Toby Hemenway to speak in Ann Arbor on permaculture

I received word through several sources that Portland State University adjunct professor Toby Hemenway, the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, will be speaking next weekend in Ann Arbor. He will be speaking at the Ann Arbor Public Library on Friday, May 21, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM, and he will be teaching workshops through the weekend at Matthaei Botanical Gardens… Following are fragments taken from various emails that I’ve received about the events:

May 21 at the Ann Arbor Public Library:
Pulitzer-prize winning author Jared Diamond calls it “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.” Is he describing nuclear energy? Suburbia? Coal mining? No. He’s talking about agriculture. This event will discuss how new fuels and high technology are not the way out of this dilemma. There are ways to live sustainably on the Earth without going back to the Stone Age. What many of them have in common looks a lot like what today is known as permaculture, an ecological design approach based on knowledge gained from nature. Toby’s presentation, entitled “How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and the Earth, but not Civilization,” will show us what makes agriculture, and the industrial society that relies on it, fundamentally unsustainable, and how permaculture offers us a better way… This event, co-sponsored by the SE Michigan Permaculture Guild, will also feature a book signing. Copies of Gaia’s Garden will be on sale.

May 22-23 at Matthaei:
Toby will conduct two day-long workshops at Matthaei Botanical Gardens: “Designing and Installing a Food Forest” and “Permaculture Solutions for City and Suburb.” Toby is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which for the past six years has been the world’s best-selling book on permaculture, a design approach based on ecology for creating sustainable landscapes, homes, communities, and workplaces.

“Designing and Installing a Food Forest” will cover the basics of designing, planting, and maintaining a woodland garden of fruit and nut trees, perennial and annual vegetables, and flowers. “Permaculture Solutions for City and Suburb” will show how to integrate the many resources in our cities in sustainable ways, including getting access to land for gardening, creating business guilds and networks, creating public space in neighborhoods, and building urban ecovillages.

Toby is offering the workshops on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23. Cost for a single workshop is $115; cost for both workshops is $195. Lunch and snacks included both days.

Food forests, or edible forest gardens, are life-filled places that not only provide food for people, but habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestering, biodiversity, natural soil building, beauty and tranquility, and a host of other benefits. This workshop will cover the basics of designing, planting, and maintaining a many-layered woodland garden of fruit and nut trees, perennial and annual vegetables, and flowers. The day-long class will give you both the theory behind food forests and a wealth of practical information, including which plants to use, where to start, and what to expect as your food forest grows.

This entry was posted in Agriculture, Ann Arbor, Environment, Food, Sustainability and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. DRich
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Are you thinking of going? It sounds really great. It ties in with this Paleo-diet that I’m trying out. Besides all of the environmental damage, according to the books about this diet, agriculture has also had a tremendously deleterious effect on human health. It may be that a lot of the “diseases of civilization” (heart disease, diabetes, perhaps even depression) are the result of our agricultural diet, and perhaps reverting to a more stone-age diet could prevent and reverse these. Here’s a link, if you’re interested:

    I’ve been doing it for three weeks. It ain’t easy – you have to ignore most of the food in our society; you have to prepare a lot of stuff on your own; you have to shop a lot. But so far I feel pretty good. Anyway, I’d like to learn more about permaculture so I could hunt and gather in my own backyard.

  2. TeacherPatti
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I should probably go to one of these…I am ripping up the rest of my front lawn to plant potatoes. Mark, you should come by and help my husband and me rip those ugly ass evergreens out the front of my house so I can put in more fruit plants and herbs.

  3. TeacherPatti
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh shit, I just noticed the cost for the workshops. Okay nevermind…but I love the idea still. And I’m still ripping up my front lawn.

  4. Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    shamless promo time, everyone! pot & box is hosting a permaculture workshop on saturday, may 29th at noon. your host is nathan ayers, of chiwara permaculture design, and he will share all the basics of living sustainably & becoming self-sufficient, with an emphasis in planning & planting a garden in SE michigan. especially interesting facets will be the starting points for future workshops & lecture series. cost is just $35! call 734-368-2130 or email potandbox (at) for registration.

    (oh, hi mark.)

  5. dp in ypsi
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    sweet, thanks for the info!!

  6. Peter Larson
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    “It may be that a lot of the “diseases of civilization” (heart disease, diabetes, perhaps even depression) are the result of our agricultural diet, and perhaps reverting to a more stone-age diet could prevent and reverse these. ”

    Living a long time causes all those things, not agriculture, Dan. Unless you want to argue that since agriculture causes extended life which causes chronic health conditions, then agriculture must be the cause of chronic health conditions.

    Just eat right, don’t overdo it, get exercise and you will lead a healthy, happy life.

  7. Knox
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I’d agree with Pete up to a point. I do think, however, that corn syrup and overly processed foods offer little other than taste and convenience. They have very little nutritional value.

  8. Peter Larson
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Then don’t eat them. You’ll still probably die of heart disease, cancer or diabetes although may a little bit later but you’ll still be part of a group that lives longer than anyone other group of people in all of human history.

    Not all agriculture is about high fructose corn syrup. Repeal the Farm Bill and we’ll get some positive public health benefits, but stating widely that “AGRICULTURE IS EVIL” is ill informed.

  9. Jeremy
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure what generation you’re a part of Pete, but the Millennial Generation (aka Generation Y) is expected to be the first generation in modern history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Search around online if you doubt it.

    You say not all agriculture is about high fructose corn syrup, but the truth is our industrial agricultural system that creates the processed food consumed by most everyone in this country is pretty much entirely about processed corn and soy. It’s killing people and it’s killing the environment, straight up.

    Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions has a 60-something page introduction, heavily cited, that clears up the many misconceptions (promoted by industry) about nutrition and diet. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is another good, related read.

    You say, “Just eat right, don’t overdo it, get exercise and you will lead a healthy, happy life.”

    I think it is also worth mentioning that we have no food education in this country (well, besides for commercials), which is a very large part of why we east as poorly as we do. If someone grows up eating fast food, as most youth in this country do now, how can you expect them to have healthy eating habits?

    There is a clip floating around from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution that is by no means an isolated incident. It shows a classroom of children who have no idea what food is. They look at a vegetable and just don’t know what it is. How can you eat healthy if you only know a tomato as “tomato-catsup” (with HFCS added, of course)?

    It’s not just kids. Kids don’t know better because their parents don’t know better. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to ask 10 random adults which is healthier, margarine or butter. (and if you think it’s margarine, you can check one or both of those books I mentioned to find out why that’s incorrect)

  10. Edward
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    There are several detrimental side effects of modern agricultural practices. It depletes our soil (due to mono-crops), furthers our foreign oil addiction (as fertilizers are petrochemical based), pollutes out groundwater, and any number of other things. Yes, I agree with Pete, that we feed a great many more people as a result, but it’s unsustainable. We need to real farm bill that encourages people to get away from the production of corn for artificial sweeteners. It’s asinine that we subsidize the farmers who are making all of us so fucking fat. And it also kind of sucks that genetically modified crops are spreading, and that we’re losing the diversity that we once had.

  11. Jeremy
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    A few more points related to Edward’s comments…

    Soil depletion is a pretty huge problem, and results largely from a combination of heavy tillage / use of large machines and leaving fields or parts of fields bare of plants for periods. Additionally, the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides kills the majority of life in the soil, greatly lowering its quality in that respect, and also making it more prone to washout. I couldn’t tell you the figure off the top of my head, but the amount of topsoil we lose each year is pretty astonishing.

    Those synthetic fertilizers Edward mentioned don’t stay in the soil the way that organic fertilizer (compost, organic matter) do. Instead, they wash out with rains into our water system and most of it eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Even before we filled the Gulf with oil, there was an enormous dead zone where nothing lived as a result of this fertilizer onslaught. The excess nitrogen and phosphorous create an explosion of algae growth, and as the algae dies, the chemical process removes oxygen from the water, leaving it uninhabitable. There are actually dead zones like this all over the world in various kinds of water bodies, but the one in the Gulf is best known. Here’s a link with more info –

    As far as feeding more people goes…are you sure about that? We certainly produce an excess of food, but that does not equate to feeding more people. Additionally, Michigan Professors Badgley and Perfecto produced a study that showed organic agriculture can produce enough food to feed the world. Agribusiness likes to say they do what they do to feed the hungry, but that’s just not the reality of the situation.

    Additionally, numerous studies have shown that produce from our industrial agricultural system are less nutrient dense and healthful than organically / naturally grown produce. And that doesn’t even consider the poisons we put on it. When looking at food production, it is important to consider the nutrient value of the produce, not just its weight and number.

  12. Posted May 12, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi Urban Farmer monthly breakfasts are a great place to talk and learn and share! Third Thursday mornings– next one is next Thursday, May 20th, 7:30 am at the Growing Hope Center! If you have divides/transplants/seeds/catalogs/anything you want to share, bring it! If not, no worries- hopefully you’ll take home some of my self seeded tomato plants, calendula, or borage so it doesn’t just go to compost. RSVP at …Everyone is welcome always… I’m gonna get bagels and if you want one you can chip in!

  13. Edward
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Is anyone planning to attend, and, if so, can they post notes and videos?

  14. Alice
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    More on the Pot & Box permaculture event:

    Saturday, May 29, 2010
    12:00pm – 2:00pm
    Pot & Box
    220 Felch St.
    Ann Arbor

    Join Nathan Ayers of Chiwara Permaculture Design for this inspiring workshop on four season organic food production in Michigan.

    Permaculture is a design methodology for the sustainable transition to an Energy conscious future. As we begin to realize that our modern Food system is based on non renewable fossil fuels, more of us are coming to understand the profound benefits of Buying Local.

    Permaculture focuses on Permanent Agriculture solutions, where food production occurs much closer to home, and Environmental balance is restored. When practiced by humanity, Permaculture systems create ecologically sound, economically viable communities that thrive with Nature.

    Through jaw dropping, real life examples and hands on demonstrations, participants will leave knowing that the solutions to all of our Environmental, Economic, and Social challenges are here, and ready to be implemented.

    Cost is 35 dollars. Students will take home a Garden ready, Permaculture designed plant kit.

    For more information and to Register, please call Pot & Box at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Non Local Blogger 2