Towards the end of this interview you’ll hear Shubhendu and I talking about the possibility of the launch of a new kickstarter campaign to create a video series on how to plant your own native forest in record time anywhere in the world. I’m happy to announce that the kickstarter is now live and open for donations. If, by the time you’re done listening to this episode you can see how much value there will be in making this information available in an easy to follow video format then I highly encourage you to follow the link in the show notes for this episode and donate whatever you can to help make this happen. I’ve already put in my donation and am really excited to start planting in my own area of Spain. No matter where in the world you live or work, reforestation could have a big impact on regenerating the health and biodiversity of your ecosystem. Resources: https://www.afforestt.com/ Support the Afforestt video tutorial project on Kickstarter today! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shubzsharma/video-tutorials-to-make-your-own-forest?ref=user_menu Miyawaki Method explained Open Source documents on how to grow your own native forest
February 7, 2020
Welcome everyone to the first episode of a brand new season of the Abundant Edge podcast. I can’t believe I’m starting the fourth year of this little pet project that I had three years ago after I had just moved to Guatemala and was wrapping up an internship on bamboo building, and now here I am, having moved to north eastern Spain and with more than 50 thousand of you incredible folks tuning in to this show every month from all around the world. I’m so happy to be able to keep this show going and I’m really excited to start a new season with a brand new website that makes it easier than ever to search for topics, names, categories and really anything you want to help you access great information from more than 140 interviews in our archives. I really encourage you all to check it out if you haven’t yet, and of course, if you enjoy the content of this show, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes or whichever service provider you use. More than anything this helps me to get these episodes out and into the ears of more people, and that means more people equipped with the knowledge and techniques to begin to heal and regenerate this planet. That’s enough of the prologue, let’s jump into today’s episode. For those of you who’ve been following the last handful of episodes you know that we’re deep into an ongoing series on reforestation and agroforestry, and though most of the previous interviews have been with people working directly to plant trees and restore native forests, I decided to switch the focus for this session for two important reasons. The first, is that without good soil and access to water very few things will grow or at least they’ll take much much longer to get established. The second, is that Mark Shepard, founder of New Forest farm in Wisconsin and the author of Restoration Agriculture, has finally just released his much awaited second book called Water for Any Farm which outlines his revolutionary expansion on P A Yeoman’s original classic called Water for Every Farm.  In this interview I got to speak with Mark about how his decades of experience on his own farm as well as designing and consulting on farms all over the country helped him to solve some of the shortcomings from the original keyline design system. We start by talking about how the mismanagement of land and water has created the conditions we have today all over the world where topsoil is constantly eroded and water quickly becomes a destructive force rather than a rejuvenating one if it's left to run over naked landscapes. Mark goes into a lot of detail to describe how to read your landscape and identify key points that can be used as references for keylines to direct water all across your land in a way that slows it down and rehydrates it. We talk about what machinery and tools he recommends for major earthworks, the installation of different types of ponds, building soil over large acreage, and much more. I get sent a lot of books to look over and review before speaking with authors and I often don’t have time to read them very thoroughly, but this one, Water for Any Farm I really took the time to understand because of the incredible potential that this system has for increasing the productivity and resilience of any landscape, not just from an agricultural perspective. Adjusting the water harvesting capacity of your terrain can have an important impact on any kind of regeneration project and help with weathering severe climate events too. It’s especially relevant to the ongoing series on reforestation and agroforestry because the earthworks method outlined in the book is how Mark was able to regenerate a damaged farm surrounded by monoculture corn crops into the highly productive oak savannah mimicking ecosystem based around the pillars of hazelnut and chestnut orchards.I highly recommend you check it out. I’ve put links to where you can buy it and learn more about...
December 27, 2019
Here we are! The end of 2019 and season three of this podcast. For those of you who’ve been following this show for a while you know that I went through a lot of big changes this year, most notably a big move from the permaculture farm startup that I worked on for for about 16 months in Guatemala. From there I took some big trips through southern Mexico and the US and a bit in Canada to where I finally settled down in the Catalonia region of north easthern Spain. Though I live really far away from where I started the year, I thought it’d be a good chance here at the end of the season to check in with Neal Hegarty, the co-owner of Granja Tz’ikin in Guatemala, where this year began for me, to see how things have progressed and developed since I moved away. I know a lot of you followed along on our journey through the regenerative round table sessions of last season as we planned and started building out the design for the farm, so hearing how the design is starting to mature should be a good update. In this interview Neal fills me in on how the animal enterprises that were just taking shape while I was there are becoming more consistent and regimented and how they feed the other enterprises on the farm like the cafe/restaurant, the permaculture courses, the development of the hostel space and much more. They’ve also made some important alliances in their community and around Guatemala that are helping them reach more people in their village in their goal to facilitate a better market for high quality local farm products and a better price for wholesale goods. We also talk about some of the promising big design projects that Neal is taking on which have the potential to regenerate large acreage of damaged land in some of the most biodiverse regions of Peten in the north of the country. As I mentioned, this episode wraps it up for season 3. 2019 was a really major year for me personally and for the audience of this podcast. Together with you listening we more than doubled the subscribers to this show and I got so much beautiful and heartfelt feedback from so many of you that it really renewed my faith that this show is bringing the information and the inspiration that many of you are looking for. So thank you sincerely to everyone who has supported this show and sent feedback this year. Thanks to New Society Publishers especially for their collaboration and support and for making it possible to provide this content without any long pleas for patreon donations. Being able to advocate for an organization with integrity and strong ethics means the world to me. Season 4 of The Abundant Edge podcast will kick off strong again with brand new episodes starting on February 7th but stay tuned because I’ll be reposting the most popular shows from this last year again until I return.
December 20, 2019
We’ve covered so many different ways to approach reforestation, both with native species and mixes of natives and orchard trees. In today’s session, Oliver wanted to focus on fruit orchards and he got to speak with the wizard behind Miracle Farms and the film, “The Permaculture Orchard” Stefan Sobkowiak. Oliver has been a fan of Stefan’s work for a while and he has spent a lot of time on his excellent youtube channel where he offers tons of tutorials and solutions to practical aspects of managing a whole ecosystem around his orchard enterprise. In this interview we break it all down from the beginning, from how Stefan began to look for land in the challenging climate of Canada all through his great advice for how to get started from selecting species, building soil, propagating trees and growing from there. We also go into how Stefan leverages nature’s tools to create a healthy and balanced ecosystem that not only brings more resilience to the operation but helps to reduce labor and external inputs. Towards the end we also unpack some invaluable advice on how to make meaningful money through innovative marketing strategies so you can make a respectable living on a modest amount of land. We cover a really wide range of topics and Stefan really knows his stuff so don’t forget to check out the links in the show notes for this episode and maybe even keep a notebook around for good measure.
December 13, 2019
The last time I caught up with Darren Doherty for this podcast was back in season two. We talked a lot about his background and entry into ecological agriculture and how that journey informed his development of the Regrarian’s platform and outlook on the potential of regenerative farming. I recently caught up with him again to investigate the new chapter of the Regrarian’s handbook which he and his team just released. Chapter 5 of the 10 in the book which are being relseased one by one in digital format on their website focuses on forests and all the configurations that they come in. Since I’ve covered many of the first few topics from the chapter in other episodes in this ongoing series on reforestation and agroforestry I wanted to get Darren’s take on specific management techniques in a commercially productive woody perennial system. This covers more than just trees and includes plants of that classification at nearly every level of a forest ecology such as bushes and understory crops. In this interview we start by going over the three main techniques for managing established woody species which are pruning, thinning, and coppicing as well as the incredible amount of things you can accomplish if you understand how to use them effectively. From there we look into harvesting from all the different major types of yields and balancing the need to incorporate efficiency into your system while maintaining a healthy ecosystem that wants more diversity and organic patterning. We also talk about how to mitigate the initial cost of establishing tree and perennial plants by using upcycled and salvaged materials to start sprouting trees quickly and cheaply right away. By the end Darren also touches on the importance of intervention in our landscapes to more effectively manage wildfires and fire prone areas. Before we get started I’ll just point out that the interview starts really abruptly because I lost the beginning of the audio with the introductions and pleasantries. Try as I might after 3 season of producing this show I’m still a complete amatuer with audio software so forgive me for another awkward start to this session. The good news is that it all goes smoothly after the start. If any of you want hear more about Darren’s background and journey to become the world renowned regenerative farm designer and educator that he is, I highly recommend the first interview we did for this show back in season two. I’ve put a link to that show as well as all his other resources in the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.com
December 6, 2019
I had the pleasure of catching up again with Neal Spackman, one of the primary designers and organizers of the Al Baydha project in Saudi Arabia. The Al Baydha project began in 2009 with a long list of lofty ambitions. Among them they aimed to improve the local economy, act as a model for sustainable development in the Arabian Peninsula, reduce dependence on government handouts for the community, and store and harvest rainwater in the landscape through the restoration of the savannah ecosystem which had been desertified in only a few decades. This is the second interview I’ve done with Neal on his work in Saudi Arabia and this time around we got to go in even greater depth on the details and context of the project that informed the design and decision making process. If you’re interested in dryland and desert regeneration, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the first episode, even though this one stands well on its own. This time around, we revisit the history of the region and how government policies had major impacts on the lives of the nomadic bedouin people and in turn their relationship with the ecology of Al Baydha. Neal walks me through the planning and design process that preceded the work and how the cultural context of the project played a big role in setting the goals for a more sustainable economy for the area. We also dig into the biggest takeaways from 10 years of the largest desert regeneration attempt yet made in Saudi Arabia. From there Neal even gets into his new projects and how his return to academia has informed a new approach to degraded land restoration as well as how farming can be leveraged as an ecological asset. Neal makes a lot of great recommendations toward the end for resources including books and videos that helped to inspire and inform these ambitious projects, so be sure to check out the resources section under this episode on the website.
November 29, 2019
In all the research I’ve been doing for this ongoing series on reforestation and agroforestry I’ve struggled to find any reports or serious articles that outline the potential steps to transition the world’s agricultural model on a large scale from one that’s based on annual crops and the intensive cultivation that they require to one based on perennial crops. The advantages are obvious, from a decrease in soil disturbance and fertilization due to the natural cycles that keep roots in the ground and hold soils in place against erosion, to increases in biodiversity and animal habitat. The list goes on and on, and though many people have advocated for this switch, I couldn’t find any longer term strategy until I came across an article called “Investing in Perennial Crops to Sustainably Feed the World” which was co-authored by my guest today, Peter Kahn. Peter is a tenured professor of Biochemistry at Rutgers University who became interested in the potential of perennial crops from speaking with a colleague of his who was studying this topic. We cover a lot of ground in a short time in this interview. Peter starts by explaining how every previous society throughout history that has relied on annual grain production as their primary food source has collapsed, and how up until now we’ve avoided that fate by exploiting the great carbon stores of the earth in the form of petroleum in order to compensate for the damage we’ve been doing to our ecology. We move from there to the already proven methods of perennial cultivation that could be expanded to start to replace the annual grains we now rely on. Peter also breaks down some of the steps proposed in the article on how international organizations and alliances would need to be fostered to promote new cultivation methods and also to develop perennial grain replacements for the short term transition. We also get into the tough questions of breaking down the exploitative economic and political structures that have given us the extractive industrial models that rule the agricultural landscape and some of the existential issues that we need to grapple with before real change in our society can be accomplished. It was really encouraging for me to see that serious academics are starting to explore the strategies towards a global transition towards regenerative agriculture and how the revival of forest ecosystems is included in that strategy. There’s obviously a long road ahead, but the increasing awareness of the urgency of this transition is a good sign that respect and value for the earth that we all depend on is increasing. I’ve included a link to the article that we discuss in the show notes for this episode so you can take a look for yourself and decide if the plan outlined by these professors seems feasible or if there are pieces missing. If you have alternative ideas or ways to expand on the plan in the article, I would love to hear your ideas. You can write to me directly at info@abundantedge.com or leave comments for this episode on the website.
