Starhawk and Donna Read create works that spark cultural consciousness shifts and an awareness of permaculture theory and application. Projects include: non-fiction, fiction, dramatic materials, visual exhibitions, public speaking, public training in permaculture, and a documentary, "Growing Edges".
In 2007 and 2008 EAT pioneered a new format to make courses accessible to working people in the cities and highlight urban permaculture strategies. EAT continues to work on bioremediation of contaminated soils, and developing an alumni and community web. In 2009 a special project is being composed and directed by Starhawk and the documentary is being completed.
Starhawk and Ms. Read have a history of applying original, creative and multi-disciplined approaches in exploration of ideas and systems of thought. Both artists have a history of inspirational and internationally acclaimed works which have been read and watched by thousands of people. They offer positive visions of individual empowerment and working solutions for both local, regional, and international problems.
EAT Success Stories
The well-structured Earth Activist Training gave me the knowledge and tools necessary to create an organization called Backyard Abundance. (In Iowa City). Members of Backyard Abundance follow Permaculture principles to design and transform yards into vibrant, resilient, and diverse areas that improve the environmental and cultural health of our community. Through presentations and hands-on workshops, these areas serve as outdoor classrooms to teach, share ideas, and reconnect people to the natural world.
I organized my urban neighborhood of 24 units through a Blockwatch to develop a true community, and also to conserve energy and use public transportation. We're also petitioning our City Council to get the city's free shuttle bus to stop in our neighborhood.
When I took the EAT course (Jan 06), it was part of my program for big change. I had a great job (at a desk) and four grown children, and I was ready for a NEW life. Learning permaculture principles was the first concrete step I took. I had previously been a farmer for five (too short) years, and knew that the rest of my life needed to return to that deep purpose within me. Permaculture, which I had previously avoided, blew me away (and continues to). Six months after taking the EAT course, I was on my way to the Andes, learning Spanish, and practicing permaculture in the two-thirds* world, that is, without what we think of as resources. I was the student in the Andes, of traditional sustenance living, perfected in a specific place over centuries and embodied in culture. As a western/northern person, I brought intellectual understanding to these practices, so that we can mesh them with permaculture, so that, as a people, we can support and strengthen the real way of living on earth, instead of destroy it.
Following the EAT '08 course I headed to The Farm for a Natural
Building Apprenticeship for a month and then over to the Ashevillage Institute to help Janelle with the 1st Annual Ashevillage Building Convergence. I am currently taking classes at the Garden for the Environment, and Merritt College Landscape Horticulture Dept. and guerilla gardening an abandoned 1 acre plot of land in Oakland. I have been volunteering with City Slickers Farms to help grow food in West Oakland as well as the Community Gardens at Lake Merritt. I led a planting for 20 1st-Graders (CHAOS!) and am helping to plant a native drought-tolerant and food garden at a friend's place in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. I also taught a workshop on worm composting to the Merritt College Permaculture Course. I created some beds and an herb/medicinal plants area at a friend's farm in Ukiah and got their composting and vermiwash systems going. And I'm taking care of a 14 month old.
Otherwise I'd be doing more.
I’m offering the first permaculture design course in Georgia…
After returning from NC, July 07 EAT, I designed an edible garden for the Seaside Neighborhood School in Seaside, FL. I incorporated several permaculture elements, though we are still in the first phase of implementation. The kids are off to a great start and one of the local restarurants are now using some of the greens from the garden. After this, I teamed up with one of your and Penny's students from early EAT, Kat McCrite. We are co-teaching an Introduction to Permaculture design course and offer consulting as well.
I've also started a local sustainable awareness group called SWELL, South Walton Environmental and Low-impact Living. We meet once a month at a local venue and someone from the community is invited to speak about something they are passionate about. We do seed swaps, show movies from the bioneers, support local environmental groups, among various other activities. The SWELL group has inspired several other spin off groups including an Eat Local group, a local business alliance, and a similar SWELL group in the neighboring county. My e- mail list for SWELL has expanded to over 250 individuals in one year!
I completed a permaculture plan for a dear friend who happens to sit on the planning commission board. She now has fruit and nut trees, three chickens, and the beginnings of a greywater system all on her urban homestead of 1/8 acre. She has since introduced the planning department to permaculture and we have started a committee comprised of local architects and others to design a transect overlay plan (smart growth + walkable communities) for all of Walton County that will include permaculture design as well. The timing is perfect because our land use maps are set to be amended this year and they currently encourage more sprawl, which we want to stop.
In the years right after my EAT course. I spent a lot of time working with a non-profit called the Tropical Conservation Foundation that has an education and research farm in the forest of Belize. I got to work on extensive agroforestry systems, permaculture water systems, solar electric systems and natural building there, hosted groups, guided tours, taught some workshops and had the privilege of spending a lot of time around some really kind traditional people who live very close to the land. In Belize, I met my soon to be wife Kat Deaner…an amazing California girl with similar goals and values.
After Belize, we lived in California for a couple of years outside of Willits and outside of Santa Cruz. We were caretakers at Motherland in Willits, which is a big beautiful medicinal plant sanctuary and herbal medicine school for women, at the home of a woman named Donna D’Terra. There we got more experience living off of the grid and working with plant, energy and water systems. In Santa Cruz, I worked at a California native plant nursery. We propagated thousands of plants, from hundreds of species and built really nice native gardens in the south bay. While in California, Kat and I started our business Habitats Landscaping. We do design and installation of ecological landscapes.
About 2 years ago, we moved back to my home state of Ohio thinking that we would buy a piece of land and settle in the hills of SE Ohio, where beautiful land is still relatively affordable and there is a big community of like-minded folks. That hasn’t ended up happening yet, but we are doing some great things.
Shortly after arriving in Ohio, I got to know Peter Bane and we got working on bringing permaculture education to Ohio. Part of my inspiration was the frequency and availability of permaculture education in the bay area. In the last 2 years I have helped organize and teach 3 PDC courses in Ohio with Peter and colleagues from the Association for Regenerative Culture. We have had two courses in the Athens area, in SE Ohio, and one weekend series in Columbus. They are the first courses that we are aware of in both locations. The courses have also contributed to getting a couple of permaculture guilds going in Ohio, and several folks have initiated some great projects. We are beginning to plan our next course in Youngstown, in NE Ohio, which will be in a year or so. We are collaborating with folks who are beginning an urban agriculture movement there. I’ve also taught a number of short workshops on a variety of topics like forest gardening,
soil, and natural building.
I have had the opportunity to do some great landscaping work out here as well. In the last year we’ve designed and installed a handful of edible landscapes, including a couple of public edible forest gardens at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and at the United Methodist Children’s Home in Columbus. We also taught a workshop on cob and built a big cob frog oven in a children’s garden in the Dayton Metroparks.
In the last year, I also became an academic. Kat really wanted to pursue graduate education at Ohio State, so we moved up to the city of Columbus, and I ended up falling into a great situation at the university. I’m currently in my second year of study in my master’s program in natural resources. I work in the Soil C Management and Sequestration Lab here with Rattan Lal. I have two research projects. One is a project looking at C sequestration and soil quality restoration of degraded soils with prairie grasses in Ohio. My other project is a collaboration with the Land Institute in Kansas. I’m working on a big study with some folks there where we are looking at the differences in soil food webs and organic matter dynamics between perennial prairies and annual crop lands in Kansas. Very interesting stuff. Both of these situations, just sort of happened out of the blue, as many good things do.
So, grad school has been a great experience so far. Our lab at OSU is a hub of international soil C research. The Land Institute is a hub for people my age who are doing academic studies of regenerative agriculture. My hat goes off to the Land Institute. They are making huge amounts of vital research happen with a relatively small group of folks. Grad school has sort of taken over my life at the moment, but I’ve still been able to do a lot of permaculture activism in the last year. Not to mention our little city lot here has been exploding with plants and bees this year…can’t wait til next year.
EAT grants are administered by A.C.T. a 501(c) 3 located in Austin, Texas.
Photos: Starhawk by Bert Meijer and Donna Read by Starhawk.