Sharing Insights Podcast: Exploring Permaculture, Homesteads, and Community in Costa Rica

Jason Thomas

Sharing Insights Podcast sets out to share stories, strategies, and insights among operators of ecologically and socially beneficial projects, in Costa Rica. These stories provide landowners everywhere access to unique ideas for how they, too, might design their own business models for greater success and impact.

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019 Alternative Building Techniques (Season 1 Recap, Part 5)
Aug 3 2022
019 Alternative Building Techniques (Season 1 Recap, Part 5)
Hello, and welcome back to the Sharing Insights Podcast. My name is Jason Thomas, and the adventure continues. If you’ve been following the first year of the podcast, you’ll have noticed that I disappeared for a while. The last couple of months of 2021 handed me some massive life changes, and these first few months of 2022 have not only been about getting back on my feet, but have invited me into a co-creative collective that's giving my life here new purpose.    The long and short of it is that I just left my farm and home of 12 years. I was pushing to make things happen in a way my land partners just weren’t available for, and I wasn’t able to go any further without their support.  As difficult a decision as it was, I’ve packed my things and moved on to a more co-creative environment. In the end, I’ve welcomed the change and have already begun enjoying the fruits of being able to expand my spheres of influence in the region.   I’m happy to say, although the podcast might have faded, it hasn’t gone out!   This episode is all about physical infrastructure. It’s an exploration of some of the unique techniques we saw in our first season of interviews. It’ll be a shorter episode, given that there’s only so much I can tell you in audio format to describe what you’ll be much better off watching on our YouTube channel. All the same, I’ll go over some highlights to help entice you in that direction.   I’ll start off with our visit to Brave Earth. In the farm tour that Aly Kahn gave me, we saw an array of different building techniques they’ve been working with, from cob to bamboo, to earthen floors to copper-edged fibrolite, aircrete domes, faux-palm-thatched rooves, and more. I enjoyed seeing how each iteration of each construction method they’ve experimented with, grows with successive adaptations.   An interesting note is that, while they began with using quite a bit of cob & bamboo combinations in their earlier structures, they’ve been choosing to use cob less as time's gone on.  For those who aren’t familiar with the word “cob”, it refers to a construction style that uses a mix of clay and sand, similar to what’s used to make adobe bricks.    As beautiful as cob is, and as abundantly available the clay is, in most parts of Costa Rica, the reason they’ve been more selective about their use of it is that they quickly learned how much time and labor cob construction can take, as compared with most other materials choices. One fascinating material that we got to see was aircrete.   As described on   “AirCrete is a lightweight cement-based material that contains stable air cells uniformly distributed throughout the mixture. It utilizes a stable air cell rather than a traditional aggregate. It is a minimum of 20% (per volume) foam entrained. It’s also known as cellular concrete, foam concrete, foam-crete, lightweight concrete, aerated concrete.”   Brave Earth had built 5 of these domes by the time of my visit. They connected with an organization called Dome Gaia that came out and organized several workshops. Those who attended the dome-making workshops learned the methods while working with them. Dome Gaia designed their own unique machines for mixing cement with biodegradable soap to create a kind of cement foam.  This lightweight solid material has a surprisingly high compression strength.     The structures are made in layers. Each layer is wrapped in an industrial-grade felt material, called geotextile, which is dipped in cement and wrapped over each aircrete layer to add tensile strength. This combination of techniques makes the structure nearly indestructible.  Once the dome is shaped, a final layer of stucco is applied for aesthetics and water resistance. Aly Kahn recommends that the domes do best when they get a fresh coat of plaster every few years to protect them from leaks.    Another building style they’re using is an A-frame, which they call the “Jungle Hut”, made primarily out of bamboo, with some choice inclusions of synthetic materials for aesthetics and longevity.     The first element of this that I noticed was the roofs.  The A-frames, at first glance, look like they’re made with palm thatch, which is beautiful but requires a lot of palm leaves to create and can require quite a bit of maintenance.  It’s generally advised to regularly burn a fire under thatched roofs so that bugs don’t live in and eat them.  Otherwise, you’ll be replacing all that thatch every handful of years.  The polycarbonate material looks just like palm leaves; offers the cooling and noise reduction benefits of not using metal, but can last several decades with little to no maintenance!   Over the front porch of these A-frame cabins, they used some high-quality translucent polycarbonate roof panels to bring some light to it.  The contrast of plastic against the natural look of the bamboo and thatch didn’t quite look right, though. To modify it, they used a natural material called caña brava, which can be found abundantly down here. They strung them together into simple panels and placed them beneath the polycarbonate to add an organic feel to it. Very well done!   The floors of the A-frames showed another simple innovation that impressed me.  They chose to use sheetrock for the flooring, as the structures are all constructed on stilt-built platforms to avoid having to carve up the land, digging flat foundations. Sheetrock floors are relatively inexpensive to install but are usually pretty unattractive.  The team at Brave Earth fixed this by cutting the sheetrock into angular pieces that formed a mandala shape, adding some thin pieces of wood where they meet, giving it an elegant and intentional look at a relatively low price.     Brave Earth is designing art into its cabin sculptures at every opportunity.  When you check out the video tour we did of their place, you’ll see how designing irregularity into your structures can be a great way to enhance their beauty.  Wait ‘till you see their kitchen!   Justin Dolan is another guest who’s given a lot of thought, planning, and experimentation to his building approach. St Michael’s Permaculture Country Club has an array of different structures built, ranging from a double-decker shipping container home to bamboo framed greenhouses.  Shipping containers are a popular upcycled shell of steel that many people are experimenting with to frame their homes.  Justin mentioned that, while they do offer some cost savings from buying new steel, many of the containers available are in poor condition and need a lot of improvements to create a suitable end product.  He also didn’t like the limitations that it places on design. Depending on your needs they still might be a good solution for you, though.    While building with steel can inherently leave you with a structure that can get quite hot, Justin has been using plant-based solutions that have proven to be impressively effective. Two of the adaptations he’s applied are the use of living rooftops and growing vines along the walls. By covering these structures with soil, grass, flowers, and other lovely plant matter, the temperature in these structures is significantly reduced.  He even has greywater from the house piped out to feed the vines that he has growing on the outside of the walls. Building structures partially into a hillside is another way to keep the temperature low.   Another cooling feature that Justin’s used is the tactic of putting a swimming pool in front of the house!  He says that when the wind passes over the pool and toward the house, the water's surface reduces the wind temperature as it approaches and enters the home, cooling it by several degrees.  It’s also pretty epic to have a swimming pool out the front door, if I may say so.     Of course, swimming pools generally need a lot of water.  For that reason, Justin has a storage shed next to the house and pool, whose roof he uses to collect water into a large storage tank below the shed. What a great design! Once the tank is full, Justin has enough water to freshen up the pool.   Like many of our guests, Justin is a big fan of bamboo, as well.  He recommends, to any landowner, to plant several varieties and plant early! Building with bamboo enhances the quality of the environment. It’s an ideal tropical building material.   He also encourages us to choose insect-resistant woods to reduce the need to treat them. However, he also acknowledges the importance of treating the wood that needs it, to keep from having to replace it sooner than necessary.   Nico Botefur and Ed Bernhardt are another couple of guests who use a lot of bamboo in their structures.  Nico has a series of old canvas tents that he bought from the Salvation Army and put them over some bamboo frames to make his popular glamping rentals.  Nico, for the most part, chooses not to treat his bamboo. He just makes sure that he has plenty of it planted all around. He prefers to build his structures in ways that make it easy for him to change the poles out when they begin to decay or get eaten by beetles.   At the end of Ed’s farm tour video, he mentioned a design for a solar food dryer made out of bamboo in a gothic-arch style.  Well, he’s finished it, and it is impressive!  What’s most impressive about it is how simple it was to build, and how hot it gets in there. He’s invited me over to create a mini-course to show you how you can make one, too!  Subscribe to the YouTube channel to catch the video when it comes out.   Ed showed us another exciting innovation in his farm tour video worth mentioning here.  He created a biosand filter just outside of his house to filter his drinking water, and it’s SO simple!  It’s made with a 16” concrete culvert (or “canteria” in Costa Rica,) filled with rock dust (polvo piedra) up to about 16” from the top of the cylinder.  He has an output tube that comes up only 12” from the top, so the sand remains covered in water at all times.  Once a day, he fills the culvert with fresh water from his well, and it filters down through the rock dust and up through the exit tube, leaving it clean and fresh.   Ed’s neighbor Suzanna Leff also uses bamboo regularly but in very crafty ways, primarily for garden projects.  One example is found in her greenhouse, where she hangs lengths of bamboo culms vertically, strung one under the other, with holes cut in the top to make horizontal growing space!   Another one of her structures that we see in her farm Tour video, that actually caught me by surprise, was her drying house. I was impressed with how hot and dry it got in there, even during the rainy season. It’s built with transparent roof panels but only has screen walls.  Even without any humidity control, it seems to be very effective.     (A veteran tip I’ll slip in here is that Susanna recommends drying your roots with some dirt still on them.  She says it helps preserve them for storage).   Terry Lillian Newton dropped a clever word of wisdom for anyone who keeps livestock.  She warns us not to use cement floors for horses or other hooved animals, as it can damage their feet. (I wish we knew this when we poured a cement floor for our goats, for easy cleaning.) She recommends using a dirt floor covered with wood chips. You can change them out regularly, and even use the enriched wood chips for garden mulch.   Our last stop on our Season 1 tour was Lynx Guimond, and boy do I like his style!  Lynx has a background in building tree platforms that appear to be minimalistic but are very well made, look fantastic, and are cozy to hang out in.  It brings a lot of fun to the environment;, as well as style and function to the project.   In the video tour of Sailcargo’s homestead, we also got a glimpse of the sizable but simple greenhouse they built with a scrap wood frame, a transparent plastic roof, and shade cloth for walls.   That’s what I’ve got for you in this episode.  Our next episode will be the completion of this recap series, where we’ll explore some insights gathered around cultivating an impactful belief system.  I’ll also be making a long-awaited announcement regarding the future of the podcast.  Be sure to stay tuned.   Until then, Keep it sustainable! We have created a pdf to digest the content of this episode, you can check it out here  P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Support the Show page. There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out! Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeodLink:
019 Alternative Building Techniques (Season 1 Recap, Part 5)
Aug 3 2022
019 Alternative Building Techniques (Season 1 Recap, Part 5)
Hello, and welcome back to the Sharing Insights Podcast. My name is Jason Thomas, and the adventure continues. If you’ve been following the first year of the podcast, you’ll have noticed that I disappeared for a while. The last couple of months of 2021 handed me some massive life changes, and these first few months of 2022 have not only been about getting back on my feet, but have invited me into a co-creative collective that's giving my life here new purpose.    The long and short of it is that I just left my farm and home of 12 years. I was pushing to make things happen in a way my land partners just weren’t available for, and I wasn’t able to go any further without their support.  As difficult a decision as it was, I’ve packed my things and moved on to a more co-creative environment. In the end, I’ve welcomed the change and have already begun enjoying the fruits of being able to expand my spheres of influence in the region.   I’m happy to say, although the podcast might have faded, it hasn’t gone out!   This episode is all about physical infrastructure. It’s an exploration of some of the unique techniques we saw in our first season of interviews. It’ll be a shorter episode, given that there’s only so much I can tell you in audio format to describe what you’ll be much better off watching on our YouTube channel. All the same, I’ll go over some highlights to help entice you in that direction.   I’ll start off with our visit to Brave Earth. In the farm tour that Aly Kahn gave me, we saw an array of different building techniques they’ve been working with, from cob to bamboo, to earthen floors to copper-edged fibrolite, aircrete domes, faux-palm-thatched rooves, and more. I enjoyed seeing how each iteration of each construction method they’ve experimented with, grows with successive adaptations.   An interesting note is that, while they began with using quite a bit of cob & bamboo combinations in their earlier structures, they’ve been choosing to use cob less as time's gone on.  For those who aren’t familiar with the word “cob”, it refers to a construction style that uses a mix of clay and sand, similar to what’s used to make adobe bricks.    As beautiful as cob is, and as abundantly available the clay is, in most parts of Costa Rica, the reason they’ve been more selective about their use of it is that they quickly learned how much time and labor cob construction can take, as compared with most other materials choices. One fascinating material that we got to see was aircrete.   As described on   “AirCrete is a lightweight cement-based material that contains stable air cells uniformly distributed throughout the mixture. It utilizes a stable air cell rather than a traditional aggregate. It is a minimum of 20% (per volume) foam entrained. It’s also known as cellular concrete, foam concrete, foam-crete, lightweight concrete, aerated concrete.”   Brave Earth had built 5 of these domes by the time of my visit. They connected with an organization called Dome Gaia that came out and organized several workshops. Those who attended the dome-making workshops learned the methods while working with them. Dome Gaia designed their own unique machines for mixing cement with biodegradable soap to create a kind of cement foam.  This lightweight solid material has a surprisingly high compression strength.     The structures are made in layers. Each layer is wrapped in an industrial-grade felt material, called geotextile, which is dipped in cement and wrapped over each aircrete layer to add tensile strength. This combination of techniques makes the structure nearly indestructible.  Once the dome is shaped, a final layer of stucco is applied for aesthetics and water resistance. Aly Kahn recommends that the domes do best when they get a fresh coat of plaster every few years to protect them from leaks.    Another building style they’re using is an A-frame, which they call the “Jungle Hut”, made primarily out of bamboo, with some choice inclusions of synthetic materials for aesthetics and longevity.     The first element of this that I noticed was the roofs.  The A-frames, at first glance, look like they’re made with palm thatch, which is beautiful but requires a lot of palm leaves to create and can require quite a bit of maintenance.  It’s generally advised to regularly burn a fire under thatched roofs so that bugs don’t live in and eat them.  Otherwise, you’ll be replacing all that thatch every handful of years.  The polycarbonate material looks just like palm leaves; offers the cooling and noise reduction benefits of not using metal, but can last several decades with little to no maintenance!   Over the front porch of these A-frame cabins, they used some high-quality translucent polycarbonate roof panels to bring some light to it.  The contrast of plastic against the natural look of the bamboo and thatch didn’t quite look right, though. To modify it, they used a natural material called caña brava, which can be found abundantly down here. They strung them together into simple panels and placed them beneath the polycarbonate to add an organic feel to it. Very well done!   The floors of the A-frames showed another simple innovation that impressed me.  They chose to use sheetrock for the flooring, as the structures are all constructed on stilt-built platforms to avoid having to carve up the land, digging flat foundations. Sheetrock floors are relatively inexpensive to install but are usually pretty unattractive.  The team at Brave Earth fixed this by cutting the sheetrock into angular pieces that formed a mandala shape, adding some thin pieces of wood where they meet, giving it an elegant and intentional look at a relatively low price.     Brave Earth is designing art into its cabin sculptures at every opportunity.  When you check out the video tour we did of their place, you’ll see how designing irregularity into your structures can be a great way to enhance their beauty.  Wait ‘till you see their kitchen!   Justin Dolan is another guest who’s given a lot of thought, planning, and experimentation to his building approach. St Michael’s Permaculture Country Club has an array of different structures built, ranging from a double-decker shipping container home to bamboo framed greenhouses.  Shipping containers are a popular upcycled shell of steel that many people are experimenting with to frame their homes.  Justin mentioned that, while they do offer some cost savings from buying new steel, many of the containers available are in poor condition and need a lot of improvements to create a suitable end product.  He also didn’t like the limitations that it places on design. Depending on your needs they still might be a good solution for you, though.    While building with steel can inherently leave you with a structure that can get quite hot, Justin has been using plant-based solutions that have proven to be impressively effective. Two of the adaptations he’s applied are the use of living rooftops and growing vines along the walls. By covering these structures with soil, grass, flowers, and other lovely plant matter, the temperature in these structures is significantly reduced.  