The theme of this gathering; "Visions for building our Invisible Structures". A sustainable future for humanity is going to need more than a few thousand acres of edible forest gardens, and millions of well designed composting toilets. (though that would be a nice start!) We all recognize that replacing the "structures" that support the current unsustainable systems of exploitation are probably our biggest challenge, and this is something that we have only barely begun to achieve.

We hope to offer this gathering as a place to share, discuss, and strengthen these structures, and the relationships embodied within them; social, ecological, political, ....

Live Reporting

Notes by Elsa and Ethan and Rafter

Gathering Schedule Below

Workshop Notes:
Session 1: Liberation Ecology
Session 2: Community Land Trusts
Session 3: Formal Consensus

Welcome to the Fall Gathering!!!


Kevin Svorak harvesting veggies for visitors


Session 1: Liberation Ecology

Rafter T. Sass - notes by Elsa

Potential Relationships between Permaculture and Social Justice.
-common causes between these two arenas

Ideas offered by participants of what is permaculture:

Specific practice of environmentalism,

An environmental process that considers design as a primary function.

Using the energy given within a system. Working in time with the system.

Differentiation bertween conservastionism and environmentalism
-conservationism: saving the resources within a given environment
-environmentalism: Healthism. Saving the systems that maintain our health.

Permaculture combines pieces of environmentalism and conservationism.

Excluding toxic substances from our environment.

Permaculture: As a response to a particular story

Story A:

-Indigenous people did not tax the million years of energy reserves created by the earth.

-10,000 years ago, the birth of agriculture, we began to draw on those reserves.
Rate of energy use climbs and picks up drastically 250 years ago with the industrial revolution. Using energy at a faster rate than the biosphere can capture it. 7 feet of topsoil as opposed to the current 7 inches of today.

The response A: Permaculture provides the tools to empower individuals to take responsibility for their own energy usage and creation and how they take and give energy with the earth.

Story B: Up until 10K years ago, there was not as large a powerful differential between humans. The economic and resource apparatus was pretty much equal.

With agriculture this changes because there is more to go around. The resource differential grows and "class" emerges.

Response to social B: "the creation and maintenance of unequal access to resources demands enforcement (energy) and is expensive. The more intense the disparity the more energy it requires to maintain which requires a higher degree of social control: scaffolding. Energy needs social control. Social control needs more energy.

How do we integrate the reality of unequal resoruces with Permaculture.

Its a process. Permanent Culture is a culture that is always changing
Sustainability is temporary, trying to create something for the future implies fear of a changing future , which causes us to protect.

In design, channel resources across socio-economic and color lines. Across caste systems. Seek projects that have already been started by a community with less resources.

Urbana Permaculture : People donate yards, they put in the food forest. Using the surplus of a permaculture environment to support another cultural environment.
Clayworks: She does natural building workshops in colonial and post colonial countries. Takes money and labor supplied by middle class to rich to fund community centers in third world countries. They respond to requests of host community.

Nuestras Raices: Start with a small plot if they do well then they get larger plot. Provide a market for produce. Holy Oak. Started as a community organization by the Puerto Rican community.

Elsa Higby presents on Permaculture in Hawaii

Josh Trought of D Acres rocks out with Abe and David

Session 2: Community Land Trust

Kevin Svorak + Sarah Williford

One of the largest problems is private ownership of land.
At RMF, we wanted to put this land into a community Land Trust

Community Land Trusts
- a Not for Profit entity
- a way of holding land, and raising money in non-profit (tax-deductible)
- typically falls under 501c3 or 501???
- not any different in eyes of IRS than any other non-profit
- concept designed in the 70s
- Ingredients = BOD, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation

There are many Land Trusts and Land in Conservation all over the country.
- most are ‘conservation’ land trust
- the LAND is not held or owned by land trust, but the DEVELOPMENT rights are held and controlled
- protected from further development and destruction, more or less permanently
- how less? how long do you expect structures of the state to uphold these agreements?
- there does not exist an enforcement body – up to the various land trust bodies.
- changing property laws
- state + court system is not very likely to uphold land trust easements against owners that want to develop it.

