Farmer’s Blog: Ethan Roland

You may have seen the fence go up around our new south field this winter, either on Facebook or in person. And you may have seen the lush cover crops of oats, field peas, rye and hairy vetch growing that we planted last fall to improve the soil for this year’s crops. Wednesday of last week was another exciting day for us at Cropsey Community Farm. Ethan Roland, of Appleseed Permaculture, came down to help us lay out our beds using the principles of Keyline Design. It was truly great to work with Ethan, an expert permaculture designer, teacher, and researcher based in the Hudson River Valley.

Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permacuture works with farmer Jose Romero-Bosch.

Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permacuture works with farmer Jose Romero-Bosch.

Jose, Ryan and I witnessed more erosion than we were comfortable with on the north field last year. Our fragile, sandy soil would wash down the pathways between our raised beds during heavy rains, taking nutrients along, and leaving the crops growing near the ridge in the middle of the field to struggle along with less food, humus, and topsoil. We’re not talking landslides here, but over time, this is one of the same processes that is leaving much of the incredibly fertile Midwest of our country with less than four thin inches of dying, drought-vulnerable dirt. Virgin prairie soils that settlers plowed up there were often two feet thick of dark earthen gold.

Maybe that comparison is a little severe, but we were not comfortable with what we saw, and were determined to set up our beds to minimize erosion. After trying to figure out how best to do this on our own, we finally decided to call someone with experience. Ethan surveyWhen Ethan showed up, I grabbed a bucket of landscaping flags and his clipboard, and he shouldered his tripod and laser level. The wind was whipping as we trudged up to the field and set up the laser level. We commenced straight away with marking contours in a few spots. Ethan quickly trained Jose and I to use the laser level ourselves, and with his keen eye for the land and experience we laid out the longest contour on the field, as well as a few that crossed the steepest, most erosion-susceptible spots on our hilly south field by lunchtime.

Jose, Ethan and CrayolaAfter lunch we went inside and mapped out the contours on paper. Ethan saw four distinct sections to the field. There are two little “bowls,” a ridge, and a corner where the land drops away again in the northwest corner of the field. In each of these sections, we chose a particular contour line, from among the ones we had staked out that morning, to base our plowing and beds off of. Here is a very abridged version of using Keyline Design to lay out a field like ours: you choose a basic contour in a given area so that when you plow or form your beds parallel to that contour, and they inevitable become slightly off contour due to the radius of the curve becoming greater or narrower, the water’s charge down the hill is stopped and directed ever so gently away from valleys and out towards ridges. The idea is that erosion is nearly stopped, water is dispersed more evenly through the field, and substantially more water soaks into the land than before.

This should result in healthier soil, and healthier, tastier crops. I think it will be really beautiful to behold. Though it will make some elements of our job more complex, such as planning where to put each crop since all of the rows will be different lengths, to us this choice was absolutely necessary. So thank you, Ethan for guiding us in this process. We are excited to see our the new field blossoms this year. Keep an eye out for us in the fields. If the ground dries up we’ll be out there real soon.

Shane Hardy, Farm Manager
Cropsey Community Farm

Permaculture Gardening Growing Fast

Although a fringe movement elsewhere, it’s booming in Maine.

By Tom Atwell (Originally published in the Portland Herald Press)

Permaculture design – landscapes developed to be useful, to sustain both the gardener and the land – may be a fringe movement, but it is the fastest-growing segment in the plant industry, according to Dale Hendricks, founder of North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania.

He compared the status of permaculture today to an eccentric-seeming gardening push in the 1980s that touted the cultivation of more native plants. At the time, many gardeners summed up that movement as the ideas of “a few crazies,” Hendricks recalled in a February lecture in Boston for New England Grows. “But now that fringe group has become almost mainstream.”

Similarly, “Permaculture…may be on the fringe now, but it is coming into its own.”

In Maine, the permaculture boom is already here.

The Resilience Hub, a nonprofit group in Portland promoting permaculture design, has 1,700 members, holds 50 to 60 events a year and helps people translate the principles of permaculture design to their homes, said Lisa Fernandes, the director who helped found the group in 2005. For one annual event, the “permablitz,” Hub members and others spend a day transforming someone’s property into a permaculture site.

Fernandes defined permaculture as “a design method based on ecological patterns. It is something you use rather than something you do.”