He even has greywater from the house piped out to feed the vines that he has growing on the outside of the walls. Building structures partially into a hillside is another way to keep the temperature low.   Another cooling feature that Justin’s used is the tactic of putting a swimming pool in front of the house!  He says that when the wind passes over the pool and toward the house, the water's surface reduces the wind temperature as it approaches and enters the home, cooling it by several degrees.  It’s also pretty epic to have a swimming pool out the front door, if I may say so.     Of course, swimming pools generally need a lot of water.  For that reason, Justin has a storage shed next to the house and pool, whose roof he uses to collect water into a large storage tank below the shed. What a great design! Once the tank is full, Justin has enough water to freshen up the pool.   Like many of our guests, Justin is a big fan of bamboo, as well.  He recommends, to any landowner, to plant several varieties and plant early! Building with bamboo enhances the quality of the environment. It’s an ideal tropical building material.   He also encourages us to choose insect-resistant woods to reduce the need to treat them. However, he also acknowledges the importance of treating the wood that needs it, to keep from having to replace it sooner than necessary.   Nico Botefur and Ed Bernhardt are another couple of guests who use a lot of bamboo in their structures.  Nico has a series of old canvas tents that he bought from the Salvation Army and put them over some bamboo frames to make his popular glamping rentals.  Nico, for the most part, chooses not to treat his bamboo. He just makes sure that he has plenty of it planted all around. He prefers to build his structures in ways that make it easy for him to change the poles out when they begin to decay or get eaten by beetles.   At the end of Ed’s farm tour video, he mentioned a design for a solar food dryer made out of bamboo in a gothic-arch style.  Well, he’s finished it, and it is impressive!  What’s most impressive about it is how simple it was to build, and how hot it gets in there. He’s invited me over to create a mini-course to show you how you can make one, too!  Subscribe to the YouTube channel to catch the video when it comes out.   Ed showed us another exciting innovation in his farm tour video worth mentioning here.  He created a biosand filter just outside of his house to filter his drinking water, and it’s SO simple!  It’s made with a 16” concrete culvert (or “canteria” in Costa Rica,) filled with rock dust (polvo piedra) up to about 16” from the top of the cylinder.  He has an output tube that comes up only 12” from the top, so the sand remains covered in water at all times.  Once a day, he fills the culvert with fresh water from his well, and it filters down through the rock dust and up through the exit tube, leaving it clean and fresh.   Ed’s neighbor Suzanna Leff also uses bamboo regularly but in very crafty ways, primarily for garden projects.  One example is found in her greenhouse, where she hangs lengths of bamboo culms vertically, strung one under the other, with holes cut in the top to make horizontal growing space!   Another one of her structures that we see in her farm Tour video, that actually caught me by surprise, was her drying house. I was impressed with how hot and dry it got in there, even during the rainy season. It’s built with transparent roof panels but only has screen walls.  Even without any humidity control, it seems to be very effective.     (A veteran tip I’ll slip in here is that Susanna recommends drying your roots with some dirt still on them.  She says it helps preserve them for storage).   Terry Lillian Newton dropped a clever word of wisdom for anyone who keeps livestock.  She warns us not to use cement floors for horses or other hooved animals, as it can damage their feet. (I wish we knew this when we poured a cement floor for our goats, for easy cleaning.) She recommends using a dirt floor covered with wood chips. You can change them out regularly, and even use the enriched wood chips for garden mulch.   Our last stop on our Season 1 tour was Lynx Guimond, and boy do I like his style!  Lynx has a background in building tree platforms that appear to be minimalistic but are very well made, look fantastic, and are cozy to hang out in.  It brings a lot of fun to the environment;, as well as style and function to the project.   In the video tour of Sailcargo’s homestead, we also got a glimpse of the sizable but simple greenhouse they built with a scrap wood frame, a transparent plastic roof, and shade cloth for walls.   That’s what I’ve got for you in this episode.  Our next episode will be the completion of this recap series, where we’ll explore some insights gathered around cultivating an impactful belief system.  I’ll also be making a long-awaited announcement regarding the future of the podcast.  Be sure to stay tuned.   Until then, Keep it sustainable! We have created a pdf to digest the content of this episode, you can check it out here  P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Support the Show page. There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out! Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeodLink:
020 “What I’ve Learned”: Cultivating an Impactful Belief System
Jun 14 2022
020 “What I’ve Learned”: Cultivating an Impactful Belief System
“What I’ve Learned”: Cultivating an Impactful Belief System   Welcome    Hello, and welcome to the 6th and final episode of the Season 1 Recap of the Sharing Insights Podcast! I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a value-rich experiment for me. All the same, I hope you, my friends, have gotten some value out of it as well.  As it is, this is also going to be the final episode of the Sharing Insights Podcast.   Yes, this is the grand finale of the podcast as we’ve known it. Since I began producing this podcast and learned more about the power of the mic and what we can do with it, I decided to open the conversation up to other regenerative-focused programs that aren’t exclusively land-based. From here on, the podcast will be known as ‘Regeneration Nation Costa Rica’.    The urgency for humanity to get behind regenerative practices in any and all aspects of its existence has begun to grow on me.  While I’ll continue to provide content directed at helping land-based projects gain exposure and learn from each other’s insights, we’ll hear more about who’s doing what to help Costa Rica reach carbon neutrality and social equity.   I believe that to help this movement of regenerative-focused landowners further discover their potential, make the impact they intended, and thrive, it’ll do us well to see what other players are doing in the regenerative field. There are a multitude of empowering projects all around Costa Rica, offering products, services, education, and community-building opportunities that our current audience can benefit from hearing about, and I want to get them on the mic!   The time to make the efforts needed to hand our grandchildren a world worth having children in, is NOW. The maverick landowners who’ve been the focus of the podcast so far will continue to be an important focus for upcoming content.  I already have several interviews with land stewards recorded and ready to go.    At the end of this episode, I’ll share more of what I’ve been getting into these past months and what you can expect from the podcast in the months to come.   Let’s get into this theme of cultivating an impactful belief system and some of the insights that our guests have shared with us so far.   None of this show’s guests could be where they are, doing what they do, if they didn’t embody an impactful belief system. It’s been a great pleasure to get to know these leaders better and witness their brilliance.   So, what is an impactful belief system?The world is full of people trying to make ends meet. The struggle keeps most folks hyper-focused on the details of what many call the “hamster wheel” or “the rat race” of life. From this place, it’s difficult to see what one can do to create a positive impact in the world around them beyond being a “responsible consumer.”     There are others, however, who find the grace to break free from reactionary living long enough to discover what their passions are and how they can apply them to serve the needs of others in a regenerative way.  In a world with headlines as disconcerting as the ones we find today, it takes courage to forge ahead with one’s dreams and be the change one wants to see.    Recognizing that a new way exists; believing that you can find your way there, and holding faith that “if it can be done, you can do it”, are some of the first steps in initiating and developing an impactful belief system. Transformation awaits those who take these steps.   What do our guests have to say from their side of the looking glass?   Just for fun, let's go in reverse order of our episodes, bringing the brilliance of our friend Lynx Guimond to the spotlight first. In Lynx’s interview, he leaves us with the commonly shared, but too commonly forsaken advice to make the effort required to live your dreams. He reminds us that happy people choose to do what they want to do. Likewise, happy people find ways to want to do what they’re doing.  This is sage advice that does us service each time we remember it. Creating a healthy and holistic lifestyle and environment makes doing what we love and loving what we do easier. It can drive us forward on our path of living our dreams.   Lynx, and all his crew at SailCargo Inc, also ask us to commit to buying local and do whatever else we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry. Purchasing used products is another method that Lynx, and many other conscientious consumers, recommend for reducing this planet-altering source of pollution.   It’s become imperative that we start spending more time researching how to effectively direct our buying power to support places that are doing what we want to see done in the world, and form commitments to follow through whenever possible. Of course, it’s equally imperative that we forgive ourselves for where we are while we get certain about where we’re going.   Another one of our guests who’s kept his focus on sourcing his needs, and those of his guests, as locally and mindfully as possible, is Nico Botefur.   Nico started with an inherited piece of property and a modest budget and has developed it into a regenerative farm-to-table hotel and restaurant, providing entrepreneurial opportunities for many of his neighbors who choose to offer tours, therapy sessions, and other culturally-focused classes and services. The biggest takeaway here is that he first invested into his education.  Upon deciding to undertake the stewardship of the property and start the business, he took a permaculture course and attended a variety of workshops and retreats to better understand how to work with the land, natural building materials, and his own inner nature.    The entirety of my interview with Nico Botefur, the way he goes about the orchestration of Essence Arenal, and the way his staff welcomes their guests, demonstrates his belief that “passion is the key to success.” Another pair of impactful believers is Meghan Casey and her husband Davis Azofeifa. They’re the sweet couple whose family founded and runs the Chilimate Rainforest Eco Retreat. First, let’s look at their commitment to join forces with the Rainforest Alliance. The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new norm. They help farmers, forest communities, companies, and consumers champion ecologically and socially regenerative practices.    As a reward, businesses that complete the application and mentoring process are validated to use Rainforest Alliance’s well-recognized frog certification seal on their website and marketing, along with other benefits. Meghan tells us, in her interview, how they had many of the social and environmental bits down, but Rainforest Alliance helped them with administrative skills and infrastructure.   She’s also been a leader in her community, assisting her neighbors with entrepreneurial guidance and training, helping them to tap into the ecotourism market in a way that fosters cultural bridging.  Meghan and Davis have empowered their community to collectively foster an ecologically, economically, and culturally prosperous environment for many families in their pueblo. From language & art classes, to homestays, to farm tours, horseback riding, and more, they’ve turned it into a destination location that’s impacted the lives of countless eco-centric people passing through the region.   When I first arrived in Costa Rica a dozen years ago in my veggie oil school bus, one of the first culturally progressive Ticos that I met was a young man named Esteban Acosta. He was fresh out of Earth University, working as a biodynamics manager at an organic farm, close to where I live now, and this kid was just bubbling with fun.  The kind of fun that exudes from those who absolutely love practicing their garden alchemy.     Esteban had built a well-functioning biodigester for the owner’s goat farm, which Esteban also managed, using biodynamic principles for yard care, food supply, and more.    Twelve years later, Esteban is now the owner of Viogaz, a premier provider of biodigester systems for not only agricultural use, but home-scale installations as well. He also travels the world teaching at biodynamic conferences and helping commercial-scale farms transition to profit-producing organic and biodynamic practices.   This inspired student has embraced the power of enterprise to maximize his potential to serve the earth.   Esteban encourages us to keep our “Why” in mind. This has been a crucial lesson that comes up again and again for me in strategy sessions.  Going several layers deep into your “Why” can reveal ways of getting your needs met in creative and oftentimes under-realized ways. Ask yourself, sometimes, why you’re aiming to do what you’re setting out to do.  But don’t stop there. Ask yourself why that reason’s important to you.  From there, ask why THAT reason’s important to you, and go as many as 7 layers deep.  This is a valuable exercise we can do when evaluating any of our endeavors.    Esteban also reminds us that experimentation is an excellent teacher, but the key is to balance that with the wisdom of a mentor.  With the guidance of someone who’s already further along the path of exploration, those periods of experimentation can be used to save time, taking them further along their chosen way at a more efficient rate.   Our visit with Esteban was actually an unexpected surprise along our trip.  As we were traveling on our interview tour, I contacted him to refer him to another guest of mine that we’d just visited. Once on our phone call, I found out that he was in La Fortuna, taking care of a family estate. That just happened to be the same town we were heading to next!   In the mountains of La Fortuna, tucked far away from the hustle of the hot springs resorts, is a community called Brave Earth / Tierra Valiente. I was hosted there by two brothers, Aly Kahn & Alnoor Ladha. Our interview was filled with a stream of sage advice — several of those gems you can find as episode highlights on our YouTube channel.   One topic that came up as essential for me in cultivating an impactful belief system is healing our senses of victimhood and entitlement. Alnoor quoted a powerful Sufi proverb, reminding us that “You are entrusted with everything, but entitled to nothing.”  The more we clear ourselves of these egoic burdens, the more we make room to humble down and witness the ways that life greets us with support and generosity.   Another quote that stood out for me was the suggestion to “Make art at every opportunity.” Justin Dolan shared similar advice, suggesting that “If you have communal spaces that are beautiful, people will want to protect them and contribute.”  Our video tour of Brave Earth shows that they are definitely walking the talk.  Everything they do there is imbued with intention and an attention to form & beauty that makes being there feel uplifting.   At St Michael’s Permaculture Country Club, Justin also practices what he preaches. Every time he finds a new plant, he embraces the urge to get some of its seed to propagate. The community’s become a living seed bank matched by few others I’ve seen. Getting in the habit of sharing seeds is a great way to create regional, as well as personal resilience. What if more people did this?   Another way that Justin exercises his impactful belief system is through experimentation.  His place is a playground of innovative permaculture designs that he shares prolifically, via social media and through farm tours.     Justin brought up a lesser discussed value of living a life of impact, and that’s the imprint that it leaves on your children.  His children are immersed in a world of creativity, nature, exploration, interaction with people from around the world, with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and ages, and they’re invited to be involved with life in the community. Having met many people, along my journeys, who’ve been raised in such a way, it may be safe to say that his passions and efforts stand a good chance of rippling out through generations to come.   On the Caribbean side of the country, we had the pleasure to visit with Peter and Ancel at Finca La Isla.  Peter made a comment in his interview that I wish all listers would deeply consider.   He reminds us that, in most cases, an organic substitute exists for any conventional practice. We must stop giving conventional farm owners our money!  Please!!!  Whenever possible, consider investing the cost difference required to support farmers who are doing what you want to see done on our planet.    Ask yourself whose pockets you’re choosing to put your money into.  Who’s investing in the kind of future you want to provide for your children’s children?   Those are the people, businesses, and practices that we need to be supporting.   Peter’s partner, Ancel, is another living exemplification of putting one’s lifestyle choices toward the betterment of the planet, living beings, and future generations. Ancel is an avid student of ancestral wisdom. Talamanca Chocolate is a regenerative-focused cottage industry where she stewards and harvests from generations-old cacao trees, with the guidance of her indigenous neighbors. She passes her craft down to future generations through her internship program. She believes that one of the best ways to learn something is to become an apprentice of the trade. Teachers like Ancel are making a special kind of impact in the way they operate their businesses.Ancel takes her commitment to practice permaculture to such an extent that she has many of her neighbors delivering their kitchen scraps to her, which she composts for her cacao trees.     You first have to believe that you can live an impactful life, even with small gestures like this, if you want your life to show you the way toward greater influence.   Ancel also explains that to understand the essence of what we eat, we have to experience it - not just in eating it, but by getting involved with the steps of bringing the product to life through its alchemical processes.    For example, in her own particular alchemical method, she chooses to ferment and not roast the cacao, explaining that the wellness-inducing benefits diminish in the roasting. The fermentation process requires attention, watching nature practice its brilliance. In understanding the stages of fermentation, and the temperatures required to preserve quality, one grows a more fulfilling relationship with what they’re feeding their cells and why.   While many of our guests have been directing their lives’ focus toward regenerative ends for many years and are grounded in the practice, it’s never too late to pivot what you’re doing and begin to invent the next chapter of your life.    