​Into the Community: How to Organize Community Events

"To maintain a healthy community, all of the links must be present, regardless of whether they seem immediately favorable or unfavorable to [humanity’s] aims. . . . As the intricacies of the community are investigated ever more deeply, it soon becomes obvious that it is impossible to distinguish friend from foe, a beneficial animal from an injurious one. . . . Most communities are in a constant state of change, their make-up varying not only from season to season, but also from day to day, even from minute to minute." 

—Peter Farb(1)

A friend of the author's shows off her white-picket-fenced front-yard garden in Eugene, Oregon. The neighbors love it!

What is Community?

One of the fastest and most rewarding ways to improve the ecological health of your community is by organizing projects that share resources and spread information about organic food, paradise gardening, and ecological design. So far I’ve defined most of these ideas, but what do I mean by community?


The definitions and boundaries of community can be based on geography, politics, creative interests, gender, or culture, and they are as numerous and varied as individuals on the planet. People who live in the same neighborhood may consider themselves a community; others who participate in an Internet mailing list feel part of a community, while still others restrict their definition to include only the most intentional groups within which they choose to work or socialize.


In the science of ecology, the localized combinations of plants, animals, insects, and other living things are called biotic communities. In biotic communities the interactions of climate, shelter, food, competition, and unique habitat help define the characteristics of each species, and of the niche that each species fills in the community.Throughout every community the presence or absence of life in certain niches will determine the success or failure of the functions related to that niche. The whole system is in a constant state of change, from season to season and minute to minute, as niches in time and space are filled and refilled. 


As we relate these ecological ideas to human communities, we see that our lives are also involved in a complex web of action and reaction, and no matter what we do we affect the whole. A healthy community depends upon healthy relationships, whether between the lettuce and the broccoli, the gardener and the garden, or the individuals and the whole. There is no hierarchical “food chain.” Rather, all organisms interact through a complex, ever changing web of life and death.


Beyond food, shelter, and the survival of our species, we also look to our community for the emotional bonds and shared sense of belonging that are such innate characteristics of our humanity. To humans, community means love, learning, empowerment, and ultimately survival.


Each of us already lives in a community—an overlapping biological, ecological, social, and ethereal community. It is up to us to choose what to contribute, what niches to fill, and what actions to take. Like the garden, the community outlives us, and each action has a butterfly effect for many generations. If we seek opportunities to enhance the ecological whole, now and in perpetuity, we can easily find ourselves doing projects that will enable the human community to live more naturally.


This chapter contains an overview of the types of projects I have seen and worked with over the past fifteen years. Whether gardens, workshops, events, installations, or direct action, these projects build and beautify community. Whether food, information, creative expression, or concerns about a local issue, these projects match needs with resources and spur new and independent projects and networks, with exponential success. Mimic or model after them as you will, but remember to be specific, and to look deep into your own community for its unique potential. Use the spiral design techniques discussed in chapter 7 and the skills you learned in the garden to develop projects that harmonize with the natural ecology. Remember, the medium is the message, so focus on creating opportunities for individuals, rather than on dictating dogma to the masses.

Ecological design combines biological communities with urban needs to create a balanced blend of nature and technology.

Garden Projects

In every city there are thousands of acres of unused space. A twenty-five-square-foot area has the potential to grow more than a hundred pounds of vegetables per year. If we can transform these spaces into fertile food gardens and shady fruit groves, we will directly increase the quantity of local organic food that is available. As whole families and communities eat more organic food, their health will improve and their relationships with one another and the earth will improve.

From planting a tree in the park to starting a school garden, growing food in public spaces is one of the best ways to create educational opportunities and generate lots of good organic food. Communities benefit from garden projects through cleaner air, improved personal health, and increased food security; you benefit from the food and exercise; and the land benefits from the new infusion of life.

Demonstration Garden

Even a tiny plot can become a demonstration garden, showing visitors how to sheet mulch, build compost, save seeds, or any number of other useful activities. Most demonstration gardens offer examples of a range of techniques so visitors can compare and contrast. Some places will also offer a simple map and/or brochure with a self guided tour.


​Often demonstration gardens are on public land and are maintained by a collective of people, but you can turn your front yard into a demonstration garden by making signs, visible from the street, that tell visitors about the demonstrations and where they can learn more. 


Food Bank Garden.

Eugene’s largest food bank, Food for Lane County, organizes several community gardens. Some of these gardens offer volunteer programs and educational internships to the general public, while others work with disadvantaged youth or local high schools, teaching organic gardening and growing food for distribution through the food bank. A food bank garden can be a large project such as these, or just a small section of your garden dedicated to growing food to give away.


School Garden Project.

Any of these projects could and should include children of all ages. See chapter 12 for an assortment of ideas for school gardens and working with children.


Community-Supported Agriculture.

Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, is an innovative and effective type of food-sharing project. Farmers sell shares of the harvest in advance, and customers receive weekly deliveries throughout the year.

This model works well on a small to medium scale and is an excellent way to share a garden space without being overrun with people or overwhelmed with work. Growers receive compensation for their produce, and they know in advance how much to grow; customers receive fresh, local food from a source they can feel good about supporting. Many CSAs also offer a work-trade option in which people can volunteer in the garden for a discount on their share. 


Giveaway Gardens.

Someone once donated a truckload of organic fruit trees to Food Not Lawns, so we organized a free workshop about tree planting and spent an afternoon planting trees around the neighborhood. Today those trees provide hundreds of pounds of food every year. For the people who live in the houses that received trees it was a beautiful and multifunctional addition to their landscape; for us it was a learning experience; and for the trees it was a new home. 


There is a group called People’s Earth Action (PEA), in California, that starts gardens for elderly and handicapped people who can care for a garden but do not have the physical ability to get it started. Volunteering to install a garden for someone sends the message of shared resources and mutual aid and inspires others who see the results to help their neighbors as well. 


Community Greenhouse/Nursery.

You can build a greenhouse big enough for a whole neighborhood’s vegetable starts with just one pickup load of recycled materials. Divide up the space among the people who helped build the greenhouse, or just volunteer some time to fill the space with seeded flats and give the starts away to whoever can use them. Here’s what we did: 


A supportive neighbor had a driveway but no car, and since she was renting she didn’t want to tear up the driveway to put in a garden. Instead she donated the space to a community greenhouse project. A local awning company donated a six- by twenty-foot aluminum frame; we built supports out of recycled pallet wood and covered the structure with a piece of surplus plastic from a local farm. 


