Albert Bates

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since Feb 01, 2014
Albert Bates is author of The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook and numerous books, films and new media on energy, environment and history. A former environmental rights lawyer, paramedic, brick mason, flour miller, and horse trainer, he received the Right Livelihood Award in 1980 as part of the steering committee of Plenty, working to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples, and board of directors of The Farm, a pioneering intentional community in Tennessee for the past 35 years. A co-founder and past president of the Global Ecovillage Network, he is presently GEN's representative to the UN climate talks. When not tinkering with fuel wringers for algae or pyrolizing cookstoves, he teaches permaculture, ecovillage design and natural building and is a frequent guest on several podcasts. He tweets at @peaksurfer and blogs at peaksurfer.blogspot.com.

“Hero of the Revolution” - The Village Voice.
"Green-minded newbies look up to him, and why shouldn't they? He knows everything, urinates in the forest, and can build a wind-powered generator out of found materials. In the event of an apocalypse, Bates is president." - Vanity Fair [“http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/05/thefarm200705]
The Farm, Summertown TN USA
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Recent posts by Albert Bates

As one of the first protoecovillage experiments in the 1970s, The Farm made a number of mistakes that provided valuable lessons. You have identified some here. As a vegan community of 1200-1400 residents, we were deficient in vit B12. We ate a lot of Nutritional Yeast and even sold it under our own brand (Good Tasting Nutritional Yeast). That has many things to recommend it but did not meet our vit B12 requirements. We went really big time into fermented foods also, including a tempeh lab (still the worlds largest provider of inoculum). miso, shoyu, and lots of homemade krauts and kimchi (Sandor Katz is a neighbor). Eventually we met the B12 demand by supplementing our soymilk with commercial grade B12, which was likely not of vegan origin, most likely fish oil, but could have been insects. Some day I might like to experiment with grasshopper farming which seems very climate adaptive. From our soymilk, the B12 rippled through our diet as tofu, yogurt, ice bean, frogurt, etc. A most agreeable way to ingest enough.

I would say one of the major takeaways was that we COULD grow our necessities at that village scale, and did, but it was neither wise nor appropriate. After achieving a modicum of self-sufficiency we became active in the national food cooperative movement and took advantage of the opportunities to exchange our soy products, forest mushrooms and other specialities for foods that could not or should not be grown in south central Tennessee, such as various fruits and citrus from the subtropics or cold-weather crops. We learned that trade is also an intrinsic human need, and going it alone is some kind of warped cowboy myth. You can create communities of interest over considerable distances without burning fossil fuels. By connecting those relationships, we are strengthening the supportive net.

- Albert Bates, Dip.Perm.
3 years ago
I highly recommend the Maya Mountain Research Farm in Southern Belize, near Guatemala and Honduras. I am teaching their 10th annual permaculture course there with Starhawk and Marisha Auerbach in February. They are one of the best examples of tropical permaculture I have visited, have a wonderful apprentice program and working there is great fun. See http://mmrfbz.org for information.
4 years ago
Welcome to the Future!

The Ecovillage Training Center began in 1994 as an effort to break new ground in education by teaching people the skills that will ACTUALLY be needed in the 21st Century. It is not enough to understand the challenges; what is needed are viable strategies and, more importantly, the capacity to think, improvise, and create. Those skills do not come out of a book or DVD. They come from hard won experience, trial and error, and the chance to make mistakes, regroup, and try again.

The Farm is a protoecovillage that was started by 320 San Francisco hippies moving to rural Tennessee in 1971. It is now a successful community that meets its needs from a variety of homegrown businesses such as book publishing (the largest imprint for Native American authors) and electronics (geiger counters and solar devices). It has more than 20 km2 under management, with keylined pasture cells, agroforestry and extensive water systems. Over the past 20 years we have evolved our permaculture training program to take advantage of the feedback from our graduates and the changing landscape. What we have arrived at is an immersion residential apprenticeship pedagogy that combines one hour per day of classroom instruction, some independent study assignments, collaborative work with small teams on special projects, and a lot of normal farm labor, including animal husbandry, natural building, organic gardening, beekeeping and small business enterprise. No two months are alike, and all are informed by the skills and abilities of the engaged and brilliant participants who come from all over the world.