Another resident of the Puerto Viejo region is Terry Lillian Newton, founder of Kindred Spirits.   Terry’s story tells how she found herself at the helm of a successful hotel enterprise and realized that working for the tourism industry wasn’t enriching for her.  She began to change how she marketed what she had to offer to bring more people in, who wanted the kinds of experiences that she wanted to offer, centered in connection with each other and the living world around them.   She found that magic moment when she chose to pursue her dream and combine her love and respect for horses with her passion for teaching yoga and mindfulness, sold her hotel, and bought Kindred Spirits where it is now. She finds that both therapies synergistically foster calmness, balance, and self-awareness, and have been impacting the way her students experience the world ever since.   The moral of the story is that if you aren’t in love with what you’re doing, consider completely remodeling the business plan to connect with your passion.  I’ve had to do that with my own life, including the direction of this podcast.  When it feels like life is calling you to a more aligned purpose, it may be a good time to get curious and explore the call.    In doing that, she reminds us to try and let go of our attachment to the specifics of how that passion gets to express itself, and learn to appreciate the innate essence of what, where, and who we’re working with.   Ed Bernhardt is another guest and friend who lives a life guided by an impactful belief system. I met Ed when I first arrived in the country. I soon learned and benefited from the generosity of his farm’s living seed bank. Taking the time to visit him for this interview, however, gave me a deeper look into a man who’s made this world a better place.   Ed’s passions for teaching gardening, agroforestry, and natural building have changed the world around him. This soft-spoken revolutionary has taught organic gardening to children, mothers, agricultural institutions, and universities throughout the country while hosting hundreds of students at Finca Alba Nueva over the decades. As a prolific author, he’s inspired and instructed countless readers, rippling his influence out in ways that he’ll never be able to know.    Ed teaches that Ecological Health Gardens lead to health, happiness, and longevity. Once you start eating a big salad every day, change happens. You begin building new cells with proper building blocks, and wellness gets a lot easier and makes more sense.    Ed recognizes that it’s easy to get depressed and feel like there’s little that we can do to help the world, but any achievements that we can make with our personal growth or health stand a statistically-high chance of leading one toward happiness. It’s pretty straightforward, even if the results may vary. Eat a strictly whole-food diet for a few months, evaluate how you feel, and get excited about the feedback. This pattern has a way of encouraging continued growth.   Start small and build from there. Don’t overstretch yourself. Work on what is sustainable for you now, and you’ll increase the chances that you’ll persevere. It can be challenging to make significant life changes, but not impossible. Especially considering the abundance of resources and the myriad of options we find ourselves surrounded by these days - more than what most people generally like to admit to themselves, anyway.   Likewise, the health of our ecology is influenced by the quality of its building blocks. Our ability to thrive on this planet relies, for one, on us putting more plants in the ground. Luckily, the interaction with one’s environment and the soil itself happens to be therapeutic.  All the more reason to get our hands and attention to the earth, plant more trees, and be ancestors worth giving thanks to.   In our conversation, Ed describes how Applied Human Ecology is a practice of not just thinking about our ecology but navigating life as an extension of it. How do we get started? Get dirty!   When times get hard, people go back to growing their food. Incidentally, it also provides a growing number of entrepreneurs with lifestyle-supporting opportunities.   One rebel who figured that out, a good long while ago, is Suzanna Leff.  She’s been making an impact with her humble piece of riverside paradise for a few decades now. There, she teaches apprentices how to plant and harvest food, as well as how to prepare the few choice value-added products that she sells at the market.    Her belief that she can live the life she wants to live and have people come to her and learn what she has to offer, has afforded her a comfortable place on the edge between minimalism and enterprise.   Above all, Suzanna honors the value and importance of finding our passions. She reminds us to observe, reflect, and surrender to what the world brings to us and learn how to be in service to that.   When I asked her, at the end of our interview, what she thinks that anyone could do, no matter where they live or what resources they have, to make a difference in the world, she answered that growing food is one of the most important things that we can learn to do, right now.    As a land steward at Finca Amrta, Suzanna feels that the ability to provide this kind of lifestyle to guests is one of the most empowering gifts we can give someone.  Living an impactful life means something different to everyone.  The most potent moment is when we find what that is for each of us and aim to redirect our lives to align with it.   Welcoming someone from a city upbringing and offering them the opportunity to gain perspective on how true that can be, annually redirects the course of countless people’s lives, through projects like those that I’ve been interviewing for this show.   Being able to travel and find my way into so many unique projects as a young man changed my life forever after. The belief system that I developed along the way has impacted the belief system of countless others. That’s how it works.  We’re all a small part of this morphogenic organism called humanity, and we all have our place in influencing the whole.   Through these experiences, I’ve learned how inherently healing it can be to physically connect with the elements of nature. Putting our hands in the dirt, taking time to feel the breath enter our lungs and the breeze caress the hairs on our skin, submerging ourselves in the oceans, rivers, and lakes of this world, attending a sweat lodge or other fire ceremony, and praying in whatever ways connect us to the ethers are all ways that we can replenish our lifeforce and assist ourselves in bringing our bodies, minds, and emotions back to balance.    It’s hard to live a life of wellness and contemplative impact without taking the time and making the effort to connect with life outside of the house. There’s a value in releasing the grip that we so often drive our errand-driven lives with, that’s difficult to perceive from that place of grasping. I’ve learned to remind myself that I can’t afford NOT to take a break from the doing and be. For that matter, it’s also worth mentioning the value that taking a break from food and doing an annual nutritional cleanse can provide for the body. It's just another step all of us would do well to take along the path toward developing the discipline and clarity of mind that empower our efforts toward developing an impactful belief system. . Ahhh, well, there it is. I did it. I finally made it through this recap series. I don’t think I’ll likely do a recap like this again, in the same way. At least not in an audio format. All the same, going back through all these recordings for this recap series has brought my attention to many things that I’d missed before.    I hope you’ve also picked something up in these reviews that you previously missed. If not, perhaps you’ve received a reminder for some things that you forgot to take note of when you listened to the interview the first time around.  Perhaps you’re listening to this as your first episode because someone shared it with you, and you’re excited to listen to an interview or two.    Either way, it’s not just what we learn and believe that make the impact we’re dreaming of. What we put into practice is the activating element that brings our beliefs to life.   I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that I’ve changed the name of the podcast to Regeneration Nation Costa Rica. With that, I’m opening up the conversation to explore regenerative projects in Costa Rica on the levels of Agricultural, Business, Community, and even Government-level initiatives that I think we’ll all do well to learn more about and consider taking advantage of and supporting.    One of the reasons that the podcast took such a long break is that I’ve gotten pretty deeply involved with a grassroots regional sociocratic organization, here in Costa Rica. I’m pretty excited about the prospects of what we’re building. The Diamante Bridge Collective is comprised of seasoned landowners, community builders, local and digital economy enthusiasts, and a variety of other skilled and passionate people who’ve chosen to combine their impactful belief systems to create something bigger than themselves.   One of the collective’s focuses has been turning properties over to trust and establishing protocols for dedicated individuals to apply for land stewardship rights, allowing them to build a home, grow food, and raise a family. They also get to live amongst other like-minded change-makers, shifting the paradigm that only those with money can live in a rural community, grow food, and build a home that no landowner has the right over. Another is a wellness circle designed to better understand the needs of the region’s residents and find ways to meet them collectively.   Regenerative enterprises are another key focus, where we’ve been fundraising to kick start mobile bamboo curing stations, greywater system installations, and a recycling station designed to reuse local waste as building materials for nearby projects.   I’ll be sharing more about all of this in future episodes.  For now, I’m just happy to report that I’m alive, thriving, and well.  The pause from the podcast and exit from my previous land project has afforded me room to step back and re-evaluate how I can best serve the world around me   To be clear, if you've subscribed to the podcast, you don’t need to do anything to continue receiving future episodes. The old URLs will redirect you to the new website name. You can now find the show at   In the next episode, I’ll describe, in more detail, what’s been going on in the life of Jason Thomas and what you can expect from Regeneration Nation Costa Rica.   Remember to support projects whose impact you believe in by subscribing, rating, and reviewing them in notable places.  For that matter, don’t be shy about sharing quality content with your friends.   At all costs, whatever you do, use it as an excuse to shine!
018 Regenerative Land Management (Season 1 Recap, Part 4)
Nov 26 2021
018 Regenerative Land Management (Season 1 Recap, Part 4)
Regenerative Land Management * This blog contains a few links to products on Amazon.com I’ve found useful. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from any purchases you make through these links. It’s a great way to support the show while greening up your lifestyle. Our earned commissions won’t cost you a dime!   Hello and welcome to Part 4 of a 6-part recap series. It’s been a humbling exercise to keep up with all the fun stuff that comes with producing a podcast. Creating new episodes is only one of them.   Interviewing a bunch of rebel back-to-the-landers was a pretty attractive introduction to the idea of starting a podcast and getting good ideas out in the open.  I’ve loved it and am excited to release the other episodes that I have edited and waiting for you.      Doing these recap episodes, however, has been another kind of adventure.     Don’t get me wrong; it’s been an invaluable practice for me to do these reviews.  I feel like I’m getting out of this podcasting adventure the education that I was looking for.    All the same, creating audio content from a screen full of notes that you’ve taken from what other people have said is a lot more difficult than just speaking off the cuff. We humans are intrinsically a part of the planet we live on, and we're as inseparable from it as we are intertwined with its other expressions of lifeforms we co-exist with.  We are all composed of recycled molecules that we cyclically share with bacteria, viruses, other creatures, and the soil itself.   There are plenty of religions that tell the story of how we came from the soil, and to the soil, we return.  Yet we continue to tell ourselves and teach our children, the egoic myths that lead most people to think that we can somehow live healthfully, independent from healthy soil, not to mention the life-enriching variety of other earth dwellers that we share it with.   It’s imperative for us to weave our inherent interconnection with the rest of our planet's existence back into our culture. We’re all part of an organic planet. Like the unimaginable number of different cells that we need for our bodies to function properly, our planet (our larger self) needs its cellular diversity to remain intact and cared for.  Like us, when the planet loses significant parts of its functioning body, imbalances occur that can be much more difficult to return from than if things were already in a more relative state of balance. This episode is all about land management and what we’ve learned from those who’ve been doing the work and measuring their results.  Building healthy soil is one of the most important things that any of us could be doing right now. I’m going to say it again; a healthy humanity depends on healthy soil.   I’m going to be a little honest with you. I’m not the plant guy of the family. I  enjoy planting things here and there, and I love preparing food with fresh harvest from the garden, but  I’m generally not the guy you can rely on to keep a seedling alive long enough to transplant it or make sure the fertilization schedule stays current.     This episode was a bit of a challenge for me to get into. I’ve had to shed a bit of my imposter syndrome to be talking to a bunch of plant-enthusiasts about something that I know very little about, compared to them. At the same time, that’s the theme of this entire podcast.  While I certainly have a fair share of things I’ve learned and can teach newcomers to the farm, this has been my season to humble down, take notes and be a student.   Let’s see what that’s looked like.    I’ve divided this episode into three sections. First, we’ll talk about the planning stages of land management, followed by a recap of some of our guests’ soil-building tips.  Lastly, we’ll wrap it up with some insights they’ve learned from working with the plants themselves.   Let’s jump in... It all starts with a good design. Justin Dolan learned a valuable lesson about doing your due diligence and having your land surveyed. While he strongly recommends doing so before buying your property, it worked out to his advantage when he disputed his neighbor’s practice of spraying herbicides too close to his gardens.  A little investigation taught him that what they both thought was the neighboring golf course’s road, was actually on his side of the property line.  The circumstance drove the golf-course developer toward unexpected production costs, leading them to sell the property to Justin at a low-enough price that Justin was able to take it on and turn it into what’s become the country club’s 18-hole permaculture disk-golf course.     In telling his story, Justin recommends that when negotiating your land purchase, you can often get the seller of your new property to share the costs of that assessment.   Justin also recommends hiring someone to do a biodiversity study, upon buying it, to educate yourself on what you have living on your property.  How cool would it be to have a customized bird-watching laminate card for you and your visitors to relate to your neighboring critters with!?   He says that “real” country clubs should be taking care of the countryside.  What a concept!   Water management is a crucial element to focus on, for any land project.  Amidst that is to give sufficient focus on how we manage our wastewater.  Justin’s greywater and blackwater systems are built to bioremediate toxins.    Bioremediation is a process where certain plants break down the molecular structure of certain toxins, transforming them into inert matter.   The methods he uses make both economic and ecological sense.  Some of the plants he uses include planting lana, hemp, fungus, and oysters to filter the water. He says that hemp is an ideal product to feed with these wastewaters.  He also uses plastic bottles filled with biochar to further filter out pathogens.   Esteban Acosta was another guest who's put some significant thought into optimizing greywater and blackwater.  His biodigester systems have been refined to a point where they produce cooking gas, by fermenting the kitchen and bathroom wastes produced from a small residential home!     The price of gas keeps going up, folks.  Investing in a design that can give you free fuel while creating garden fertilizer is an investment seriously worth considering, especially if you’re still in the process of building or designing a new home.   One thing that Justin expressed that stuck with me was that if you design your communal spaces to be beautiful, people will want to protect and contribute to them.     Justin has an infectious enthusiasm for using his property as a living seed bank. He encourages us to share and propagate as many different seeds as we can find.    Like Nico Botefur from Essence Arenal, Justin encourages us to plant our houses by putting bamboo in the ground as early as possible. He boasts that it’s like printing your own money.  Seeing the price you can pay for prepared bamboo canes in some places, I’d say he’s right.Nico further reminds us to plant plenty of it and use it liberally in ways that the bamboo poles can be replaced easily. It’s a renewable resource that can be fun to work with once you get the hang of it. At Finca La Isla, Peter Kring has designed his food forests in an impressively systematic way. His property is designed as a network of crisscrossing rainforest corridors that frame out a series of 1-3 acre lots. Each of these lots has a themed collection of fruit trees and exotic palms planted within them.  That way, the wildlife can pass through his property freely, and while he loses some quantity of food to these neighboring critters, they contribute to the health of the soil, and therefore trees, in very beneficial ways. The key's just to plant more trees!   His neighbor, Terry Lillian Newton, invites us to try and let go of our attachments to what we think the property should be and learn to appreciate its innate essence.   Terry reminds us that if you want to have horses, plan for plenty of open space and a diversity of grasses, herbs, fruits, and flowers. Plant them all around their grazing areas or along the perimeter. She recommends learning more about this method in a book called Paddock Paradise, by Jamie Jackson. Building Healthy Soil Switching over now to the topic of building healthy soil, we’ll start with Ed Bernhardt, the guy who refers to the back-to-the-land movement as a “silent revolution.” Ed refers to himself as a deep ecologist who aims to live with the land rather than on it.   Ed provides us with several great recipes for making valuable items like fast compost, his “kombucha for the plants,” a kitchen-made insecticide that's suitable for chewing insects, and even a biosand water filter.  We’ve made a PDF with these recipes outlined out for you. You can find a link to it in the transcripts of this episode, as well as in the show notes of Ed’s Episode (#002.)   Ed also reminds us to do what we can to recycle our waste. Shredding newspaper and food scraps into compost is a great start.  If you live in an urban environment, you can look into buying Compost Drums or Worm Bins to make transforming your trash into treasure, faster and tidier.   Justin Dolan makes his bokashi microorganisms in his livestock corral and uses his animals to mix it.  The process adds nutrients to the mix while creating beneficial bacteria that eat pathogens in the corral. Making bokashi in the animal corals and spraying a tea version of it around the coral keeps it disinfected and smelling great.    In Justin’s bokashi-production video, we also looked at his method of sustaining moisture and nutrients in the soil by creating Biochar.  He digs a big hole, about  2x3 meters wide and a meter or so deep, and fills it with wood waste. He ignites it, covers it with a dense layer of palm leaves with some sand on top, and leaves it to smolder. He comes back the next day to remove the leaves, and he’s left with a pit full of biochar - enough for the whole year!   His extra touch comes when he removes the biochar. He fills the hole back up with wood to make a hugelkultur bed.  Hugelkultur is this great method of mounting up wood logs and covering it with dirt.  That dirt is planted on, and the wood underneath goes through a slow decomposition process, providing long-term fertilizer for the garden.   Peter Kring mimics nature in the ways he applies mulch to his food forests.  He mulches heavily around the dripline of the trees, adding biochar and manure to the mulch.  That way, the biochar-inoculated-mulch bed slowly covers the area as the trees develop.   Peter also adds micro-organisms to the mix during wet times of the year. For more efficient use in your dripline applications, he recommends harvesting mulch from a nearby forest floor and hydrating it to extract the beneficial microorganisms before applying.   When taking harvest from our trees, he encourages us to put something back for the tree to continue to thrive.  Find out what minerals each tree needs and create a schedule of application.  It doesn’t have to be a heavy fertilizing regiment.  A bit of calcium carbonate (or rock phosphate) mixed with some manure and worm compost can be very effective.  He recommends making it in large quantities and then adding your biomass, biochar, and micro-organisms, as needed, throughout the year.   For more information on biochar, Peter recommends checking out the documentary The Secret Of Eldorado - TERRA PRETA, on YouTube.   Esteban's businesses, Sembrando Flores and Viogaz, focus primarily on soil improvement.  Esteban has proven again and again that Biodynamic-preparation applications significantly improve commercial-scale coffee and wine production.   In his practice of working with other landowners, he teaches those coming from a more conventional background and don’t trust organic methods to consider replacing a small percentage of their fertilizers with compost to start.  That way, they can measure the results and make decisions from there.   He encourages us to grow our biomass precisely where we want to plant our gardens and trees in the coming year. He primarily uses plants like Macuna & Mexican sunflower for this task. Plant it heavily where you want to plant, and chop it back just before it goes to seed.   This practice aligns with Esteban’s approach of setting up conditions where the soil can feed itself. Healthy-soil biology largely replaces the need for soil amendments.  He recommends using small amounts of high-quality compost with high quantities of cheap biomass grown on the fields. Simply apply compost tea on top of the biomass. His Biogas installations provide multiple yields of gas & liquid fertilizer in quantities that can allow you to apply an abundance of that tea weekly, or even daily.   In Nico’s YouTube video, he uses the water from his tilapia ponds to drain directly into his biomass pile, which composts down and is moved to the gardens for top mulching. He also has hoses to inoculate his garden beds with the tilapia pond water.  Nico shares the opinion of many of our guests of how building soil should be the #1 priority when starting a new project.    Now, onto the Wonderful World of Plants   My first guest, Suzanna Leff of Finca Amrta, is as passionately connected to her gardens as anyone I’ve met.  Planting and processing harvest are some of her favorite tactics for helping her volunteers experience the magical qualities of life. In Finca Amrta’s farm tour video, one of her volunteers describes how they grow their vanilla beans by gently helping each flower pollinate itself.  So cool!   Ed Berhardt shared a valuable insight when he pointed out that many medicinal herbs often tolerate shade, making them great to plant near the house or amidst tall trees.   One of the most exciting things I’ve learned from Ed occurred when I went to his place a few years ago, and he taught me how to propagate bamboo by cutting down a culm and creating several 1-meter-long portions from the upper third of the cane.  You cut each piece so that it has at least four nodes.  In between each node, you cut a small square out of one side of the culm - big enough for rainwater to get to it.     You plant the cane laying down lengthwise, half in the soil, with the open windows exposed to the elements.  As the culm fills with water and hydrates, it’ll send roots down at each of the nodes, as well as shoots that’ll begin to climb to the sky.  It takes a little longer to get going than if you just dig out a more mature shoot from the side of a clump, but it requires much less effort.   Besides the hemp & lana that Justin uses for his blackwater bioremediation, he also uses Mexican Sunflower, a plant that he and Esteban use for Green Manure.   Another one of his favorites to plant around is a bush called Miracle Fruit.  He says that it’s an excellent food for people with diabetes.  This miracle fruit removes your ability to taste the acidic qualities of the foods you eat afterward.  This results in sour foods like lemons and vinegar tasting sweet!  It’s a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth with non-sweet foods!   Justin likes to play with different plants to create microclimates for other plants and his living spaces.  He uses vining plants to cool down the walls of his house and also uses them to create trellised wind-breaks or dappled shade for more delicate foods. He encourages us to rearrange our perspectives on what medicine is, or can be. He sets the example of planting herbs as a living first aid kit all around and outside your home.   He also encourages us to plant things like neem, hombre grande, madero negro, garlic, and chili, to be used as ingredients for natural pest control. In some cases, it might even be worth importing some beneficial insects like the praying mantis or ladybugs to eat more invasive species like ants and mites. Besides, who wouldn’t love to see more praying mantises and ladybugs around, right?   While he recommends that we remove weak and dying plants to keep insects away, he also reminds us that intentionally stressing plants can build resilience in some cases.   Peter Kring is another master gardener who turned out to be a treasure trove of tips.  Most notably, he recommends that most fruiting trees should be pruned after their fruiting cycles.  You have to do your homework, though.  Some fruits, like rambutan, can be pruned back as much as 2 meters, while others, like the mangosteen, don't like to be pruned at all.   Peter’s nursery operation consists primarily of grafted durian, chompadek, and other exotic fruits that produce better quality fruits faster when they're propagated as a graft.  As he explains in his YouTube video on the topic, it can shave several years off the time you might have to wait for the tree to bear mature fruits.   Another little tip that he gave us is that if you mix the variety of durian trees you plant in an area, they’ll pollinate each other, and the diversity will increase your harvest seasons. I’ve seen similar things done with avocados.   While, like me, Lynx Guimond may not necessarily be Sailcargo’s go-to plant-management guy, the tour we took on his farm really blew me away.  There are far more foods that can be planted near the beach than I ever imagined.  For any properties that need to conserve water, he’s demonstrated, yet again, that greywater filtration is a powerful way to water your gardens in a nutrient-rich way.   I’ll leave you with one final tip that I’ve picked up from my own land management learnings. It’s in alignment with the principle often described as Value the Marginal. While planting food has its obvious value and importance, don’t skimp on the pollinators.  We need to plant pretty things. If not for ourselves and the aesthetic pleasure of our guests, we need a diversity of flowers in our gardens to attract the ever-vigilant birds and bees that make our gardens an Eden. Whew! I know this episode was jam-packed with valuable information, so for your convienence, we've created an awesome, downloadable PDF that contains all the tips and tricks from this episode! You can download it here:   With that, my friends, I bid you a wonderful rest of your day.  Remember to subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already, so you’ll get notified when I eventually release our next episode on natural and sustainable construction methods.Until then, Go find a seed and plant it somewhere lovely!   P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Support the Show page. There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link:  License: --------------------------------------- Download your FREE guide to Permaculture Living, at:
017 Building Resilient Communities (Season 1 Recap, Part 3)
Oct 8 2021
017 Building Resilient Communities (Season 1 Recap, Part 3)
Welcome to the third installment of our Season 1 Recap series, where I’ve been reviewing what we’ve learned from a dozen interviews with veteran landowners throughout Costa Rica.   In today’s episode, we’re going to take a dive into the concept of ‘Community’, our place in it, and how we can be more harmonious members and effective contributors to our communities, both within a project and amongst our neighbors. In my twenties, I spent a lot of time visiting communities around North America.  I’ve seen it done a lot of different ways. I’ve seen projects try and fail and I’ve seen the humble groundedness of those who’ve changed with time. There are a lot of things that can make or break a community. Let’s see what’s worked best for our guests.   What is Community? “Community” can mean different things to different people - at different stages of their lives, even.  Within the “back-to-the-land” movement, the term often refers to a group of individuals or families who co-owns the property, share some level of resources and responsibilities, and (if they want to last more than a couple of seasons) have some manner of formal agreements in place for how to manage the sharing of those resources and responsibilities. The term community is often used in other contexts, as well.  One of those would be our relationship with our neighbors in our surrounding region.  Shared roads, aquifers, and other utilitarian items inherently bind us. When we look a little deeper, we expand that list of shared assets to include companionship, insights, tools, labor, information, food surplus, child-raising, and more.  Taking the time to connect with our broader community brings fresh perspectives, wisdom, security, and a multitude of other invaluable gifts. Of course, the term community can be further expanded to include groups of people that aren’t in the same bioregion but are united by interest. Online communities are a growing phenomenon, and if that’s something that you’re actively involved in, I encourage you to listen to this episode with a conceptual translator on.  I’m sure that much of what we review here can be relevant to what you’re doing.  For that matter, much of this advice could even be used to build more healthy neighborhoods, in cities and in suburbs.     Our Lineage of Communitarians   One of my favorite references to community is when Ancel Mitchel described sitting around a table with others, processing raw harvest into a cleaned product for storage.   This is the work passed down to us from our ancestors. This is a practice of community that goes back to prehistoric times. The practice of cleaning food that’ll be used for communal sustenance, with others whose lives are intertwined with their own, builds community in a way that few things can.  Our ancestors had it a little differently than we do, however.  Their sense of community was inherent in their existence. That is, people didn’t move around nearly as much as we do these days. In most parts of the world, to have left your tribe was a bigger deal, and if you did, it was generally into some other well-established tribe. We live in a new age now. We’re redefining what “tribe” and “community” mean to us. To make up for the absence of these established generations-deep traditions, Alnoor Ladha asserts that longevity is born from a robust social infrastructure, and it’s one that we have to intentionally start designing into our communities. I quite agree with him.  As I mentioned, I’ve seen the remnants of a number of projects that didn’t make the distance. Those who’d taken the time to fortify their invisible infrastructures with community-living agreements, time spent working & playing together, and developing a common vision, faced their storms better than those who had far less to anchor them.  The time spent developing the social infrastructure of any community, large or small, pays off in often unexpected and life-enriching ways.     A New Age, A New Way In our age of mass transportation, the phenomenon of seasonal community members can make cohesion difficult.  Developments of online meeting forums have alleviated this a bit. Still, a land-based project needs more than a couple of members to hold it down for extended periods of time, in order to prevent that seasonal community vibe from evolving into awkward cycles of unresolved differences of opinion for how things should be run. This can break momentum before it ever gets the chance to get going. At the time of our interview, Brave Earth was developing a school to assist members who’d like to be able to stay year-round. Where we send our children to school will always be something that needs to be considered. For many people, sending their kids where more support is provided is preferred over local, rural schoolhouses. Knowing who we want to live with is another vital aspect to consider. Brave Earth has designed its community model and manifesto to call in masters of different trades needed to internally craft their theme of transformational retreats.  Starting with this kind of goal in mind can make a significant difference in the quality of the community that forms. As part of their social infrastructure, members are asked to contribute 10hrs/week to the community in some way. It’s trust-based and flexible. They pretty much invite any contribution to the community that one feels like offering. It’s expected that each member spends some time each week, leaving something better than they found it or simply making someone else’s day. I like that. After that, additional employment may be available at times, through the community’s profit-generating activities, like retreat production.   Coming Together for Common Vision   Many community-focused projects usually experiment with different formats of rhythmic check-in forums to hold space for a general sense of connection as well as to address any issues that might arise among the members or guests.  It’s generally recommended to make time for different circles for discussing work and logistics, apart from celebration or conflict resolution. Suzanna Leff reinforces that conflict resolution requires training and intentional practice. For her, weekly meetings are ideal. She only has one land partner, so her weekly meetings are primarily with her volunteers. She encourages the practice and was sure to point out that the volunteers often know more than we do. To that, I can definitely attest! Sailcargo Inc. is a unique community, in that it’s essentially composed of semi-long-term employees who are there for a functional purpose. Many of them will likely move on when the project is complete. Some may stay longer, while some leave sooner. They’re all there for different reasons, which might not be to live in a community, but rather to build something they all believe in. Nevertheless, they’ve begun self-organizing living arrangements to improve the form and function of their beachside homestead.   Each player makes their own contribution, and it keeps getting better.  It’s a pretty cool scene, really. It’s a blend of organized vision and labor, mixed with a flavor of anarchy amidst its unique players and their individual contributions to the collectively shared spaces.  Lynx Guimond, the ringleader of the bunch, says that healthy and happy people are high-quality assets. He emphasizes the importance of taking the time to check in with guests, volunteers, and team members and make sure that they have a chance to be heard, if not helped. Over at the Permaculture Country Club, Justin Dolan designed a model where he sold shares of the community to members that wanted to live within the shared grounds of the property and also sold sovereign lots to neighbors who wanted to live nearby. The idea was to call in a bit of an eco-village. His aim to have like-minded neighbors has worked out to a degree, but with that approach, you really don’t have any say over what someone does with their land in the way you do when all the members agree to collective land-use agreements.   Are We Having Fun Yet? Justin puts significant value on the spirit of healthy competition within a community. He finds that it compliments the spirit of cooperation. Games are an enriching element of community design and something Justin’s designed into his project. Upon entering the country club’s community center, it’s impossible to miss the giant chess board that blankets the center of the floor, with its meter-high pieces.  My eyes lit up, and the child in me couldn’t resist wanting to move them around and play. Around the corner, Justin has a whole games area including bow & arrow, throwing stars, and hatchets. Of course, that’s just at the entrance. What lies beyond are several hectares of a permaculture-designed disk-golf course that draws visitors in from around the world.   What’s it like to raise kids in the community?   Justin and I talked a bit about raising children in a project like this. Growing up on these farms is a uniquely enriching experience that can be unfathomable for someone who grows up in a city. My boys grew up amidst trees and the countryside. They oftentimes knew more about what the best plants were for snacking on than anyone besides our groundskeeper! Climbing trees, walking through the hills, meeting people from many different cultures, learning tolerance, humility, and a sense of expectation to participate in the community have set them up to be diversified, healthy, adaptable, and kind human beings. Ultimately, I won’t argue that growing up rurally might not have offered them the same education as being in an institutionalized school in the city, but what they’ve gained has been priceless in setting them up to be dynamically adventurous young men that many people will surely be grateful to know. Meghan Casey and her husband Davis, from the Chilamate EcoRetreat, agree. They’ve raised their girls as part of the team. It gives the girls a healthy sense of responsibility, interaction, creativity, and resourcefulness. Of course, we don’t want to take unhealthy advantage of children in these situations, but children thrive on being included and trusted with important responsibilities. That being said, I realize that volunteers and many other guests, also seek opportunities to contribute. It makes me remember Suzanna’s comment that “the more you can allow people to be involved, the richer their experience has the potential to be.”   Should Animals Be Considered as Part of Our Community?    I want us to reflect on my visit with Terry Newton for a minute. Her contribution to this topic isn’t always associated with the term community. For Terry and many landowners, animals are valued members of the community. Terry’s final words to anyone considering bringing a horse onto their project is to take the time to drop in deeply with the animal and connect with it before making a choice. I don’t think she was referring to a momentary reflection, either. Bringing home a large animal like a horse is a massive responsibility and one that can be a far greater joy than a chore when it feels connected to its owner, and vice versa. She goes on to suggest that once you get it home, take the time to hang out and bond with it, before getting into all the training and doing. Terry cares for her animals like she would her guests or family members. She uses natural healing methods for first aid response but doesn’t delay medical assistance for cases when the natural methods don’t seem to be working fast enough. Especially if the animal is suffering.  A new approach that I hadn’t heard before was the practice of unshoeing one’s horses for optimal health (and reduced maintenance).  As a kid, I always found it strange that horses should need shoes. They didn’t evolve that way, and we don’t shoe other animals. Terry explained that the practice of shoeing animals is suitable for terrains like concrete or desert rocky plains, but in the tropics, it can actually be a hindrance and a place to harbor pathogens. I appreciate her contemplative approach and willingness to look outside of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution frame of wellness care. It makes sense to consider options based on their relative need rather than some norm.   We Need Each Other as Ever   In my interview with Brandy Heidy Montegue on her podcast, I spoke on the importance of forgiveness as an invaluable tool for longevity and cohesion within any relationship structure. The opportunity for harmony blossoms from acceptance of each other's imperfections. We’re all in school, my friends.  From the womb to the tomb. Life gets a whole lot less burdensome when we embrace the fact that we all have faults. Blame is generally fruitless, and the only person suffering from our indignation is ourselves. Healthy communities are built on the development of relationships, and it’s irresponsible to think that conflict will never arise or that it’s “bad” when it does.  The key to getting better at navigating our triggers and those of the people we’re in a relationship with is to follow the Four Agreements and get better at assertively expressing our feelings and needs in ways that are about us, and not other people.   Book Recommendations Besides the 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and Non-Violent Communication, by Marshall B. Rosenberg,  there are a couple of other books that I feel are worth mentioning.   Creating a Life Together, by Diane Christianson, is a must-read for anyone looking to live in a community. I strongly recommend that anyone who intends on forming a new community, should not do so before reading this book.Cultural Emergence, by Looby Macnamara, draws upon the lineages of indigenous wisdom & permaculture design to transform how we see and interact with ourselves, others, and the world around us. Before we jump into what we’ve learned about creating resilience in our regional communities, I’d like to take a break to share a quick word in support of the show’s resilience...   Regional connections Now that we’ve reviewed some of the insights we’ve learned on building healthy communities at home, let’s open up the lens and see what we can do to foster deeper relationships with our regional communities at large.   Importance of Allies We’ll start off with our first two guests, Suzanna Leff and Ed Bernhardt. As we learned from Suzanna, Ed was the neighbor who welcomed her into the community, introduced her to what’s become her home, and surely had a hand in helping her get settled into life there. They’ve been friends for over 30 years.   The power of having their two projects next two each other has brought an invaluable cross-pollination of people, resources, ideas, and other types of support; enhancing the impact that each of their projects has been able to make. For that matter, her volunteer program started as an overflow of Ed’s program.   Be a Friendly Neighbor   Ed tells us in his interview how, in the early days, he began working with local children in the pueblo, teaching them how to garden. He even reached out to the local school and made an agreement for him to guide the kids in planting their own schoolyard garden. I loved watching Ed’s face light up when he described how excited the kids were about getting the vegetables they were growing served on their plates at lunch. Ed encourages us to integrate with society as friendly foreigners. Beyond his local community, Ed has written for many local newspapers in both English and Spanish, with a passion to teach his international community as much as he can about plants, gardening, self-care, and mindfulness. Ed is currently working with Global College, in Heredia, to create online courses in organic practices.   Speaking of being a friendly neighbor, Ancel Mitchel’s been doing what many permaculture-minded entrepreneurs have done and has a campaign where she collects compost scraps from her neighbors. She describes it as a great way to build a sense of community while harvesting a wasted resource, which she then turns into food for her cacao forests. By inviting neighbors to provide extra services to guests of Essence Arenal, Nico Botefur has not only improved his guests’ experiences but has created lasting friendships and alliances throughout his neighborhood. His neighbors get to feed their families with money earned from sharing their gifts, thanks to the infrastructure he’s provided.     The Benefits of Participating in Associations   While being a friendly neighbor and ambassador of your culture is vital for growing healthy humanity, Peter Kring pointed out something that really made an impression on me. He says that the best way to get your neighbors’ attention and get them naturally interested in whatever methods of land management or business that you might want to demonstrate to them, is to show them that what you’re doing can make money. He encourages us to remember that farming is a business, and you need ways to sustain it  Many of the locals that Peter influences are those that come to his place to buy trees. They see what he’s doing and start to ask questions. Peter gives back to his community in many ways. He heads up the local farmers market and is part of a group of farmers who’ve formed a local organic certification association. By applying collectively, the farmers are able to save significantly on fees. An awesome byproduct is that they end up working collectively to uphold the standard. Selling at the farm and farmers’ market doesn’t require organic certification, but Peter and the association created a unique market, specifically for certified growers.  They’re now able to efficiently assist other farms to acquire the certification so they can be permitted to sell there. Aly Kahn & Alnoor, along with their cohorts at Brave Earth, have formed a non-profit organization, called Fuerza del Amor, to enhance resilience in their biosphere. One of the accomplishments of Fuerza del Amor has been the organization of a mutual aid network among neighbors. The concept works out something like this: If 40 people, in a village of 200-400 people, join a volunteer network with a commitment to show up once a month to a work party, that would give you 10 people per week coming out to assist in each weekly work party. You can do a lot in a day with 10 people! Brave Earth offers the organizing team, which generally consists of 3 people. They also donate the use of their tools for these Sunday work parties. The non-profit provides $500 per house toward hardware, and the people collectively decide how to use it. This isn’t only a brilliant program for enriching relationships and improving local infrastructure. It’s also a way to pull in investors to acquire more land for communal transformation and benefit! One of the projects getting attention is a community rec center.  The community center is being built in rented space from someone in town at a generously low price.  This whole thing makes me recall the story of Stone Soup.  Everybody throws in what they have, and everyone benefits from the feast. Of course, it’s worth mentioning an important detail, concerning the planning of projects like this. Please consult with the neighborhood about any initiatives that you want to take before putting energy into them!   Brave Earth has a small dedicated team that’s been systematically visiting their neighbors throughout the pueblo to learn more about who they are, what they need, and what they might have to offer. We never really know people’s needs until we ask and LISTEN to them. Another valuable branch of Fuerza del Amor has been their part in organizing a community policing arm to keep neighbors alert of suspicious activity in the area. It collectively empowers them to take corrective measures into their own hands, especially when municipal authorities don’t necessarily need to be involved.   Teach a Trade Lynx Guimond made an impact in his regional community, by importing tradesmen from other countries to work with and teach local craftsmen skills that are expanding what they can do with their trade. The Sailcargo shipyard is a dynamic blend of international talent and local carpenters, coming together to create a prototype that hopes to change the way we fuel international shipping   Again, it’s worth mentioning Lynx’s reflection that healthy and happy people are high-quality assets, worth investing in. Lynx believes in giving a sense of ownership to the members of the team. He asks new people how they see themselves fitting in, before assuming where they’ll be best placed. The Sailcargo mission is collaboratively directed by the executive team, but measures are in place to bond the entire team in a co-creative spirit of dedication to innovation. It takes a village to build this ship. Long-term employees earn shares of the company, along with their room, board, and wages.   Empower a Culture of Entrepreneurship   My interview with Meghan Casey was almost entirely about the topic of fostering resilience in our regional communities. Meghan’s husband, Davis, was born in Sarapiqui, where their ecolodge is located. While I’m going to touch on a few of the highlights from that interview, I encourage you to check it out to get the full inspiring story of the impact they’ve been able to make on their neighbors’ lives. Meghan made her first contribution, providing English classes for people in the pueblo. From there, she began organizing art workshops and cooking classes. These were being taught and attended by some of her guests, as well as folks from the pueblo. Out of convenience, they started out hosting the classes at the ecolodge. That changed when the hotel became busier.   At that point, they started moving the classes into the pueblo, where some of the neighbors took the art and cooking classes on, with Meghan’s guidance. Meghan was able to send her guests to their homes for these cultural experiences. She charges a small commission for organizing things, but the women in the village found access to an income stream that didn’t previously exist. It’s beautiful.In my pueblo, we enjoy the pleasure of having a friend in the village, who occasionally prepares home-cooked meals for guests. We made up a simple menu, laminated it, and hung a copy in each of our cabins. Guests can order and have food delivered, or (pandemic notwithstanding) they can sometimes go to her house to enjoy a meal on her back deck. This simple arrangement has been the highlight of several of our guests’ stays, and has brought a small, but highly valued, amount of money into this elderly woman’s home. Meghan also helped many of her neighbors set up extra rooms that they can rent out to tourists. This has turned into a nearly village-wide farm stay program. Meghan found that her efforts were starting to breed an awkward sense of competition among neighbors hoping to get the next guest. It’s something that’s taken some navigation, but she emphasized to the women who were opening their homes to guests that-  “If we aren’t all successful in this effort, none of us can be.”     Community Independence Cultivates Diversity and Resilience Meghan says that ongoing training is crucial. Opening up and feeding new opportunities like this, and orienting new entrepreneurs to host people, is easiest done with the co-creation of standards of operation. It’s also important to teach, for instance, cultural nuances that might improve feelings of safety and comfort for the visitors.  At the same time, she encourages them to keep it real. After all, the people signing up for these classes and accommodations are looking for an authentic cultural experience. Guests definitely don’t need fancy imported processed foods to feel like they’re receiving value.  Meghan encourages her neighbors to embrace every part of their culture, even the humble ones. (Especially the humble ones!)Besides, it can be incredibly beneficial to get people out of their comfort zones. Meghan calls it the “stretch zone” and says that’s where amazing relationships and learning happen. For social programs to be successful, the nearby communities need to actually “feel” the benefit of the project. Otherwise, they feel apart from it, and not only is little impact being made, but problems can also arise. Again, it’s best to do interviews with people in the pueblo to see who has what to offer. Who knows, you might find yourself helping to co-organize an annual community festival! If that sounds too daunting to take on, maybe consider offering a small piece of land for a neighbor to grow food on or graze their horses. The rewards are life-long lasting.  On this topic, I’ll end by saying that communities rely on cooperation. Consider the unimaginable number of synergistic relationships that exist between all matter, living organisms, and systems on our planet. Interdependence is a fundamental factor of life. Evolution isn’t just a story about the survival of the fittest. I, and many others, believe that evolution is a story of mutual benefit and the extension of generosity. The most resilient systems are those who’ve developed interdependence with their surrounding environment and cohabitants.It’s a practice worth developing. That’s what I’ve got for this episode, friends. Tune in next time for a dive into the array of land management tips we’ve picked up along the way. If you like what I’m sharing here, share it with a friend. Beyond that, consider leaving a review on the Apple podcast, or even on our Facebook page. I’d love for more people to benefit from the insights we’re sharing. And don't forget – we've created a downloadable PDF with all the tips and tricks we've collected on how to build and grow resilient communities! You can download it here:     Till next time, Stay connected P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Support the Show page. There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out! Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link:  License: --------------------------------------- Download your FREE guide to Permaculture Living, at:
016 Host Guest, Volunteers, & Students the Permaculture Way (Season 1 Recap, Part 2)
Sep 13 2021
016 Host Guest, Volunteers, & Students the Permaculture Way (Season 1 Recap, Part 2)
Welcome to Volume 2 of my Season 1 recap series. In this episode, we’re going to review some of the advice we’ve been given about hosting guests, volunteers, and students.     Hosting is a hot topic for many new landowners as welcoming in volunteers is an enticing way to get much-needed help building foundational infrastructure. For many new landowners, it also fulfills a desire for social connection and a sense of community. When done well, hosting guests as volunteers, apprentices, students, tourists, farm-stay guests, or curious neighbors can bring an enriching element of cultural interaction, personal growth, and prosperity to your project.   Learn from Guest Hosting Veterans   Suzanna Leff, from Finca Amrta, has been hosting volunteers for over 30 years. At first, she was reluctant to host but opened up to it with some experimentation. Suzanna’s personality and love of new experiences have brought her to treasure the interactions that her program has to offer both her and her guests. She gets to stay home tending her garden while the world comes to her.     She helps people to explore and harness their passions, and that practice has helped her meet her needs and live a long and happy life by the riverside. She gets to share what she’s learned with others while continuing to learn from them in return. Suzanna’s suggestion is to integrate guests into as many aspects of farm life as is comfortable for you to do so. It enriches the guest’s experience and, if done well, can yield greater returns than you’ve originally invested.    Finca Amrta hosts guests for a reasonably low rate, giving them board, access to the beautiful riverside property, and ample food provisions for them to prepare in the community kitchen. In return, her guests help out around the homestead 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and Suzanna is often right out there alongside them.   She explains that the most authentic teaching happens when everyone is working together. Being in the present moment is very satisfying. It gives her a chance to check in with volunteers regularly. Passing conversations can help keep spirits strong and minimizes build-ups of tension, misunderstanding, or stress.   Identifying unhappy volunteers and exploring where their passions lie can reap unimagined benefits and value. Suzanna believes in redirecting volunteers toward tasks that maximize their individual skills and passion. She even encourages people to sing while they work!     A Beautiful Guest Hosting Story In her interview and the farm tour video that we did with her, Suzanna tells a story of transforming a person’s experience from resistance (aka suffering) into joy and a lasting expression of beauty. One guest who initially hated their experience ended up painting a beautiful mural on the community kitchen’s wall. My friends, that’s impact!   Hosting Guests: The Key to Success   I asked her secret for getting good volunteer administrators to help manage some of the program’s responsibilities. First, she says we must train ourselves to get better at teaching others. That’s something worth saying twice.  If we want to succeed at leveraging our time so that we have more time to do the things we truly love, we need to take the time to train ourselves and become better at teaching others to do what needs to be done. This is not a quick tip; this is a life path choice. It’s one that has given Suzanna the freedom to live the life she desires.   This principle applies to anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur of any kind.  Take the time to learn and practice communication and project management skills early.  It’ll be worth the effort.     How to Attract Good Volunteers   Suzanna’s found the majority of her best admins by offering the opportunity to pay volunteers who’ve shown the right qualities needed. When people contact her asking for a full work-trade opportunity — and she suspects that they might be a good fit for the position — she invites them to first come out and volunteer for a month. If they fit the role, they can take the full work trade for the months that follow. One resource that Suzanna shared that’s worth re-mentioning is VolunteerLatinAmerica.com. It’s one of several useful sites for landowners to find volunteers and vice versa. Other sites I’ve found useful are: Numundo.comWorkaway.infoWwwoof.com HelpX.com   The Dangers of Hosting Guests and Tips for Survival Suzanna mentioned something else that I wanted to address, that despite the more common message, people often survive snake bites. She said this about her encounter with the well-known terciopelo, a pit-viper common to Central America. She was bitten and survived.   The reason for mentioning this isn’t to discount the fact that many people die from snake bites — especially those of terciopelos.   My point is to highlight points of reference and patterns of belief. One of the reasons this topic excites me so much is my background as a traveler, having visited many different places as a volunteer. I learned a lot over those years, but what was more valuable is what I unlearned. To this day, unlearning things and breaking negative or incorrect thought patterns continues to be one of my favorite undertakings. It’s challenging and requires working with subtle aspects of the mind, but the rewards are empowering.   Mindset Shift for Guest Hosting Success   One of my favorite things to see, with any of my guests' experiences, is when they find themselves transcending a previously held taboo. For most of us, our childhoods are filled with programming meant to keep us behaving suitably for the comfort of those around us. It’s actually a very useful skill to teach our children and helps them to integrate into wider society.   But I also believe it’s important to teach them how to let go of “rules” once they’ve learned them. It can be tricky to do this while still feeling like we’re giving proper guidance. All the same, teaching others how to understand the difference between absolute concepts and contemplations is critical to growing healthy humans who can stand free from the entrapments of social programming. It can even be valuable to practice freeing ourselves from our own rules as a form of self-examination.   Honestly, I’m not sure how far to go on with this here, but I just wanted to put it out there that dangerous things are worth recognizing as dangerous things. Likewise, treating dangerous situations appropriately is a skill worth learning. However, we don’t need to use the potential for danger as a lever to believe that “badness” is sure to come from those thing’s very existence.   Sometimes, dangerous things exist, and that’s okay. Navigating the mystery skillfully involves moving forward with a sense of openness, as well as awareness.   Poisonous snakes, scorpions, spiders, rabid bats, bacteria, viruses, and scary humans exist.  Welcome to planet Earth. It’s important to be able to identify and avoid these potential hazards or approach them with caution. Places, where these things are likely to exist, are likewise important to know about and prompt us to proceed with caution.     Allowing fear of these things to keep us from having life-enriching experiences, on the other hand, is a tendency we would do well to challenge.  Many times the best way to meet that challenge is head-on. Even if you get bitten, you just may go on to be a happy, healthy human. Who knows, you might even go on to one day tell a story about how you’re better off for it.    Different Ways to Host Guests Successfully   While hosting volunteers was a particular focus of Suzanna’s interview, most of my other guests also host people in one way or another as part of their programs. Aly Kahn & Alnoor Ladha from Brave Earth creatively responded to change by swapping from a no-volunteer-program decision to making exceptions when ramping up and preparing for a retreat.   Otherwise, they did effectively harness guest labor to help build their aircrete domes during a workshop where guests paid to learn the process. These guys didn’t even need to know how to make one, they just called DomeGaia to come by and teach the workshop for them. Brave Earth only needed to take care of the hosting and marketing.Justin Dolan of St Michael’s Permaculture Country Club and Meghan Casey of Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat both shared similar insights about looking for organizations that work with student groups who might be looking for new places to host their programs.  Meghan has found success working with the World Leadership School.    How to Start Hosting Guests, Volunteers, or Students   Personally, I’d suggest reaching out to any of your local university’s ecologically focused departments or programs. A campaign like that could not only bring students, money, and exposure to your project, but networking with these organizations can develop into long-term perennial relationships that can benefit your project for years to come. Like Ancel Mitchel of Talamanca Chocolate, both Justin and Meghan mention the benefits of putting together long-term apprenticeship or intern programs. This experience tends to be more meaningful for both the project and the student. They also offer opportunities for deep learning beyond what’s generally taught during a 1-2-week event, such as a Permaculture Design Course.   Nico Botefur of Essence Arenal shared a lot of great advice around hosting guests. When getting started, he saved some money in a way that’s added value to his guests’ visits ever since. He bought some old canvas tents from the Salvation Army and hung them over bamboo frames to make his first Glamping accommodations. By purchasing several of them used and having them shipped over he saved a bunch of money while recycling what had been discarded by the military. Nico believes that giving your guests a quality experience is the best investment you can make in marketing. He builds strong relationships with his staff and has a way of making them feel like part of a team. As a result, the staff has a way of welcoming guests that feels akin to being welcomed into their home.   Another touch that had an impact on me was a drone image he had taken of his farm, illustrating pathways and other notable spots around the property. That image was then blown up, laminated, and hung near the reception area to help visitors get an instant sense of orientation upon arriving. That one, small thing goes a long way toward enhancing the guests’ experiences and reducing the staff’s need to give repetitive directions regarding trails and other points of interest.    In my opinion, one of Nico’s most profound adaptations came in his early days when he wanted to serve good quality food in an area where it was difficult and expensive to get locally. He solved this problem by taking a Permaculture Design Course and growing his present-day food forests and greenhouses.  The video that we took of Nico’s food forests is definitely worth checking out.   Lynx Guimond, at Sailcargo Inc, is no longer hosting guests, volunteers, or students.  The volunteer-run education program that they were teaching to people in the pueblo got shut down with the onset of the pandemic, but that just led them to pivot and find funding to pay those they were able to keep on board with the project. Lynx used his connections with their non-profit organization to help earn funding and reshape the program.  As a result, he’s ended up with a more dedicated and loyal crew. Lynx shares his perspective that healthy and happy people are high-quality assets. Take the time to check in with guests, volunteers, and team members to make sure that they have a chance to be heard, if not helped. Like Suzanna, he suggests that we ask people what they want to do and offer variety with their service.   Gaining a point of reference for rural living is a life-enriching opportunity worth giving to oneself, let alone a valuable tool to offer others. Staying at places like this as a guest, retreatant, student, or volunteer brings value to people’s lives. Many people who have visited places like this as workshop students, apprentices, or volunteers have developed marketable skills that have changed the direction of their lives. As we discussed in the last episode on financial sustainability, it’s essential for the longevity of a project to recognize this value and charge accordingly.     Guest Hosting Tips for Beginners If hosting guests in any form interests you, make a list of unique experiences that your guests can experience. Add it to your welcome guide to help them see the site with this expanded point of reference. When designing your welcome guide, include things like: Links to video tours of the property, showing trailheads and harvestable foodA photo gallery of animals, birds, insects, and flowers that they might find around the placeA Guest Book where they can read and add to a collection of meaningful testimonials and reviews from those who’ve come before them If you really want to improve a guest’s experience though, it’s perhaps even more important to work on your communication and other interpersonal skills. You can have a lot to offer, but if your approach doesn’t put their experience first, you’ll lose out in the end.   If you’re listening to this episode as a traveler who likes to visit unique projects like those highlighted on the podcast, remember that you get out of it what you put into it! Life isn’t a spectator sport. Dive in and participate!   That’s what I’ve got for you this week. Make sure to tune into the next installment and review what we’ve learned about developing healthy communities, both within an intentional community, as well as in our interactions with regional neighbors. And don't forget – we've created a downloadable PDF to offer you a list of all the tips we've collected for hosting guests, volunteers and students! Check it out here:    ‘Till then,  Stay open   P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Support the Show page.     There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out!     Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link:  License: Download your FREE guide to Permaculture Living, at:
015 Enhance Your Project's Financial Sustainability (Season 1 Recap, Part 1)
Sep 1 2021
015 Enhance Your Project's Financial Sustainability (Season 1 Recap, Part 1)
Hello, world!    Jason Bliss from the Sharing Insights Podcast here. I’ve been on one heck of a journey.    Over the last 9 months, I’ve dived into permaculture, exploring different ways we can develop sustainable homesteads and communities for a better way of life. We’ve interviewed a whole host of amazing people, all with their own unique experiences and insights to share with the permaculture community.  Last month I decided to assemble a recap episode to look back over the show’s highlights and discuss what I’d learned along the way. When I began, I had one goal in mind: To tell the story of my adventure doing these interviews and my personal takeaways from them. As I started putting it all together, I quickly realized that this approach didn’t capture the essence of what I had intended for this episode. Initially, I wanted to do a bit of studying to see if I could compile a list of best practices and use them to create a guide for new and veteran landowners alike. My hope was that they could use these guidelines to take inspiration from and improve their own business models for greater impact.  After some reflection, I’ve decided to restructure my recap into six separate episodes, each one covering a unique aspect of project stewardship. This way, you won’t just get the cliff notes on each topic, but rather a genuine contemplation of the relevant subjects that I feel they deserve.  In Part 1 of this series, I’m going to jump right in and start with the topic of financial sustainability since it’s something that brings a lot of listeners to the show.  Part 2 will focus on advice regarding hosting guests, volunteers, and students.   Part 3 will focus on Community, both internally and regionally. Part 4 will review what I’ve gathered regarding land management tips. Part 5 will address some of the more interesting information about Physical Infrastructure. Finally, in Part 6, we’ll wrap it up with a few words about cultivating impactful belief systems.   With our roadmap set, it’s time to get to work and tackle our first, big topic:       Financial Sustainability   Financial sustainability is a topic that almost everyone on Earth thinks about on any given day of the week. It can make or break a project. It can lead a team to high-fives or heads hung low. Whatever your opinion on money, chances are you need it, and you could make more of an impact with it than without it. I’m sure this generalization could be challenged, but I’m also sure there are many people who share this opinion. While much of the advice offered by my guests focused on improving the efficiency of their overall designs — ultimately affecting the project’s bottom line —  there were several important bits of advice that I’d like to focus on in hopes that the messages might sink in even deeper.       How does a volunteer program work?   I’ll start with my first guest, Suzanna Leff of Finca Amrta. The focus of her interview was hosting volunteers. I begin here because the topic of hosting volunteers is very much wrapped up in financial sustainability (or lack thereof) for many projects. Unfortunately, an improperly designed volunteer program can easily steer a project toward a financial crisis. Many people think of hosting volunteers as a form of free labor. With time, most landowners find this thinking fairly inaccurate, especially in places like my own home, Costa Rica.  The time and energy that goes into hosting and training volunteers can far exceed the costs of hiring local laborers for the same job. In some places, with high labor costs, this can work, but it still must be executed with good business sense. Suzanna does what many veteran projects end up doing. She charges her volunteers a small fee to cover the costs of their stay. Suzanna points out that charging for the volunteer program should be relative to the education and experience that you’re offering them.  Volunteering is an invaluable experience for people, and these places need support. That said, inviting a bunch of inexperienced people into your program requires a significant degree of guidance. If you’re going to invite volunteers in to help “contribute their energy” to your project, you’ll be wise to make sure that they’re contributing their energy toward activities that are going to produce or save sufficient revenue to cover the expenses of hosting them. At this point, it may be worth mentioning some of the hosting factors that are often easily overlooked. I’m not only talking about obvious consumables like food, toilet paper, gas, and electricity. We also have to consider additional expenses like broken dishes, broken tools, poorly completed projects that need to be taken apart and redone, overuse of glue, screws, paint, & other resources that should be used conservatively.  What about time? How much time does it take to teach someone how to do something?  How much time does it take to teach them about rural living? Where is the value of that time when two months later they leave to go traveling somewhere else? How about time spent helping them evolve through their conditioned belief systems? Consider conflict management, as well. Discussing simple discomforts and attempting to accommodate those discomforts all take up valuable time. Are you helping them arrange travel? Do they do less work on the days before or after going on a trip? What happens when they decide to lean more into the vacation part of their working vacation? Do you have to take time to figure out a way to communicate the fact that they aren’t meeting their agreement? What about when they get ill and can’t perform yet need to be attended to with attention and medicines from your personal first aid kit? When hosting volunteers and giving them access to your valuable tools, materials, and time, there are many expenses to consider. It’s nice when you have someone with you long enough to get settled in and become a truly valuable part of the team, but how often does that really happen? It’s safe to say that not every volunteer will come through in a way that truly adds more value than they expend.   For this reason, many veteran projects that host volunteers regularly learn to only accept skilled volunteers or charge for the education that unskilled volunteers require to start contributing the real value they intended to your project when they first signed up. My own project ignored this wisdom for many years, becoming the place other projects called on when they had an unskilled person at their gates looking for a free vacation. The bottom line is that although we had a lot of fun hanging out with these people, it cost us time that we might have better spent on our children, ourselves, and revenue-generating activities. Another popular model for keeping money flowing through a project to meet its many needs is growing food and creating value-added products for sale. Suzanna has a few products that her volunteers help her make, such as herbs for tea, herbal salves, and chocolate, although her distribution market is very small. Charging volunteers for the experience to work, live, and eat in this charming place is how she’s stayed open for over 30 years.       The power of digital products   Ed Bernhardt, from New Dawn Center, likewise has a few small physical products that he and his wife sell at their local farmers’ market, like tea blends and his “kombucha for the plants.” He’s also written a few small books that he can now sell digitally for passive income. Many people are finding digital products to be a highly sustainable, zero-carbon, renewable resource that can be used to bring ongoing support to their projects. Ed, for instance, mentions at the end of his farm tour video that he intended to make a solar food dryer with bamboo and clear plastic. Now he’s done so, and we’ve begun making plans to create a small online how-to course to teach his techniques for harvesting, curing, splitting, and joining bamboo to build this highly useful and cost-effective technology.  Make sure to sign up to our mailing list so you can be notified when this course is released.     The benefits of local organic growers association and farmers’ market   Peter Kring of Finca La Isla has a few different products he grows to sell. He long-ago recognized the need for small-scale growers to have a safe and effective place to sell their wares. Since then, he’s been one of the founding pillars of his region’s farmers’ market and local organic association.   In his interview, Peter makes an impactful point, commenting that if we want to make a social impact with our projects, we need to show that they’re profitable. Otherwise, the locals watching the project’s development may maintain that the methods are unattainable because they don’t have the same kind of foreign money needed to keep the project afloat.  One of the things that Peter grows for sale is grafted fruit trees. In a video we recorded, he talks about how grafting plants for sale has been a profitable cottage industry for him.  He also propagates a wide variety of bromeliads in his nurseries. It’s a great example of turning one’s passion into a niche business and a tool for further financial sustainability. As you’ll see in the video mentioned above, a simple shade structure with replaceable poles and scrap wood tables is all that is needed. Putting a bag over newly grafted trees for 2-3 weeks helps increase humidity and improve the healing of the plant material.Some plants are better grafted up in the living treeGrafted trees tend to give more fruit in fewer years Peter has a wide variety of exotic fruits planted throughout his property. He advises that you invest in having the fruit properly picked and cared for to bring to market. Peter also suggests that fruit tours are another cottage industry option (fruit tourism). This is most traditionally done by manually walking someone through your food forests, either for free or for a fee. Furthermore, making a video tour that can be delivered to guests renting cabins can be a great way of adding value to their stay without requiring that you take half a day out of your schedule to give each guest a tour of the grounds. I myself have considered doing a video tour of our fruit forests each month, so I can have a catalog of videos pertinent to which trees are harvestable at any given time. How great would it be to show up to a location that offers that kind of added content to your stay? A few other cottage industry ideas that Peter suggested include: Black pepper and dehydrated ginger Dried Mamon chinosSoap Peter also suggests investing in a reliable drying system. He mentions that solar dryers are hard to control, but I’ve seen designs that use a thermostat to activate a fan and move air when temperatures get too high. A small solar panel and battery can even power the fan if it’s stationed in a remote location. Other measures can be added to store heat in water or sand at the base of the dryer, extending its ability to stay warm after the sun goes down. One of the main value-added goods that Peter and his partner, Ancel, have been working with is chocolate.   As Peter points out in our interview, chocolate is a difficult value-added product to beat. It has a high-profit margin and almost universal appeal. In places that grow cacao, the raw product is abundant and ends up being sold for cheap. He’s able to pay twice the going rate for high-quality cacao seeds, and he’s still getting it at a reasonable enough price that when producing a quality product (which they always are), it can be sold at a substantial price in a strong market. As an added bonus, it also preserves well!         Alchemical Activation After a full day interviewing Peter and touring his food forests and nurseries, I headed just off the island of Finca la Isla to visit with Ancel Mitchel. There she has a kitchen that doubles as an education center where she teaches the fine art of cacao alchemy. Besides making artesian value-added goods, she also teaches classes and takes on a few long-term apprentices at any given time. When done well, an apprenticeship program can build a valuable structure into daily life, as well as providing the assistance needed to produce your goods. In most cases, an aspiring student will be happy to pay for tutelage in a trade like this. Some programs may charge for the first 1-3 months and then offer a reduced cost for additional months, or remove the fee entirely for students that show that they have become adept at the skill. Ancel says that the most important thing when considering the establishment of a trade is to simply start. We never really know where anything is going to take us, so just jump in and bring a little magic into whatever you do if it doesn’t work out pivot. It reminds me of the adage that imperfect action is better than perfect inaction. Another maxim that fits here is the infamous, “Just do it!” With the disruptions of the pandemic, Ancel has recently begun to teach online classes through Amazon Explore. Amazon may not be an ideal marketplace for what she has to offer, but creatively responding to change is one of the founding permaculture principles and one that is as pertinent now as ever before!   Pivot with Passion   Another guest who shares that sentiment is Terry Lillian Newton of Kindred Spirits. She says, “If you aren’t in love with what you’re doing, consider completely remodeling the business plan to connect with your passion.” And that’s exactly what she did when her hospitality business began to feel empty to her. She found a way to bring her love for horses into the mix and has incidentally created a successful niche business using horses as a tool for yoga and mindfulness training. Terry also gives the creative option of inviting teachers from local universities to come in and teach classes/workshops at your location. We’ve built these places, and just because we aren’t ready to conduct our own workshops or courses doesn’t mean that we can’t still host them. Two of the four PDC’s that we hosted at our farm were taught by outside teachers. One of them was led by a pair of instructors paid for by a nonprofit organization that sends instructors to teach free permaculture courses to rural farmers with a modified format. It was a series of weekends without accommodation, followed by a couple of months break for the farmers to implement some of the newly learned tactics. The teachers then returned to teach another series of weekends. This time, the student group traveled to each of their farms, in turn, to show off the results of their implementations. As a result, they were able to discuss and learn from each project as a group.   In my opinion, this was one of the most impactful PDC’s I’ve seen. All we had to do was provide the classroom and organize some email communications with the organization and teachers. They took care of the rest, and our region is better for it.   Don’t be a statistic, do your research Esteban Acosta from Sembrando Flores and Viogaz shares an essential perspective that he’s earned from his years helping commercial coffee and wine growers convert to organic and biodynamic practices. He says that before planting cash crops, consider what the optimal crops are for your climate and altitude. More importantly, research the market and make sure you’ll have a buyer. This may sound like common sense, but what’s far more common is that a grower will take a shine to a particular product only to find that their location isn’t hospitable for that product or that finding a buyer is more challenging than they thought. When making significant investments, it’s essential to plan appropriately — another reminder to observe before we interact and to start with small and slow solutions.     Slow and steady wins the race...   Nico Botefur has brought Essence Arenal to a state of financial sustainability using small and slow solutions. He started off with an inherited property where he began hosting his first guests in some glamping tents and simple cabins. He started providing services to the first guests, both on-site and by welcoming in neighbors who had services to offer. He developed what has now become his restaurant, which has brought significant revenue back into his project. With the money he made from renting the cabins, feeding guests, and booking them out for services provided by his neighbors, he invested into solving his problem of insufficient locally-grown organic produce. He did so by studying permaculture and establishing what has now become an expanse of food forests and greenhouses that are feeding back into the business by providing farm-to-table dining experiences for his guests. A nice side-effect of this is that it’s increased the inherent draw and value of his guest’s stay. While leaning on conventional business models can be very useful for establishing financial sustainability, many of the rebel projects that caught my attention have stretched beyond the box and are questioning conventional approaches.     Invest in a regenerative future   Aly Kahn & Alnoor Ladha, from Brave Earth, have been doing precisely that. Alnoor poses an intriguing question when he asks, “How do we use capital to build a post-capital infrastructure?” It’s not to say that we’re against capitalism, but it’s essential to recognize its inherent instability, especially given the current global economic environment. It’s important to consider ways to invest our funds now in order to secure our lifestyles and livelihood for times when the money isn’t there. While the topic of finances often revolves around the acquisition of revenue and other resources, it’s also important to consider who has what rights to do what with those resources. One popular idea among back-to-the-landers is to put their property in a trust.  A land trust is a private legal contract in which the real estate owner transfers the title of the property to a trustee. There are many legal reasons that someone may choose to do this, but Alnoor recommends putting the land in a trust as a great way to avert the potential for owners to commodify the property for personal gain. Brave Earth has also designed an interesting profit-sharing model into their community’s agreements. They’ve created a retreat center and other services as communally-owned and operated economic engines. They use what they refer to as a 50/25/25 model to direct the allocation of profits generated by community-run events and services.   This model directs the proceeds from the operation of community business efforts (after paying the costs of production & facilitators) and divides them as follows: 50 percent comes back to the community for ongoing growth and maintenance25 percent goes into a profit-sharing pool to be divided equally among all community members and their employees25 percent then goes into an outreach account that will eventually fund their desire to assist other communities in replicating their model While this model is still yet to go through its trial phases, it’s interesting to consider the wisdom of dividing funds in a similar way to help with the longevity of your own project. It’s long been taught that creating savings accounts, investment accounts, and tithing accounts are valuable practices to develop.     Plan for resilience Like many landowners who invest in a project with the intent of sharing it with others, Justin Dolan of St Michaels Country Club has built his community’s financial sustainability into the sale of shares into the project. Justin projected what his project would need to grow its infrastructure over the years and designed that into the cost of shares of the community. He also put a portion of the purchased land aside to sell to neighbors who want to live nearby without being a part of the internal community. He then paced out the sale of shares and properties to limit how many would be available per year, paced growth, and planned for longevity. The members of the community share expenses as well as resources and profits from the country club, which provides services for both members and neighbors. These include a restaurant/banquet hall, games areas, and an impressively biodiverse disc golf course, to name a few. An important thing that Justin points out is that if you have land, it makes sense to produce enough profit to pay for its legal and maintenance costs. Personally, I’d say it’s not just a good idea but rather an essential element for sustainability.     Empower the people and build your tribe   The last stop on our interview tour was Lynx Guimond of Sailcargo Inc. Lynx has taken a different approach to his project than many others. He didn’t start what he was doing intending to establish a permaculture homestead, but rather as an effort to change the global shipping industry. Their team of international shipbuilders and local carpenters are the ones who’ve taken the initiative to plant up their project’s beach-side property and expand on the sustainability aspects of the shipyard’s business model. One of the most exciting things about Lynx’s model is that he’s not only established a reforestation program to offset the wood and energy consumption needed to build the ship but has partnered with a 501.c3 nonprofit organization to receive funds for this and other fundraising initiatives, like social outreach and education. This approach has increased the size of his team and the impact they can make with their efforts while significantly enhancing the results of their fundraising efforts.     My final two cents... In reviewing the interviews for this recap, I also went through Brady’s interview with me for her podcast. If there’s anything from that interview that I’d like to repeat here, it’s that if you’ve spent any portion of your life learning how to do something, and you decide to invest yourself into sharing that knowledge with others, please recognize that what you have to share is valuable and charge accordingly. Don’t let cultural money stigmas block you from receiving what you need in return to continue sharing your work and building your dreams. If any people on this planet deserve to thrive, it’s those of us who’ve invested ourselves into caring for the land, caring for other humans, and sharing what we have with the world.  Please support those who are, and do what you can to be one of them.If you like what I’m sharing here in this blog, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and tune in to my upcoming reviews. For that matter, send the episode's link to someone who might get value from it. In the upcoming episodes, we’ll be exploring more insights into: hosting guestsbuilding community internally and regionallyland maintenancetips for sustainable building methodsupgrading your belief system and capacity to make a greater impact on the world Until then, we've created a downloadable PDF to offer you a list of tips you can use to enhance your project's financial sustainability! Check it out here:   Jason Bliss Sharing Insights     P.S: Besides leaving a rating and review or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Resources page. There, you'll find an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out!     Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link:  License:     Facebook:  Twitter:  YouTube: Download your FREE guide to Permaculture Living, at:
014 Jason Bliss: Words of Advice for Next Generation Nomads (Part 2 from “For Animals For Earth Podcast”)
Jul 27 2021
014 Jason Bliss: Words of Advice for Next Generation Nomads (Part 2 from “For Animals For Earth Podcast”)
This episode is part 2 of my interview with Brandy Montague from her podcast, For Animals For Earth.  In this half of the interview, I shared a bit of advice for travelers looking to visit impact centers as guests, volunteers, digital nomads, or students.  In the end, we’re all really students!   Brandy asked me to share a description of what it might be like to visit a place like mine.  I freely shared some of the comforts along with several of the discomforts that one might expect as part of the package, from composting toilets, harvesting food, being in close proximity to many people for an extended period, and even some thoughts around our conditioned fears around bugs and snakes.  When asked, “What’s the one thing that people can do to make a positive impact on the world?” I get into the importance of being a conscious consumer and supporting businesses that approach their products and services with social and environmentally ethical practices as a priority. If you get anything out of this conversation, you get a peek at me speaking a bit more raw and uncensored than you will in most of my interviews with others. I strongly believe that we need to take personal responsibility for our daily decisions and the effect they have on the whole.  I also believe that we’ll do well to take the permaculture principles beyond land management and apply them as tools to examine ourselves, our business practices, and our connection to the human condition. If you appreciate Brandy’s sense of curiosity and enthusiasm for learning about change makers and what they’re doing.  Consider adding her podcast to your subscription list to learn more about what other humans are doing to be a benefit for animals and for the earth.   Resources I mentioned: My free eBook: Permaculture Lifestyle Explained: The Eco-Enthusiast's Guide to Efficient LivingDirectory of Impact Centers: of Intentional Communities: of Ecovillages:     Besides leaving a rating and review, or sharing the show with someone who’d like it, you can support the show and yourself by visiting our Resources page. I’ve collected an array of helpful information, links, and products that I thought you might find useful.  Check it out! Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link:   License:   Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
013 Jason Bliss: A Vagabond Permaculture Podcaster - The Backstory (Part 1 from “For Animals For Earth Podcast”)
Jul 15 2021
013 Jason Bliss: A Vagabond Permaculture Podcaster - The Backstory (Part 1 from “For Animals For Earth Podcast”)
Listen in on this conversation that was recorded by Brandy Heyde Montague interviewing me for her podcast “For Animals For Earth”.   She was intrigued by the term Ecological Impact Center and asked if I’d be a guest on her show   I met Brandy thanks to her offer to read through and give feedback on what’s become my first eBook, exploring permaculture and how we can apply it to our lifestyles.  You can download the book for free at   I’ve decided to rebroadcast this two-part interview, to help you get a better feel for me and why this podcast has come into being.  I’m also buying myself time while I compile notes for a recap episode, contemplating the many things I’ve learned on my podcast journey so far.   In this first half of the interview, we talk about what an impact center is, and then I get into story-telling mode. Brandy asked me how I came to buy land in Costa Rica. My attempt at a “short answer” turned into a 20-minute adventure down memory lane.  I also go off a bit, sharing my thoughts on forgiveness of self and others as a core skill to develop when building community.    Make sure to subscribe to the podcast for immediate access to Part 2, as soon as it’s released.  In part 2 of the interview, I share some advice for travelers that want to visit places like this, as well as my take on volunteering.     Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
012 Lynx Guimond: Building a Zero-Emissions Ocean Vessel on a Permaculture Homestead (SailCargo Inc)
Jun 22 2021
012 Lynx Guimond: Building a Zero-Emissions Ocean Vessel on a Permaculture Homestead (SailCargo Inc)
Lynx Guimond of Sailcargo Inc. is an adventurous carpenter and shipwright with an inspiring mission. He's created a homestead in Costa Rica, uniting a team of over 20 shipbuilders from around the globe to embark on the quest to create a zero-emissions cargo eco-ship called Ceiba, to cross the Atlantic ocean between Central America and Europe.    He shares the story of how went from bee-keeping in the mountains to creating a sustainability-focused shipyard from scratch. Assembling a team of naval carpenters from around the world, he's imported their expertise to share with the local craftsmen, all aligned in common vision.   In complement to the shipyard's mission of revolutionizing ocean travel, the crew's been developing a sustainable homestead, using slow and small solutions.  In a short period of time, they've come to produce a generous amount of organic food for themselves, right at home on their beachfront property!  To top it off, Lynx and crew have been heading up reforestation programs through their non-profit, Trees for Seas! The food forests and greenhouse are passion projects, built by those who live there and are enriched with filtered greywater systems, composting toilets, and more. The positive social environment at the shipyard is a reflection of the creative spirit cultivated at Sailcargo. If you’d like to learn more about their project, check out some of the following: The Farm Tour Video that we recorded for our YouTube Channel:     Their movie! - Building CEIBA: The Mangrove Years   Visit their website:   Instagram:   Facebook:   Youtube:   Nonprofits/Foundations Amigos de Costa Rica:  Trees for Seas:   El Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC):   Ad Astra Rocket Company:   Experimenting with appropriate technologies is a big focus for Sailcargo.  If you watch the video tour, you’ll get to see several of their innovation on our YouTube channel.  The principles taught in a Permaculture Design Course lay the foundation for thinking designed to stimulate these kinds of innovations.  The innovations that come from that kind of thinking can be very exciting.   I’ve found a high-quality, low-cost online course that offers not only all of the recordings from a permaculture design course that was taught by some of the leaders in the field, like Paul Wheaton and Tim Barker, but it’s bundled together with another two-week course that was taught, focusing specifically on appropriate technologies.  They teach you how to build a Rocket Oven, Solar Food Dehydrator, Biosand Filter, Rocket Water Heater, and more! If you’d like to upgrade your understanding of permaculture and appropriate technologies, with low time and cost commitment, visit Permies.com to learn more!   If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects. Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:   Follow us on social media! Instagram: Facebook:   Twitter:
011 Nico Botefur: This Permaculture-Designed Hotel, Restaurant, and Food Forest is Set Up for Success (Essence Arenal)
Jun 8 2021
011 Nico Botefur: This Permaculture-Designed Hotel, Restaurant, and Food Forest is Set Up for Success (Essence Arenal)
Nico Botefur of Essence Arenal shares how he’s turned a couple of rooms on a denatured piece of property into a thriving business, food forest, and employment opportunity for entrepreneurs in his region. Located at the base of the beautiful Arenal Volcano, his hotel/restaurant/spa is an excellent example of what magic can come with patient and persistent application of the permaculture principles to one’s business.  Nico and I discuss his use of bamboo for a wide variety of projects from glamping tent frames, to greenhouses, to volleyball posts.  We also explore several ways that Nico has been creating synergistic systems that maximize his efforts, recycling waste back into the project and providing multiple yields with each input of energy.   If you'd like to learn more about Nico's cyclical approach to resource management for his hotel and restaurant, check out this short PDF that captures some of the highlights of how it all works. Download the PDF here:    Be sure to follow up with the video tour of Nico’s food forest and permaculture designs at     To learn more about Essence Arenal or to schedule a visit, check out:Website -   FB -   IG -     If you want to know more about creating high-producing food forests, in city and suburban environments, I recently came across an excellent course on the topic.  You can find it at   If you take the course, I’d love to hear what you think.  I’ve been very impressed by Toby’s style of teaching.  If we’re going to green up this planet for the next generations to thrive, we need to be doing it in urban as well as rural environments! If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
010 Meghan Casey: An Ecolodge Using Community Outreach to Co-Create a Regenerative Region (Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat)
May 18 2021
010 Meghan Casey: An Ecolodge Using Community Outreach to Co-Create a Regenerative Region (Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat)
This interview, with Meghan Casey of the Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat, is the kind of conversation that can change the fabric of a project’s relationship with its region and neighbors. We discuss community outreach projects that anyone can do: including teaching English, promoting cooking classes and homestay/farm stay experiences for guests to have authentic cultural experiences with the locals, organizing cacao and coffee tours, raising children in such a work-life situation, and more!   If you’ve wondered how to effectively provide value to your outer community, create goodwill, and foster regional resiliency, this episode is for you!  We've prepared a PDF to offer you a short list of some things that you can do to create goodwill and resilience in your community.  You can download it at   To follow more of Chilamate Rainforest Eco-Retreat’s adventures in community outreach and micro-business creation, check them out at:Website -   FB -   Meghan -   Instagram -   Also, be sure to check out Meghan’s free video guiding you to Experience Forest Therapy at:   Other recommendations from Meghan: Rainforest Alliance:   Hungry Planet photobook:   World Leadership School:   Teach United:   This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.  You can now also visit our website’s Resources page to find lots of great information and products that many have found to make their lives better.  Visit:   If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:   Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
009 Estéban Acosta: A Young Costa Rican Teaching Biodynamics, Cash Crops, & Home-Scale Biodigesters (Sembrando Flores and Viogaz)
Apr 27 2021
009 Estéban Acosta: A Young Costa Rican Teaching Biodynamics, Cash Crops, & Home-Scale Biodigesters (Sembrando Flores and Viogaz)
Today’s episode is with Estéban Acosta of Sembrando Flores & Viogaz, Costa Rica’s leading manufacturer and installer of bio-digesters for home-scale, as well as commercial, uses.  We discuss the spiritual side of agriculture through the application of biodynamic principles, growing “green manure” (mucuna beans), and the benefits of using a biodigester to process grey water and black water.  Esteban is a consultant and international spokesperson for the biodynamic movement.  This episode is sure to bring you value.I hope you enjoy it! Download Esteban's Description of the of Biodynamics Principles:   This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to  to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.    You can now also visit our website’s Resources page to find lots of great information and products that many have found to make their lives better.  Visit here!     To learn more about Esteban’s efforts in these fields, check out:Website -                       FB -             LI -   Email - esteban@sembrandoflores.com    If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
008 Terry Lillian Newton: Integrating Horses with Permaculture, Mindfulness, and Passion (Kindred Spirits)
Apr 6 2021
008 Terry Lillian Newton: Integrating Horses with Permaculture, Mindfulness, and Passion (Kindred Spirits)
In today’s episode with Terry Newton of Kindred Spirits, we explore horse care, equine therapy, using connection with horses to enhance yoga and meditation practices. Permaculture, & natural medicine.  It’s a conversation filled with intriguing stories, practical advice, and inspiration to follow one’s dreams. Terry shares her top tips for horse care in the tropics, as well as things that aspiring owners would do well to consider before solidifying their commitment.   We've created a PDF with some of Terry's top recommended plants for horse health.  If you'd like to check it out, you can download it directly, here     This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.    You can now also visit our website’s Resources page to find lots of great information and products that many have found to make their lives better.  Visit here!    To follow more of Kindred Spirit’s adventures in homesteading, check out:Website -   IG -   FB -   YT & Podcast -     Email - terry@horses.yoga    Other recommendations from Terry: Paddock Paradise   Barefoot Trimming   If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
007 Aly Khan & Alnoor Ladha: Designing Community for Post-Capitalistic Resiliance (Brave Earth)
Mar 17 2021
007 Aly Khan & Alnoor Ladha: Designing Community for Post-Capitalistic Resiliance (Brave Earth)
Building community is a central focus for many back-to-the-land projects.  Most commonly, that community is comprised of internal share-holding members, long-term guests, or the extended community of the surrounding village.  For some projects, that would also include short-term guests and off-site investors.  No matter what community means to you, many agree that a shifted focus toward a healthy sense of community is vital for a sustainable future.Today’s episode dives deep with Aly Khan & Alnoor Ladha of Brave Earth (Tierra Valiente), one of Costa Rica’s newest intentional communities.  Topics covered include creating an onsite school & communally-owned economic engine as a tactic to keep members on-site year-round.  We also hear about their 50/25/25 model for profit sharing and the value of weekly community councils.  One of my favorite moments is the description of their community solidarity network called “Fuerza del Amor” and what they’re doing to integrate their local neighbors into the profit pool.  There is alot to unpack about the subject of building community! So, if you'd like a short version of all the main points from this episode, we've created this awesome downloadable PDF for you! Download it here! This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.    You can now also visit our website’s Resources page to find lots of great information and products that many have found to make their lives better.  Visit here!    To follow more of Brave Earth’s adventures in community building, check out:Website -   FB -   IG -     If you’re into alternative building techniques, be sure to check out the video that we made of their beautiful retreat center and guest accommodations at:Our Youtube Channel:     Other recommendations from Aly Khan & Alnoor: Brave Earth’s Welcome Guide & Mystical Anarchist Etiquette: -   Upcoming Permaculture Design Course: -   Patreon: Some of the established Intentional Communities / Ecovillages mentioned in the interview:        Please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen if you enjoy the podcast.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
006 Ancel Mitchell: Bringing Cacao from Its Traditional Roots to a Cottage Industry (Talamanca Chocolate)
Jan 17 2021
006 Ancel Mitchell: Bringing Cacao from Its Traditional Roots to a Cottage Industry (Talamanca Chocolate)
Welcome to the world of Ancel Mitchel, herbalist, storyteller, chocolatier, and overall quality human being. In today’s episode, we dive into the value of connecting with & supporting local indigenous communities, various ways that one might prepare a cacao bean, and the value of embracing the mythological roots or our plant medicines. Ancel is one of the key players of Finca La Isla, along with her partner Peter Kring from last week’s episode. Both of these pioneers have had a lot to share. Kick back and enjoy the stories that Ancel lays out for us. It’ll be time well spent. Also, we've create this awesome downloadable PDF that includes all the best tips and tricks we learned from Ancel in this epsiode. You can download it here:   This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU! I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff. Isn’t that great! So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee! Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care. We've provided a pair of unique bonus videos for you, this time.  I visited Ancel for a late-night beach-side storytelling session, the night following our interview.  It was really cool.  She shared a modernized spin on an ancient Greek story of Demeter and a Norweigan tale of Tatterhood.  I recorded them on audio and have them available for your listening delight on your YouTube Channel: Demeter and the Old Crone Tatterhood the Princess Twin To follow more of Ancel’s adventures in chocolatiering, check out: FB - IG - @chocolateismedicine Ancel’s Medicinal Sodas class on Amazon Explore:   If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects. Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights:  Instagram:  Twitter:  Youtube:
005 Peter Kring: Veteran Insights into Fruit Forest Maintenance & Running a Farmers Market (Finca La Isla)
Jan 6 2021
005 Peter Kring: Veteran Insights into Fruit Forest Maintenance & Running a Farmers Market (Finca La Isla)
Meet Peter Kring, a nurseryman & farmer who has more than 30 years of experience in tropical agriculture. Peter has introduced many valuable species into cultivation in Costa Rica and maintains a collection of over 200 species of fruit trees.  His farm, Finca la Isla, on the Caribbean coast, offers a plethora of workshops in horticulture, medicinal plants, chocolate making, fermentation, and farm to table practices.     In today’s episode, Peter shares with us his insights into sustainability through producing goods to sell at the farmers' market.  Peter is an advocate for farmers’ markets and is the president of the committee that manages the market in Puerto Viejo.  He also touches on organic certification, what it takes, & whether it’s worth it. Beyond that, Peter shares with us his preferred soil amendments and walks us through some of his fruit forest maintenance. We talk about a ton of farming and fruit forest maintenance tips and tricks in this episode! So, to make it easier for you - we've created this awesome PDF that contains all of Peter's best tips! You can download it here! I hope you enjoy!   This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.  Make sure to check out the 2 videos that we made at Finca La Isla, where Peter describes his grafting process and fruit forest maintenance.  You can find those at:    To follow more of Finca La Isla’s adventures in biodiversity and sustainability, check out:Website - FB -   Maps - “Finca La Isla” Email -crgarden@mac.com Whatsapp - +50688294929   If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube: &
004 Justin Dolan: Sustainable Design, from Building Methods to Waste Management (Part 2 from The Permaculture Country Club)
Dec 17 2020
004 Justin Dolan: Sustainable Design, from Building Methods to Waste Management (Part 2 from The Permaculture Country Club)
The conversation continues from last week’s episode with Justin Dolan of St Michael’s Permaculture Country Club, in Central Pacific Costa Rica.   Justin mentions a number of the innovations that he’s been experimenting with, including natural building with bamboo, bioremediation, soil health, natural cooling with living rooftops and vines, waste management, and more.  We've also created an awesome PDF that contains all the best tips we learned from Justin Dolan about designing for resilience. You can download it here:  To follow more of Justin’s adventure’s in Permaculture, check out: Website -  Facebook -  Facebook -  Instagram -   Be sure to check out Justin's Top Tropical Plants recommendations:  This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.  If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects. Special thanks to Peter Mukuru for editing this episode! Follow Sharing Insights: WebsiteFacebook InstagramTwitterYoutube
003 Justin Dolan: Cultivating Bio-diversity, Bokashi, and Healthy Competition within Community (Part 1 from The Permaculture Country Club)
Dec 10 2020
003 Justin Dolan: Cultivating Bio-diversity, Bokashi, and Healthy Competition within Community (Part 1 from The Permaculture Country Club)
In today’s episode, we join Justin Dolan at the St Michael's Permaculture Country Club in Central Pacific Costa Rica. Justin shares his passion for seed propagation, medicinal plants, and using bio-ferments for healthy soil as well as animal care.  We explore topics such as healthy competition, the value of studying with a mentor, and using plants for natural home cooling.  Justin is a wealth of knowledge and the conversation ended up continuing into a second episode.  If you enjoy listening to Justin and the insights that he has to share, be sure to subscribe to the podcast, so you’ll have immediate access when Part 2 is released.  We’ll be hitting on topics such as natural building, and greywater management.  Be sure to check it out!   To follow more of what’s happening at the Permaculture Country Club, check out: Website -   FB - IG -    Be sure to check out Justin's Bokashi Recipe: For more insight into Justin's Bokashi Recipe, we took a video of his stations where he makes it.  You can find that at   Enjoy! This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.  If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects.   Special thanks to Ariel Poltronieri & Peter Mukuru for editing this episode!   Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube:
002 Ed Bernhardt: A Deep Ecologist's Tips on Soil Building, Brewing Bio-ferments, and Educating the Next Generation (New Dawn Center)
Dec 2 2020
002 Ed Bernhardt: A Deep Ecologist's Tips on Soil Building, Brewing Bio-ferments, and Educating the Next Generation (New Dawn Center)
In today’s episode, we visit with Ed Bernhardt at the New Dawn Center/Finca Alba Nueva, in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica.  Ed is a deep ecologist, and author for several newspaper & magazine articles in Costa Rica, including the Tico times.  Ed shares with us tips for soil building & supporting your plant’s immune system with a recipe that he calls “kombucha for the plants,”  He also shares stories about what it was like to homestead in the 80’s, in Costa Rica, while teaching organic gardening to the locals from young school children to University students.  Ed is developing an online course to continue reaching out to those who are willing to receive the wisdom that he has to share, earned over 40 years of gardening in the tropics.  Ed also grows a variety of medicinal plants that he processes with his wife for sales at the local farmer’s market.     If Ed’s description of his bio-ferments has you wanting more, be sure to check out the YouTube video that we created, where we take you right out into his back yard where he has it bubbling.     Of course, make sure to subscribe to the podcast, wherever you listen to podcasts, and leave us a rating and review.  It’s the best way for people to find us and trust that there’s something here worth paying attention to.   This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to be attracting sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without me selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!  So instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee.    Go to   to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care.   To follow more of the New Dawn Center’s adventures in earth care education, check out: Website - www.thenewdawncenter.info FB -   YouTube:     Other recommendations from Ed: Ed’s Bio-ferment Recipe: Ed's Compost Recipe, Kitchen-Made Insecticide Recipe & Bio-Sand Filter:  Check out our YouTube Tour of Ed’s Gardens and Bio-Ferment stations!   Global College -  Apprenticeship Program INA (Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje) -  www.ina.ac.cr  Ed’s Mentor - Edmond Bordough - Ecological Health Gardens   Ed’s books: Medicinal Plants of Costa Rica   Kiss the Ground Documentary - Special thanks to Ariel Poltronieri for editing this episode!   Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube: 5EXXFbwsO0V3bjJbTSwl
001 Suzanna Leff: Run a Successful Volunteer Program for Over 30 Years and Still Love It (Finca Amrta)
Dec 2 2020
001 Suzanna Leff: Run a Successful Volunteer Program for Over 30 Years and Still Love It (Finca Amrta)
In today’s episode, we visit with Suzanna Leff, one of the cofounders of Finca Amrta, a permaculture farm in the South Pacific region of Costa Rica.  Suzanna has been running her volunteer program for over 30 years and has been able to keep it full, almost exclusively by word of mouth.  We discuss topics like, how to find volunteer managers and administrative support, helping guests find their passions, and how to keep people engaged and happy.   We've created a downloadable PDF to offer you a list of tips you can implement to enhance your volunteer program. Download here:   If you enjoy the podcast, make sure to subscribe and leave a rating and short review wherever you listen to podcasts.  It takes less than a minute, and it really makes a difference in helping to spread the word about our mission to others looking to improve their own projects. This episode is brought to you by, well, YOU!  I haven’t built up my audience enough to have attracted sponsors and all that, so even though it’s the holiday season, you get to support the show without my selling you stuff.  Isn’t that great!   So, instead of buying an organic cotton shirt or an online course, maybe you can just buy me a coffee!    Go to to drop a few dollars in the bucket and let me know you care. To follow more of Finca Amrta’s adventures in homesteading, check out:The companion video to this episode, where we explore her organic gardens, greenhouse, and food dryer - Finca Amrta’s Website -   FB -   Email - amrtasa@yahoo.com   Other recommendations from Suzanna: Nonviolent Communication Training -   Volunteer Latin America - Special thanks to Ariel Poltronieri for editing this episode!   Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod Link: License: Follow Sharing Insights: Facebook:   Instagram:   Twitter:   Youtube: