Sunday, February 22, 2009

Second Transition Update

A lot has happened in the not so sleepy town of Hohenwald since my last Sonnenschein Green Initiative - Transition Update.

The Sonnenschein Green Initiative had a total of eight important meetings in ten days. Following is a brief summary of each meeting:

Complimentary Currency Working Group met on Monday February 9, with 5 people in attendance. You can read a full report on this meeting by clicking here. I will add that complimentary currency was later brought up during the February 18th Transition Committee meeting. There was so much interest that we'll be focusing our next Transition Committee meeting and an upcoming Green Evening Cafe on complimentary currency.

Sewage Treatment Working Group met on February 12, with 6 people in attendance. The City called for a meeting between their Engineer and our local Permaculture Designers. The meeting focused on designing constructed wetlands out of sewage lagoons and the development of bird habitat and a nature viewing area. The constructed wetlands would be designed to increase transpiration and seepage into the soil. This would decrease the flow rate and demand for electricity on a pumping station that directs water into a spay field.

Bioregional Congress Group met on February 15, with 12 people in attendance. The Farm Community in Lewis County, Tennessee will be host to the 10th Continental Bioregional Congress. The dates of the Congress are October 3-11, 2009. To find out more about the Congress, CBCX click here. Many Lewis County residents who are involved in organizing the Congress are also involved with the Sonnenschein Green Initiative. This group will be meeting every two weeks from now through October.

The Lewis County Chamber of Commerce held a luncheon on February 17, with 36 people in attendance. The Sonnenschein Green Initiative was the primary topic of discussion. The Chamber President invited Connie Sharp and I, Jennifer to talk about Sonnenschein. We were then asked to show the documentary of the Financial Permaculture Summit. View the documentary by clicking here. Several people came up to Connie and I after viewing the documentary saying that they were extremely impressed with the Summit and had not realized the extent of our outreach efforts. At least five new people showed interest in attending our upcoming meetings.

Transition Committee
held a meeting Wednesday, February 18, with 19 people in attendance. Here are the highlights:

YOUTH EDUCATION: Debbie Landers introduced four students from the General Assembly Academy. Debbie and the students recently designed an ecological science curriculum. Attending the Sonnenschien Green Initiative's meetings and participating in related projects will be counted as school credit. The students volunteered to write the next article for our Green Living Column.

OUTREACH EDUCATION: I, Jennifer Dauksha-English presented the details for our Summer Permaculture Certification Series. The series will be 11 Saturdays, with 7 hour days, from June 13 through August 29 (minus July 4). The training will cost $150 for resident high school students, $250 for Lewis County residents or Lewis County Chamber Members, and $500 for non-residents. I also presented an overview of our 3-day Regional Sustainability Forum, which will be held June 5-7. Residents throughout Middle Tennessee will be invited to this forum to discuss and design working strategies for productive food, energy, water and resource sheds and for mapping the financial ecosystem of the region. Programs for both of these events are in draft form and will be posted online soon.

GREEN EVENING CAFE': Adam Turtle gave a brief overview of his presentation that he planned to give at the February 19th Green Evening. The group confirmed that logistical action items were completed. Lelia Ortel acquired cloth shopping bags to give away as door prizes.

GREEN PROCLAMATION: Debbie Landers reported on the progress of the Proclamation. She stated that more than five people had given feedback on the first draft and that with the help of the students, the final draft was near. There was discussion about the difference between a Proclamation and a Resolution. Debbie explained that a Proclamation meant that we would proclaim our intentions and that a Resolution meant that we would resolve to act out and implement what we proclaimed. A Resolution is a much more political process that could involve several months of drafting language that the City and County could agree upon. The group decided that the Proclamation would be brought before the City and County in the month of March. We decided that the Resolution could come maybe in six to nine months.

ECO-TOURISM: I, Jennifer Dauksha-English presented my plan for creating a Green Tourism Guide for Lewis County. The first draft is eight pages and incorporates all the green events, projects, business and organizations in Lewis County that our affiliated with the Sonnenschein Green Initiative. There is money left over from the 2008 Sonnenschein Festival, to print the guide. We'll also likely ask businesses and organizations to pledge $20 for printing. Also with tourism, Tony Turnbow asked us to put together a one page article on Sonnenschein to be inserted into the County's official Tourism Guide. Lastly, the Chamber of Commerce reported that several of our green events are now posted in regional tourist guides and are now posted on the Lewis County Chamber website.