What are the benefits of buying land as a 501c3 ?
- obvious structural benefits =
- tax deductibility, raising other people’s money
- tax breaks for property taxes (but not necessarily desireable, according)

How rights can land, or assets of land, be separate from the land?
- different entities can hold rights to different aspects of land
- e.g. a number of 501c3 structures occupying and using the same land
- one holds the land, another is an intentional community, another is a farm

Land Trusts –
- idea from henry george
- idea was to commonly hold land
- so that this device of inequality would be eliminated
- Tom Paine and others: early property rights were very suspicious of private property rights. Squatters rights come from this era. The COMMON-WEALTH

How would a person build equity on a community land trust?
- hold long-term leases on land
- can own a house, but not the land that’s under it.
- equity is what you have built on it
- what about a forest garden? Is this equity like a house?
- could sell house and up the price for the FG on the land

How COULD things be done in terms of structuring a land trust?
- almost any way. Everything is being done. No consensus exists.

Democratic Structure:
- Three Part Representation generally used for community land trust
1. Resident Members (1/3)
- leasing land, businesses, direct stake in land
2. General Members (1/3)
- less direct –small membership fee, some work, less invested in CLT.
3. Community Representatives (1/3)
- other members of the community
- actually numbers may be very different, but representation on the board is equally split among the three.
- how do we create structures that are empowering for the people creating them?

CLT allow you to have an ecologically sustainable relationship with the land.
- does not allow you to SPECULATE on the land
- there is a choice of profits you can make: different formulas exist: small profit, no profit, large profit
- do you want a little bit of exploitation from the land
- people fundamentally believe that we have a right to PROFIT off the exploitation of the land
- how long can we keep doing this? We can’t grow forever. The land won’t support continuous exploitation and growth.


Land Trust Alliance www.lta.org
Equity Trust www.equitytrust.org
School for Living www.schoolofliving.org
E.F. Schumacher Society www.smallisbeautiful.org
Heathcoate Community www.heathcote.org
Land Trust email listserv: ???

Michael McArthur teaching his Formal Consensus workshop

Session 3: Formal Consensus

Michael McArthur - notes by Rafter

CT Butler’s book “On Conflict and Consensus” is downloadable in its entirety
at www.consensus.net.

How can apply design concepts of permaculture to social systems?

Formal Consensus
• Inclusive
• Easy to Learn
• Consistent
• Allows Disagreement
• Non-Violent
• Principle Based
• Cannot Be Secretly Disrupted
• By Design

Prerequisites for consensus:
• Common purpose and goals, common mission
• Willingness to set aside some aspects of your preferences for the mission

And even:
• Have mission written down
• Have process written down
• If not, must be accessible, clear, concise, and consistent

What are great consensus practices for any style of consensus?
• Facilitation role (techniques incl. taking stack)
• Explicit common purpose
• Good communication techniques
o Use of reflection
• Note-taking
• Agendas
• Shared activities outside of meeting / community building
• Other roles: door keeper, vibes watcher, time keeper

Formal Consensus is Counterintuitive:
• Have more meetings to save time
• Don’t think about solutions to come up with good ones
• Slow down to move faster

Agenda planning meeting:
Facilitator, agenda planner, and anyone who is interested
Happens at a separate time from general meeting
Craft an agenda tailored to the groups needs
Agenda planner role last for ~6 months
Seeing how it works, using experience for successive agenda designs
Agenda planning meeting becomes the long one, with less people, and general
meeting is faster
Both meetings become fun
Long term agenda planner and short term agenda planner are different roles

Every meeting has a period at the end for Meeting Evaluation to tell
AP and facilitator how it went for them and make suggestions

All roles change frequently, rotating as part of the process
Everyone gets chance to learn skills

If we rush to quickest, easiest solution, we don’t have time to get to the creative solution. Flow of FC forces group to make decision more slowly.

Three Decision Making Steps
Proposals introduced well before meeting, in writing.
Ideally, one meeting talks about values,
the next talks about concerns,
the next talks about solutions.

1. Values
2. Concerns
3. Solutions

Helps group take a step back from reacting to crisis or problem, considering and reflecting on the potentials rather than taking up the first idea.

Aspects of Formal Consensus
Agenda Planning Process
Rotating Roles
Group Ownership of Proposal
- * assumed consent: every proposal is viewed to be best attempt at furthering mission of group, assumed that it will be perfected and passed
Unique (slow) flow of process
Conflict View (relational world view): conflict is an opportunity to move past something;
conflict is not to be avoided, to be delved into and brought out, while giving people support
  • Sunny Disposition: every comments is viewed and reflected as coming from concern
for the group – even really snide ones.
Not Secretly Disruptable: Because so structured, it’s not possible to play for power
without doing something that is not part of the model, thus easy to pinpoint.
Values Based: list of core values. Constantly refers back to core values, stated mission
of group

  • Changing the culture of group process towards good will, away from assumption of manipulation

Questions of Group:
Faster meetings:
1) Agenda planning process
2) Using a formal process
3) Styles of Facilitation
• Facilitator is process dictator
• Job is just to stick to agenda and move it along
• Opportunity to change/amend agenda in beginning of meeting
• Change to agenda is suggested, if no objections taken, any objection must contain alternative proposal, if no objections taken, if objected to then agenda not changed

Group decides whether to accept a block
Blocking must be values-based
Any blocking concern must have been brought up earlier in process, or it’s not valid.

