[permaculture] Common Circle Education

Gavin Raders gavinraders at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 06:48:34 EST 2009

Hi Scott, Lawrence and permies worldwide,
     I've never formally introduced myself to this list, but I think many of
you would be interested in what I do in my community.  And since this is
being so hotly discussed, I feel the need to disclose what I do.
Warning...turned into a long email!

A quick background on my permaculture experience:  I was finally able to
take my pdc with Geoff Lawton, Penny Livingston Stark, and Brock Dolman at
the Regenerative Design Institute in Summer 2007...rocked my world, changed
my life. I was privileged to move into RDI as a farm intern a couple months
later where I studied and practiced permaculture daily with my mind, body
and spirit for 7 months...slept in the natural buildings I helped build,
grew my food, managed our animal systems, learned, grew, and taught in
community with other practitioners.  I then decided to move back to Oakland,
CA on a mission to help make permaculture, edible landscaping, and other
more "elite"environmental services (rainwater harvesting, greywater, etc..)
affordable and accessible to the low-income people with whom I live with who
structurally do not have access to affordable healthy food, dignified jobs,
nor expensive permaculture courses in the first place.

So my partner and I started an edible landscaping company called the
Backyard Food Project that not only served clients who paid full-cost for
our services, but we also used our skills and backgrounds as community
organizers to fundraise in our community for low-income clients (schools,
community groups, and residents) who could not pay for materials nor our
labor.  I designed and implemented nearly 40 urban permaculture gardens this
way in a year and a half, and our services were so highly in demand that we
only needed to put out one craigslist ad to start, with nearly all our
subsequent clients coming from word-of-mouth. All the while, we started
working with low-income schools and youth groups in Oakland, bringing
permaculture techniques and strategies through growing food and transforming
space with these youth.  I started a rooftop nursery/garden that supplied
nearly all our annual vegetable/herb starts for our projects, and it served
as a training site for the youth we work with giving them inspiration and a
tangible example of ecological entrepreneurship. My chickens, worms,
shitakes, and rooftop garden give me food and joy everyday.

The Backyard Food Project has since emerged into something much larger than
myself personally, namely, Planting Justice (www.plantingjustice.org).  This
is a nonprofit organization I have organized with my partner and 21 other
community members as our board of directors, with a mission to grow healthy
food and healthy jobs simultaneously.  We continue to work with low-income
schools and urban residents, as well as inmates at San Quentin State Prison,
where we teach an urban permaculture course with a focus on job training
skills (landscaping, irrigation) and personal empowerment (from the visceral
experience of growing food for themselves and transforming the ugly prison
yard, to gardening as a facilitation for meditation and emotional

More than practicing and teaching permaculture as it relates to homescale
and community food production, nutrient recycling, energy optimization, etc,
I have also built Planting Justice using permaculture principles and
design.  This is something that is an ongoing process, and is a high
expression of permaculture's true power for structural change as it relates
to economics, community organizing, etc. I'm starting to write about this
process now, and I'm happy to share from my experience and near-term vision.
An example includes our focus on many diverse, yet inter-related income
streams that stack functions to support one another, enabling us to fund our
not-for-profit projects ourselves, without an over-reliance on foundation
support to pursue our mission.

I've found a creative and self-sustaining way to practice permaculture over
these past two and a half years, but I give Planting Justice nearly all of
my free time and have not yet applied for the applied permaculture diploma.
I do have plenty of documented experience to get one should the time come!
And in addition to my PDC with Geoff, Brock, and Penny, I've also been
fortunate to take broadscale permaculture/keyline workshops with Darren
Dougherty, greywater workshops with Art Ludwig, coyote mentorship and bird
language with John Young, natural building workshops with Marisha
Farnsworth, regenerative design classes at Merritt College with Nik
Bertulis, and more.

Packing more on top of a full plate, I also now teach a weekly urban
permaculture course at Common Circle Education.  These classes are on
Wednesday evenings, and cost $10/class.  We do not teach the 72 hour
curriculum or give PDC certificates, but we do cover important, relevant
strategies for renters and home owners to grow food, recycle water,
nutrients, and energy, and regenerate small urban landscapes by building
intensive biodiversity using permaculture.  Common Circle opened up only two
months ago or so, and I don't think they have their teachers set for the 2
week pdc in spring, although I've heard well-known names may be co-teaching
or splitting up the days. Thats probably why Vladislav did not answer you,
in addition to what he probably perceived as a harsh accusatory tone.

The weekly urban perm course is the only involvement I have there...I'm not,
as of now, teaching any part of the 2 week PDC, I didn't even know until
reading this thread the $2200 cost that is advertised.  I only know that
yes, there is an actual school now in Berkeley teaching permaculture along
with yoga and nonviolent communication, I teach there, and my students have
left each class with enthusiasm, inspiration, and techniques they can use
right away...for $10.  That is good work.

I understand the need for quality control, and I am thankful for that.  But
you should also not be rushing too blindly into judgement, bordering on a
bit of self-righteousness policing, as if anyone here knows every single
person who is practicing and teaching permaculture well and in line with its
ethics and curriculum, or if you are indeed the sole qualified certifier.
And if there is someone here who portends to know us all, well then, good to
meet ya!

check out our projects at www.plantingjustice.org and please wish us luck
and success in our mission, as I hope its the same as yours.

peace and bedtime,
gavin raders
co-founder of Planting Justice

On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 9:19 PM, Scott Pittman <scott at permaculture.org>wrote:

> Here is the latest response and I doubt that I will get any more.  Just the
> paranoia is enough to make me really wonder about this organization.
> Anyone live in Berkeley to see if a physical school really exists??
> Scott Pittman
> Director
> Permaculture Institute
> www.permaculture.org
> Vladislav Response
> ____________________________________________________________________________
> ____________________________________________
> Hey Scott,
> We do not require 'legitimacy' in order to do our work; so when someone
> addresses me in the way you did, I tend to be far less willing to volunteer
> information.
> I also tend to steer clear of the politics of this movement; any
> information
> we provide tends to open us to attack rather than really benefit us in any
> meaningful way.
> I further deeply value my relationships with the instructors who work for
> me
> and generally do not see any reason to provide their information.  Our
> instructors are actually some of the most well-known folks in this
> movement,
> like for example Larry Korn and many others.
> Our mission is to take permaculture mainstream -- plain and simple.  We
> reach a very different audience of people than most schools out there;  and
> since most of our clients have little idea of who the people behind this
> movement are, posting instructor's names serves little practical purpose
> whatsoever.
> If you're seeking to attack us, don't bother -- you won't get far.  If you
> want to collaborate creatively and really find ways to take this movement
> mainstream my door is wide open.   We're working for the *very* same goals
> at the end of the day.
> With gratitude,
> Vladislav
> --
> Vladislav Davidzon
> Common Circle Education
> www.commoncircle.com
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