Food and Farming Working Group held a meeting Wednesday, February 18, with 10 people in attendance. The group discussed the potential of creating a Farmer's Market in Lewis County. There was a consensus that maybe the best place to start was by creating a community garden. The group is currently in the process of seeking a site for this garden. Bob Ogden shared his intention of starting a worm castings business in Lewis County. The group is also organizing a seed and plant exchange as part of the next Green Evening Cafe'. Food and farming is the focus of the next Cafe' on March 24, 6-8:30 pm at the Emporium in downtown Hohenwald.

Economic Development Working Group
held a meeting Wednesday, February 18, with 9 people in attendance. The group discussed their interest in creating a green demonstration building as an office for Sonnenschein. They also discussed the need to contact city officials and county commissioners - to inform them to put money towards local economic development, creating a green business park and for attracting green businesses to our area. The group also talked about incubating new green businesses and potential funding through the federal stimulus package. Lastly, a County Commissioner had asked our group to form a list of potential green businesses. Deben Tobias volunteered to compile this list.

Discovery Center Working Group met on Thursday, February 19, with 3 people in attendance. The group is progressing in its design of a Permaculture Demonstration Area behind the Lewis County Museum. Maps and drawings are being created. A meeting will be held in early March with the historical society to review the proposed design.

The next Sonnenschein Green Initiative meeting will be held Wednesday, March 4 from 11:30-1:30 at the Career Center in Hohenwald. The group meets every other Wednesday. For more details about upcoming meetings and projects contact 931-796-4874 or 888-878-2434.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Sonnenschein Green Initiative had its first meeting on complimentary currencies, Monday February 9, 2009. Myself, Jennifer Dauksha-English, Patrick Gibbs and two members of the local Chamber of Commerce met over tea to discuss transition economics. We first assessed our current situation. Aside from talking about the state of the world's economy, our assessment was mostly over the experimental local 'Chamber Bucks' project that was implemented during the October 2008 Financial Permaculture Course. The ups: it happened; we circulated $4500 with local merchants in five days; new businesses joined the Chamber just so they could use the 'Bucks'; a number of businesses and residents got excited about the idea. The downs: only Chamber members could use the 'Bucks', the businesses were poorly educated about the experiment; some businesses refused to use the 'Bucks'; the majority of businesses took the 'Bucks' directly to the Chamber for reimbursement instead of circulating them in the community; there was also discrepancy around giving Federal notes as change - some businesses were giving change and others weren't. This became especially problematic when one business who gave change then went to use the 'Bucks' at a business who wouldn't give change.

From this evaluation of our active experiment, we determined that the following actions need to happen before we experiment with the 'Bucks' again at another event:
1. The Board of the Chamber of Commerce needs to create criteria for using the 'Bucks'
- for example: that it needs to be worth the face value and that federal notes should be given as change;
2. This criteria needs to be printed on the 'Bucks';
3. The criteria needs to be e-mailed, mailed, delivered by hand and announced at Chamber events to all Chamber businesses;
4. Someone needs to go door-to-door to get businesses educated and excited;
5. We need to educate our local Government and get their endorsement.

One of the ladies from the Chamber said that after reading up on Complimentary Currency, she was inspired by the Ithaca program using 'In Ithaca We Trust' on their Currency. That got us all going on Hohenwald, TN and we all agreed that our 'Bucks' need to read - 'in Hohenwald We Trust'. I wish I had my audio recorder with me that day. Both of the two ladies from the Chamber of Commerce spent most of their lives in Hohenwald. They were telling Patrick and I stories about milking cows, raising gardens and living in a way that took care of one another. One said, "It was just our way of life. It was the way I was raised. We didn't need a high paying job back then." They went on to say that they felt strongly that Hohenwald could return to that way of life it needed, because people weren't that far removed from the basics of living off the land and in community.

After this inspiring 'In Hohenwald We Trust' conversation, the four of us made some decisions that had the following action items:
1. Form a separate working group that would meet once a month. During these monthly meetings we would discuss reading assignments on complimentary currency. None of us felt like we had enough knowledge about the subject to feel comfortable explaining it to others in the community;
2. Invite others, especially a few key bankers to join in this working group - to learn;
3. Host an evening presentation and possibly a world cafe in June or July on complimentary currency and transition economics;
4. Organize a 3-day complimentary currency course September 18-20. We would hire someone from the USA or maybe Germany to teach the course and then have that teacher stay through the Financial Permaculture Course September 22-26 and lead a design on developing a currency for Lewis County;
5. Hope that at least four Hohenwald, Lewis County residents attend this course, just enough to get the seed planted in the community so that a stronger team can continue working on implementing a real local currency within the next five years;
6. Engage the regional sustainability forum that I, Jennifer am a part of organizing. It's a statewide forum but we also have a west, middle and east Tennessee forum. I would love to see that our middle Tennessee forum is engaged in thinking about a regional currency beyond just Hohenwald, Lewis County - I see this as more of a ten year goal;
7. Host another Complimentary Currency Design Course in 2010 or 2011 and have this second design be the real deal. The first design would be more of a teaser and a portal of entry. We could use the results of the first design to educate the public, further experiment with our 'Chamber Bucks' and of course further educate ourselves. By 2010 or 2011 we may have enough people in the community supporting the idea that a real design could be implemented, and I would hope that more members of the community would participate in the design process.