November 22, 2019
Continuing with this series on reforestation and agroforestry, I got the chance to speak with Pieter Van Midwoud, the lead tree planting officer of the search engine company Ecosia. I’ve been using Ecosia as my default search engine for a couple years now because of their claim to plant trees around the world with the profits from ad revenue every time you search, but I wanted to know more about how their tree planting initiatives actually work. In this interview Pieter and I start by talking about how Ecosia as a company functions and how the simple act of searching the web with their service can support reforestation initiatives around the world. We then go into detail about how funding is distributed and how Pieter and his team vet different partner organizations that they support. He also unpacks some of the difficult and often unknown risks behind poorly planned and executed tree planting projects, the difference between tree plantations and healthy forests, the importance of promoting biodiversity, the social aspects that determine the success of new forests and much more. We even get into the indirect ways of supporting native reforestation without ever planting a tree by protecting damaged landscapes and creating the conditions for forests to reseed themselves on their own. I was really impressed with the holistic and context based approach to ecological regeneration that Ecosia has. After researching many different reforestation initiatives for this series I found very few organizations that address the needs of local communities and biodiversity over arbitrary numbers and targets for success, especially following up on the success or failure of a project and publishing the results transparently. I’ve included a few extra links in the show notes for this episode that examine and analyze Ecosia’s model and the accountability of their projects. As always you kind find all of them at Abundantedge.com.
November 15, 2019
The first three interviews in this ongoing series on reforestation and agroforestry have highlighted small personal projects on private land, each with a different person in south or mesoamerica whose primary motivations are to restore the forests and biodiversity of their land. In all three cases producing a viable agricultural product was an important aspect of the project and one which brought in funds to keep the operation running, but profitable agriculture wasn’t the primary goal for any of them. In this interview I spoke with James Potter with the Inga foundation who talked with me about the work and project model of the foundation. In my own travels I’ve seen a lot of slash and burn agriculture all over the world from the rice paddies of the Philippines, the coffee plantations and corn fields of Guatemala to cattle ranching in Mexico and clearings for new palm oil plantations in Thailand and Malaysia. It used to baffle me that such a strategy for land management could still persist in this day and age. A lot of what I’ve tried to learn about in my time in those places centered around how people farmed and managed fertility on their parcels. In my talk with James he helps to explain the origins and motivations for slash and burn farming and the impact it has on the soil as well as the economics for the people who practice it. From there we talk about the Inga Foundation’s unique approach to integrating inga trees and all of their beneficial properties into the farming strategy for people who are used to burning their land in between crop seasons. We also look into the pilot projects they’ve helped to create and the results of the implementation of this method over time. James also helps to unpack the common challenge of the transition period between the maturation of longer term perennial species where yields might be too low for subsistence farmers to sustain themselves. While I remain wary of any plan that promotes a standardized approach across many different contexts, I’ve been impressed by some of the fundamental challenges that this alley cropping solution presents for helping farmers transition into practices that take much better care of the soil and biodiversity of their land in the process. This is an episode that I would love to hear opinions and feedback from any of you listening. Especially if you have personal experience working with alley cropping systems and intercropping within orchards or other tree plantations. Does the division work against the efficiency of the farm? Can the trees develop to a point where they shade out the crops in the alleys? How much diversity is beneficial for the trees and crops selected and at what point do they start to compete for resources like light and nutrients in the soil? As always you can leave comments on the website or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com.
November 8, 2019
I was first introduced to Kristen Krash through Atulya Bingham, the well known author and natural builder who’s been on this show a few time. She told me about this incredible little project in Ecuador focused on regenerating the native cloud forest and off-grid living, and that I had to speak with Kristen about her journey. When I got to chat with Kristen I was amazed at how well she knew her bioregion and the experience she could speak from about getting her dream project off the ground with her partner in the last few years. Three short years ago Kristen and her partner Juan bought a degraded piece of land that she describes as a green desert, because though it was covered in non-native pasture grasses, the original tropical forest had been logged and was struggling to grow back. They called their project Sueño de Vida and set out with the goal of turning it into a nature reserve, permaculture farm, natural building project, and education center dedicated to forest restoration and sustainable living. In this interview Kristen gives a remarkably well informed explanation of how the industries in her area have left damaged ecosystems in their wake and the challenges of trying to restore them. She and I talk about the similarities and hilarious mishaps that we’ve both experienced with our respective projects and getting them off the ground with limited time and resources. She also walks me through the evolution and stages of their reforestation plan and some of the experiments they’ve done and the sites they’ve observed around them to help them move forward. She also gives great advice for people who are interested in starting this kind of lifestyle and how to plan for an off-grid transition. Before we get started, if you want to know more about similar projects to this one, check out the previous episodes from this series on reforestation and agroforestry. I’ve got great interviews from Jairo Rodriguez in southern Mexico and Alex Kronick, a good friend of mine from Guatemala who are both working to regenerate the tropical forests in their area through different techniques and resources. The three of these interviews are meant to be something of a trilogy of relatively small size private land projects dedicated to a mixture of native forest regeneration as well as ecotourism and minor farming for economic viability in the tropics. All three have a lot in common, but with different approaches to reach their goals. You can find links to all these episodes on the website at abundantedge.com
November 1, 2019
I’ve been so fortunate to get to speak directly with so many people who have created incredible examples of permaculture abundance and ecological health and resilience through this podcast, and though I’ve also gotten to visit many permaculture projects and practitioners, many of the ones I’ve seen in person are either just in the early stages of getting off the ground, or haven’t quite found their balance between financial and ecological prosperity. The best examples that I’ve seen in person are the projects that Alex Kronick and his team have managed in the area around Antigua Guatemala, namely Caoba Farms and his new project in Paramos. Now back in season 2, Neal Hegarty who I used to work with on the Granja Tzikin project interviewed Alex in an interview we called “The Most Impressive Permaculturalist You’ve Never Heard of.” Since then I’ve been back many times to visit Alex both at his farm/event space/restaurant at Caoba farms, and even more notably, the larger project that’s been underway for just a couple years in the town of Paramos, northwest of Antigua. There Alex has been combining pieces of land that he’s been able to acquire as he builds towards his dream of restoring the native forest of that region and strategically incorporate agroforestry, market gardening, eco-tourism and event space to ensure the value and protection of the native ecosystem is preserved indefinitely. Though I didn’t have the time to bring recording equipment along on the few trips I made up there in person, I got to catch Alex on a call later to ask him to go over a few of the many intricacies of his plan and steps for development that are still in the early stages, but gaining incredible traction on his site. In this interview we cover many of the details of the unique climate and context where the land is located and how it informs goals and designs that Alex is developing. He talks at length about how he and his team are choosing which of the native species to propagate and use for reforestation and how they are creating nurseries to grow thousands of trees at a time. We also talk about how the government incentives for reforestation in Guatemala are not as beneficial as they might appear and how navigating the regulations can both help and hinder ecological goals. We even cover how different trees can affect the water table on your land, passive irrigation methods, even education programs for school age kids and much more. I’ve learned so much from Alex and his methodical approach to land based projects. He’s definitely one of the voices in permaculture and ecological business that I hope more people look to and reference as examples of no-nonsense, results based progress. I’ve also included a bunch of pictures from his farm and nursery that Alex sent me and you can check them out on the website at abundantedge.com
October 25, 2019
Today I’m going to kick off a new series focusing on reforestation and agroforestry. I’ve been motivated to return to this subject as it seems to be unusually pressing these days. The wild fires in the western USA and in the Amazon rainforest are not only destructive to those regions in isolation, they also have major ripple effects across the globe and in our collective resiliency. I’ve been fortunate to work directly with people and organizations through my travels who are working on the front lines of reforestation and in the next few episodes I’ll be sharing interviews with people who represent private land projects, agroforestry pioneering, corporate innovation, NGO initiatives and more in an attempt to understand the challenges and also the potential of bringing trees back into a landscape either in an attempt to re-establish the native ecology, or to adapt it to our economic needs while still addressing the need for wild habitat, species diversity, soil health and so many other benefits of forest and jungle ecosystems. Given that this is the first episode in the series I would love to hear from anyone listening if they know of any reforestation or agroforestry projects that I should know about or think that I should highlight here on the podcast. Especially if anyone knows of initiatives in the Iberian penninsula, Spain, Portugal, Andorra or throughout the mediteranean and northern Africa. As always you can send information and feedback to me directly at info@abundantedge.com or through the contact page on the websites at abundantedge.com So let’s get started. Back in May of this year as I was backpacking through southern Mexico. I learned about Teyoapa farms in Xico, Veracruz and reached out to them to volunteer for a short time and get to know their project and help out. I spent just over a week with them and was amazed at how they had transformed the land that they had purchased only about 15 years ago from degraded pasture land into a young native cloud forest. Jairo Rodriquez, the co-owner and manager along with his family, sat down with me on a visit up to their land to talk about how they got started. In this interview we talked about the urgent need for protection in the quickly dwindling areas of remaining cloud forest in Mexico and around the world. Jairo has a very strong world view and philisophy that guides his investments in time and energy and the enterprises that he runs. I had the pleasure of learning how they make yogurt, cheese, ice-cream, chocolate, and many other artisenal products from their farm and the producers around them, and how they use those to build community more than generate profit. Jairo also co-owns a company that makes high quality tents designed to last a long time and have a light footprint on the land so people can live comfortably in nature without leaving a scarring impact. In general I left the place inspired by the potential of what a few people can do with the right motivation and how humans have the power to do as much to heal the land they interact with as they do to damage it when their hearts are in the right place. As a short preview of my time in Xico and Teoapa farms I also made a short video with Jairo, which I’m releasing today to accompany this interview. I really encourage you to see the incredible forest that Jairo has helped to create. You can find the video in the show notes for this episode where you’ll also find information on how to contact Teoapa and help contribute to their reforestation goals.