Deadlock and Conflict:
Deadlock happens because someone isn’t feeling heard, or there is a
disagreement about the principles
• Peacekeeper role is designed to address not-feeling-heard situations and other intransigent conflict. Stop – draw attention to the dynamic
• Advocate role: if something is having trouble expressing themselves, or not being heard. Stop – help articulate, and help represent the concerns of the person
• In the case of a binary choice around which there is disagreement, consensus is all about the idea that there is another choice out there that you haven’t seen yet. FC will steer you towards that choice.
• Don’t provide an opportunity for people to take sides

Tools for the Brink of Change
This is a huge process, a paradigm shift, very hard work.
Give yourself credit for every small change you make.
Plan on it taking a long time, celebrate when it takes less.
Stand up and shout “Yay!” every time a decision is made.

How do you generate common goals in the beginning of a meeting?
• Acknowledge general interests
• Two columns on a sheet of paper:
• Essential values on one side
• Preferences on the other

Classes and Dancing in the barn

Some personal Reflections

I want to express some gratitude to everyone who came to the gathering and shared their food, time, and stories. I feel like people came away with pretty positive experiences, and i really really enjoyed all the food and sharing.

I am not sure we achieved any big breakthroughs on the "invisible structures" front, but at least some people were talking about it.

The assassination of my good friend, colleague, and roommate Brad Will last Friday, put some things in perspective for me i think.

I have been down here in the city since sunday, got arrested on monday at a demonstration at the Mexican consulate, and have been back in the NYC activist circles since. A lot of grief, and a lot of other stuff too. People are moving fast, some more recommitted to solidarity efforts with the people of Oaxaca, some are dealing with the distortions and lies in the mainstream media trying to stay up on top of the story and fighting the lies with facts, some are committed to further strategies to influence public and political opinion in this country, writing to their representatives, and letters to the editor, or talking about it in their communities or places of worship.

Maybe what happened to Brad (and dozens of others in the past months, hundreds in the past few years in southern mexico) will help further awaken the sleepwalking, neurotic, and alienated "consumers" that so many americans have been indoctrinated into being ; living in denial that the foundation of their "lifestyle" depends on the murder and repression of so many others across the world.

For me this is the foundation of the struggle. It is a struggle for liberation and self determination which has to be- HAS to be, the foundation of any sustainable human culture we are to achieve. This is the work that drew Brad from his potentially privileged life here, and what many of the less privileged must fight for to simply survive, every day, with dignity. As far as I am concerned, if we are a movement- a "Permaculture" movement, their struggle, and our struggle is one and the same.

To find out more about what happened to Brad, and what is happening in the struggle were he died, visit you favorite Indymedia site. Or just do a search on your favorite search engine, or blog search for "Brad Will" , or "Oaxaca".



love to all,

Oct 27th,28th,29th 2006


The theme of this gathering; "Visions for building our Invisible
Structures". A sustainable future for humanity is going to need
more than a few thousand acres of edible forest
gardens, and millions of well designed composting
toilets. (though that would be a nice start!) We all
recognize that replacing the "structures" that support
the current unsustainable systems of exploitation are
probably our biggest challenge, and this is something
that we have only barely begun to achieve.

We hope to offer this gathering as a place to
share, discuss, and strengthen these structures, and
the relationships embodied within them; social,
ecological, political, ....

The following is a suggested schedule of events(subject to adaptation and change as needed.):


Arrive, settle in, tours of the farm before dark (twilight ends at 6-6:30pm), dinner after that, Discussion and review of the wkend schedule, followed by fireside conversation; 'movement musings'- discovering our local place in a global movement.


7:30-8:30am Breakfast on the porch.

9:00am Welcome circle. Introductions.

9:15am First Workshop sessions:

1) Gaia University Presentation facilitated by Abram Karl-Gruswitz- decentralized, self-directed, action learning methodology. gaiauniversity.org

2) A presentation from Finger Lakes Permaculture with Steve Gabriel.Some topics include; starting a formal organization, working with other organizations, getting legal status, grant searching, and designing an educational site for the general public at a nature center.