Complimentary Currency is a worthwhile conversation for our community to be having. We've determined though that it's not our priority right now. Our priority now is to educate the community about Permaculture and simple relocalization strategies; to get as many organizations and local Legislators involved; and to increase our communities ability to communicate about these important issues - by creating participatory social learning moments. Although the Complimentary Currency is in the background, completing the action steps outlined above is leap in the right direction. It's possible that more local people will want to join in the process and speed up implementation. It's also possible that new faces will arrive in Lewis County, wanting to live here because of the chance to work on these types of projects and live in a community that values earth care, people care and fair share. One of the ladies at the meeting is also a real estate broker. She said that five different families in the past month were interested in moving to Lewis County because they heard about our efforts to green the county! Yeah, is all I can say!!! Yes, in Hohenwald We do Trust!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Financial Permaculture Certificate

The Financial Permaculture Institute team has decided to move forward with creating an advanced certificate in Financial Permaculture. While 2008 was the pilot for the Financial Permaculture Course, we anticipate that 2009 will be the pilot for the new certificate. We'll be working on the content and required curriculum for the certification over the next six months. We hope to engage many Permaculture designers and financial experts in this process. We'll be creating a place on to engage individuals from the business, non-profit and education sectors, to come together to create a forum around the certificate. Until that forum is created, please post your thoughts as blog comments.

The only decision that we've made so far is that the Permaculture Certificate will be a prerequisite to this advanced training. We'll be keeping you updated on the progress of the certificate!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Proactive with Permaculture

Catherine Austin Fitts and I had a call this week about instructors for the September 22-26, 2009 Financial Permaculture Course in Hohenwald, TN. We agreed that the main criteria for our instructor search was that the instructor have these qualities: knowledge relevant to economic development in Hohenwald, tools easy to replicate and that they themselves have hands on experience not just theory. We both felt that all of the 2008 FPC instructors fit this mold and are confident that we'll bring in even more instructors in 2009 who can be proactive with Permaculture. We will be bringing back many of the original FPC cast and adding some new faces to the team for diversity and depth.

Being proactive with Permaculture also came up several times during our local Sonnenschein Green Initiative meetings in Hohenwald, while the group has been declaring its mission and purpose. We were all in agreement after someone shared that our groups efforts need to be proactive and focused on designing and implementing working solutions. In the past 10 meetings we've had, I can't remember the group once getting bogged down by the woes of the world. No one gets hung up on the problems or focuses on taking sides. It's been probably the most inclusive proactive group that I've been a part of. We seem 100% committed to taking constructive action. That's the other exciting news about this team of people - they're not just sitting around talking - change is happening - the transition is under way - these folks are taking action.

After a general round of check-ins and proposing the agenda, our meetings usually start with updates and reports from folks who've worked on projects and implemented actions since the last meeting. We generally go through a round of defining our goals, marking priorities and discerning our action plans and next achievable steps. Most folks volunteer for tasks. We have breakout sessions on specific projects for deeper discussions. When problems arise the group looks for solutions. Everyone's learning to be opportunistic and optimistic. We're a bunch of networking wizards, cycling energy in the system - I'd like to think!

The dynamic of this proactive group of doers and designers reminds me of a productive Permaculture site. The group is diverse and inclusive to newcomers. The group looks for and acts on opportunities around all the margins. Our first motto was Green = No Waste. We've learned to stack events and projects and collaborate with any and every person or organization who has something to offer. We're also creating some working routines based on evaluated successes. Permaculture is so at the core of our process that we are using the Permaculture principles to steer our meetings, relate to one another and the community and in our proactive stance we gather around.

Financial Permaculture Initiative Named

In late January the Tennessee Financial Permaculture Team, (myself - Jennifer Dauksha-English, Catherine Austin Fitts, Greg Landua, Connie Sharp, Debbie Landers, Thomas Hupp, and our main supporters, Andy Langford, Albert Bates and Patrick Gibbs) came up with a name for our work: we're now the Financial Permaculture Initiative of the Financial Permaculture Institute, FPI. We decided we needed a name for our work, as the word Financial Permaculture by itself is 'in the commons'. For now, FPI will function as a DBA under the fiscal support of the Center for Holistic Ecology and our main websites will remain and

Transition Update

The Sonnenschein Green Initiative's Transition Committee held a meeting Wednesday, February 4. There were 22 people in attendance.

DOWNTOWN PERMACUTLURE DEMONSTRATION AREA: Connie Sharp gave a report on the Lewis County Museum's Discovery Center project. A group of local Permaculture designers, Tony Turnbow, Sam Davis and others began work this week on a design to turn the Discovery Center into a Permaculture and natural history demonstration area.

SUMMER PERMACULTURE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM: Jennifer Dauksha-English gave a report on the +72 hour summer Permaculture Certification Program being offered in Hohenwald, every Saturday June through August. The Discovery Center will be the site for the summer training. The training will be offered by the Center for Holistic Ecology, the Sonnenschein Green Initiative and Ecological Artisans. Scholarships and deep discounts on the training are available for Lewis County Residents and youth ages 14-18.

GREEN PLANS FOR NEW SEWAGE TREATMENT FACILITY: Patrick Gibbs and Jennifer English reported on a meeting they and others had with the city regarding applying Permaculture to the design of the cities new sewage treatment facility. The new design will stack green filtration on top of creating a natural viewing area and energy production (such as ethanol and biochar) to make the new facility a productive part of the community.

GREEN PROCLAMATION: Debbie Landers read from a drafted resolution and proclamation that will be presented to the people of Hohenwald and Lewis County to ensure our commitment to local sustainability, and doing all in our power to become known as a TRANSITION TOWN by promoting sincere efforts to local food, energy, goods and services production and responsible waste management in our schools, businesses, homes, local government, media, and community groups.

UPCOMING GREEN EVENTS: The group spent time discussing logistics and marketing for the Thursday, February 19 Green Evening Cafe which will be held from 6-8:30 pm at the Emporium Cafe in downtown Hohenwald. The Green Evening Series will be held once each month. Plans for the June 5-7 Sonnenschein Sustainability Forum were also discussed.

NEW GREEN WORKING GROUPS: For the final half hour of the meeting, the participants split into two working groups. The first group, Food and Farming, met about the value of creating a local Farmers Market. The second group, Green Business Development, discussed the need for a green incubator and a green development park, and scheduled a later meeting to discuss complimentary currencies.

The next Sonnenschein Green Initiative meeting will be held Wednesday, February 18 from 11:30-1:30 at the Career Center in Hohenwald. The group meets every other Wednesday. For more details about upcoming meetings and projects contact 931-796-4874 or 888-878-2434.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Meetings and Messaging

This past week has been a whirlwind of meetings and scheduled presentations related to our Financial Permaculture Summit and transition efforts in Lewis County, TN. One day I am in Memphis giving a power point on Financial Permaculture to the Sierra Club and two days later I am in Nashville leading a breakout group on Financial Permaculture for the Cumberland Greens Bioregional Council. I showed our new Summit documentary, courtesy of Byron Palmer, at both events. The crowd in Nashville responded with applause and requests to sign-up for the next Summit. The response that I received in Memphis wasn't as strong - possibly I should ditch the power point.

As for all the meetings - wow! Yes, there are a lot of them - but I've never enjoyed meeting so much as now, because change is happening in a way that I've never witnessed in my 3+ years of working on community development in Hohenwald, Lewis County, TN. The Summit we held in October catalysed local collaboration around a very deliberate message: we are reinventing ourselves as a self sustaining community, as we embrace a new green economy. There is a group of 20+ folks meeting every other week. We have dozens of green events we're organizing, writing articles in the local paper and working on green business development. The best part is that everyone is doing their share of work towards this initiative. It's no longer just a handful of people. Each week something new and amazing happens: The City Mayor is supportive of our hope to become a Transition Town in June of 2009, a City Councilmen has asked for our Permaculture design support in the development of a new sewage treatment system, the President of the Chamber of Commerce asked if she could show our documentary at the next Chamber meeting, and the Historical Society met with us last week to design a Permaculture Demonstration Area behind the local museum. Less than five months a go, the word Permaculture was a foreign word to most in Hohenwald and now I hear people using it with a sense of purpose and hope.