October 18, 2019
I haven’t done a special episode in a long time, in fact I haven’t done any at all this season and it’s been a while since I’ve done a Regenerative Round Table since I’ve been transitioning from the farm where I lived with my colleagues in Guatemala until May of this year to where I am now, which is a small town about a half hour north of Barcelona in the beautiful Mediterannean region of Catalunya in Spain. In the last few months I backpacked up through southern Mexico, spent a month visiting family in Spokane Washington, then another month visiting my brothers and nephew in Minnesota where we grew up. I’ve been in Spain just under two months and am working with my partner here to start a whole bunch of exciting new projects both online and in the community here which I’ll be sure to talk about in future episodes once things get off the ground. Today I’m going to be giving a review of the previous series on natural building and regenerative living and design from the last handful of weeks for those of you who want the cliff notes and the most important information from about a month and a half of episodes. I’ll be talking about some of the main takeaways and things that I learned from these interviews as well as presenting new questions to you out there listening while sharing some thoughts and stories from some of my own experience as a builder and traveller that have taught me a lot over the last decade
October 11, 2019
Today’s episode is very important in that there’s a limited window of time for those of you, especially in the USA who care about natural building and want to see cob and other natural building materials legalized and approved by building authorities to help this happen. An incredible opportunity is coming up in the last week of October, which is just over a week from now when members of the Cob Research Institute, some of whom you’ll hear interviewed in a minute, will present a proposal for cob to be included in the ICC/IRC code (international code council/international residential code, the governing body for building standards across the whole country). To gain approval, the proposal will be voted on and this is where you come in. This is your chance to call your local fire marshal or building inspector and voice your support that they vote to approve this measure which would allow legal permitted cob buildings in the USA. You might be new to natural building or you might think that you’d never want a cob house yourself, but if this proposal passes it’s likely to have a ripple effect for the approval of other earthen building materials and alternative building methods in the future for everyone. The guys from the CRI will give more details about how you can help to support this initiative, but if this is all you have time to listen to, just know that you can go to cobcode.org and get specific instructions on how to contact you local building official directly or to put them in contact with the CRI to help get out the vote on this potentially historic advancement for earthen and natural building. Don’t hesitate though. Like I mentioned, the vote will take place during the last week of October, this month, 2019! In this interview I got to speak to John Fordice, Martin Hammer, and Anthony Dente who have been working for years to compile the data and engineering properties of cob in order to better understand the material and write the proposal to have it approved as a legal building material in the US. Between them they answered a lot of questions about the advantages and limitations of cob, the tests and simulations they’ve done to get proper measurements of its performance and what they recommend to builders who are considering using cob to build their homes. It was such a pleasure for a natural building nerd like me to get to talk to these guys who’ve worked so hard to get verifiable information on the material that got me to fall in love with earthen building in the first place
October 4, 2019
I’ve talked about many different building materials through this series, but one of my all time favorites often gets overlooked because it isn’t commonly used as a structural element. Lime in all of its various forms as a plaster, paint, mortar, grout, poured floor or even in newer applications like hempcrete, has so many advantages and applications in just about any style of natural or conventional building. That’s why I reached out to the “Mud Witch” Atulya Bingham, who’s been interviewed twice on this podcast before because she just released a new online course covering everything you need to know about this incredible natural material. In this interview we cover the lime cycle and the various products that can be made or bought from the original limestone. We talk about different additives to make all kinds of plasters, paints, mortars and more. Atulya shares a lot of experiences of her own in working with lime as she builds her new off grid homestead in northern spain and why it’s an ideal material for damp and humid places. We also compare and contrast lime to other alternative materials as well as its limitations and compromises too. This is one of the materials that I’ve seen people struggle with the most and that I’ve noticed that many people avoid because it can be made to seem that it’s more dangerous or complicated than it is. There are very few resources out there that simplify the use of lime to the layperson or amateur builder which is why I was so glad to cover this in a way that hopefully demystifies the practical use of lime for so many great applications.
September 27, 2019
Today’s guest, Benito Steen is one of the people that I’ve most had requested from you listeners to do an interview with, in large part because of the success of his YouTube channel called “The Nito Project” where he works with his younger brother Panther to make beautiful educational videos on natural building techniques, earthen plasters and even the japanese method of making polished clay balls called Dorodango. Benito is the first of my guests who grew up in natural buildings since his childhood rather than coming to the trades later in life. His parents Bill and Athena Steen being well known natural building advocates and educators since the 80s, their family moved around the southwestern US and Mexico teaching workshops and collaborating on projects that became the base for the skill set that he now teaches and showcases in his videos. In this interview Benito talks about his early experiences and interest in building trades and craftsmanship not only with natural materials but metalworking and blacksmithing too. We talk in detail about the high end finishing work that he’s been learning and showcasing in his videos. We then explore the things that he and I have both learned from teaching natural building in different parts of the world; not only the challenges of different materials and access to tools, but also the different cultural and historical contexts that change the way people relate to buildings from the start. He and I also talk about some of the realities and challenges of building as a vocation and the process of working with clients and making a project come to fruition. This ended up being less of a formal interview and more of a conversation so don’t worry too much about getting concrete information and techniques out of this as much as a perspective from two young builders who’ve traveled around a lot and love to experiment and play with different materials and techniques. If you’re looking for more actionable information on these topics I highly recommend the interview I did with Benito’s dad Bill Steen in the previous season and also the interview with Kyle Holtzhueter, both of which we reference in this chat and that I’ve linked to in the show notes for this episode.
September 20, 2019
We’re now well into this on-going series on natural building and design, and we’ve covered bamboo building, rocket stoves, design at the building and community levels, and so much more already. One of the biggest topics that I haven’t yet explored on this podcast and has always interested me is the subject of renewable energy. Renewables have been in the media for a long time both branded as a solution to our collective reliance on fossil fuel energy and also criticized for being too expensive for most people to install or implement at the home scale. Luckily I had the chance to speak to Dan Chiras, the author of many books on renewable energy and other regenerative living skills including, Power from the Sun, Power from the Wind, Solar Energy Basics, Solar Home Heating Basics, The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy, Solar Electricity Basics and many more. The best part about Dan’s knowledge is that he has implemented the systems that he writes about for himself and can speak from experience about living long term with solar and wind energy systems as well as the maintenance and repair costs over time. In this interview Dan goes into detail about all the practical differences in solar, wind, and other renewable energy systems. He walked me through the process of examining the potential of each resource, calculating the size of the system based on your consumption, and more. We also talk about the advantages of grid connected versus fully off grid systems as well as hybrid options. Dan also gives great advice to homeowners considering renewable energy installations and even how they can look into tax incentives and cooperative buying schemes to reduce the initial upfront cost of installing a system. I’ve also included links to all of Dan’s books on renewable energy for anyone looking to get a more in-depth understanding of a particular application so be sure to check out the resource section in the show notes for this episode.
September 13, 2019
Until getting to know Daniel and his understanding of building design and healthy living, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do an episode on aircrete. I’ve focused only on natural building techniques and materials up until this point because I honestly believe that nature provides all the materials we need to build high quality and healthy structures. But since Daniel comes from the perspective of natural building experience and because I like to remain open to new ideas and not become too much of a purist or a zealot for one way of seeing things, I spoke to him about this increasingly popular way of building. In this episode, Daniel explains what aircrete is and how it differs from traditional concrete. He walks me through the necessary tools and materials all the way to pouring forms, bricks, mortars and final coverings. We talk about the advantages and disadvantages, not only of the construction process, but also of using industrial materials over natural ones and why someone might choose to throw up a quick and durable industrial structure as a stepping stone towards a longer vision for a regenerative lifestyle. Just as importantly, Daniel and I go back and forth over the complex issues around the consumption and waste associated with different building methods and also the fact that a regenerative life is different for every person and every place based on their unique context. I really enjoyed this discussion and exploring some difficult concepts with Daniel, but even more, I would love to hear from you, yes YOU about what your personal lines of acceptability in building materials and industrial processes are and what your own definition of regenerative living is. What are the hard lines that you draw, if any, and what are the permissible consumptions or waste that you feel alright with given what the world we live in demands? You can comment below the show notes on the website at abundantedge.com or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com.
September 6, 2019
I finally had the chance to do a follow up session with one of my favorite natural builders, April Magill. She’s not only an accomplished architect, builder, and educator through her company “Root Down Design” and the American College of the Building Arts, she’s also constantly experimenting with new techniques and materials as you’ll hear in this episode. Back in the first interview that I recorded with April, we dissected rammed earth and how she was working to revive the craft for all its potential benefits for her climate and conditions in Charleston, NC. This time we talk about hempcrete, and how its anti molding insulative properties are presenting all kinds of new options for natural builders whos’ contexts call for insulation to overcome the large temperature swings in different seasons and also need to resist the humidity. We talk about her recent experiments in packing forms in traditional framed homes, the mixture that she’s had success with that includes the pozzolan additive metakaolin, as well as where certain materials are sourced from. The second half of the interview we dedicate to the topic of home renovations and how it can often be more environmentally responsible to repair and retrofit an existing home than to build and entirely new one, even if it’s made primarily with natural materials. This interview gives a realistic view of some common topics that you listeners have asked me in the past and I’m always excited to talk to professionals who give an honest account of costs, processes, and help to bust myths about natural building and the construction trades in general. In case you’re looking for even more information on the myths and realities of building for yourself or hiring a contractor to build a natural structure, you can also check out the article that sums these things up called “The Real Cost of a Natural Building” by clicking on the link in the show notes or in the catalogue of articles in the navigation bar at abundantedge.com. I really feel motivated to give people the most accurate picture of the whole process of building a natural structure for themselves since social media and so many click-bait articles have planted unrealistic expectations around the web.Resources:Root Down DesignsThe American College of the Building Arts Podcast RSS
August 30, 2019
As I continue to explore the topics of natural building and ecological design in this ongoing series, I had the pleasure of speaking again with Mark Lakeman. Mark has been a big inspiration to me through the architectural work he’s done at the community level, and in exploring what it takes to design neighborhoods and gathering places that help humans to reconnect to their sense of place and overcome the colonial infrastructure that continues to separate us from each other and from lifestyles that include all facets of healthy living. Since I’ve mostly studied design at the building level, learning about ecological and life enhancing ways of designing the infrastructure around us has been very eye-opening to me as I start to consider the larger impact that our built environment has on the way we live and how our cultures are shaped. In this episode we take more of a philosophical approach to design than in previous interviews where I’ve focused on techniques and methodologies. Mark speaks in detail about how, especially in North America and other colonized regions, we operate in communities that were designed for efficiency and expansion rather than the health of the inhabitants. As a result, even the basic grid of our streets and the zoning separation between commercial, residential, and industrial areas creates lifestyles where all functions are separated and impersonal. One of my favorite enduring quotes of Mark’s from a TED talk he gave a while back is, “What good is our right to assembly without any place to assemble?” In turn we talk about some of the many projects that he and his teams have worked on to bring places of gathering and assembly back into disconnected neighborhoods and the uphill battle they’ve faced in navigating the bureaucracies and regulatory bodies that make it difficult for people to contribute to public spaces. We also explore ideas on how to renovate and rejuvenate our community infrastructure to reclaim our space and in turn become “people of place” once more. This is a thoughtful interview that links in with other conversations that I’ve published in the past so I’ve put links to the other interviews that we reference in the show notes for this episode including the original conversation that I had with Mark and his colleague Rhidi D’Cruz from a previous season, if you’d like to go back and hear more about Mark’s background and how he started in community architecture.
August 23, 2019
In this continuation of the series of regenerative building and design, I checked in with a good friend of mine and a hero in the rocket stove and masonry heater sphere. Kirk Mobert, more commonly known as Donkey, is the founder of the Sundog school of natural building in northern California and has literally been on, and in, the ground through the development and maturation of rocket stoves and all of the innovations and advances for the last 20 odd years. This session might be a little heady for people who are new to rocket and masonry stoves, but for anyone looking to start from the beginning, you can check out the link to the first interview I recorded with Donkey back in the first season by typing either Donkey or rocket stoves into the search bar on the website or just clicking on the link in the show notes for this episode. In this episode we nerd out on the inner workings of the simple engineering behind some of the most efficient cooking and heating machines ever made. Donkey and I talk in detail about all of the potential applications for cook-stoves, home heating and even ovens and water-heaters that can be made from the same base that super heats wood or other biofuels into complete and clean combustion. We talk about some of the innovations that have come from tinkerers in the online forums around these topics as well as how you can get started making mad-scientist type pyro-experiments in your backyard with natural and recycled materials. We also go into detail about why the full journey of our energy and fuel sources need to be taken into account when calculating the efficiency and thermal output of an appliance. Since we describe a lot of aspects of stoves that can be hard to visualise just through audio, I’ve included a lot of links to images on the online forums that you can find in the show notes for this episode to make it easier to follow along. This was a really fun conversation, but I’ll warn you listeners that the nerd factor, much like when I get talking about earthen plasters and design theory, is really high on this one so get your pocket protectors and thick glasses on for this one
August 16, 2019
Continuing with this series of exploring natural building materials, design techniques and traditions, I spoke with my friend Trey Abernethy, a long-time builder and now a bamboo craftsman. For over a decade Trey worked in the industrial building trades before moving to Costa Rica where he took a bamboo building course with Rodolpho Saenz that changed his trajectory. Trey now co-teaches bamboo building techniques with Rodolpho and designs and builds for clients in Costa Rica. In this interview we cover a bit of every part of bamboo as a construction material. From the environmental benefits of planting bamboo culms and selecting varieties for construction, to treatment methods, joinery techniques, design consideration and longer-term maintenance. I’ve been passionate about the potential of bamboo for a while now and even did an internship with my friend and mentor Charlie Rendall which lead to designing and building a few hybrid structures and homes around Guatemala. If any of you are looking for more information on bamboo after you’ve listened to this episode, I would recommend the previous interview I did with Charlie Rendall which you can find links for in the show notes of this episode. We also refer to a handful of other natural building materials and techniques in this session so don’t forget to have a look in the archives of the abundant edge podcast including articles on various earthen building techniques. Gradually I intend to build an audio library of natural building so stay tuned.
August 9, 2019
I’ve been looking forward to speaking with my next guest for a long time now. Chris Magwood is the founder and director of the Endeavor center, which provides experiential education at the intersection of high-performance and natural building. Chris is a self proclaimed building “omnivore” who experiments with any and all materials and techniques he can get his hands on. He has dedicated his career to making the best, most energy efficient, beautiful and inspiring buildings without wrecking the planet in the attempt. I’ve followed his work and especially his books as I’ve been learning about all sorts of natural building innovations because Chris has done an amazing job of comparing and contrasting various natural materials to make it easier to choose which of the options available would be best suited for the context and design of a building.  In this interview Chris talks about how he fell in love with natural building as he aspired to build his own home. From there we go into detail about some of the most important considerations when designing a sustainable home and how even natural buildings can be consumptive and wasteful if designed incorrectly for their place and climate. Chris also unpacks some of the popular building standards and why using them as design guides can limit the full potential of an ecologically responsible project if followed too rigidly. We also discuss one of the biggest challenges for natural builders, and that’s the codes and regulations that can be tricky to navigate if the regulatory bodies are treated as adversaries from the beginning. I especially like his observations from his extensive experience working with, rather than against the building inspectors in Canada for so many years. This is a really practical and pragmatic look at the wide variety of options and considerations for natural builders and owner-builders. This episode kicks off a series dedicated to all aspects of building and design that facilitates a regenerative lifestyle. Be sure to stay tuned to the next few weeks of episodes as I’ll be speaking with builders and designers focusing on in-depth topics and natural building materials.
August 2, 2019
Today we’re back with Erik Ohlsen, founder of both Permaculture Artisans, one of the preeminent ecological landscaping companies in the US, and the Permaculture Skills center a vocational training school that offers advanced education in ecological design, landscaping, farming, and land stewardship. Erik is also the author of several books including “The Forest of Fire,” Activate Your Joy,” and most recently “The Ecological Landscape Designer” an essential manual for anyone aspiring to make a living in eco- design. Though it’s long overdue, I spoke with Erik to get to better understand the intensity of the wildfires that have ravaged California and parts of the western US in recent years, and the factors that caused them. Erik explains how fire can be a regenerative force for the ecology of many forests and how the indigenous people of the western United States have managed fires strategically for thousands of years. We talk about how communities can work together to manage the risks of their ecosystems and avoid the catastrophic damage that fires have caused in previous years. We also explore some of the wisdom and lessons that Erik has learned in more than 20 years running his permaculture landscaping business and the challenges of meeting clients needs while including the holistic health considerations of nature. Like many of the more seasoned and experienced professionals that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to on this show, Erik shys away from making specific recommendations for techniques or designs and encourages people to cultivate a deeper understanding of their place and context before making assumptions about how to manage their land or even businesses. This is a great episode for people looking to better understand fire-prone ecologies, but also for people who enjoy the challenge of considering a deeper understanding of their relationship to natural systems in general.
July 26, 2019
Today’s conversation was recorded back in the last few weeks before I left Guatemala when I had a chance to sit down with my good friend and fellow permaculture educator, Mordur G’ott, but we all call him Moli.Mörður or Moli is a permaculture pioneer in Iceland who has been travelling between countries to learn and share what he knows. In Iceland he has hosted multiple events and PDS's with legendary teachers like Albert Bates and Robyn Francis among others. In this session Moli and I speak about the more problematic aspects of the permaculture pedagogy that we’ve found in practice. As with any teaching methodology, permaculture can become dogmatic and even cult-like when practitioners take certain teachings as gospel and forget the essential aspects of observation, reassessment, and flexibility when techniques don’t apply to your context. Moli offers great insights from his years as a permaculture educator and project coordinator on some of the aspects of permaculture that he feels need deeper explanation and clarification to help avoid pitfalls and misunderstandings, especially from people who are new to the concepts and often don’t have any experience working directly with nature to draw from. Many of you may find that you disagree with some or all of Moli’s conclusions or maybe know of elements of permaculture teaching that weren’t mentioned in this episode that you think are essential to include in a conversation about the shortcomings or undesirable aspects surrounding permaculture. If that’s the case, I would love to hear your opinions. You can comment in the threads below or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com. This is a controversial topic that I’m looking forward to exploring further
July 19, 2019
In the last few episodes I’ve spoken to a number of designers and business advisors who’ve specialized in regenerative business planning and ecological work, and today’s guest many of you may remember from the very early days of this podcast. In this episode I had the pleasure of talking with my friend Scott Gallant. It's been almost three years since we spoke on this podcast and he was one of the first 20 interviews that I did back in season one. When we spoke last he was just starting out with his design firm “Porvenir Design.” now almost three years in, he's amassed a lot of experience and knowledge, especially around tropical ecosystems and the challenges of the business side of permaculture design. In this episode we talked a lot about his transition from working at Rancho Mastatal to working on his own design and consultancy firm, some of the challenges that he's had in finding clients, working through designs, and navigating the intricacies of tropical ecosystems. We also go into detail about doing “due diligence” before implementing projects and we go into detail about some of the nuances and key things to understand about tropical ecosystems and how they differ from others. Though rainy areas like those in Costa Rica, where Scott is based, are generally considered non-brittle ecosystems, there are still a lot of things to understand and observe before making intelligent and informed designs for holistic systems. Towards the end Scott also gives advice for people who are looking to start out with their own design and consultancy firm, what they should look out for, and some of the unexpected challenges that they might want to consider. Now before we get started with this episode I had something really weird happened during the recording. Scott’s side recorded just fine without any problems with the audio, but for some reason my side recorded my voice extremely deep and I have no idea how to fix this. Luckily it didn't slow down or speed up the audio in any way, it just makes me sound like Barry White or a much manlier version of myself, so bear with me and know that it is me speaking even though it sounds nothing like me.Resources:Porvenir Design’s websiteJoin the Porvenir PDC
July 12, 2019
In this session I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend of mine from my time living back in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Joe Görbert is a German-born, tech enthusiast and hails from more than a decade as startup and business impact consultant. During his finance and accounting studies he started working as a business writer and he travelled far and wide as a digital nomad, often speaking and holding workshops for retreats and events. In 2007 Joe founded the business planning agency BrainHive, and the BrainHive Ethical Marketing agency. His current project is called the SolReign School of Human Potential. In this interview Joe and I work through the three parts of hiss plan for permaculture based businesses called, Permaculture Planning: Lean Ways of Estimating Costs, Flows and Growth. In the first part focusing on Setting up Financial Plans for Permaculture Projects we talk about the importance of gathering information, Setting up a financial plan, The art of coming up with estimates, and Planning for both bliss and disaster In Part two Joe covers the idea of pitching your idea and the nuts and bolts of operating a business in a competitive market without compromising your vision. In part three we discuss the greater vision of a regenerative business such as healing damaged land, maintaining transparency, and the larger concept of human potential on this earth. This is a much longer conversation than I usually post, clocking at over two hours, and though we cover a lot of important information on ethical business, especially from a tech and online perspective, we also tell a lot of stories from our experiences in the unique contexts in which Joe and I have been entrepreneurs. If the long form conversation isn’t your cup of tea, then check out the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.com where I’ve linked to a whole bunch of articles that Joe has written on a whole range of business topics that I think will be especially relevant to many of you listening, including business plans for eco-villages and intentional communities, social impact business models, security planning for off grid communities, grant writing and a lot more. This being a candid conversation, there is a little bit of cursing, so just be forewarned.
July 5, 2019
As I continue to explore the myriad options that exist for profitable regenerative work, I keep coming back to the business aspects of impact and integrity entrepreneurship. One of the people that I’ve come to rely on for professional perspectives in this sphere is Pete Widin, Founder of the Epic Eco Designer. I had the chance to catch up with him for today’s session where we explore many aspects of the personal and external challenges of finding holistic success in an ecological business. In this interview with Pete we break down some of the challenges that we both faced in getting our design and consulting businesses off the ground and some of the most important take-aways that we learned from. Pete talks about the common challenges that he sees from the people that he coaches and stresses the importance of doing the inner work to understand how you want to grow. He also shares some tips on marketing strategies to help attract your ideal clients and reach a larger audience. As we’ll repeat a few times in this session, a lot for Pete’s advice applies to any business type and not just ecological designers and consultants so I’m sure nearly all of you will get some value out of this oneResources:Learn more about Pete’s workThe Epic Eco Designer on FBPete on FBPete on IG Podcast RSS
June 28, 2019
culture rather than a fringe practice. Gregory also explains how technology can be leveraged for connecting people to crucial information and to reach communities that have been left behind in the industrialized information age. Though we don’t cover the job market in detail in this episode, I’m hoping that this conversation could inspire those of you who have studied or who work in IT and programming to see some ways that you could use your skills and experience to work towards environmental restoration and regeneration. We certainly need everyone’s contributions in this effort and gardening and farming are by no means the only ways to help. The exploration of how technology can be harnessed for a global shift in consciousness and renewed cultural priorities is a topic that I’ll be increasingly exploring on this podcast and I would love to hear from any of you listening if you have information or ideas on how the incredible power of technology can be used to buck the trend that has been disconnecting us from our natural world and our local communities. Or, if you believe that technology can only facilitate disconnection, what alternative solutions are there to our increasing dependence on digital connectivity that you might propose? You can post comments and feedback on the website or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com. I really hope to continue this exploration with all of you. In this interview Gregory gives an overview of what the Regen network is and aims to accomplish. Specifically, we explore the roles of decentralized technology including the emerging potential of the blockchain to create secure networks that facilitate collaboration, consensus, agreements, and community. We also talk about what systemic changes would need to happen to make permaculture type stewardship of the land our default as a culture rather than a fringe practice. Gregory also explains how technology can be leveraged for connecting people to crucial information and to reach communities that have been left behind in the industrialized information age. Though we don’t cover the job market in detail in this episode, I’m hoping that this conversation could inspire those of you who have studied or who work in IT and programming to see some ways that you could use your skills and experience to work towards environmental restoration and regeneration. We certainly need everyone’s contributions in this effort and gardening and farming are by no means the only ways to help. The exploration of how technology can be harnessed for a global shift in consciousness and renewed cultural priorities is a topic that I’ll be increasingly exploring on this podcast and I would love to hear from any of you listening if you have information or ideas on how the incredible power of technology can be used to buck the trend that has been disconnecting us from our natural world and our local communities. Or, if you believe that technology can only facilitate disconnection, what alternative solutions are there to our increasing dependence on digital connectivity that you might propose? You can post comments and feedback on the website or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com. I really hope to continue this exploration with all of you.