3) "Liberation Ecology" presented by Rafter T. Sass. Exploring the intersections of ecological sustainability and social justice.

10:30am Second Workshop sessions:

1) "Community Land Trusts and other options for sustainable land tenure". Facilitated by members of Rattlesnake Mountain Farm. A discussion about the hows and wherefores of nonprofit land tenure as an alternative to private ownership. Can we create permanent spaces for people to do ecologically regenerative under the pressures of the speculative real estate market?

2) Keith Morris will be presenting from his recent work in Africa.

3) The Social Paradigm Shift & Zone Zero Permaculture.
The "paradigm shift" in permaculture, toward seeing humans as an
integral part of the ecosystem, is one aspect of a larger shift that's
been happening over the past half century in many fields. What can we learn from our neighbors, and what happens when we apply permaculture design principles to our own human social systems & interactions? Facilitated by Marty Hiller.

12noon Lunch

2:00pm Third workshop sessions:

1) Consensus workshop 1st session. Facilitated by Michael. A short (2 part) intro to Formal Consensus, a specific consensus process that is an easy form to follow for great results. Formal Consensus is a easy to learn process, that by design is open, fair, and inclusive.

2) "The European Permaculture Network" : Photos and news from the European movement, including challenges they face in building their invisible structures (permanent CULTURE) and the strength of their existing 'permanent AGRIculture'. discussion focusing on the 'action-learning' program they have developed for organic peer-reviewed certification past the design course. presented by Ethan Roland

3:00pm Fourth Workshop sessions

1) Consensus workshop 2nd session.

2) "Experiments in Hawaiian Permaculture" facilitated by Elsa Higby. focusing on two permaculture farms and two organizations (Puna Beyond Petro and Know Your Farmer Alliance

4:30pm Second circle. Open discussion, check-in around the fire. Free time. Dinner prep.

6:00pm Dinner

7:30pm By the fire. A proposed group discussion about existing Invisible Structures in the Permaculture movement. How "invisble" are they? How do we see them? How do they serve us?

9:00pm-ish Barn Dance! country/punk/jazz/classical/bluegrass -jam! Bring your banjos & bongos. Also your Ipod with fav mix-for DIY DJ after party!


Sunday will be an opportunity for anyone who likes to offer a workshop, lead a discussion, our otherwise facilitate a group encounter. There will be a sign up board for people to announce their presentations/collaborations. The times are suggestions.

8am Breakfast on the porch

9:30am Morning Circle, check in

10am First open workshop session

11am Second open workshop session

12noonish: lunch

2:00pm Final Circle. "Where do we go from here?"

Other unscheduled events that have a strong likelyhood of happening:

-Guided tours of the wetlands and woodlands with local biologist.

-Tours of Vegetable fueled cars and trucks

-Tours of the farm

-Canoe rides

-much much more!

Remember, it is late October in the foothills of the Berkshires...dress appropriately! (layers are always good)

Food: Bring an large entree already prepared, and/or easily prepared food. We still have some green vegetables left in the garden, so bread, granola, fruit, juices- easy to eat and share stuff is great. Bring the entree in something to reheat it in if you can. There is a store with a small natural food selection about a mile away, and a large grocery store in town. We will be asking for everyone to sign up for at least one shift in the kitchen when they get here. Each meal will have two shifts: prep and clean-up.

Bring a warm bedroll, and a tent if you can. We will have some shared sleeping areas in the house, but not a lot. Come prepared.

We also propose beginning the tradition of a perennial
plant and seed exchange. Bring what you have to
share, and exchange for what you need. We have
some seeds to share from a Eryngium variety that the
local wasps just love, and some varieties of jerusalem artichokes to share.

Rattlesnake Mountain Community Farm
426 Old rt 22, Amenia NY, 12501
We are located 2 miles south of the intersection of Rt
22, 44, and 343 in Amenia NY in Northeast Dutchess County in
the Amenia creek drainage of the Housatonic
Watershed. Old Rt 22 is the same as county rt 81 in our location.

Attendance is free. Donations to the newly forming Permaculture Stewardship Land Trust will be accepted.

pls RSVP so we know who's coming!

in solidarity,
the Rattlesnake Mountain crew
845 373 8520

Rattlesnake Mountain Farm is easily accessible by
Metro North. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassaic_(Metro-North_station)

Regional listserve: