At our annual gathering at Lake Morey, we have been building a cohort of engaged farmers, policymakers, educators, and community members. Projects that have come out of our past gatherings include the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition, the Can We Rehydrate California? Initiative, major shifts in soil health policy, many hands-on workshops, talks, curriculum, online courses, and more.
Here’s what Dave Chapman, Founder of Long Wind Farm and the Real Organic Project said:
“The workshop that Didi facilitated this weekend with Walter Jehne was stellar. I count it as one of the best educational experiences of my life. The intimacy and community-building of the three days at Lake Morey Resort was a significant part of the experience.”
This year we are taking it to a new level. We will focus our learning on communication, communities of practice, and emergent strategies, which are aims and adaptive actions that become clear as a result of ongoing learning, listening, and observation within a community. Here are some examples:
Emergent strategy is the basis of the incredibly high gains in soil carbon at a group of farms in Saskatchewan, whose holistic managers gather every month in a community of practice to discuss failures, successes, new learning, long term aims, and immediate challenges in their land and relationships. (I wrote about this in The Ecology of Care, and the upcoming book Health in the Anthropocene.)
Emergent strategy was the foundation of the wildly successful New Mexico Soil Health Bill that passed with a landslide of support from both Republicans and Democrats.
In Andhra Pradesh, India, half a million farmers have adopted Zero Budget Natural Farming–due to the emergent strategies that came out of women’s self-help groups and farmer-to-farmer peer learning groups. They are on target to turn the entire state into a natural farming region within the next five years.
Plants, fungi, microbes, and animals (and sometimes humans) manage landscapes through emergent strategies as they sense changes, adapt, create new systems and structures, and learn together as a community of practice. The new film The Biggest Little Farm shows many beautiful examples of this.
We will learn from these and from participants’ own examples.
An interrelated theme this year is communication: how do we talk to others about what we know? How do we set up meetings and conferences and learning groups that build working relationships and inspire ongoing learning and action?
We will look at why some narratives, facilitation styles, and methods of communication create fear, conflict, and feelings of dis-empowerment that result in stagnation. And we will explore and practice narratives, facilitation practices, and communication styles that create close working relationships, flexible thinking, and emergent strategies (rather than rigid rules), to bring diverse people together towards common aims.
Throughout the four days together, we will dive deeply into the principles at work in vibrant communities of practice (above and below ground) that create livable climates and landscapes that provide health and resilience for all the species that live within them.
We will share our projects (both successful and not-so-successful), our vision of what is possible, look at what stops us and what keeps us inspired, and allow space for new emergent strategies to develop.
Since it’s well known that our minds work best when we can relax together, as well as work together, we will spend our mornings and evenings learning and working together, and the afternoons will be devoted to relaxed conversation and simply “being” together—with a big buffet lunch and time for sitting by the water, walks, swimming, boating, (even a round of golf if that appeals to anyone!).
We are also offering a hands-on, experiential soil workshop with Didi Pershouse, Walter Jehne, and Cat Buxton at a local farm on Wednesday afternoon, from 1pm to 5pm called “Understanding the Soil Sponge and Green Stormwater Infrastructure.”