June 21, 2019
One of the most common concerns I hear from the regenerative community is how someone could make a good living while working directly on projects that regenerate our planet. While there are many different ways to do this, it seems that the dominant narrative in business tells us that the most profitable job prospects are those that are destroying our natural world. Exploitative petroleum companies post record profits while unethical banking practices pay out massive bonuses and manufacturing covers our landscapes in trash. But I know a growing number of people who are pioneering new options for ecological work and making a good wage in the process. Though this is rarely ever their primary motivation to do what they are passionate about, it’s important to know that you don’t have to compromise a life of holistic abundance to dedicate your time to regenerative work, and that’s why I’ll be focusing in the upcoming weeks on profitable businesses that are doing just that. Specifically, I’ll be speaking to leaders who are offering solutions to conscious and ecological businesses that help them break through their financial constraints and into profitability in more than just a monetary way. To start this series off, I had the pleasure of connecting with a fellow Minnesotan and one of my heroes in ecosystem regeneration, Daniel Halsey, of Southwoods Ecosystem Ecological Design. Dan has worked all over the world as a designer and consultant and has been a co-founder of the Permaculture Research Institute for cold climates, the Natural Capital plant database, and most recently, United Designers Permaculture design cooperative. With experience working in central America, western and southern Africa, the Iberian peninsula and all over north America from Alaska to the southern mainland, Dan’s perspective on patterns and local cultural considerations is truly impressive. In this interview we discuss the implications of the destruction that humans are having on the planet which stretch far beyond carbon emissions and climate change. Dan talks about some of the details and observations from his many projects. We then switch to focus on the business aspect of running an ecological design and consultation firm. Dan and I go over the importance of asking the right questions and how important it is to have a design criteria list for gathering information and recording observations. We also go over everything from attracting clients, the advantages and challenges of collaboration, profiles of the organizations that he’s helped to start and much more. There is one section of the interview where Dan shares his screen to show me parts of the functionality of the Natural Capital plant database that is hard to understand over audio, but I’ve uploaded the video to the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.com so you can watch and follow along
June 14, 2019
we’ve reached the last episode in this month’s focus on fixing the food system. In the last three weeks we’ve talked about how co-op grocery stores offer real hope for transforming the supply and distribution of food by offering an alternative to the monopoly of the grocery giants. We’ve covered the power and importance of indigenous food and land management, and we’ve also explored the joys and realities of growing your own food on a residential scale. To round this all off, I had the pleasure of speaking to Meredith Leigh, the author of “The Ethical Meat Handbook.” Meredith has worked as a farmer, butcher, chef, teacher, non-profit executive director, consultant, and writer for the past 17 years, all in the pursuit of sustainable food The industrial meat industry, in my opinion, is the epitome of what is broken in our food system and is a glaring example of the disconnect between humans and healthy natural systems, but Meredith shows us how we can reconnect with animals by treating every step in the process from raising, to slaughter, butchery and cooking with respect and care. In this interview we start by acknowledging the broken and unhealthy state of meat consumption. We also go in depth about the environmental impacts, issues surrounding animal welfare, and the health problems of an imbalanced diet. Meredith then explains how a healthy and reverent relationship to animals and all their products could look like through real examples of ecological management of livestock systems, mindful slaughter, home butchery methods, and preservation through curing, fermentation and cooking. This is one of the most holistic and nuanced perspectives on every aspect of meat that I’ve come across that even treats vegan and vegetarian perspectives on the topic with compassion and understanding. Meredith herself was vegan before getting involved with butchery and animal care so I encourage you to listen through the full episode before jumping to conclusions on the angle that this interview takes. I also recognize that everything about meat from animal care, to diet, slaughter and cooking are very contentious topics at the moment and I would love to hear from you about how you feel and relate to the opinions expressed in this session, so please leave respectful comments and feedback under the show notes for this episode, or any other episode for that matter, at abundantedge.com or email me directly at info@abundantedge.com.
June 7, 2019
Continuing with this month’s focus on fixing the food system, I wanted to go back to basics and discuss the practicalities and challenges of growing your own food with just a modest sized yard. I reached out to Crystal Stevens who is an author, an artist/art teacher, a folk herbalist, a regenerative farmer, and a Permaculturist. She is the author of two award-winning books, Grow Create Inspire, and Worms at Work. And is also releasing a new book with New Society publishers yearly next year called Your Edible Yard. I this interview I spoke with Crystal about her learning experiences in growing her own food in a few different environments. She also goes in depth about the practicalities of time investment, tools and equipment, and maintenance and planting schedules. We discuss how realistic it is for someone working full time and with only a small yard to produce a meaningful amount of their own food, and share stories of the unexpected joys that make gardening much more of a pleasure than extra work.
May 31, 2019
In continuing this month’s focus on fixing the food system I had the pleasure of speaking to a personal hero of mine, Sean Sherman, author of the “The Sioux Chef.” Sean has been the recipient of a First Peoples Fund Fellowship, the Bush Foundation Fellowship, National Center’s 2018 First American Entrepreneurship Award, 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook, and a 2019 James Beard Leadership Award. Sean has been cooking around the US and internationally for the last 30 years and his main focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of indigenous foods systems in a modern culinary context. Sean has also studied extensively on his own to determine the foundations of these food systems and to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to the modern world. In this interview Sean and I talk about how he became passionate about the history and traditions of indigenous food. He starts by educating me on how North America got to the point where indigenous culture and food systems have been all but wiped out, and why it’s so important for us to reconnect with the native plants and animals that used to nourish the original peoples of North America. We also cover traditional farming and land management methods, why they’re an essential part of switching to a more ecological food system, and the health benefits that this way of eating can have on our bodies as well as the land. Sean also give his advice on how to transition to a pre-colonial food system that goes much further than just the native traditions of North America. This is one of the most essential perspectives on fixing the food system through holistic means that connects nutrition to land stewardship, cultural reconnection and spiritual revival.
May 24, 2019
Today I’ll be kicking off another month dedicated to an important topic in regenerative living. For a long time now, our food system has been a primary indicator for so many markers of health in our society, from the way that our food is produced, what kinds of food we eat, how we cook, how it affects our health and even our ethics as consumers. For the next four weeks I’ll be taking a look our food system from a variety of different view-points and analysis in order to shed light on some of the lesser know factors that influence how we eat and how our dietary choices shape the food industry at large. To kick off this series I spoke with Jon Steinman, author of the new book “Grocery Story: the promise of food co-ops in the age of grocery giants.” Now Jon has studied and worked with everything about food for more than twenty years. He formerly produced and hosted a popular podcast called Deconstructing Dinner, was a writer and host for a web series by the same name, and now curates the annual “Deconstructing Dinner” film festival of compelling food documentaries. Jon was also an elected director from 2006-2016 of the Kootenay Co-op – Canada's largest independent retail consumer food co-op, serving as Board President from 2014-2016 Now I consider myself fairly well informed about the food industry from personal research and that fact that in the last decade I’ve worked directly in many branches of the industry from refrigerated shipping, industrial farms, organic farms, fish processing, many different roles in restaurants, and even the permaculture farm that many of you have heard me talk about for over a year now, but I never knew so much about the influence that the giant grocery chains and supermarkets have on every aspect of our food from how it’s grown till it gets to our plates. This is a very eye opening look, not only at the broken aspects of the food industry, but the very tangible and accessible solutions that co-op grocery stores can be, not only for getting access to better food and transforming the way the industry is incentivized to operate, but also for the positive impact that co-ops can have on our communities and local economies. We also talk about solutions for access to high quality food for low-income neighborhoods and much more.
May 17, 2019
I’m so excited to share this interview with all of you, not only because I had such a good time speaking with Loxley and Rhapsody from the “Story Connective” but because they impart such incredible insights into story-telling, connecting to community, and a topic which I’m increasingly interested in, which is listening; not only listening as a passive way of absorbing information, but active listening by asking good questions and demonstrating that you’ve heard and understood the other person. Now some of you might ask, “How does this fit into regenerative living and permaculture?” To which I would say, listening and communication are essential to the design process of everything from ecosystem regeneration to social permaculture in communities and observing systems at a deeper level. Throughout this season in general, I’m going to be getting back to basics and strengthening the fundamentals of good design and I think all of you out there would agree with me when I say that honing the skills of observation, listening and then communicating what you’ve learned through story-telling are essential to understanding the context and nuances of any design project. Especially as we wrap up this month’s focus on regenerative community and its many forms, the most common challenge I’ve heard and even experienced myself that gets in the way of healthy community dynamics, is communication and conflict resolution. I first met Loxley and Rhapsody at a new years party at our friends place across the valley from us. They were traveling on their honeymoon and visiting our mutual friend Manola, and we hit it off immediately when I learned that they also produce podcasts and are passionate about social permaculture. The two of them are based on the island of Maui in Hawaii and publish stories that strengthen community wherever they go. During this conversation we talk about their journey, how to tell better stories, the power those narratives can have in connecting people, and much much more.
May 10, 2019
In our last interview in this month’s focus on regenerative communities, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alan O’Hashi, Alan is a newspaper journalist turned documentary filmmaker and screenwriter who works with groups and organizations to help them tell their stories and is also organizing an intentional creative community in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For the focus of this interview Alan speaks from his experience as a board member of the US Co-Housing Association and his time living in Silver Sage Village, a co-housing retirement community in Boulder, CO. In this interview Alan defines co-housing communities and their myriad configurations across the country. We explore the benefits that co-housing can bring to your lifestyle regardless of how you live, as well as the challenges that it could present for people more accustomed to living alone or who are used being independent and disconnected from their communities. We also discuss where the co-housing movement is headed and how it’s growing quickly as people, especially in the United States, aspire to become more connected and reliant on their local areas. If you live in a co-housing community, are considering moving to one, or have left one because of the challenges involved, I would love to hear from you in the comments, or directly through info@abundantedge.com. Now that I’m actively searching for a new home and community to invest in, co-housing is something I’m looking into closely and would love to hear about your personal experience.
May 3, 2019
Continuing with this month’s focus on regenerative community models I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Wildemann, co-founder of the “Zenith Project” an eco-village/intentional community in the Canadian wilderness. Peter is passionate about supporting people to live their highest purpose in the context of mutually supportive community by creating a new economic paradigm. Peter also aims to focus on connecting people in a small community setting where the most authentic relationships can be developed. In this interview we talk about what makes it a mutually supportive intentional community, how freedom is not the same as ability, what it means to re-wild yourself, how healthy community can promote the discovery of your highest potential, and so much more. Peter also gives advice on how you can take steps to create your own intentional community and the challenges and hurdles that he’s faced along the way. Since there are so many different configurations of communities and eco-villages around the world, I would love to hear from anyone listening to this episode who lives in a community configuration like this or who has lived in one in the past. Now that I’m essentially a free agent looking to find my home in a healthy community somewhere in the world, I’m fascinated by what elements are essential for healthy community creation and growth so please reach out to me either in the comments below or directly at info@abundantedge.com
April 26, 2019
Today we’re going to kick off a month-long exploration of various community models that are focused on regenerating environments, communication, and healthy cultures. In the next three weeks we’ll be looking closely into regenerative social networks, ecovillages and cohousing configurations. As the regenerative movement builds momentum around the world, people are rethinking the communities and societies that either promote or disincentivize healthy development. Though I’ve never found a community structure that is perfect, the interviews this month aim to identify the innovative progress of the communal structures that I mentioned and unpack the successes, challenges, and lessons in the process of creating truly regenerative community structures. My guest today, Magenta Ceiba, is the executive creative officer of the Bloom Network. Bloom Network is an in-person social network that uses online tools to collaboratively work on regenerating culture and life systems. Local Bloom chapters host skill shares, educational events and hands-on actions in collaboration with different social movements in their cities. Our online collaboration platform uses augmented intelligence, a wiki, and video calls to help different social good movements share best practices and pool resources so we can be stronger together. We produce a yearly conference to support regenerative innovation called Pollination. In this interview we explore the three main focuses of Bloom. Namely, food security, alternative economic models and conflict resolution. Magenta also explains how branches of this network are formed and supported in their initiatives, and we even go into more personal topics such as how people of privileged backgrounds can help to promote the voices and perspectives of people who have been disenfranchised by society. This is a very nuanced look at the intricacies of community building and the aspects of regenerative culture, so you might want to grab a notebook
April 19, 2019
To wrap up this month long focus on building soils for market gardens I spoke with three of my favorite collaborators. Neal Hegarty and Jeremy Fellows from Granja Tz’ikin and Shad Qudsi from Atitlan Organics. Each of them share their experiences, trials, and errors from years of intensive soil building methods on rocky marginal land in rural Guatemala and the systems they currently use to build fertility on their farms. In this episode Shad talks about his integrated poultry operation and how his deep bedding method creates nutrient rich compost for the adjacent salad greens production at Atitlan Organics. Neal speaks in detail about how they’ve integrated goats and chickens in a three tiered composting animal house, and Jeremy explains some of the extra soil fertility amendments they’ve been experimenting with including biochar and effective micro-organisms. The ongoing learning and experimentation on both Granja Tzikin and Atitlan Organics is something you can participate in yourself, so be sure to check out their websites to see how you can get involved.
April 12, 2019
My guest today, Rhonda Sherman, is the director of the Compost Learning Lab at North Carolina State University and a leading expert on vermicomposting. Rhonda travels extensively to present workshops and to consult with farmers, businesses, and institutions on the development and management of vermicomposting systems. She also organizes the annual North Carolina State Vermiculture Conference, which for nineteen years has drawn participants from across the United States and around the globe. She is a co-editor of Vermiculture Technology and has written extensively about composting and vermicomposting in her role with NC State University.In this episode I talked with Rhonda about her new book, “The Worm Farmer’s Handbook.” Though the book focuses mostly on mid to large scale vermicomposting systems, we start by talking about small residential vermicomposting and the positive effect it can have on our lives by taking back control of our waste streams and turning it into an incredible product. We also go into detail about troubleshooting problems in the system, feeding and watering indicators, pest deterrents and much more. Rhonda also shares some great resources from her website that you can use for free and which I’ve linked to on the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.comResources:Buy the book “The Worm Farmer’s Handbook”Rhonda’s websiteMore about Rhonda Sherman Podcast RSS
April 5, 2019
Welcome back to the definitive guide to no-till organic gardening. In this session we’ll pick up where we left off with Andrew Mefferd, editor of “Growing for Market Magazine” and the author of “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution.” In last week’s episode we talked mostly about Andrew’s journey into farming and research of no-till market production methods after identifying the principle problems of tillage and the damaging effects on soil health that it’s had worldwide. In this session we’ll jump straight into the four methods of no-till mulching that the different farms that are profiled in the book are using successfully as well as the pros and cons of each technique. Andrew discusses the importance of identifying the context of your place and intentions before choosing which technique to follow as well. Be sure to go back and listen to the first episode in this series to hear about Andrew’s background and experiences to get you caught up for this episode if you haven’t done that yet. Once again now I’ll hand things over to AndrewResources:Growing for Market MagazineBuy the book “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution”Buy the book “The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook”Andrew Mefferd on FB Podcast RSS
March 29, 2019
My guest in this session Andrew Mefferd, worked for seven years in the research department of Johnny’s selected seeds and has travelled around the world to connect with farmers and researchers about greenhouse growing and soil conservation. He then started his own farm in Maine to apply all of that knowledge and experience, which he writes about and curates as the editor of “Growing for Market Magazine” too. In this episode Andrew and I talk about his new book “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution,” We begin by identifying the systemic problem that industrial agriculture, specifically with its reliance on soil tillage, has caused, and the massive losses of topsoil and the nutrient degradation that has resulted from this ubiquitous practice. From there Andrew breaks down the four no-till market gardening methods that he’s seen used successfully in his travels and research. We cover Mulch grown in place, Cardboard mulch, Deep straw mulch, and Deep compost mulch as well as the pros and cons of each method and how to choose the no-till methods that works best for your context. Andrew also explains how soil health ties in with climate stability, small farm profitability and much more. This is the first in a two part series with Andrew, because all the knowledge that he shared was best split in two to avoid going too long, so don’t forget to catch next Friday’s conclusion of this interview, and two more soil building episodes in this month’s focused look at building market gardening soil.
March 22, 2019
The unsung hero of all that we’ve accomplished here in Guatemala are the local communities and people where we live and work. In this Regenerative Round Table I spoke with Charlie and Gabi, two of my closest friends here at the lake about the challenges and learning experiences over a combined 30 years living and working with the local Mayan communities around Lake Atitlan. We speak at length about the intricacies of running organizations and projects in this area and the challenges of respectful navigation and deeper understanding of a culture that is significantly different from the ones we were raised with. In this episode we explore everything from the traditions and customs, language barriers, differences in access to infrastructure and resources, and much more. I’m passionate about exploring the often-overlooked aspect of traditions and culture in the holistic design process and how to consider these essential elements in community regeneration to facilitate the healthy development from all people involved. For that reason, I would also love to hear your own stories of cultural learning and observation, whether you’ve lived and worked in another part of the world or have played host to foreigners visiting your community. I hope this sparks a larger conversation about respectful consideration and even celebration of the differences in our cultures and ways of life. I look forward to your comments and stories.
March 15, 2019
Contaminated waterways are one of the most urgent environmental threats that we face and decontamination is often see as too large an investment to be feasible for many small government bodies. That’s why I reached out to Doug Lewis, the principal scientist behind the project “Revive Amatitlan” and pioneer of the revolutionary technology that he hopes will be adopted widely for waterway regeneration. In this interview Doug talks in great detail, not only about the unique circumstances of Lake Amatitlan and its contamination, but also breaks down the scientific side that explains the technological solutions for its decontamination and the ingenious plan to break down previous decades of sludge on the floor of the lake to bio-digest into methane which can then be harvested as a fuel source to power the machines that do the brunt of the work. This is a great interview for those of you who really get into the details and the science of water regeneration and we even talk about upcycling option for plastic and much more.
March 8, 2019
In keeping with the theme of water regeneration this month I spoke to Rob Avis, the co-author along with Michelle Avis of their book in the New Society Essentials series called Rain Water Harvesting. Rob and Michelle founded Verge Permaculture, an award-winning design, consulting and education company in Calgary, Alberta after years of international training in renewable energy and regenerative design. Since its founding, Verge has helped more than 1000 students and clients to design and create integrated systems for shelter, energy, water, waste, and food, all while supporting their local economy and regenerating the land. Through their design and consulting they create havens that produce their own energy and food, harvest water, cycle nutrients, and restore the surrounding ecosystems, enabling property owners to thrive no matter what. With such a broad range of knowledge, experience, and expertise, we focused mainly on rain water harvesting techniques and systems in this episode as an entry into the larger concept of watershed regeneration and revival. In this session Rob explains some of the key components of rain water harvesting systems and the ways that you can treat and filter the water for various uses. We talk at length about why expensive filters and disinfectants are often unnecessary, even for most potable water uses, and the different ways you can keep your stored rainwater clean. Rob also speaks about how rainwater harvesting systems fit into a larger system aimed toward water resilience in multiple living contexts from urban to rural applications. I’ve been a big fan of Verge Permaculture and all their great work for some time now and I’m intending to create a larger series of in depth talks with Rob and Michelle in the future so if you enjoy this episode and have further questions that you’d like to hear us cover in future talks, then by all means send your questions and feedback to me at info@abundanedge.com or in the comments in the show notes on the website.
March 1, 2019
In this session I had the pleasure of speaking to the founder of “Elemental Ecosystems” Zach Weiss. Zach earned the distinction of being the first person to earn the Holzer practitioner certification from revolutionary Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer through a rigorous two-year apprenticeship working alongside Sepp in North America and Europe. Zach created Elemental Ecosystems as a for-benefit social enterprise focused on solving societies growing environmental problems by considering the elemental relationship between biology and hydrology. In this interview, Zach and I start by talking about the difference between a healthy water cycle and one that’s been compromised. We unpack the reasons why humans have desertified nearly one third of the earth’s land and how we can begin to reverse and regenerate that process. Zach also touches on some of the steps that anyone can take, whether you live on a large farm or a small city apartment, to positively impact the water cycles in your local area, and he also shares many resources you can look into to learn more about watershed regeneration. This interview represents just the tip of the iceberg around water system regeneration and I would love to do a follow-up interview with Zach very soon, so to those of you listening to this, please write to me at info@abundantedge.com and send in the topics and questions you’d like for us to explore in greater depth when I get the chance to continue this series again.
February 22, 2019
We’ve completed 100 episodes! Thank you to all our listeners and supporters who are part of more than thirty thousand subscribers to this podcast and the growing regenerative community that is taking back our future and helping humanity move into its fullest potential. In this episode Oliver and Neal talk about the new direction that Abundant Edge and Granja Tz’ikin will be taking independently and how the two enterprises will continue to work together and support one another in the years to come. They also talk at length about the main takeaways and learning that has happened over the last year of development on the farm here in Guatemala as well as the vision and initiatives moving forward. Keep an eye out on the website at abundantedge.com for new content coming out soon with video tours of the farm, tutorials and explanations of our systems, as well as a regnerative travel show that will begin in May.
February 15, 2019
In this interview I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Christian Wahl, Daniel is an international consultant and educator specialising in biologically-inspired whole systems design and transformative innovation. By the time he was 28 Daniel had travelled to 35 different countries on six continents and he started his career as a marine biologist and scuba diving instructor, before he decided to focus on sustainability and sustainable communities Originally trained at the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, Santa Cruz, Daniel also holds a Masters degree in Holistic Science from Schumacher College, and a PhD in Natural Design from the University of Dundee Daniel has taught capacity building workshops on a wide range of sustainability issues to local authorities and businesses and has worked closely with Gaia Education since 2006 when he participated in the first training of trainers for the ‘Ecovillage Design Education’ program. Daniel currently lives on Majorca, and works locally and internationally as a consultant, educator and activist, and in 2016 he published his first book, Designing Regenerative Cultures In today’s session we cover a very wide range of regenerative design theory and Daniel’s perspective and experience on community and cultural shifts, the factors of time in nuanced design, working in collaboration on multi-stakeholder projects and much more. This interview is the perfect capstone for this last month’s focus on design theory and regenerative community dynamics so before I give it all away, I’ll hand it over now to Daniel.
February 8, 2019
My guest today has been a big inspiration to me and has been a leader in regenerative design, pretty much before that was even a term. Bill Reed is an internationally recognized practitioner, lecturer, and authority in sustainability and regenerative planning, design and implementation. He is a principal in both Integrative Design, Inc. and Regenesis – two organizations working to lift green building and community planning into full integration and evolution with living systems. Bill is also the author of many technical articles and contributed to many books including the seminal work, “Integrative Design Guide to Green Building.” He is also a founding director of the US Green Building Council and one of the co-founders of the LEED Green Building Rating System. Bill has consulted on over two hundred green design commissions, the majority of which are LEED Gold and Platinum and Living Building Challenge projects. He is also a keynote speaker at major building and design events as well as a guest lecturer to universities throughout Europe and North America including Harvard, MIT, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve been looking forward to connecting with Bill for quite some time and this interview did not disappoint. We talk at length about Bill’s design process and the perspective needed to remain open to the full scope and context that a design might affect. Bill warns of the dangers of going into a design job looking for problems to solve and projects to implement before understanding and listening to the place and the people in it. The insights from this interview were quite profound for me and I hope this will spark a larger conversation about what regenerative design is and has the power to do
February 1, 2019
Welcome to the first episode of season three. I’m so excited for the year to come and all the conversations, interviews, and information that I’ll be sharing with all of you over the year. This season, while I’ll be sticking with the general format of the season prior, I’m also looking to bring more stories into these conversations and cultivate narratives around the incredible work that people around the world are doing in the regenerative fields. Just like last season, once a month the team from Abundant Edge will be checking in on the Regenerative Round Table segments and giving updates on the design and development of the farm as well as the projects we’re working on for clients and friends both in our communities and around the world. Now today’s guest is a good friend of mine from our community here in Tzununa on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Marcus Veysey has lived and worked here at the lake for over 25 years and is a wealth of knowledge on medicinal plants and herbs. Now rather than focusing just on plant medicines, our conversation focuses more on how to listen and observe the natural environment around you and open your heart and perspective to what the plants you interact with are really communicating to you. Through mindfulness practices and small but profound changes in your habits and perspective, Marcus guides us through his own journey of discovery and learning from the local ecology and communities here in Guatemala. I thought this would be the perfect conversation to launch the new season of this podcast with the intention of connecting the practical information of regenerative living to the stories and narratives of the people and their lifestyles so I hope you enjoy this chat with my good friend Marcus.
December 28, 2018
It’s been a monumental first year for us here at Abundant Edge with the development of the farm “Granja Tz’ikin” and all of the client projects we’ve been juggling at the same time. As we wrap up the second season of the podcast and the first year of me, Neal and Jeremy working as a team we want to mostly take the time to show our gratitude for all the people who’ve been instrumental in the progress we’ve been able to make together in a relatively short period of time. We also discuss the core projects that we moved forward on and some of the key lessons we’ve learned and continue to learn over the last season. From here we move into a month long hiatus but The Abundant Edge podcast will be back for its third season on Friday February 1st. Until then, thank you to all of you who’ve listened, subscribed and supported us. Your feedback and encouragement mean the world to all of us here. We’ll look forward to catching you in the new year!
December 21, 2018
My guest today is one of the most inspiring and enthusiastic educators working in permaculture and regenerative education anywhere in the world. I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Powers, author of “The Permaculture Student” and “The Permaculture Student 2,” in the last season on this podcast and got to catch up with him again to talk in depth about some of the most urgent transitions facing humanity and how we all need to prepare ourselves to contribute positively to a regenerative shift in the way our societies and economies operate. In this interview Matt breaks down how advances in technology and AI will affect us all and drastically disrupt our economy in the near future, but rather than paint a bleak picture of the days to come, we discuss how anyone motivated to do so can see this shift as an incredible opportunity to re-tool and re-skill to advance themselves and their communities in a new “Regenerative Economy.” We also talk about the types of jobs and contributions that will most be in demand in this changing global system and Matt even dispels the myth of the self-sufficient homestead being a way to insulate or disconnect ourselves during this transition. Matt is a fantastic educator and storyteller who illustrates his points with thoughtful observations from his own experiences and much of the beginning of this episode is spent talking about some of the big transitions that and his family have gone through directly
December 14, 2018
Animals and livestock can be an essential component to land restoration if managed correctly and while we already have goats, chickens and ducks on our small demonstration farm here in Guatemala, I’ve been looking into the addition of another animal enterprise that would fit into our existing systems without overwhelming the small space we have. For a while I’ve been interested in rabbits for their fast reproduction, amazingly fertile manure and their delicious lean meat. That’s when I came across a book called “Raising Rabbits for Meat” by Eric and Callene Rapp and published by my good friends and supporters at New Society Publishers. Immediately I wanted reach our to Eric and Callene because of the wealth of well explained and practical knowledge from their experience raising heritage breeds of rabbits for both genetic conservation and high quality protein. In this interview Eric and Callene share their wealth of knowledge in running a profitable rabbitry and walk us through the process of how they got started, general care and maintenance, breeding, harvesting and much more. Be sure to stay tuned until the end when we talk about some of their delicious rabbit recipes that they also include in the book. Now before I give everything away, I’ll hand things over to Eric and Callene
December 7, 2018
It’s not often I get the chance to speak with a renowned animal behaviorist, much less for a talk about nutrition and nourishment, but my guest today, Fred Provenza, professor emeritus at Utah State University, makes the argument that we can learn a lot about our own health by observing the way that animals choose their food in their natural environments. Fred challenges us to be more skeptical of the latest diets and academic findings on nutrition and listen more to our own bodies and how they respond to the food we ingest. In this interview, Fred explains how his observations of seemingly counterintuitive eating behavior in goats first compelled him to look deeper into the nutritional wisdom of animals and how his findings gave him valuable insights into how we can begin to rediscover our own nutritional wisdom on a personal basis. We also talk about how someone (like myself), who is coming from a place of chronic digestive issues, can rebuild their system to the point that we can trust the signals that our body is giving us once again. Now before I give too much away, I’ll turn things over to Fred
November 29, 2018
The Abundant Edge team is back to talk about all the progress from our projects over the last month as we transition from the rainy season to the dry season here in Guatemala. We’ve got compost production, plant propagation, new baby goats, duck houses, gray and black water treatment for the house and much more. Above all we’re talking about how each one of these projects and enterprises contribute either directly or indirectly to building soil health and fertility on the land. If any of you are hoping to see pictures of the farm and many of the elements that we’re discussing in these episodes, you can follow us on facebook under the Abundant Edge page and on instagram under @abundant_edge
November 23, 2018
Leah Penniman’s mission is to end racism and injustice in our food system by increasing farmland stewardship by people of color, promoting equity in food access, and training the next generation of activist farmers. Her new book, Farming While Black, has been called "a revolutionary work that opens important doors" by Civil Eats and a “brilliant guide” by Mark Bittman. In this interview Leah explains the effects of miseducation around the contributions of people of color to agriculture and food science, and how the decline in land ownership and participation in agriculture from these groups affects us all. We also discuss the importance of ritual and ceremony in reconnecting people to the land and their cultures and how anyone can become an ally in transforming the inequitable system we currently have.
November 16, 2018
For those of you used to the more practical and literal information that I usually focus on in these interviews, you'll be refreshed by the story telling and concepts in this next interview. This week, Neal Hegarty interviews countryman Diarmuid Lyng, a former star hurler for the county of Wexford who wrote a compelling article on the concept of the "silver branch mindset" from Irish mythology and how the traditional sport of hurling is linked to the health of the ash tree from which the "hurley" is made. They also go into how to reconnect with traditional culture and the importance of ritual in the modern context. This is a great talk for anyone looking to connect with the "why" of environmental stewardship and cultural importance.
November 9, 2018
Those of you who’ve been listening to this podcast for a while know that I geek out big time when it comes to natural plasters and finishes. So you can imagine how excited I was to get to talk to kyle holzhueter, a certified plasterer who learned his trade and got his certification in Japan where the traditional style and techniques are surprisingly different from those that I’ve become accustomed to from the western world. In this interview we cover those important differences which, though less flashy and aesthetic than the natural plasters you may have seen on many natural buildings, are much more workable for a longer timeframe. Kyle talks about his journey in the plastering trades in Japan, sourcing fibers for stronger finishes, the benefits of fermenting a plaster mix, and much more. Though I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about natural finishes I actually learned a ton in this interview and I know you will too, so grab a notebook and I’ll hand things over to Kyle
November 2, 2018
In this month;s regenerative round table Jeremy and Oliver discuss the challenges of managing a lot of animals in a small space and some of the problems with keeping pests and predators out. We cover the progress on the little coffee beneficio, plastering the house, producing native and edible plants for ourselves and clients and all of the progress over the last few weeks of developing our little farm on lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
October 26, 2018
In this special episode, Oliver goes into one of the key lectures in the Intro to Natural Building course on some of the most important considerations and bits of information to consider when designing a natural building and choosing a site for the structure. In this episode we cover many iconic natural building styles, considerations for different climates and regions, designing for function, determining needs and wants, and a whole lot more. Don’t forget to download the accompanying PDF document in the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.com
October 19, 2018
My guest today, Ziggy Liloia from “the year of mud” has been building naturally and blogging about his experiences for a decade since he started with a small cob cottage, just over 200 sq ft at an ecovillage in Missouri back in 2008. Since then he has explored many other materials and techniques and joins us today to talk about the myths and realities of natural building, especially when it comes to costs, climate appropriate design, and labor considerations. In this interview Ziggy and I discuss some of the mistakes and learning experiences that have informed the way we design and assess appropriate materials. We talk about the importance of understanding the differences between thermal mass and insulation, and Ziggy also goes into detail about timber framing and charring wood for aesthetic purposes and to preserve the lumber for longer. This is a great episode for anyone looking to get a better understanding about the costs and realities of building with natural materials, so grab your notebooks and I’ll turn things over to Ziggy
October 12, 2018
Rammed earth is one of the earthen building techniques that I personally have the least experience with, but since it has been steadily growing in popularity around the world for its beauty and durability I reached out to April Magill of Root Down Designs to find out more about how this ancient vernacular building technique is being revived in the southeastern US and what challenges there are to getting rammed earth buildings permitted and accepted. In this interview April talk about how rammed earth structures help to combat some of the biggest challenges of building in her region such as humidity and mold. We discuss some of the hurdles for architects and owner-builders in getting natural buildings approved by local building authorities, and we also explore hybrid homes, permaculture design for structures, and much more. April also teaches courses with the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, SC so stay tuned till the end to learn how you can get hands on training in a variety of natural building methods in the South Carolina area. Now I’ll turn things over to April Magill.