Ethan C. Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture in Stone Ridge, N.Y., who also lectured at New England Grows, defined it a little differently. “Permaculture design mimics the diversity, stability and permanence of natural systems,” he said.

What do these definitions mean in practise?

Permaculture, which is a contraction for “permanent agriculture,” attempts to minimize the outside elements brought onto a property, such as energy, water and raw materials from distant places. It also works to minimize the waste that leaves the property. It encompasses composting, rooftop solar panels, rainwater collection and vegetable gardens. A favorite vegetable garden mix among permaculture practioners is the so-called “three sisters,” the combination of crops that native tribes taught the Pilgrims to plant – corn, pole beans, and squash. The plants work together, and they make efficient use of space; the beans climb the corn, and the squash keeps the weeds down and the roots cool. These three happen to be native plants, but users of permaculture are more interested in how useful plants are than where they come from. They will grow native fruits, such as blueberries, elderberries and the paw paw tree, and non-natives, such Chinese chestnuts, which are resistant to chestnut blight; apple and peach trees, which have been grown in America for generations but are not native, and the Siberian pea shrub, which produces in a small space and improves the soil. Animals have a role to play in permaculture, too. Chickens, for example, provide eggs (and perhaps meat) for eating, as well as manure to fertilize the soil. They eat ticks that can spread disease and help mix up ingredients in the compost pile.

“When you walk into a well-designed permaculture garden, all the elements clearly work together,” ” Fernandes said. “There is biological diversity and a really heavy yield, whether that yield is food, flowers or herbs. There is a palpably different level of energy.”

Roland believes the Earth is sick, with climate change causing ever more storms, and many species going extinct or disappearing from their traditional ranges.

“Sustainable is not enough,” he said. “We have to go beyond sustaining to increasing the health of ecological systems. We need to heal the damage that has been done.”

You can start on that important work yourself by employing the practices of permaculture at your home. And you could well be part of the next big trend.

To schedule a consultation with AppleSeed Permaculture and get started, contact us now.

Permaculture Business Internship – Winter 2014

Unlike many landscape design firms, AppleSeed Permaculture LLC continues full-time permaculture design, research, and development work straight through the winter. This year, we are offering an exclusive internship opportunity focused on permaculture business management and research.

OVERVIEW

AppleSeed Permaculture LLC is a cutting-edge permaculture & sustainable farm design firm dedicated to regenerating ecosystems and multi-capital economies around the planet.

This internship uses hands-on action learning and direct mentoring from firm principals Ethan Roland and Dyami Nason-Regan to train you in the nitty-gritty realities of a permaculture business. This is not the “sexy” part of permaculture – You will not participate in hands-on planting projects, tour permaculture sites, or travel the world. You will learn basic entrepreneurial skills like project management, client communications, web development, bookkeeping, and accounting.

The internship runs for 1-2 days per week, depending on experience. 1 day per week takes place in AppleSeed’s Accord, NY office. Internship runs until April, 2014.

 Position begins when filled – apply immediately if interested.    

INTERNSHIP INCLUDES:

  • Project Management: Designing and developing systems for task tracking, accountability, and completion; managing business development projects.
  • Permaculture Research: Plant species and varieties, sustainable farm business planning, multi-local market research, eco-social investing research.
  • Finances: Quickbooks accounting; supporting tax preparation and filing for multiple enterprises.
  • Technology & Social Media: AppleSeed website maintenance and updates, including blogs and social media integration. Building and managing Facebook pages and email lists for AppleSeed and allied enterprise educational events. (e.g. Terra Genesis International Permaculture Design Courses.) Troubleshooting routine technology problems and coordinating tech support as needed.
  • Other business management opportunities, to be determined depending on competency and experience of Intern.

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • Clear, direct, peaceful communication.
  • Internal resilience and self-sufficiency.  Ability to cheerfully improvise and adapt in changing circumstances.
  • Systems thinker, highly organized, able to clarify and simplify complexity.
  • Ability to attend to diverse details while staying connected to the big picture.
  • Excellent writing and speaking skills.
  • Warm, welcoming, connected phone presence and email “voice”.
  • Experience with Word, Excel, WordPress, Gmail, Google Docs, & Dropbox.
  • Familiarity with Quickbooks accounting.
  • Solid familiarity with Apple/Mac software and hardware.
  • Ability to design, streamline, and maintain efficient systems of operation and record-keeping.
  • Strong desire to contribute to regenerative eco-social enterprise development.
  • Familiarity with any of the following tools and languages is a plus:
    • Permaculture Design
    • Spiral Dynamics
    • Re-evaluation Counseling
    • 8 Shields / Art of Mentoring
    • 4-Hour Workweek
  • Passionate about personal growth and organizational development.
  • Willingness to go to new edges, learn new skills, and try new approaches.
  • Sense of humor, curiosity, and creativity.
  • Local to Accord, NY (mid-Hudson/Catskills region) is a plus.

Please reply to jobs@appleseedpermaculture.com with a resume, three references, and a concise letter describing:

  1. Your business management experience and qualifications related to the Internship,
  2. Your reasons for applying for this Internship.

Cheers,

Ethan Roland & Dyami Nason-Regan

Principals, AppleSeed Permaculture LLC

AppleSeed Permaculture Internship 2013

WORLD-CLASS PERMACULTURE & SOCIAL ENTERPRISE TRAINING

ASP_InternshipIn a Nutshell – A three-month internship with AppleSeed Permaculture, a cutting edge regenerative design firm based in the mid-Hudson River Valley of New York, USA. Internship runs from September 1st to November 20th, 2013 and focuses on professional permaculture design and social entrepreneurship. The internship offers full immersion and guided mentoring for everything from computer-aided drafting to deep nature connection. This is a unique opportunity – there’s nothing else like it, period. Interns must be permaculture-trained, hard-working, and self-directed. Three internship positions are available. Application period June 1st - July 15th, 2013. To apply for the Internship, download the application by clicking here and return it to design@appleseedpermaculture.com by July 15th, 2013.

“This internship was a launching pad for me to dive into doing work I am passionate about for a right livelihood – it empowered me with practical skills and deeper understandings to effectively accomplish my goals.” – Brandy Hall, 2010 Intern, owner of Shades of Green, Inc.

Who – Self-directed, entrepreneurial, motivated permaculture designers committed to creating positive change through social enterprise. Must have completed a Permaculture Design Certification Course. Computer skills and mac laptop with Adobe Creative Suite and are necessary. Preference given to applicants who identify as people of color, native peoples, and women.

Dyami_Planting

What – Action learning internship with AppleSeed Permaculture, a cutting edge regenerative design firm combining disciplines of sustainability to integrate humans into the landscape by designing productive ecosystems for homes, businesses, and communities. Internships are a mix of research and hands-on project-based learning.

PROGRAM INCLUDES:

  • Real World Design Project
    • Manage a professional design project for a real AppleSeed Permaculture client.
  • Design Apprentiship
    • Learn from AppleSeed Staff Designers by working with them on their projects: Large-scale water systems, urban edible landscapes, residential micro-farms.
  • Permacuture Busness Systems
    • Engage with proprietary systems for running an efficient and sucessful design business.
  • Deep Nature Connection
    • Absorb and emulate the processes of your local ecosystems to deepen your skill as a integrative designer.
  • Regenerative Systems Analysis
    • Research and apply the best practices of permaculture, biomimicry and eco-social design.

Where – The internship will take place in the Hudson River Valley bioregion of the northeastern United States. The AppleSeed Permaculture office is in Accord, NY. Interns will have the opportunity to live and work on a local permaculture farm for the duration of the internship.

“Beyond the skills needed for professional design and making a small business work, the AppleSeed internship gave me the tools and support to create “world change” from the inside, out.” – Mark Angelini, 2010 Intern, owner of Roots to Fruits Ecological Design

Internship Staff
  • Tama Jackson – Designer, Project Manager & Soil Specialist.
  • Dyami Nason-Regan - Lead Designer, Edible Landscaping & Installation Manager.
  • Ethan Roland – Lead Designer, Financial Permaculture & Agricultural Economics Specialist.
Local Partners 
  • Clove Valley CSA
  • Green Phoenix Permaculture
  • Falcon Formulations

When September 1st – November 20th, 2013.

Each week, interns will work:
  • Two days with AppleSeed Permaculture LLC
  • Two days at Clove Valley CSA
  • One day with Green Phoenix Permaculture

Why – The Permaculture Design Course is a great introduction to permaculture. And, the world needs professional permaculture designers to actually create effective change. Becoming a professional permaculture designer requires a large and diverse skill-set, training in social entrepreneurship, and hands-on mentoring from working professionals. If you are someone who wants to become a professional permaculture designer by working with seasoned experts in the field, this internship is for you.

ASP_Internship02

To Apply – Download the application by clicking here. Return the completed application and all attachments to design@appleseedpermaculture.com by July 15th, 2013.

“The value of my internship with Appleseed Permaculture was immense!  I learned what it takes to be a permaculture design entrepreneur using the best technology, resources, and techniques.  I loved every minute of it and what I learned has been extremely helpful in my new business!” – Evan Schoepke, 2010 Intern, Gaia Punk Design Co-op & Punk Rock Permaculture E-Zine

Permaculture Cohousing in Connecticut

AppleSeed Permaculture LLC is proud to join Centerbrook Architects on the design team for Green Haven Cohousing, an exciting project in the West River watershed of CT. In collaboration with the people of Green Haven, the Bethany community, and the local ecosystem, we look forward to bringing permaculture to Connecticut!

Sustainable, low-impact neighborhood planned for Bethany.

Bethany, CT—June 6—Green Haven, Inc., a group of area residents, has obtained an option to purchase a 31 acre parcel on Meyers Rd. in Bethany, where they hope to build a sustainable neighborhood of modestly priced homes.

Green Haven members, some of whom are long-time Bethany residents, plan to live in the community. They will be working closely with the architects, engineers, and contractors to ensure that the development is in keeping with Bethany’s rural character and community values as well as being consistent with the town’s Plan for Conservation and Development. Initial response from neighbors and local citizens has been positive.

The property was previously approved for a 48-unit senior affordable housing development that would have occupied the entire site with suburban-style homes, lawns, and driveways. Green Haven’s vision is for fewer, smaller units clustered around a large common facility, the activities hub of the community.

The multi-generational, family-oriented community will feature private and community gardens as well as small-scale farming, in a pedestrian-friendly layout that encourages healthy interaction. The shared common house may include amenities such as a large kitchen and eating space, children’s playroom, craft rooms, and a woodworking shop, allowing individual residences to be comfortable yet small and inexpensive to maintain.

Centerbrook Architects—nationally known for their beautiful, sustainable, energy-efficient buildings—will be the project architects. They will be working with AppleSeed Permaculture on the plan, with most of the site to be kept as open space for farming, conservation, and recreation.

There are more than 200 cohousing neighborhoods nationwide, but Green Haven’s will be the first in Connecticut. Cohousing is a form of intentional community in which families own private homes and participate in the community’s consent-based self-governance and, if they choose, in community activities.

The Green Haven group has been working for several years to find a site where they can develop their community, and securing the option on the Meyers Rd. property is a major step forward. Their intention is to live as sustainably as possible, with a low carbon footprint, low-impact design, and significant on-site food production. They intend also to participate fully in the wider Bethany community as good neighbors.

For more information on cohousing, visit www.cohousing.org. For more information on Green Haven, visit www.greenhavencohousing.org. The group hosts community dinners twice a month at which newcomers and future neighbors are welcome. The schedule is posted on their blog, newhavencohousing.blogspot.com.

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CONTACT

Green Haven Cohousing – Jack Nork, jack@nork.com, 203-500-2688

AppleSeed Permaculture LLC – design@appleseedpermaculture.com, 845-594-4518

AppleSeed Land Managers: Beyond Property Management

Dear Farmers, Permaculturists, and Social Entrepreneurs,

Are you interested in finding a piece of land to steward, manage, farm on and grow with for the next 1-10 years? Would you like to start an agricultural enterprise or educational farm without the challenges of purchasing land? Appleseed Permaculture is glad to announce our new project, AppleSeed Land Managers.

We match land owners (individuals, families, land trusts, retreat centers, schools, companies etc.) who want to
  • Grow food
  • Build community
  • Regenerate their local ecosystems
With land managers (individuals, couples, and families) who want to
  • Grow food, community, & local ecosystems
  • Build their skills and experience with land management  & eco-agricultural  enterprises
  • Develop long-term relationships with the land and local professional network

Essentially, we build symbiotic relationships that put people on the land and generate multiple forms of capital for everyone involved.  Land managers will receive compensation for their services, and land owners will achieve returns on their investments in financial, material, living, social, or cultural forms of capital. We are building this match-making service to meet the parallel unmet needs we’ve encountered among our design clients, our students, and our colleagues in the permaculture and organic farming communities. We invite you to be among the first people who try a new approach to meeting property management and development needs by engaging in the AppleSeed Land Managers process.

The types of people we’d like to engage as land managers are bright eyed, bushy-tailed, self-starter, situationally aware, go-get-‘em, positive, grateful, dependable, perseverant, clear-communicating, whole-systems thinking, and committed to personal growth and development. They have specific experience in permaculture, organic farming, or social entreprenurship. As of Spring 2012, we are looking to find one couple or family and two individuals (one farmer and one farm educator) to fill specific positions in the northeast USA.

Here’s what will happen if you meet the criteria above and would like to get involved:
  • You submit a resume and online application
  • We conduct a preliminary phone interview with you
  • We conduct an in-person interview with you
  • We invite you to join Appleseed Permaculture for trial work day(s)
  • We give you specific feedback and ask you to re-apply in the future
          • OR
  • We invite you to join our Land Managers Network!

Once you’re fully enrolled in our network, we will work with you to discover and outline your specific wants and preferences regarding land and a relationship with a land owner. From then on, we will pursue contacts with land owners on your behalf until we find a prospective match for you!  Finally, we will support you in the process of forming new relationships with the land and the land owners. This includes:

  • Understanding and developing a well-articulated vision and plan for the land
  • Business planning for eco-agricultural enterprises
  • Creating clear written legal agreements between land owners and land managers
  • Receiving continued mentoring from AppleSeed Permaculture staff

As the first wave of applicants to our Land Managers Network, you’ll have the opportunity to help us streamline and grow our new process.

We look forward to meeting you and networking on your behalf,
The Appleseed Team

Download the application questionnaire here: Land Managers Application

Social Entrepreneurship is Missing Something

I pitched this at the 2011 NY StartingBloc Fellowship as a finalist in the Ideas Marketplace.

Is your business an eco-social enterprise? Do you want to become an eco-social entrepreneur? Pitch us in the comments.

AppleSeed Permaculture Interview: The New Eco-Social Economy

AppleSeed Permaculture SignClick here to download an mp3 of Rebecca Collins (Sustainable Agriculture Examiner) interviewing Ethan Roland and Dyami Nason-Regan of AppleSeed Permaculture. We discuss wild food forests, do-it-yourself universities, local regenerative agriculture, and the creation of a cooperative eco-social economy. Enjoy!

AppleSeed Permaculture Interview

General Resources

Local Resources

Plant Resources

8 Forms of Capital

A whole system of economic understanding

©Copyright 2011 Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua

Click here to download the article from Permaculture Magazine #68

Context: Financial Permaculture, 2009

In 2008 and 2009, I was part of the organizing & facilitation team for the Financial Permaculture Course in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Convened by the Center for Holistic Ecology, Gaia University, and Solari, Inc, the course brought together permaculture designers, financial planners, entrepreneurs, community activists, complementary currency advocates, farmers and government officials from around the country.

Financial Permaculture goes beyond the traditional permaculture approach to economics and asks the question, “What would it look like if we re-designed the global financial system using permaculture principles?” and “What if our financial system looked more like an ecosystem?”

In 2009, Catherine Austin Fitts presented  “Mapping Financial Ecosystems”. We mapped all the ‘capital pools’ in the local community. We explored the flows of money between entities, and discussed how vibrant local economies are more defined by the flows of money rather than by the pools. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. We kept talking about money as if it was the only form of capital, even though there was a growing awareness that acres of land, board feet of timber, and tons of carbon might also be part of an ecosystemic economy.

At one of the open space sessions I began to realize a more complete map of “capital.”

Eight Forms of Capital

The Oxford American Dictionary states that capital is, “wealth in the form of money or other assets” and a “valuable resource of a particular kind.” What are these ‘other assets’? I’ve never seen a whole map of all the different types of ‘valuable resources’. In the Permaculture Designers’ Manual, Bill Mollison offers and expands on a categorization of assets based on their potential: Degenerative, Generative, Procreative, Informational, Conservative (1). These always seem like a good way to think about things, but I don’t use them in any tangible way.

I wanted something that would be more helpful for understanding the complex transactions and exchanges swirling around me as a human being and us as a global community. As I considered the ‘mapping financial ecosystems’ exercise, a bigger picture began to emerge as I thought about the capital pools and flows of the Mayor of a hypothetical small town.

The Mayor might have some money (financial capital). A good Mayor would probably also have many friends in the town and some influence (social capital). The Mayor, who has a degree in economics, knows the stock market extremely well. S/he uses that intellectual capital to generate more money (financial capital) to run a re-election campaign, in which s/he works to transform financial capital into more social capital in the town.

I tried to enumerate all of the different ‘valuable resources’ which an individual or entity could gather or exchange.  “Eight Forms of Capital” emerged:

Social Capital

Influence and connections are social capital. A person or entity who has ‘good social capital’ can ask favors, influence decisions, and communicate efficiently. Social capital is of primary importance in politics, business, and community organizing.

Jason Eaton of Social Thread LLC explained to me that Capital can be in the form of equity or debt. In social capital, a person can ‘owe’ favors or decision-making influence to another person or entity.

Material Capital

Non-living physical objects form material capital. Raw and processed resources like stone, metal, timber, and fossil fuels are ‘complexed’ with each other to create more sophisticated materials or structures. Modern buildings, bridges, and other pieces of infrastructure along with tools, computers, and other technologies are complexed forms of material capital.

Financial Capital

We are most familiar with financial capital: Money, currencies, securities and other instruments of the global financial system. The current global society focuses enormous amounts of attention on financial capital. It is our primary tool for exchanging goods and services with other humans. It can be a powerful tool for oppression, or, (potentially) liberation.

Living Capital

A precious metal dealer who attended both Financial Permaculture courses advises, “Rather than U.S. Dollars, measure your wealth in ounces [of gold and silver]!” Recognizing that  “precious” metals are just another form of financial capital, Catherine Austin Fitts recommends that we diversify and, “Measure your wealth in ounces, acres, and hooves.” Living capital is made up of the animals, plants, water and soil of our land— the true basis for life on our planet.

Permaculture design teaches us the principles and practices for rapid creation of living capital. Permaculture encourages us to share the abundance of living capital rather than the intangible “wealth” of financial capital.

(Note: “Natural Capital” could be a synonym for Living Capital, but the 1999 book “Natural Capitalism” by Hawkens et al. focuses more on a slightly updated system of capitalism than on the true wealth of living systems. The current Slow Money movement is also making strides in a similar direction, seeking to transfer financial capital into the living forms of soil, animals, and agriculture.)

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital is best described as a ‘knowledge’ asset. The majority of the current global education system is focused on imparting intellectual capital — whether or not it is the most useful form of capital for creating resilient and thriving communities. Having intellectual capital is touted as the surest way to ‘be successful’.Science and research can focus on obtaining intellectual capital or ‘truth’, though it is often motivated by the desire for financial or social capital. For example, “going to university” is primarily an exchange of financial capital for intellectual capital. It is supposed to prepare people for the rest of their lives in the world.

Experiential (or Human) Capital

We accumulate experiential capital through actually organizing a project in our community, or building a strawbale house, or completing a permaculture design. The most effective way to learn anything comes through a blended gathering of intellectual and experiential capital. My personal experience getting a Master’s degree at Gaia University showed me that experiential learning is essential for my effective functioning in the world: I was able to do projects instead of take classes, and I’m now collaboratively organizing the local permaculture guild and co-running a successful permaculture design firm (2).

I can see that ‘Human Capital’ is a combination of social, intellectual and experiential capital,all facets of a person that can be gathered and carried in essentially limitless amounts. But there’s one more form of capital that a person can gather and carry inside themselves.

Spiritual Capital

As one practices their religion, spirituality, or other means of connection to self and universe, one may accumulate spiritual capital. It contains aspects of intellectual and experiential capital, but is deeper, more personal and less quantifiable. Manyost of the world’s religions include a concept of ‘the great chain of being’, a holarchic understanding of existence where spiritual attainment (in this context, the accumulation of spiritual capital) leads to different levels of being (3).

Buddhism even contains an explicit spiritual currency: Karma! This form of spiritual capital is tallied and accounted for not only in one’s current life, but (taking re-incarnation into consideration) also in all of the past and future lives of one’s soul. In spiritual capital again enters the concept that capital can be in the form of equity (gathering positive spiritual experience/understanding/attainment) OR in the form of debt. In some Mayan cultures (like the Tzutujil of Lago Atitlan), a basic understanding of existence is that humans owe a ‘spiritual debt’ to the magnificent beauty and complexity of existence. According to this worldview, the goal of one’s life in the world is to create works of unspeakable beauty and gratitude, thereby repaying the spiritual debt to existence (4). The Tzutujil also recognize that single human beings can never really be effective at gathering and flowing capital if they are separated from their community.

Cultural Capital

All the other forms of capital may be held and owed by individuals, but cultural capital can only be gathered by a community of people. Cultural capital describes the shared internal and external processes of a community – the works of art and theater, the songs that every child learns, the ability to come together in celebration of the harvest or for a religious holiday. Cultural capital cannot be gathered by individuals alone. It could be viewed as an emergent property of the complex system of inter-capital exchanges that takes place in a village, a city, a bioregion, or nation.

Properties of the System

These eight forms of capital help us map our understanding of the world. The map clarifies that money is not the only form of capital flowing around and through us. This map expands the concepts of wealth (and poverty) to include the ‘valuable resources’ of personal connections, natural resources, land, knowledge, experience, and more. It provides a language for permaculture designers to communicate the value of healthy soil and healthy communities to people immersed in the current mindset of global capitalism, where financial capital is the only reality.

There are two types of flow between pools capital:

  1. Intra-capital flows, between the same type of capital. For example, using US dollars to purchase a stock or bond, or exchanging heirloom tomato seeds for a carton of eggs.
  2. Inter-capital flows, between different types of capital. For example, paying for a 2-year apprenticeship with a master builder would be an exchange of financial capital for experiential, intellectual, and even social capital.

These properties of capital flow point to another interesting question and feature of this map: What are the mediums of exchange used for each form of capital?

Eight Forms of Currency

Although most definitions of currency focus on financial capital, the Oxford American Dictionary and the Princeton Wordnet (5) both include the definition of “the fact or quality of being generally accepted or in use”. For this map, I define a currency as the generally accepted (or in use) medium of exchange between pools of capital. In many cases, the currency is the capital itself — for example, items of ‘Material Capital’ like copper or steel, can be the medium of exchange. Currencies can also be “complexed” into more interconnected and functional forms, and still used as a medium of exchange.

Here are the eight forms of currency associated with each form of capital:

Practical Applications

Earlier this year, as my partner and I designed a four-weekend series of Forest Garden courses, we were having a lot of trouble with the budget. The costs of renting space and paying teachers combined with our desire to keep fees affordable for the local community made the numbers look unfeasible. No matter how we changed things around, we couldn’t figure out how to make a reasonable financial return. Then we realized that our thinking was too narrow — we were only looking at financial capital! When we considered the experiential capital we’d gain by running a course, the social capital gathered by planting forest gardens at a new education center, and the living capital of hundreds of useful plants going into the ground… it became clear that financial remuneration was only one facet of the system. Nonetheless, we still needed to balance our inflow and outflow of this one form of capital.

The eight forms of capital provide a clear path towards a small point of great leverage: Eco-social Investing. We can encourage individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to mimic nature’s practices of investing: Locally, intimately, diversely, and primarily in living capital. The Financial Permaculture community, Gaia University, and a host of connected businesses and organizations are investing diverse baskets of capital, offering events like the Carbon Farming Course in Tennessee and the thriving eco-social chocolate business BooyaCacao.

I’ve outlined a set of principles for Eco-Social and Ecosystem Investing, which you can find on my blog at www.appleseedpermaculture.com/blog One of the most useful applications of this map is for growing and shifting our own understanding of the world and the transactions we engage in. When I volunteer time working on my friend’s organic permaculture farm, more than just ‘free labor’ is taking place:

  • I’m gaining experiential and intellectual capital about the farm’s soil, crops, and management,
  • We’re supporting the growth of healthy living capital in the soil,
  • My friend gets help producing products to exchange for financial capital (her right livelihood)
  • We both build social capital through positive interaction and connection with each other.

This amount of clarity can lead to a whole new level of transparency in our work as eco-social-cultural-economic designers. It can guide us towards an ever-deepening practice of the third ethic of permaculture.

The Third Ethic

Although Bill Mollison originally stated the third ethic of permaculture as “Setting limits to population and consumption,”(6) many of us (especially in the more recent waves of permaculture) have been taught different forms of the third ethic. Some learn “Fair Share,” a toned-down and friendlier version of “Limits”. Others learn “Resource Share,” which directs attention away from scarcity and towards re-investment of abundance. And more recently I’ve seen Starhawk refer to the third ethic as “Future Care,” which synthesizes the call for “Fair Share” and “Resource Share” into a focus on creating thriving inheritances for future generations. The eight forms of capital can and should be considered in terms of each version of the third ethic.

Fair Share

When people and the businesses, organizations, and governments understand the eight forms of capital, they may find that financial capital is not the whole system. This can lead to decreased consumption of non-essential goods and services that fuel our infinite-growth-based financial system.

A truly just society requires fair and equitable distribution of all forms of capital. While financial capital is important, non-financial capitals offer pathways to empowerment for the oppressed communities of our planet. In communities I’ve visited (Kazakhstan, Chile, and Latin America), the abundance of cultural capital often outweighs the financial capital, regenerating into a wealth of experiential and living capital that I’ve never seen in my northeastern-USA home. Any of us in the over-developed world can follow this modeling, working to end oppression caused by our current financial-capital-centric systems.

Resource Share

We can use the eight forms of capital to include resource sharing in our projects. AppleSeed Permaculture has set a new Carbon Policy, whereby 5% of our revenues will be dedicated to offsetting our carbon footprint through  carbon-farming projects (living capital). The Permaculture Activist’s tree tax functions in much the same way, transforming financial capital into living capital for the good of the planet.

AppleSeed Permaculture is also inspired by our friends Shabazz and Josephine of Greenway Environmental Services, who explicitly donate 10% of every work week back to the community through education and consulting. They share their intellectual and experiential with urban youth groups and rural permaculturists alike, generating social capital for themselves at the same time. As an upper-middle class white male from the northeastern United States, I am seeking ways to transparently and joyfully use my multi-layered privilege to effectively share resources with those who have less power and freedom than I do. This article is one manifestation of my sharing of intellectual capital. I will also approach this goal through my work with eco-social investing. After seeking out leadership from people and communities who have been targeted by the oppressive effects of sexism, racism, and classism, their projects can be empowered through flows of multi-capital investment.

Future Care

To care for future generations, we need to move beyond finance into living and cultural capital. Of all eight forms, these two have the greatest potential for positive systemic change. Mollison writes, “We should develop or create wealth just as we develop landscapes, by conserving energy and natural resources [and] by developing procreative assets (proliferating forests, prairies, and life systems)”(7). Only through the songs, stories, and shared ethics of cultural capital can a focus on living capital can be sustained for the seventh generation to come.

Some pieces are missing from the map: where does “labor” fit into the picture? What form of capital is “time”? There may be some dangerous implications: this map could commodify ecosystem services, spirituality, and culture. To care for the future, we must think more holistically about our current capital system.

Let this map be a first draft. We don’t know what will happen in the future, but if a complex set of changes and capital flows appear along the way, I offer the eight forms of capital as a new map for the journey.

©Copyright 2011 Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua

Gratitude & Resources

I offer my deepest gratitude to Catherine Austin Fitts, Andrew Langford, Bill Mollison, Jason Eaton, Gregory Landua, Dyami-Nason Regan, Connor Stedman, Mai Frank, and Rafter Sass for their specific contributions to and reflections on this evolving map.

References

  1. Mollison, B. 1988. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 534. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.
  2. Roland, E. 2008. Gaia University Master’s Degree Portfolio, http://gel.gaiauniversity.org
  3. Wilber, K. 2001. A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality p. 66-69. Shambhala Publications, Massachusetts, United Staes
  4. Prechtel, M. 2009. Saving the Indigenous Soul: Derrick Jensen Interviews Martín Prechtel. Sun Magazine, December 2009
  5. Wordnet: A Lexical Database for English. http://wordnet.princeton.edu/, accessed 5/31/09.
  6. Mollison, B. 1988. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 2. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.
  7. Ibid. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 534. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.