Apprentices are asked to pay $200/wk to defray expenses of food, lodging and instruction. we award a Design Certificate for 2 consecutive months attendance. WWOOFers are not charged but do not participate in the instructional program and may have incidental costs.

This year we will be offering two complete permaculture design certificate programs for students who can attend for two consecutive months, beginning March 30 or May 1. Most 2-week residential permaculture courses cost between $1500 and $2500, so anyone staying with us 9 weeks to receive the certification is paying about the same but receiving much more.

We provide mentoring in advanced techniques of permaculture, such as holistic management, aquaculture, natural building, keyline, free energy, and carbon farming, and will assist you towards a Permaculture Diploma or a self-directed B.S. or M.S degree from Gaia University should that be your goal.

Our primary focus in 2015 will be natural building with a view towards completing several large building projects on site that have been underway for more than a year. The construction includes hands-on experience with natural buildings of all types as well as the fundamentals of permaculture design and ecovillage master planning. Among the subjects you will learn through hands-on work are cob, earthbag, strawbale, light clay-straw, bamboo, earthen floors, zacateca, living roofs, round-pole, freestack stone, cordwood, clay renders, hemp-lime, baubiologie and earthships.

We are in the process of completely remodeling our Ecohostel, using our best techniques and "designing for enchantment." These are some of the most exciting and artistic parts of the natural building experience, and include creating natural paints and dyes, clay plasters, alis and fresco, and fine detail carpentry.

Other normal daily activities on site include poultry management; beekeeping; garden production from seed through harvest; compost, microbial teas, and soil amendments; fruit tree & bamboo maintenance; biochar fuel & stove development; biofuels and electric vehicles; and biodynamic waste-treatement aquatics systems management. Minor lab work may be involved, such as bacterial counts in soil samples.

Possible field trips include bicycling the nearby Amish country, canoeing the Buffalo River, Earth Advocates Research Farm & bamboo nursery, Spiral Ridge Permaculture, Solar Springs, Walnut Hill Farm, Jack Daniels Distillery and more. Apprentices will learn ecology, energy and resource conservation, social and community skills, and the economics of sustainability. They can attend and observe all of the open community meetings and committee meetings within The Farm community.

Weekends are reserved for community activities and free for getting in 18 holes on our tournament-quality disc golf course, mountain biking or river rafting. Apprentices will also have the opportunity to attend our monthly Transition Town meetings at our county seat to experience how our community redesign concepts translate to the county level.

Positions are limited to 6 apprentices and 6 WWOOFers per month, so if you are interested you should apply early. http://www.thefarm.org/etc/appfaq.html for more information, or write to apprenticeship@TheFarm.org.
4 years ago
Barrel kilns are good and you can make some really fine ones for about $400 in plumbing, but in my experience the downside is longevity -- that thin steel doesn't hold up long to the heat and corrosive gases. Lately Kelpie Wilson has been experimenting with the cone kiln, cheaper and better for some feedstocks, such as bamboo and wood scraps, less wood cutting required. She has posted videos to her website (along with the WhirlyGirl biochar making kitchen stove) at http://www.greenyourhead.com/. See too my book for permies: The Biochar Solution (2010 New Society).
5 years ago
Howdy!

At The Farm Ecovillage Training Center we are creating a holistic, comprehensivist, "total immersion school," co-evolving creative designs that move us toward sustainability. All projects and buildings on site provides a walk-thru visit to the future. We have a large creek flowing through the Center and the headwaters of the Swan watershed are located on the property as well. Over 1000 acres of The Farm are designated as wilderness preserve.

The Eco-Hostel is an old Farm house that has been recently renovated and expanded. The house was originally constructed by members of the Farm in the late 70's out of completely recycled materials. Our renovations have included new dormitories, solar showers, rainwater collection, solar electricity, and wastewater-to-aquaponic recycling.