September 28, 2018
The international presence of the permaculture movement has always been an inspiration to me and in today’s interview I had the pleasure of talking with Nelson Lebo of the Eco School in Whanganui in the north island of New Zealand. Nelson first reached out to me after hearing about some of our similar experiences on this podcast and I became fascinated with the development of his own farm with the unique factors in his area of New Zealand. In this interview Neslon speaks in depth about why he prefers to work with severely degraded land rather than pristine ecosystems, and the challenges of “permaculture triage” on a limited budget. From there we explore how he approaches the building and development of systems and models that are replicable and scalable and that also are economically viable. We also talk about adapting to severe weather, the “time” dimension within design, and the urgency of farming as if our children’s lives depend on it This is a remarkably broad reaching interview, bear with me for the couple minutes of rough audio as Nelson was recording his side from his local public library, grab your notebooks and I’ll turn things over to Nelson Lebo
September 21, 2018
It’s time once again to check in with Atulya Bingham, one of my favorite voices and innovators in the natural building world. Atulya is the author “Mud Mountain, Mud Ball” and the newest release “Dirt Witch,” each of which tell the story of her journey of building her own home and alternative lifestyle, first in Turkey and most recently her move to the north of Spain. In the last interview I did with Atulya back in season one, she was still on the road searching for her new home. This time we catch up with her now that she´s found her site and is in the planning stages of a new off-grid lifestyle. In this interview Atulya speaks about common earthbag building mistakes and how to avoid them, earthen plaster recipes and techniques, how living close to nature can transform you, and much more. I would especially encourage those of you listening at home to check out her blog which you can find at themudhome.com or by clicking on the direct link in the show notes for this episode at abundantedge.com. Now I’ll turn things over to Atulya
September 14, 2018
I have many heroes in the regenerative economy and my guest today certainly ranks up at the top. Wayne Dorband and his online educational platform, the Ecolonomics Action Team (or EAT for short) has been putting an amazing webinar series with some of the best educators and practitioners out there for years now and Wayne himself is a great example of a successful serial entrepreneur of regenerative enterprises. Above all though, I reached out to Wayne to get his expert opinion on aquaponics and aquaculture systems. In this interview Wayne uses examples from his own commercial aquaponics system centered around a two acre pond on his land in Colorado to explain the major components and concepts behind the success of his systems. We start by defining the differences between hydroponics and aquaponics and work through the essential components of the cycles within the system. We talk nutrient cycling, troublshooting and how to observe a tough-to-diagnose underwater system before killing all your fish by accident. This is a really in-depth look at aquaponic systems so grab your notebook and
September 7, 2018
Welcome back to the regenerative round table. Today Neal and Oliver are joined by "Bamboo" Charlie Rendall, natural builder and founder of Return to the Forest as we talk in depth about new developments and progress on the Abundant Edge farm (aka Finca Tz'ikin). We recently had a new drainage channel open up right next to the farm so as we scramble to shore up the northern border of our land and divert any potential water away from the house we discuss the many ways that you can mitigate the risks and damage from a severe weather event when it comes to building and landscape management. We also talk about a new joint venture that Charlie and the Abundant Edge team are planning around permaculture gardening services and we talk about all the ways we are planning to use the business venture to benefit our communities in the process. The audio quality is not as good as I would like on this episode due to a problem I had with the microphone so sorry in advance but there shouldn't be any trouble hearing what is being said
August 31, 2018
In my focus and passion for designing beautiful, functional and holistic buildings and landscapes, it’s easy to get caught up in the macro and forget the micro, or to put it another way, for as important as the big picture is, the interactions at the ground level and the beauty of the relationships that you can develop with the plants that enrich the earth are certainly not to be forgotten. For insight on these relationships I turn today to Lee Reich, a master gardener who holds a graduate degree in soil science and a doctorate in horticulture and who has written many books on gardening over the years to talk about his new book “The Ever Curious Gardener” in which he explores the observations he’s made from his own experiences with his plants, and some of the science behind why they behave the way they do.
August 24, 2018
Welcome back to part two in our series speaking with Crystal Honeycutt about the idea of regenerative health. Crystal is a naturopathic doctor and registered clinical herbalist who has been sharing incredible insights on the topics of nutrition, self-assessment and diagnosis and how to find out just what your body needs to maintain itself in top form. For more on Crystal’s background and superhero origin story you can listen to the beginning of last week’s episode. In this session we’ll pick up where we left off and start to explore the topics of supplementation for faster recovery, the nuanced definition of regenerative health and how you can rise above our low standards of health today to reach your superhuman potential, so let’s get started
August 17, 2018
Regenerative living can be a very wide and nuanced topic. Today we’ll start on a two-part journey into a tricky and sometimes controversial world of holistic health and what it means to experience regenerative well-being. My guest today, Crystal Honeycutt, is an accomplished naturopathic doctor and registered clinical herbalist who has been in private practice for more than 10 years specializing in chronic illness, stress, and trauma. I’ve been a client of hers in the past and she’s helped me immensely in my recovery from chronic digestive problems and through working with her I’ve gotten a completely new perspective on just about every aspect of personal health and how closely it relates to emotional and environmental health as well. In this first installment of the two-part series, Crystal talks about how her interest in health comes from her own experiences with chronic disease and trauma. We start by exploring the fundamentals of nutrition and how to navigate the mine-field of fad diets, nutritional advice and more. Crystal helps to guide us through basic self-reflection and self-diagnosis to make the best dietary decisions for our bodies too. In the second episode in this series we’ll explore why you may want to look to your herb garden before heading to the pharmacy, the role that supplementation can play in helping us to recover from disease, what regenerative health means, and so much more. I hope that you get as much out of this conversation as I did and don’t miss next week’s session for the conclusion too. Now I’ll hand things over to Crystal
August 10, 2018
Our baby goats, just a few days old One of the biggest challenges that we and many other peramculturalists face is how to balance the need for diversity and resilience in our ecosystems and enterprises and the need for efficiency and simplicity in their maintenance and operation. On this regenerative round table Neal and Oliver talk about their own experiences and mistakes along the way in finding this balance on the Abundant Edge farm as well as balancing the development needs of their site with the work they do for clients. Everything from moisture issues in hobbit houses to delivery systems for goats cheese and running the business sides of each. Join the discussion and share your own stories in the comments below. ResourcesCatch up on the previous regenerative round tables Podcast RSS
August 3, 2018
This is an interview I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. I was fortunate enough to speak with two guests from opposite ends of the spectrum of permaculture learning. The first, Geoff Lawton, one of the original students of Bill Mollison and a permaculture designer and teacher for more than 30 years, and the second, Sam Parker-Davies, an intern with Geoff at Zaytuna farm in Australia who has jumped in deep with permaculture learning, especially at the community level. In this interview we talked in depth about the challenges and points of inspiration from each perspective and experience. Geoff talks about inspiring regenerative projects at the community level and what it takes to get the ideas to really stick. Sam discusses his experience getting involved in local politics and even running for a seat on the city council. Geoff and I also talk about his experience and memories from working in our region of Guatemala many years ago with our friends at IMAP (the Mesoamerican institute of permaculture) and gives great advice on gathering information and observing a site in depth before making assumptions. This is a great and nuanced discussion from both ends of the spectrum that I’m sure anyone out there can relate to on some levelResources:Permaculture research instituteGeoff Lawton online Get the free Abundant Edge design criteria checklist * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name * Podcast RSS
July 27, 2018
The biggest challenge for our team here at Abundant Edge when it comes to holistic design is that there are just so many considerations. Climate and landscape data, client’s wants and needs, economic constraints and many more can seem overwhelming but are crucial to creating designs that work in harmony with nature and solve real problems. This is why we put together our “Design Criteria Checklist” to help us remember some of the most important considerations and questions to ask when designing for individuals and organizations alike. This list isn’t meant to be a replacement for your own judgement or creativity as a designer, but it reflects many of the criteria that have helped us the most and what we consider to be some of the most essential bits of information and observations that can be expanded on based on the needs of your clients (or your own projects). We are constantly updating and revising this list so feel free to let us know if there are other essential criteria missing from this list or considerations that you think are important. Don’t forget to listen to the podcast episode that accompanies this list for more stories and explanations on how we’ve used many of the key points bellow to help us get past sticking points and challenges in our work. We hope you enjoy!
July 20, 2018
The biggest challenge for our team here at Abundant Edge when it comes to holistic design is that there are just so many considerations. Climate and landscape data, client’s wants and needs, economic constraints and many more can seem overwhelming but are crucial to creating designs that work in harmony with nature and solve real problems. This is why we put together our “Design Criteria Checklist” to help us remember some of the most important considerations and questions to ask when designing for individuals and organizations alike. This list isn’t meant to be a replacement for your own judgement or creativity as a designer, but it reflects many of the criteria that have helped us the most and what we consider to be some of the most essential bits of information and observations that can be expanded on based on the needs of your clients (or your own projects). We are constantly updating and revising this list so feel free to let us know if there are other essential criteria missing from this list or considerations that you think are important. Don’t forget to listen to the podcast episode that accompanies this list for more stories and explanations on how we’ve used many of the key points bellow to help us get past sticking points and challenges in our work. We hope you enjoy!
July 13, 2018
Here we are once again to talk about the progress, projects and challenges of building the Abundant Edge homestead. On this episode Neal and I are also joined by our good friend Tim Reher. Owner of Shangrila Coffee Roasters in San Marcos just one town over from us here on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. In this episode we talk about setting up our four animal compost factory and the benefits of inoculating soil with bio-ferments and compost teas. I break down the process of slaking our own quicklime to make the mortar for laying slate stone tiles without any cement, and Tim dives in deep into the world of coffee production and processing as we investigate ways or improving the ecological impact of the industry for small producers and processors alike. This was a really fun and insightful conversation to record so I hope you enjoy it!
July 6, 2018
I try to keep my fingers on the pulse of whats going on in the world of permaculture, natural building and regenerative living, since after all that’s the focus of this podcast, and as a result I find tons of inspiring projects and designers doing ground-breaking work around the world. One of the people and projects that have really caught my attention in the last two months is Luwayo Bizwick and his organization Permaculture Paradise Institute in Malawi. The scope of his projects and the impact he’s having on the agricultural practices in his country are truly inspiring. In this interview we talk about the challenges that Luwayo faced while growing up and how the epidemics of malnutrition and poverty in Malawi can be addressed through holistic design. We go into detail about the goals of the Permaculture Paradise Institute as well as the strategies to accomplish them. We also dissect his incredible guilded and polyculture systems on the farm and much much more. This is one of the most profound and eye-opening interviews I’ve yet done and Luwayo has a poetic way with words that really helps to build narrative around the sometimes-dry technical aspects of permaculture which I admire very much. When we recorded the episode originally we had a pretty lousy connection (turns out Guatemala to Malawi is challenging on a little wifi hookup) and so he was kind enough to send me his answers to the questions a second time and what resulted was an impressive expansion on this answers the first time around, and so I’ve published the second round in the show notes for this episode on abundantedge.com I highly recommend that anyone who enjoyed the interview have a listen to the second audio as well. It’s under 25 minutes long and absolutely worth the time. So before I drag on too long, here’s Luwayo
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