Over the next two years we grew and gave away more than a thousand vegetable starts, grown from donated seed, in donated pots—all for free, all organic. Local garden centers donated the seeds and potting soil, and people took turns watering the starts until they were ready to put out on the street to give away. When the renter moved we transferred the small greenhouse to our farm, and we still grow seeds and food in it today.

A working demonstration garden generates food while sharing useful information.

Using Gobradime to Build Community

Using ecological design processes to organize community events brings the ecological ethics we embrace in ourselves through to the rest of the community. Just as in the garden, developing a detailed plan of action helps ensure smooth and effective implementation.


Try using Gobradime and the rest of the spiral design wheel to develop and implement projects like the ones in this chapter. Move through each step, asking slightly different questions than you did in the garden, as relates to the project at hand.


Here are some examples of these new and rephrased questions:


Goals: What do you want to achieve and why? In what ways will you as an individual, and the community as a whole, benefit from this project? Write it all down . . .


Observation: Who’s already organizing similar projects? Can you plug in, or is your idea a new one to the area you’re working in? What are the obvious and demonstrable needs for your project?


Boundaries: How big a project do you want to do, and how much time do you want to spend? Whom will you work with, in what neighborhoods, for how long?


Resources: What are your resources? What do you need? Who has what you need and how can you collaborate with them? Raise money, make contacts, find volunteers, and so on.


Analysis: Is your project worth doing? Will it have the desired effect? How will you bring needs and resources together to achieve your goals?


Design: Develop a timeline, establish an infrastructure, find volunteer coordinators, define roles, delineate and delegate tasks, and get ready for action. Write down details for the project and communicate with your group to figure out how it’s going to work. Develop a multiple phase plan if necessary, then get down to business.


Implementation: Make it real. Do your best and your projects will succeed. Start small and take plenty of time for rest and reflection.


Maintenance/monitoring: Is it a onetime event or an ongoing program? Do you need more funding? Are you going to organize another event? Check in with your group process and volunteer satisfaction level and make sure everyone is still having fun.


Evaluation: Talk with others. Review your notes through the process. Some organizers (like me) pass out evaluation forms and invite participants to comment and critique the project. What worked? What didn’t? Write it all down while the experience is fresh, then put your notes, receipts, photos, the mailing list, and copies of the flyer and press releases in a file. Use these notes to help organize similar projects in the future, or pass them on to a fellow activist. 

How to Organize Community Events

A small event can be organized in just a few hours. Larger events take months of planning, but the potential for building community through shared interaction is so great that it is well worth the effort. If you have never organized an event, start with something small and work up to the weeklong conference after you gain some experience. 


Many places, such as bookstores, churches, schools, or public parks, will happily host a small event. Ask around for a free space with good lighting that can hold the number of people you expect. In the absence of a public space, many events go over just fine in someone’s house or backyard. The following are examples of fun, easy-to-organize events.


Resource Exchange

I discussed the seed swap in chapter 6 as an easy way to exchange seeds and plants. This model also works well for many other types of resources, such as books, tools, clothes, food, bike parts, art supplies, and information. The University of Oregon hosts an annual “Gear Swap” where people meet in an unused classroom for an evening and swap surplus athletic gear. Unless you want to go for the flea market feel, it makes sense to define what type of resources you would like to exchange at your event.


Sometimes a resource exchange goes over so well that people decide to organize a permanent space to cache and distribute surplus resources. MECCA, the Materials Exchange Center for the Creative Arts in Eugene, Oregon, started when a local activist realized that literally tons of useful art supplies were going into the landfill every year. She diverted the flow of these materials to MECCA, where people can now find all sorts of paper, paints, and an assortment of useful recycled materials for art projects of many kinds.


That’s My Farmer

John Pitney of the First United Methodist Church in Eugene organizes an annual event called That’s My Farmer. He was the first in his church to get a CSA membership for his family and has now organized a collaboration among several local churches that includes more than 180 families doing CSA.


At the event representatives from local farms set up tables with educational information about their practices and what types of produce and programs they offer. The event is widely publicized and open to the public, and hundreds of people come together each year to match needs with resources.


Very simple to organize, this event is a great way to build food security and the local economy. According to Pitney, the best organizing tool is the event itself, so pass around a volunteer sign-up sheet and network farmers and other participants for future events.


Starving Artist Convention

I once organized a hodgepodge group of local artists to bring together all of our piled-up artwork for a cheap art convention—a one-night-only showcase of original local art. Nothing was priced at more than a hundred dollars, and most pieces were less than twenty. The bookstore hosting the event took a nominal cut of the sales, and most of the artists went home with a pocket full of cash and a sense of satisfaction about distributing original artwork to the low-income community. A similar type of event could be set up in which artists would be asked to donate artwork to sell for a common cause, such as a community garden or communal art studio space.


Community Vaudeville Show

People love to laugh, and getting them laughing is a sure way to encourage them to share and change. I have had tremendous success organizing local performers into community variety shows to raise money for local projects. The low tech nature of traditional variety or vaudeville type performance arts (including dance, singing, skits, jokes, and acoustic music) makes them the perfect medium for communicating ecological ethics and ideals. Sets and costumes can be made with recycled materials, and songs and skits can communicate ecological themes.


Here is a basic how-to for organizing such a show:


First, set a date and find a venue. A place for all ages is best, but bars or clubs work well too. Ask for the booking agent and talk to her about what you want to do. She will most likely give you the space for free or ask for a percentage of the door.


Next, contact local performers. Approach people whom you’ve seen perform around your community, and put an ad in the paper advertising for volunteer performers. You can host an audition or just ask people about what they want to do. You don’t want to censor people, but it is a good idea to choose a variety of acts rather than booking a whole show of jugglers or solo folk guitar players. Encourage performers to deviate from their set into material they wouldn’t normally perform. Because each person gets only a few minutes, folks have an opportunity to try something new. Push for this—it makes for a fresher and more diverse show. When you have a list of interesting acts, choose someone to emcee. This should be someone who is at least vaguely familiar with the other performers and isn’t afraid to be funny and engage with the audience.


Also be sure to book a house band for the evening. It will fill in the spaces when people are arriving, during intermission, and when an act needs musical backup, as many dancers and jugglers do. The individual performers will usually volunteer their short act for the cause, but because the house band makes a huge difference in how well a show comes off, choose a good one and be willing to pay it a little. I usually offer the house band about 25 percent of the door after a show—anywhere from $125 to $500. It’s not much, but while most of the performers at an event like this are on stage for only ten minutes or so, the house band is working all night.

Once you know who will perform, put everyone’s name on a poster and start spreading the word. Do plenty of publicity to make sure people come. Your volunteer performers will be much happier if the show is a success and then will be fired up to do it again.

See the next chapter for a plethora of ideas about outreach and publicity. You will inevitably run into some people who passionately want to help with the show but don’t want to perform. Plug them into spots like set building, flyering, or stage managing. You will need the extra help.


I recommend hosting a rehearsal potluck to bring the performers and other volunteers together before the show. This will give them a chance to coordinate with one another and will strengthen newfound community ties. Host a thank you dinner after the show to bring everyone together again to exchange feedback and make links for the future.

Superhero Bike Rides

​A group of bike geeks I know likes to get together with their bikes and dress up like superheroes with names like the Dynamic Accumulator and Flaming Echidna. They ride around different parts of the country, camping with their bikes and performing random acts of kindness. Whenever they see someone working, they get off their bikes and help. As you can imagine, this is a fabulous way to meet people, get exercise, and challenge the dominant capitalist paradigm in this country. 

Volunteer projects like superhero bike rides blur the lines between work and play.

Street Theater

Street theater continues to be one of the best ways to draw attention to important issues. There are many forms of street theater, from puppet shows and elaborately planned skits to improvisational performances and audience participation shows. I have seen people on stilts passing out flyers, fire dancers chanting mantras about local issues, and puppet shows educating coffeehouse crowds about the dangers of genetic engineering.


Under the guise of entertainment, these shows can educate, inspire, and incite all types of audiences, from environmental activists to elementary schoolchildren. Generally street theater occurs in public, free of charge, but feel free to pass the proverbial hat to raise funds for costumes, travel, and other expenses.


The Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont has a long and illustrious history of pageants, parades, and theater pieces whose style harks back to old-time vaudeville days. Out of earthen materials they make magnificent giant puppets, telling childlike but profound stories of every person’s plight, from surviving the war culture and dreaming of being a better person to struggling with the inevitable death. Another troupe, Art and Revolution, specializes in political messages, from ancient forest issues to genetic engineering, and incorporates choreographed dance pieces into shows.


Street theater comes in many flavors, with options such as improvisational and planned skits, choral performances, puppet shows, stilts walkers, dancers, musicians, and marching bands. There are countless examples—try an Internet search under “street theater,” “radical theater,” “giant puppets,” “activist theater,” and so forth. Also be sure to check out some of the stuff about “invisible theater,” where troupes go into the mall or a restaurant and stage a scene meant to bring attention to a pertinent issue, without giving away the fact that they are actors.


Whatever form of street theater you choose, remember that the medium is the message: If you are promoting nonviolence, don’t use guns in your skit. If you are teaching about ecology, don’t make the sets out of toxic materials. If you are trying to recruit volunteers for a garden project, make a show about plants, seeds, or food related issues. Connect with local drama classes and theater troupes and embrace your inner clown!

Installations

Public art installations, including murals, sculptures, and sidewalk mosaics, can renew an ugly area, provide a focal point and conversation piece for locals, and convey the long-term vision of the artist to the community. MECCA, the same group I mentioned above, also organized a program in which at-risk youth worked together to design and install a mosaic sculpture in Eugene out of recycled materials. The youths had something fun to do for the summer, and the neighborhood received an interesting historical sculpture to view for years to come.


Kari Johnson, a low income artist-activist in Eugene, acquired a city grant to do a mural on a local bicycle co-op building and another grant to do paintings with youth downtown. You could paint an educational mural depicting local plants and animals, with their common and scientific names, and perhaps a bit of folklore and practical use information. 


Lending Library

Just as a regular library has books and other media to lend, so too can we create and participate in libraries of tools, musical instruments, computer software, costumes, art and photo supplies, transportation, and much more. Often a local church, school, or community center will donate a small space for the lending library, and members will each throw in a few tools or a few dollars to buy the shared materials. Or you can create a Web-based library by posting available loans on an Internet list.


Playgrounds and Dog Parks

Many cities include in their budgets money for new playgrounds and dog parks and will accept a proposal from a group of neighbors who want to install one. Alternatively, raise the money among neighbors or use free materials and volunteer labor to build simple, natural play areas for children and dogs to run free. You will create a natural focal point for your neighborhood where people can gather, communicate, and have fun. You may, however, run into some weird insurance issues, so do some research and find out what needs to happen.


Intersection Repair

The City Repair Project, a group in Portland, Oregon, organizes an annual Village Building Convergence to bring neighbors together toward a shared vision of ecological community living. This event always includes “intersection repair” actions that create four corner free spaces to encourage community interaction. City Repair founder Mark Lakeman says that there are inherent problems with the grid system of organizing cities, in that a grid is more conducive to commerce and competition than to community sharing and mutual aid. He feels that “place making” projects like intersection repair help unify neighborhoods around shared resources, increase the quality of life for the neighbors, and develop lasting, more ecological systems.(2) 

The intersection repair projects consist of getting together a group of volunteers to build varied attractions at corners where four blocks meet. One such attraction was a small community library; another was a teahouse where the neighbors took turns putting out hot water and tea bags every morning.


Other options might include free boxes, play structures, covered benches, water fountains, or a little shack with a desk and some art supplies. Get creative and make good use of what you have available.


​If you can get away with it, either by getting a permit or by choosing the right time and place, paint a round mural in the street amid the four corners. This completely changes the feel of the space and encourages a plaza effect.


One such mural in Portland was a sunflower, and another a Celtic knot design. Once the intersection has been properly “repaired,” throw a big block party so everyone who lives nearby can get acquainted with one another and their new community resources.

Build a mobile tool library onto a sturdy bike cart and share it around the community.

Education Projects

All projects have the potential to educate us and others, especially if we take the time to add an educational element, such as informative placards at a community garden or an article written about the superhero bike ride. However, there is a lot of potential for mutual empowerment and increased effectiveness when we take the time to research and create intentional learning situations. Here are a few examples, followed by a short section on amateur teaching skills.


Field Trips

A one day trip to a local farm or restoration project is a great way to meet new people and gain exposure to new options. Often field trips involve bringing a volunteer work crew to a local project and helping for the day. This builds community and sometime results in paid work for volunteers later. 


Study Groups

Remember study groups in school? Well, you don’t have to be a high school or college student to be in a study group. One of the first projects I ever organized was a life drawing group. We got together once a week, took turns modeling, and practiced drawing and painting. We soon had a close knit group of artists critiquing one another’s work and brainstorming about other projects.


Later I helped organize a sustainable horticulture study group. We agreed on books to study, then met once a week to discuss what we had learned. This is a great format for learning things—the weekly connection builds continuity and gives people an impetus to find and share new information.


Workshops and Skill Sharing

Just about everyone has some skill that they could teach during a short workshop, and sharing information is a great way to solidify the knowledge in your own mind. Why not offer a free or low-cost workshop to your community? This will increase the local skill set and unite people of like interests. You may even learn a thing or two yourself.


Pick a date, time, and place (a quiet bookstore, an empty church, or a classroom at a university would be a good option), and advertise well in advance to bring in enough students for a dynamic experience. If it goes well, organize a longer course or a series of related workshops. If you don’t feel confident enough to teach or facilitate a learning experience, find a local expert who is willing to volunteer a few hours to lead a workshop.


Food Not Lawns organized an education project in 2001 with a permaculture design course and several other related workshops. This project took place over a nine-month period, with classes happening all over the neighborhood. We put out a single schedule for all of the classes and hired local experts to teach. Sixteen low income Whiteaker neighbors earned permaculture design certification, and the course triggered an explosion of related projects throughout the neighborhood, from rain catchments and small graywater ponds to total conversions of yard and home spaces.


Because payment for the teachers was subsidized by a grant from the city, which we applied for in advance, we were able to offer the classes free of tuition. If no funding is available, teachers would have to volunteer or students would have to pay. Even during a free workshop, it is still a good idea to pass the hat—this helps defray any costs to the teacher, such as mileage and photocopies for handouts.


I once attended a community skill-sharing event in Oakland, California. A wide array of community members had networked to develop a series of workshops in several locations around town, all occurring within a three-day period. Participants arrived at a central location and were given a map and schedule. Then we just biked around and learned stuff.


Because most of the workshops happened at the teachers’ homes or workplaces, the cost of the event was nominal—just enough for photocopies for flyers and maps. In three days I gained hands-on experience in screen printing, home graywater systems, seed saving, sheet mulching, and bike repair. Sure, there wasn’t enough time to master any of these skills, but I had a thorough introduction and gained better access to more information. Some skill shares have a central theme, such as environmental activism or food politics, while others are wide open, with participants posting topics on a central board as they arrive.


Free School

Once you start organizing study groups, workshops, and courses, it makes sense to publish a local free school schedule. All it takes is one or two people to hunt around for free classes and compile them into a schedule, which is then photocopied and distributed around town. Here’s the basic process:


1. Look around town for free learning opportunities. These could include classes, workshops, demonstrations, presentations, or even performances. Check the paper, at local universities, and in any alternative publications. Compile a list and organize it either chronologically or by subject.

2. Also ask within your direct community for people who are willing to teach classes. At this point there are a couple of options: Do you want to let teachers organize all aspects (time, place, dates) of their classes, or do you want to line up a venue that will be available at the same time each week to make it easier for teachers and students to organize themselves? Keep it simple, but do what you can to make things happen.

3. Now create the schedule. You can do one every month, one a season, or even just one a year. List each learning opportunity with the time, date, location, a short description, and what if any materials to bring. Include contact information and a deadline for the next schedule, so people can call you to add events in the future.

4. Photocopy the schedule and post it around town, or just list everything on a website and advertise the address.

5. Keep a copy of every old schedule in a binder for future reference, and develop a file of contact information for teachers. I’m always asking people at parties and events if they’d like to teach anything—people tend to have a lot of hidden skills.

6. An occasional (or monthly) teacher potluck will build community, help keep the momentum going, and provide an opportunity to organize for a benefit show, exchange skills with one another, or raise a little money for photocopies.


School Presentations

Work through teachers or a local humanities council to get appointments to go into area schools and give presentations and lead discussions on relevant issues. Alternatively, be the convener and connect speakers with schools and teachers. In 1996 and 1997 I participated in the Cascadia Education Project, wherein a group of forest activists put together a slide show and other activities and presented them to elementary schools around Eugene. At one school we planted fruit trees; at another we passed out endangered species coloring books and talked about genetic conservation.


The project was relatively simple: We called the schools and left messages with our contact information and what we had to offer. Our all-volunteer collective met once every few weeks to sign up for presentation dates and collectively wrote a proposal for and received a small grant to buy a slide projector and to pay for photocopies. We all gained valuable experience, and the students and teachers alike were excited about what we had to offer. 


Internships and Mentorship Programs

Many education centers, organic farms, and community organizations offer internships and mentorship programs. Ask locally or visit some of the varied Internet resources (see the resources section) with links to these types of opportunities.


I once did an amazing apprenticeship with a ninety-year-old sculpture welder in Oakland, California. I heard about his artwork, got his phone number, called him up, and asked if he needed a volunteer. He invited me over, we hit it off, and I spent the next three months helping him sculpt and learning to weld. Neither of us paid a cent, and we both benefited from the experience.


If there is someone in your community whose work you admire, approach her and volunteer to help. We can learn much from allowing one another to lead projects, and through respecting and seeking out the wisdom of our elders. If you are a wise elder, consider looking for an apprentice (or many) to pass your skills on to.


Learn by Teaching

There is an ancient Chinese saying: “When I hear, I forget. When I see, I remember. When I do, I understand.” You do not have to be an expert to teach a workshop on something; if you are willing to embrace a few simple leadership skills, you can bring together a group of people and facilitate a discussion or work party on any topic.


Often what I will do is gather materials such as books, examples, slides, or supplies to make something. For example, one of the first classes I taught was papier-mâché mask making. I got some recycled clay to make molds, which we sculpted and then covered with recycled tinfoil and papier-mâché to make strong, colorful Halloween masks.We all had a great time, and people made an array of beautiful masks: a crow, a bear, and a lion goddess with great antlers. All I did was show how I had done something in the past; I never told participants how to do anything in the future, and I think this is one key to the egalitarian sharing of information, especially with hands-on skills.


If you choose the role of facilitator rather than teacher, you become an equal participant in the collective learning process. The facilitator mediates the flow, helps resolve conflicts, encourages discussion, and makes everything easier but allows the group dynamic to dictate the real learning experience.


In this way, I advocate learning by teaching, or strengthening your own knowledge of something by sharing that knowledge with others. Of course you may be an expert at something and happy to embrace the teacher role. This is also fine, but still consider some ways to more effectively ensure that your students will grasp and retain what you have to share. Meaningful experiences, led by a confident yet humble and open facilitator, will send the message of equality, not superiority, and encourage inspiration, interaction, and deep learning.


Here are some simple suggestions for things to do in class besides lecture and ways to integrate students and yourself into a shared learning experience.


Show and Tell.

Just like grade school, and it still works! Invite students to bring their own slides, photos, or actual examples of their work and give a presentation to the class.


Name Games. 

Learning names is essential to building community, so set aside time at each and every workshop to make sure that people are comfortable addressing one another by name. Here’s a simple game that works every time: Toss a hat around between people, saying the name of the person you are throwing the hat to until everyone feels they know one another’s names—it usually takes only five minutes or so.


Resource Oval. 

This is an excellent activity that gets those endorphins flowing and inspires participants to get to know one another beyond the name level. Ask each person to write her name and three things she knows how to do or is a resource for on a small piece of paper. Have everyone tape the paper to their chests and stand in two lines, facing each other. If there is an odd number of people, don’t worry—just place three people at one end and go with the flow.


Now ring a small bell, and have people engage in conversation with the person directly across from them (or with their group of three), using the words on the paper as conversation starters, until you ring the bell again, three to five minutes later. Each time the bell rings, everyone moves one position to the right and the whole oval shifts. People again jump into a short conversation with the person they are now facing, until the bell rings again.The whole thing goes on until everyone is back in their original position. Ring the bell one more time and ask people to just mingle around, talking to anyone they might have missed or really want to go back to. This game is a big rush for everyone, and a great way to build community quickly.


Brainstorming. 

Toss out a subject or several of them, and make lists or mind maps to bring together the thoughts and goals of the group. Brainstorming is a great way to come up with tasks to complete a project or break out of an idea flow that is stuck. I use it all the time, almost every day, to solve problems and share information.


Breakout Groups. 

Small-group discussions or work projects are a great way to change the energy in a room and bring people out of their shell. Groups of three to five usually work best—try to mix up people who don’t know one another and break up cliques wherever possible.


Go-Arounds. 

Ask participants to each share something about themselves. It is a good idea to use a time limit, especially with a large group, because go-arounds can take hours if people are feeling talkative. Also try asking specific, less generic questions like What was your first experience with plants? that will engender a mix of responses, rather than Why did you come here today?—which is more likely to cause everyone to say pretty much the same thing.


Videos. 

There are many thousands of excellent educational videos available through interlibrary loan and your local public broadcasting station. Look for some that will help you get your point across, or schedule a whole event just to watch good videos.


Slide Shows. 

Slides provide an excellent backdrop for a lecture and add visual punctuation to what you say. In general, keep slide shows and videos short (thirty minutes or less) so people don’t nod off in the dark. Remember sleeping through those interminable filmstrips in school?


Handouts. 

Type up your own ideas or photocopy books and articles to make an informative handout for people to follow in class and take home. Worksheets can be fun as well; I used to always make handouts, but now I just ask people to take notes. Handouts are especially good when teaching outdoors, where people may not have a surface to take notes on but would do well to have something in writing to refer to during the workshop.


Design Projects. 

Work in small groups or in pairs to practice designing an artistic piece, a garden, or a community project. Use overlays or other techniques, and encourage the group to follow through on a design that they will actually use rather than just making up pie-in-the-sky drawings.


Guest Teachers. 

Invite others to share information that you are not as confident with or to facilitate the group in a new style. This adds diversity and helps maintain students’ interest in an ongoing course. Guest teachers can be found throughout the community, from the preschool to the university, and everywhere there are peers and elders who have information to share. Often a local expert will be too shy to teach her own workshop but can be convinced to make a presentation at one of yours.


Readings.

Invite participants to bring in books or articles and share readings related to the area of study. Also try asking people to write things to read to the class. I once asked students in an urban ecological design class to write a journal entry reflecting on their personal ecological ethics and later invited them to share what they had written with the class. Some of the readings were brilliant and started the rest of the class on an amazing philosophical discussion.

Games

Cooperative games and movement exercises can break up the monotony of a sit down class and get those creative juices flowing. These are especially helpful after lunch, when most people’s natural rhythm is more suited to taking a nap than to learning something new.


Evaluations. 

The key to improving your teaching skills and interpersonal interactions, evaluations are the necessary end to every workshop. You can make an evaluation form and photocopy it or just ask people to write down what they liked the best and least, and how they suggest you change the workshop in the future.


Also be sure to bring some tools, such as chalkboard or newsprint to write on, an easel to hold it up, chalk or markers, evaluation sheets, a slide projector and slides, your camera (to document the workshop), handouts, a bell, and any related books and magazines to show students.


In Teaching as a Subversive Activity(6) radical education theorists Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner advocate educating with an attitude of inclusion and encouraging an inquiry-based method that gives students the power over what they learn.

This process empowers students and teaches them how to educate themselves. When these ideas are combined with ecological design principles, the individual not only becomes a lifelong learner but also becomes a learner who can educate herself and others about ecological living and earth stewardship.

Can you imagine a society full of self-empowered critical thinkers, taking care of the earth and sharing skills with one another?

Tips for the Amateur Educator

The following was inspired by the Tao of Teaching,(3) with help from the Permaculture Teachers Manual(4) and my first permaculture teacher, Jude Hobbs.(5) 

Silence is a virtue: The facilitator speaks the least. Be a good listener, never interrupt, guide the discussion when needed, then give it back over to the students and see where it flows.

Walk the talk: Teaching about ecology and voluntary simplicity creates a situation in which people expect you to be accountable for what you teach. It is important to embrace the ethics we share. People can be very critical, and this criticism can block their ability to learn. Look into every aspect of your work and show as much integrity as possible, always.

Be transparent: If you do not know the answer to something or have not tried it yourself, just tell people. They will respect your honesty.

Application breeds learning: Hands-on is key. Talk about it, then do it. Help people find a relevance between what they are learning and their daily lives, and show them how the new information will improve those lives.

Embrace diversity: Here it is again, diversity as our ally! Use different methods to cater to different learning styles, and reach out to students who are diverse in terms of skills, experience, ethnicity, and economic circumstances. 

Direct Action Gets the Goods

Much of what we have been talking about in this book could be called direct action. In a culture that force-feeds our every fleeting whim through high-speed cable and drive-through windows, growing food and sharing surplus are radical actions. When you make the decision to do something out of the cultural norm, you change culture. Practicing ecological living is a deeply subversive act. If every community was self- reliant, interdependent, and socially functional, corporate control would be impossible.


Traditionally the term direct action refers to people going to the point of production or destruction and attempting to halt or change the destructive behavior. Sometimes the people involved in an action will risk arrest, and sometimes not. Sometimes those who do risk it will become incarcerated; often they are not.


Most direct actions are part of a larger campaign, and there are always plenty of places to plug in besides front and center, where you are sure to get arrested. For example, Greenpeace does a lot of actions in which people suspend themselves from skyscrapers or lock down to whaling ships. These people almost invariably face criminal charges, but the actions are each accompanied by a support group that conducts an extensive outreach and education campaign geared toward making real, lasting changes in the policy around the issue.


Some of these projects are of a reactive nature, meaning they are in response to something that is already happening, such as animal abuse or environmental destruction. Others lean more toward preventive measures like gardening and community building. The best actions are a blend of the proactive and reactive tactics, mixing politics and current events with infrastructure building strategies and long term vision.


Protests and Demonstrations

For many people the first thing that comes to mind when you say “direct action” is the classic nonviolent protest/march/demonstration event. Envision streets filled with crowds of people waving banners, giving speeches, singing songs, and perhaps being attacked and arrested by riot police, all in the name of free speech and the alleged right of citizens to be able to invoke change.

Sometimes the demonstration will block entry to an international trade meeting; other times it will march into the executive offices of an earth damaging corporation. At still other times a protest is simply a demonstration of solidarity, meant as an outreach tool rather than an intervention.


This traditional tactic is still very effective at bringing together communities of people and at drawing media attention to an issue. However, in these days of questionable civil rights, extended jail sentences, and politicians who blatantly disregard public opinion, the non-violent civil street protest is losing its flavor faster than ever before.


Despite these setbacks, a large demonstration still serves a primary purpose: to demonstrate. It is a lot easier to convince people that a bad thing is happening by giving them a chance to see it up close than by just telling them about it. When people experience something firsthand, they will remember and respond.


I have attended dozens, maybe a hundred, demonstrations and had a wide range of experiences from revelatory bliss to rained on, tear gassed hell. Few if any of these actions achieved the goal the crowd was chanting for, but all of them helped build community by alerting locals about pertinent issues and bringing them together to share ideas.


Sometimes even a small demonstration can quickly become violent, usually (in my experience) as a result of police overreaction to civil unrest. In just a few minutes things can get really crazy and a lot of people can get arrested, beaten, tear-gassed, and sometimes killed by police. This is not so rare as it may seem.


Fortunately there is usually an opportunity to avoid such harsh treatment by dispersing when things get ugly. But if you don’t want to submit to the police state, if you feel the need to stand your ground to be heard as you voice your concerns, then you might have to risk arrest.


Risking Arrest

When something terrible is happening, you might decide that you have to break the law to stop it. Sometimes this action will help buy time, as when tree-sitters occupy a forest to stop a logging operation while an associated organization fights in court to have the timber sale repealed. Often an illegal action is the last resort when other avenues have failed, and many people believe that stopping crimes against nature is far more important than obeying judicial laws.Protesters enjoyed a good fight from the 1960s through the 1990s, with mostly misdemeanor charges and a few bruises to tell about. However, a few of those activists did end up dead or in prison, and now antiterrorism laws are changing everything.


So if you do choose to break the law, take time beforehand to educate yourself about the real and long term risks to yourself and your community. Consider whether your action will help in the big picture or whether you might be overwhelmed by your own small perspective and perhaps acting rashly. Know that you and your colleagues might get caught, even if you feel invincible at the moment. Read about the Earth Liberation Front and Operation Backfire if you don’t believe me.Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I have seen these things up close, and what I’m saying is very real. The FBI, ATF, etc., are made up of intelligent, extremely well-trained individuals with the full-time job of enforcing the law. So do your homework. The Internet is the most obvious resource, but also seek out people who have been arrested for activism and ask them what they experienced. Read about the federal grand jury and its history of pulling information from activist communities, causing people to lose trust, faith, and hope in a movement.


And please, attend a nonviolence training session, where people discuss these issues and act out possible scenarios to practice remaining calm to help avoid police brutality and trumped-up charges.If you are very clever, and very careful, you won’t get caught and you can pull off an innovative, effective action that will educate the public, help stop harmful practices, and bring you and your community into better harmony with each other and the Earth. People are making change through direct action all over the world, doing projects like those listed below.Remember, when you resist the dominant paradigm, it will find new ways to dominate you. There is a saying that I learned as a fledgling activist: “Tactics repeated are easily defeated.” Consider these ideas as general options, but, just as in the garden, it is important to design each action to be specific to your issue and resources. Work with your community to define your own problems and solutions, then do what makes sense for you.


Throughout your action planning, always balance sharing information with a sincere attitude of careful discretion. Sometimes a public action can upset a more covert one, so try to develop a cohesive community effort, rather than tripping wires and causing conflict.Which leads me to this very important point: Throughout the ecological movement you will find many kinds of people and many kinds of actions. Because of the very sensitive nature of these actions, in that we don’t know how far “they” will go to stop us, I will give only very general descriptions, and no specific names, places, or contacts. When it comes to breaking the law, you must seek out your own compañeros and develop close-knit, trusted affinity groups for action. Even within those groups, share only what is absolutely necessary.​


That being said, here are some types of projects to look for. Some are easy to organize; others require that you first seek out existing projects and gain access to more knowledge and resources. All of these actions are, in my opinion, effective means of promoting ecological ethics and sharing resources toward the goal of building healthy ecological communities. 

Guerrilla gardening is an excellent way to use direct action to increase your neighborhood’s biodiversity.

Action Training

The action camp provides an entry point for future and fellow activists. Many action campaigns host training camps where new and experienced activists get together, swap skills and ideas, and develop a campaign.


Later, the camps provide food, education, and support for covert actions and public demonstrations. However, training camps also provide a point of entry for infiltrators and law enforcement agencies, so ask a lot of questions, check references where possible, and take note when people behave suspiciously or inconsistently.


Most action camps occur in support of rural action campaigns that help halt logging, mining, nuclear testing, unsustainable development, or other harmful practices. These campaigns could include any assortment of tactics, from tree-sitting and road blockades in old-growth forests to deep cover information gathering that will later be used in court against the perpetrator.


I will go no further into detail about these types of actions, choosing instead to focus on urban strategies such as the ones described below.

Critical-Mass Bike Rides

In cities across the world, bicycle commuters organize large group rides by prearranging a time and place to meet up on bicycles, then taking over large sections of city streets in an impromptu parade of bicyclists. Some riders wear signs and wave banners about bicycle and pedestrian rights; others just cruise along enjoying the comfort of safety in numbers, often in stark contrast with their daily routine of dealing with inattentive and inconsiderate car drivers.


Some groups meet every morning before work and travel together across town. Others meet just once a month, as more of a demonstration. Sometimes there are large rides on major holidays or annual long distance rides.


This is one of the easiest direct actions to organize because all you need is your bike and some flyers posted around town. If you plan a regular ride, such as the last Friday of the month, word will get out and more people will come every time. Don’t get discouraged if no one shows up—attendance will ebb and flow with the seasons and as new people come and go.


Generally, the people on the ride will have a brief discussion at the outset to unify around a goal of educating rather than enraging the car drivers they see along the way. Sometimes critical mass riders will be ticketed and arrested for blocking traffic or will be herded and corralled like so many head of cattle, so be careful and make good decisions about when enough is enough.


You can usually get in a pretty wild ride, make a good statement, get silly on adrenaline, and disband before the riot cops can squeeze into their bike pants and cleats to come and stop you.

Jail Support and Solidarity

When doing illegal action, it is helpful to have pre-arranged jail support, including but not limited to pro bono lawyers, central phone numbers for people to call when arrested, and funds for bail and fines. I feel that the huge amounts of money and energy spent on getting people out of jail and supporting them while they’re locked up could be better spent provoking real change without sending people to jail in the first place.


Call me a reformist, but this book is packed full of solution oriented ideas, and I hope people will be able to find empowering alternatives to getting themselves locked up. It is getting harder and harder to get out of jail, especially for actions that challenge the capitalist paradigm, and I believe that most actions that will result in immediate arrest and long term imprisonment are just not worth the sacrifice. You’ll be much more valuable to your community from this side of the iron bars, and when you don’t have fines, legal fees, and parole officers to answer to.


Still, if you think you might become incarcerated for even a short time, take the following precautions to help protect yourself from abuse:


Establish a support network: choose a support person who will avoid her own arrest but try to witness yours. Make sure she has a phone number that accepts collect calls and memorize it so you can call her from jail after the cops have taken all your stuff. It also helps to establish legal support and funding for bail before the action, rather than after. Many lawyers will defend activists pro bono, which means they don’t get paid unless you do. Otherwise you will need a legal fund or will have to accept the court appointed defense attorney.


Know your rights: the cops won’t tell you anything that you can trust. Their job is to bust you, not to maintain your civil rights. Educate yourself ahead of time about what you can and cannot get away with on the inside and don’t talk to anyone about the action except your own lawyer and support people. Use your time in jail to talk with the other prisoners about organic food, sharing resources, and ecological community. But watch out for informants and undercover agents. Not only will they use what you say against you in court, but they’ll also use it against your friends, and to infiltrate and undermine your community for many years to come.


​Choose a tactic and stick to it: will you walk, talk, eat, give your name, pay bail? There are many levels of cooperation and noncompliance with the system, and pros and cons to all of them. Again, talk with more experienced activists and develop a plan that you believe will work. 

Food Not Bombs

I lived for several years in a shared community house in the low income Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon. Every Sunday we cooked and served free hot meals in the park, waving a banner with the slogan FOOD NOT BOMBS. We fed ourselves and hundreds of others, and the servings were a hub of community activity.


We gleaned the ingredients for these meals from local merchants, either by donation or by getting into the trash around back. Once or twice a week I went around to local food stores, picking up donations: boxes of fresh avocados, trash bags full of bread, and five gallon buckets filled with tofu and strawberries. All of this food was perfectly edible yet headed for the trash, and by salvaging it we fed the community, produced compost for local gardens, and changed a lot of people’s attitudes about food, waste, sharing, and ecological living.


People love to eat, and the community that eats together stays together. Food Not Bombs is an international affiliation of mobile vegetarian soup kitchens that bring communities together with surplus local food for a daily, weekly, or monthly feast. These feasts are relatively easy to organize with a small group of people and yield exponential benefits that will ripple through your community for many years to come.


You can call your soup kitchen whatever you like, but there is a certain power found in uniting with an existing network. It helps to volunteer with an FNB chapter or other soup kitchen somewhere else before trying to start one yourself, but the process is not so difficult as it might seem. I highly recommend the book Food Not Bombs by C. T. Butler and Keith McHenry.(7) It is short and succinct and contains everything you need to know to start up a successful independent soup kitchen in your hometown, from gathering and cooking the food to dealing with the cops and health department if they try to shut you down.


Here are the basic steps to organizing a local Food Not Bombs:


1. Connect with local food banks and soup kitchens to determine what types of meals are already available. Chances are, there are no vegetarian meals being served for free with no religion and no bureaucratic paperwork required, but there’s a chance you will find an existing group to work with and/or some potential sources of surplus food to use. Also connect with the national FNB through its website at www.foodnotbombs.org.

2. Next, host a meeting and gather together anyone who wants to participate. At the meeting work through the steps below to determine where, when, and with what food you will cook.


3. Choose a “cookhouse” where the meals will be prepared and assemble the equipment you will need to cook for large groups of people.


4. Choose a time, day, location, and dietary guidelines (vegetarian, vegan, organic, sugar-free, and so on), and put all this information on a flyer. If possible, provide a phone number or website where people can contact you to donate food or volunteer.5. Photocopy and distribute the flyer, and list meal times at local social service agencies. See the next chapter for much more on how to get the word out.6. Take the flyers around to local food stores and gather donations. If possible, set up weekly pickups. Most stores throw away tons of good produce and will be happy to save it for you instead. Sometimes it takes a while to cultivate these relationships. Be patient and polite, and never be rude or pushy when asking for donations.


7. After you get the food, go through and organize it. Take out the rotten stuff and compost it at a local garden. Assess the rest for recipe ideas. Later, when you evaluate failures and successes like a huge pot of burned beans versus that dreamy onion soup, write down some stuff so you can remember the good recipes and avoid making mistakes twice. You may need to front a few bucks for spices and cooking oil, but this can be recovered by putting out a donation jar at the serving.


8. Now cook, serve, and clean up after the meal. Ask for volunteer dishwashers at the serving, and put out a sign-up sheet for people who want to get involved so you can call them about the next meeting or cook day. I recommend cooking within easy walking or biking distance to the public place where you will serve the food. It is much nicer and sends a stronger message to bring the meal on foot or by bike than to load the big sloshing mess into a vehicle and drive it across town.Think neighborhood food network, and don’t forget to stock up your own pantry with the surplus produce and leftovers.

Guerrilla Gardening

A great way to distribute these surplus plants is by transplanting them into public spaces around your neighborhood. In the city and out of town there are many open spaces that are perfectly suitable for spreading seed balls, planting a tree, or growing a patch of vegetables.Neighbors may follow suit, and a tree you planted one year will have tulips and sunflowers coming up around it the next. 


This practice, known fondly to some as guerrilla gardening, takes many forms across the globe and is a great way to both increase local food security and find good homes for otherwise wasted plants. You can go back and weed, prune, mulch, or water or just set up the gardens in a way that won’t require future maintenance.Potential sites for guerrilla plantings include urban riverbanks, parks, highway beauty strips, residential side yards, alleyways, apartment complex green areas, rest stops, traffic islands, parking lots, and friends’ houses. I bet you can think of a few good places near your house right now.


Guerrilla gardens beautify the neighborhood, increase local diversity, and provide food for people, animals, and insects. You can add to existing gardens by planting bee attracting plants to increase the pollination of a favorite cherry tree in a local park, or you can start a new garden where there was only a pile of leaves or dirt. Some people drop seeds of tenacious plants such as burdock and morning glory into cracks in the sidewalk, hoping to break it up and let nature through.


Here are some guidelines for successful guerrilla gardening:


First, scout the site. Does it have full sun or partial shade? Is it hot or cool, dry or moist? Is there room for a large shrub, a small perennial, a large tree, a whole garden, or just a few flowers or vegetables? Do people influence the site? Often a park or roadside is mowed or sprayed with toxins; consider these factors when choosing what and where to plant.


Next, make a simple design and choose plants that will grow well in the site. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to plant lettuce in a parking lot that gets full sun and no water: Lettuce likes cool and moist conditions, and will either die in infancy or go to seed immediately in such a hot site.However, it does make sense to plant a fig tree on the edge of an irrigated river or parkside bike path, where it can grow to maturity and provide a nutritious snack for passing bikers.


​When you are ready to plant, choose a time of the day that is not too conspicuous. Load up a wheelbarrow, bike cart, or truck with seeds and plants, a shovel, some rich compost, a bucket or three of water, and a bucket of mulch.


Because you may not be tending the garden as closely as a more legal one, use a dry garden transplanting technique: Dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the root-ball of the plant. If the plant is root bound (the roots are wrapped around themselves in a tight ball), gently loosen the roots by pulling them apart with fingers or sharp clippers before planting. Put some compost or natural fertilizer in the bottom of the hole. Dunk the roots in a bucket of water or compost tea for a few minutes and place them in the hole. Hold the plant erect and fill the hole with fertile compost, being careful not to damage the roots or leave them exposed. Firm the soil around the plant so there is no wobble to the stem, and provide a trellis or support poles if needed.Dig a very shallow trench around the base of the plant to create a reservoir for water and top it off with a thick layer of mulch. Water liberally: Use three times as much water as the volume of the pot the plant was in. Sow the seeds of some good companion plants and hope for the best.


Plants that will do particularly well in this situation include sunchoke, squash, berries, fruit trees (especially figs, plums, apples, and cherries), fennel, potatoes, radish, salsify, turnips, kale, filberts, passiflora, kiwi, tomatillo, bamboo, tomatoes, amaranth, garlic, rosemary, nettle, roses, and poppies, to name a few. Keep in mind that most plants, and especially fruit trees, will need more water the first year than after they are established, so try to include a few follow-up visits in your guerrilla plans. 

Art Crime

As I said before, our most valuable tool is our own creativity. This is also our best defense against the (often violent) negative reactions of the current regime to our proposed changes in the system. I use the term art crime to describe any direct action that uses colorful, hypercreative tactics.


For example, a conservative mayor was running for his third term, and as is so often the case in this bipartisan system, there was no suitable alternative candidate—the Democratic opponent was a waffler at best and bound to lose. Some local radicals wanted to expose the anti- environmental, anti-civil-rights attitude of the mayor in the hope of at least weakening his campaign. One of the activists bought a ridiculous suit from the thrift store and started campaigning for his own spot on the mayoral ballot. His speeches were funny and poignant, and his entourage included an assortment of giant singing puppets.


The media attention paid to this eccentric new candidate forced the incumbent mayor to address some of the very real issues he had previously avoided. In a political system as disempowering as ours, an action like this doesn’t change much in the big picture, but it did give local activists a good boost in morale and helped educate the public about just how corrupt our mayor really was.


Throughout our work, whether planting a garden in the yard or blockading a shipment of genetically modified corn, it is imperative that we retain a healthy sense of humor. It is okay to feel angry about the injustices around you, but hatred will make you sick. Laughter makes people shine, no matter what side of the issue they stand on.Here is another example:


Some ecological activists had built a village of tree houses high up in an old-growth stand that was slated for clear-cutting. The tree sitters wanted to bring people from the community out for a day in the forest to experience the diverse natural splendor they were trying to protect. They had organized several public hikes, with marginal success, but were struggling to gain the support they would need to stop the timber sale.


When they decided to put on a backwoods circus, people from town flooded out to the site for a day in the forest with dancing clowns, jugglers, and even an aerial trapeze show. This action gave a fresh face to the tree-sit, which local media had previously labeled as hostile, militant, and violent. People later talked about how the performance drew them out to the forest, but it was the trees that put on the real show.


This chapter has explored a wide range of community projects, from installing a small public garden that grows food for the neighborhood to launching a national ad campaign about a relevant social or ecological issue. As with anything, the best way to gain a better understanding of the value and meaning behind work like this is to do it.


Whatever types of projects you choose, their success will relate directly to how many people learn about and get involved in them. A well organized, sincere outreach plan is the foundation of an exponential sharing of knowledge and resources, and this exponential effect will ensure the long term benefits of your work. The next chapter will outline an assortment of strategies for finding and connecting with like minded people in your neighborhood and beyond. 

Notes for Chapter 9

1. Peter Farb, Ecology (New York: Life Nature Library, 1963), 38–39.

2. Mark Lakeman, City Repair workshop, Eugene Permaculture Guild Annual Gathering at Lost Valley Education Center, Dexter, OR, 2001.

3. Greta Nagel, The Tao of Teaching (New York: Primus, 1994).

4. Andrew Goldring, ed., Permaculture Teacher’s Guide (London: Permaculture Association, 2000).

5. Jude Hobbs, Permaculture Teacher Training, Eugene, OR, August 2001.

6. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (New York: Delacorte, 1969).

7. Keith McHenry and C. T. Butler, Food Not Bombs (Tucson: See Sharp Press, 2000). 

Food Not Lawns is a registered trademark and cannot be used for profit nor without written permission from Heather Jo Flores.