Permaculture Voices 2 – Conference Recap Day 3

By on March 8, 2015

Permaculture Voices 2 –
Conference Recap Day 3

The Day I Found My Permaculture Voice

I spent most of day three attending breakout sessions, working to build on my Permaculture knowledge in different areas. I spent some time on the business side and also on the design side. It was an educational day, and great to be around so many like-minded people. I have to say that I also found my Permaculture ‘Voice’ at Permaculture Voices 2.

permaculture voice

I entered into Permaculture by accident. We wanted to grow organic food and have our own food supply that was independent of the ‘system’ and to be prepared should supply lines shut down or some sort of natural disaster occur. Permaculture was a way that we could make that happen, and also improve the 2.5 acres of land we just bought in Kentucky. What I learned this week about Permaculture goes much broader than that. I have a chance to be part of something special. Something big. Something that can make a difference. Every person here realizes that we are on the brink of changing the way the world looks at food production, ecological practices that are destroying the earth we live on, and finding our voice to make a difference.

That caught up with me this week. I understand it is bigger than me, and that not only by putting Permaculture into practice on my own farm, but spreading the word in my community and helping other Permculturists succeed in doing the same, I can do my part in this movement. So I have my voice and I know how I can help others understand why this is all so important!

Permaculture Artisans and Permaculture Skills Center

The highlight session of the day for me was by Erik Ohlsen, owner and director of Permaculture Artisans and the Permaculture Skills Center, both in Sebastopol, California.



The topic was Permaculture Contracting: Ecologically Regenerative – Socially Just – Economically Viable. Erik runs a design company called Permaculture Artisans, and a hands on immersion center called Permaculture Skills Center.

As Erik said, he has been practicing Permaculture almost half of his life. He is knowledgeable, passionate, and sincerely wants to help others. He is also open with his time and mentoring – he spent about 15 minutes chatting with me after the session and had great insights for me.

There was so much valuable content I couldn’t capture it all. But here are a few great nuggets:

  • Make the biggest impact possible – the problems of the world are so vast, the solutions can be too.
  • There is an entire economy (capitalist) out there waiting to be composted (transformed)!
  • Small businesses are key to scaling a regenerative economy.
  • Start design by working from patterns to details – think about frame and scope of work.
  • Use the 3 ethics of Permaculture as your triple bottom line:
    • Earth Care – with a Permaculture contracting company, you are transforming sites with plants, soil, water, and food, and you are taking money that could represent war and other things and now applying it to Permaculture.
    • People Care – turn your marketing plan into a community action plan. Go into places where it’s needed in the community and donate a design – it will help the community and ultimately bring you the right kind of clients.
    • Return of Surplus – Don’t be afraid to make big money. You will be supporting your family, your community (jobs, earth care), and the future for all.
  • Set Goals with a 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan. It’s important to have a 10 year plan so that as opportunities present themselves, you know if they are in line with your ultimate goals and you are able to make better decisions.
  • Diversity = Resilience – work with diverse communities as that provides help for them and teaches them the ethics of Permaculture.
  • Where can you make the least amount of change for the greatest affect:
    • Greywater
    • Landscape (72 Billion dollar industry in the US), imagine if just half of that went to implementing sound ecological principles!
    • Rainwater harvesting
    • Public spaces
    • Erosion control
    • Fire/Fuel load control
    • Schools and Education
    • Agriculture
  • Design your company culture – if you don’t it will default to the lowest common denominator. Create an opportunity to get feedback.
  • Get out of your own way – you are your own limitation!

Erik has a great video on a Suburban Permaculture Garden Tour, our highest viewed reference video!

Be sure to check out Erik’s work at, and

Integrating Aesthetics and Education Into All Your Designs

This session was run by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein, of NW Bloom Ecological Landscapes and Terra Phoenix Designs, respectively.



I was anxious to see Jessi as we have her great book on Chickens. I was also excited to see this topic, because so many Permaculture designs look a bit shaggy and unkempt. While they are accomplishing their goals, it doesn’t appeal to a lot of people and especially those with HOA’s or other restrictions to look and feel.

Their philosophy is that you have to meet people where they are at and go from there. You can’t just rush them into the full world of Permaculture design. Acknowledge them and their likes and dislikes, and work within that frame.

Some things for consideration in aesthetically pleasing design principles (Jessi):

  • Details (containers in the garden)
  • Themes (incorporate patterns)
  • Edges (fulfills need of neatness and tidiness)
  • Repetition (what can I bring in to carry the eye through the space)
  • Connections (stories for the client, what they may have collected is important)
  • Symmetry and Balance
  • Texture (rich and lush with color, leafs, and shapes)
  • Ambiance (not visual, but a feeling)
  • Design to scale (consider the framing view of the garden)

Some things to consider to bring education into the design (Dave):

  • Good signage for all plants and elements
  • Make all parts visible (solar panels, pipes)
  • Design for sense of mystery and intrigue
  • Offer tours (guided and self guided)
  • Partner with local organizations (those that have the job of getting the word out)
  • Provide resources (ex: this is greywater, and here’s how you can do it yourself)

You can learn more about Jessi’s design business at, and Dave’s design business at They also have a new book on the topic, which I picked up here at the conference and it looks FANTASTIC. You can grab it HERE: Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth

That is it for Day 3. I’ll be back for a recap of Day 4 & 5 combined, where I learned about plant propagation, marketing for farms, and small businesses, and what we can do to get more people to understand about Permaculture.

About The Permaculture Zone

The Permaculture Zone was created and is maintained by a couple of budding permaculturists, business partners Scott and Keith. We want to spread the word of Permaculture, and provide everything you need to know about Permaculture, all in one zone!

One Comment

  1. Kevin Stevens

    March 31, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    This sounds like it was great!. It can be overwhelming to look at the bigger picture and try to figure out your place in it and how you can make a difference. Erik Olhsen’s concepts sound like they could really help with driving forward individuals to make a difference.

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