Over the past 20 years we have not generally been able to offer free room and board in exchange for work, but this year we are making an exception to allow for one-week "permablitz" work-exchange events in which we muster all the people who wanted to come as volunteers and tackle some large project, with work in the daylight hours and parties at night.

So as not to conflict with our instructional program, we have blocked off these dates strictly for the work-exchange program:

Apr 27-May 3
June 1-7
Oct 26-Nov 1

For the work-exchange program we will provide camping space, hot water showers, toilets and access to a kitchen, and not charge you anything. Alternatively, you can pay $50/week and get all that plus 3 meals a day, if you are willing to help with food preparation.

This year we will also be offering a permaculture design certificate for apprentices who attend for two consecutive months. We also provide mentoring in advanced techniques of permaculture, such as holistic management, aquaculture, natural building, keyline, and carbon farming, and will assist you towards a Permaculture Diploma or a self-directed B.S. or M.S degree from Gaia University.

Apprenticeships are on a month-to-month basis and can commence and end at any time. It is even okay to skip a month and return again later.

Attendance during orientation is required for all apprenticeships, however it is possible to come for a week and start early, before a monthly orientation, if scheduling is difficult.

For those coming as work-exchange volunteers, the orientation is highly recommended.

These are our orientation weeks in 2014:

Mar 30-Apr 5
May 4-10
June 8-14
July 6-12
Aug 31-Sep 6
Sep 28-Oct 4

Apprentices are expected to commit to a specific period of time for their stay. Once you have applied and been accepted, we will reserve your place and notify you.

For the apprenticeship program we charge for your subsistence (food, energy, transport, internet and lodging). For the 2014 apprenticeship the cost is $200 per week, which provides for all your food and lodging. Food is typically home-grown, locally grown organic from our garden, our Amish neighbors, or our regional food cooperative. If you have other local food and lodging arrangements that can be reduced. We are a non-profit educational institution not a for-profit working farm. Thus, we have little to work with in terms of surplus. What we offer is an unparalleled hands-on experience, working with some of the best educators and practitioners in the world.

Our primary focus in 2014 will be natural building with a view towards completing several large building projects on site that have been underway for more than a year. The construction includes hands-on experience with natural buildings of all types as well as the fundamentals of permaculture design and ecovillage master planning. This year we will be completely remodeling our Ecohostel, using our best techniques and "designing for enchantment." These are some of the most exciting and artistic parts of the natural building experience, and include creating natural paints and dyes, clay plasters, alis and fresco, and fine detail carpentry.

Other normal daily activities on site include poultry management; garden production from seed through harvest; compost, microbial teas, and soil amendments; fruit tree & bamboo maintenance; biochar fuel & stove development; and biodynamic waste-treatement aquatics systems management. Minor lab work may be involved, such as bacterial counts in soil samples. Possible field trips include the nearby Amish country, canoeing the Buffalo River, Earth Advocates Research Farm & bamboo nursery, Spiral Ridge Permaculture, Jack Daniels Distillery and more. Apprentices will learn ecology, energy and resource conservation, social and community skills, and the economics of sustainability. They can attend and observe all of the open community meetings and committee meetings within The Farm community. They will also have the opportunity to attend our monthly Transition Town meetings at our county seat to experience how these concepts translate to the county level.

We sometimes allow shorter apprenticeships if you are unable to attend for a full month, and we have available space because of cancellations, visa problems or the like. There is also the possibility of extending if we have space in the program to follow. To apply, contact us at apprenticeship@thefarm.org.

Conditions at the Center are primitive and tight but comfy. Facilities include a solar heated dormitory building with a small kitchen, indoor toilets and cozy studying area and library, as well as camping space. There is solar-powered lighting and wood heat.

Most frequently asked questions about our apprentice program are answered at http://www.thefarm.org/etc/appfaq.html.

We hope this information provides some useful information on our program and that you will consider joining us this year.

Albert Bates