To Restore The Land And The Communities

The Ecological Landscape Professional addresses the design dimension of the environmental, social and financial crisis, expecially the food and water security.

Permaculture and Ecological Design are systematic approaches to human settlement that are rooted in the ethics of caring for the Earth and human communities.

Starting an ecological landscape professional path, you can contribuite to the creation of a Global Regenerative Economy to support financially our communities and all our young people, with earth repair work.

Erik Ohlsen is a passionate writer, inspiring educator and experienced professional landscape designer. His goal is to help people connect deeper with nature and themselves.

As an internationally renowned, certified permaculture designer and practitioner, Erik has taught ecological landscape design and implementation since 1999, to thousands of students and clients around the world.

He is driven to looking for effective ways to reach larger audiences in his mission to steward the environment.

Erik is the director of the Permaculture Skills Center, a vocational training school that offers advanced education in ecological design, landscaping, farming, and land stewardship.

He is also the founder and principal at Permaculture Artisans, a fully licensed contracting firm that specializes in the design and installation of ecological landscapes and farms throughout California.

In the field of ecological land development and management, Erik has extensive experience with projects that range from small urban lots to 100+ acre design and implementation.

He is a specialist in water harvesting systems, food forest design, community organizing, facilitation, vocational education and more.

Erik resides in Sebastopol, California with his wife Lauren, raising a family, building a homestead and running their businesses.

In this series of conversations with Erik Ohlsen, we discuss how you can align your passion for a better world, with the development of a career path that actively creates the world you envision.

Full Conversation Transcript

Giuseppe Tallarico:

(0:00) I am Giuseppe Tallarico, I am the General Manager of the World Permaculture Association.

The World Permaculture Association is an organization based in Italy, working with a network of food producers, governments and local communities to build local economies using the permaculture approach.

Today we have the pleasure and the honour to have Erik Ohlsen.

Erik is a permaculture teacher, designer and… he’s a very strange person I mean, he’s an enterpreneur, and this is very strange in the permaculture world to listen this word. Is it truth Erik? Welcome!

Erik Ohlsen:

(0:48) Thank you, thank you so much for having me here Giuseppe, great to chat with you.

Giuseppe Tallarico:

(0:54) So, I said that this world is strange, enterpreneur, and we were talking about this before starting to record the conversation.


What do you mean for enterpreneur and why in the permaculture movement, very often this world is seen as something not completely ethical not completely….ethical…

Erik Ohlsen:

(1:19) One of the challenges that we face in scaling solutions to a lot of the world’s crises is how do we organize ourselves in a way where we have the resources and the energy to actually get this work done, on a scale that’s beyond just my backyard and that’s it for folks who that’s all the time and energy they have is to just build their garden in their backyard that’s wonderful, that’s beautiful, and and if we all did that, it would have a huge impact.

But for some of us, we want to create a whole life doing this work and for myself I’ve been since I was 19 years old my passion has been to restore the land, to build community.

One of the lessons that I learned over all the years in starting nonprofit organizations and working in activist collectives and all the different ways that I tried over two decades, to implement solutions is that, one it’s difficult to generate enough resources to take care of yourself, to take care of your own family in your own community, while you’re out there trying to quote unquote save the world.

And it wasn’t until I started my first small business, that I found a model for me, where I could quickly scale regenerative practices.

I could build soil, I could catch water, I could plant trees and grow food and not not be stressed out every month about whether I could pay my rent whether I was going to be able to have health insurance, living in the United States, we have to pay for health insurance.

These are big stressors.

So when I started my first business, all of a sudden, I was able to hire my friends, I was able to pay my bills but I was doing it by restoring the land, that was the work that I was doing to pay my bills was literally restoring the land.

And after a time I realized a couple things: one I realized that, if we want to make a huge impact with permaculture as the many permaculture people talked about, we need to diversify our approach, we need to be more acceptable of all the different kinds of people out there in the world.

One of the challenges that I had with the very subculture approach to permaculture, was that for the most part it actually was quite privileged to the people who maybe had family money or had other resources they could draw on, so that they could go and dedicate their life to doing this kind of subculture way of permaculture.

And then I started thinking about all the people in the world, all the working people who spend all their lives working so hard to make it working so hard to care for their families and care for their communities.

So many of the working people in the world are applying chemicals, they’re mining the land, they’re polluting the water, they’re building you know, technology that may not be good for the planet, but they are stuck because they need to pay their bills.

So what I realized in that first small business that I started Permaculture Artisans, was that well we actually have a way not only to achieve ecological restoration at scale but also social restoration.

By developing careers and livelihoods, where people could spend their whatever hours they work, eight hours a day or six hours a day or 40 hours a week, literally building soil, catching water, cleaning water growing food, restoring the land.

If we were able to create careers and livelihoods, where the normal folks, who maybe aren’t even into permaculture but they’re into having a good job, because that’s what’s important for them and their families.

We are able to create a force around the planet, a regenerative economy where people could literally make their livelihood, their income doing regenerative work, what would scale regeneration faster?

I can’t really think of something that would scale regeneration faster than that!

As an entrepreneur, I’ve created a series of different small businesses:

  • An educational organization.
  • A design contracting company.
  • Amapping company.
  • A small publishing house.

Within each of these organizations and businesses, we are employing people and we are employing people to do the work of our times, to build soil, catch water and grow food.

We have about 20 employees right now, these folks are working full-time and this is the kind of work that they’re doing in the world.

One of the challenges that I’ve found is that, when we talk about money and permaculture, we talk about a very sensitive topic, because there’s a lot of very passionate folks who see money the evil in the system.

It’s representative of all the things that are horrible in the world and in many ways money does have that representation.

If we want to just get practical about doing the work, there’s being visionary and idealistic and then there’s like: how do we practically get from from now, where we are, in a desertifing world with species going extinct everyday and top soil being lost every day?

How do we quickly repair that situation?

We are in a money economy, that is the world that we are living in and many organizations, that are nonprofits…

…and this is the other sort of trick….that we had….

…..a thing that we have to illusion we have to dispel……

…..if you’re a nonprofit or you’re a grassroots organization or whatever, all of these approaches require funding.

One of the things we see in this day and age is GoFundMe campaigns, every day there’s a new GoFundMe campaign to fund this project or that project or what not.

How is that any ethical better than me working with my neighbor, who is just a person like me, and they want to hire me to design them a garden; that’s a one-to-one relationship right there, with an exchange that is meaningful between us and that is a way to fund the work of regeneration.

I feel like this thing about money and all is like….

……well everybody even if you’re doing the activist work you’re still fundraising that money from somewhere, you still need those resources and so I think small businesses are a much more approachable way for most people in the world to get involved in this work.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this conversation? Please let us know in the comments

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Giuseppe Tallarico

Giuseppe is a versatile and results-oriented Agronomist specializing in Permaculture, Food Security, and Environmental Management Systems dedicated to consulting large-scale farms through the transition to sustainable and regenerative agriculture to achieve maximum profitability naturally while creating a greener abundant earth for generations to come. Giuseppe is an Accredited Instructor by the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and a permaculture consultant for the government of Jordan. Giuseppe serves the world permaculture community as the founder and General Manager of the World Permaculture Association and the head of the Urban Permaculture Laboratory Educational Center.