Director & Senior Designer
David Shaw is a whole systems designer, naturalist, farmer, and educator. His focus is building connections – with ourselves, with each other, and with nature. He directs Santa Cruz Permaculture, a company dedicated to amplifying regenerative solutions through action-learning, intentional community development, and land stewardship. He also coordinates the Right Livelihood College at UCSC, a network for scaling up courageous solutions to the root causes of global problems. David completed the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, and holds a MS in Integrative Eco Social Design from Gaia University. He is a PhD student in the UCSC Environmental Studies program researching successful transnational alternative policy groups and large-scale ecosystem regeneration solutions. David is active in the global World Cafe Community, a group dedicated to hosting inter-generational dialogue on questions that matter. In order to meet the challenges of today, he is creating an urban farm and inter-generational learning center that fosters hands-on farm and wilderness skills, cultural competence, social entrepreneurship, and collective action.
Marketing & Communications Consultant
Melissa Ott Fant
Melissa Fant is a writer, digital marketing consultant, work-from-home mama, and organic gardener. A guiding quote in her life has been Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” She received her B.A. in Literature in 2014 from UCSC, where she also designed and taught two undergraduate courses. For 5.5 years, Melissa supported education and outreach programs at the UCSC Sustainability Office and other campus organizations. In 2017, Melissa participated in the UC Santa Cruz Farm Apprenticeship program where she received her Certificate in Ecological Horticulture. She also received her Permaculture Design Certificate from Santa Cruz Permaculture in 2017. That same year, Melissa launched her business Green Gal, offering digital marketing and other services to small businesses. During the 2018 growing season, Melissa cultivated Green Gal’s Garden, a small market garden and CSA program in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She now lives with her husband, child, and two cats in Reno, NV. Melissa has been writing the Green Gal blog since 2009.
Lead Permaculture Instructor & Senior Designer
John Valenzuela is a horticulturist, consultant, and permaculture educator. Living in Hawai’i for 15 years, he studied and practiced tropical permaculture while teaching throughout the Islands to a wide range of people — children, students, professionals, farmers, displaced sugar workers, owners and renters. He has been a lead permaculture design course teacher at the Bullock Family Homestead in Orcas Island, Washington, for 10 years, also having taught in Costa Rica and throughout urban and rural California. His special interests are home gardens, plant propagation, rare fruit, food forests, agroforestry, ethnobotany, and native ecosystems. He is now based in his original home state of California, where he maintains ornamental and edible landscapes and a small nursery, while sharing his passion for plants. John has served as the chairperson for the Golden Gate Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers Association.
Julia Herring is a landscape designer, project manager, natural builder and climate justice organizer. After working at a corporate healthcare company for 3 years after college, she transitioned into a career in permaculture in 2018 and hasn’t looked back since. She received her B.S. in Wildlife Conservation in 2014 from UC Davis, where she co-founded a student organization dedicated to preserving habitat and monitoring wildlife populations in the Davis area. Julia received her Permaculture Design Certificate from Santa Cruz Permaculture in March 2018, then went on to study community design at Arcosanti, Arizona where she co-led a natural building workshop in 2019. Julia posts about her varied permaculture experiences on her Instagram page @perma.girl. She currently lives in the Berkeley hills and splits her time between earning her degree in Landscape Design from the Landscape Horticulture program at Merritt College, converting her grandfather’s former home into a permaculture paradise, providing workshop support and landscape design services for Santa Cruz Permaculture, and volunteering with a youth-led climate justice organization called the Sunrise Movement.
Guides & Learning Partners
Restorative Economics practitioner, Nwamaka Agbo, brings a solutions-oriented approach to her project management consulting. With a background in organizing, electoral campaigns, policy and advocacy on racial, social and environmental justice issues, Nwamaka supports projects that build resilient, healthy and self-determined communities rooted in shared prosperity.
In addition to her consulting practice, Nwamaka is also a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center and a 2017 Fellow for the RSF Integrated Capital Fellowship Program. Nwamaka previously served as the Director of Programs at EcoDistricts leading Target Cities—a program to support 11 neighborhood-scale sustainable urban regeneration projects across North American committed to equitable economic development.
As the Director of Programs at Transform Finance, Nwamaka designed and launched the inaugural Transform Finance Institute for Social Justice leaders. The Institute was created to educate and train social justice community leaders about how to best leverage impact investments to deepen their social impact for transformative social change.
She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member to Oakland Rising Action and a Board Member to Thousand Currents, Center for Third World Organizing and the Schumacher Center for New Economics. She graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies and holds a Master’s of Public Administration specializing in Financial Management from San Francisco State University.
Nwamaka lives in Oakland with her husband, where she can be found geeking out on the latest sci-fi, Afrofuturism novels or cheering for the Golden State Warriors. She likes her bourbon neat and her sake chilled.
Erin Axelrod is a partner and worker-owner at LIFT Economy, specializing in accelerating the spread of climate-beneficial and land-based businesses in the Next Economy. She does this through a range of initiatives including client work, a regenerative agriculture investor network (RAIN), the Force for Good Fund and a Restorative Ocean Economies Field-Building Initiative. She also lives and works on a Grassfed beef and Land Restoration Project, Freestone Ranch, just outside of her hometown of Petaluma. When not working, she loves to forage wild mushrooms, huckleberries, elderberries and bay nuts to make nutrient dense foods for her friends.
Kevin works at the intersection of ecology and economy where permaculture design meets cooperative organizations intent on meeting human needs while enhancing the conditions conducive to all life. He is a partner with LIFT Economy where he provides strategy and technical support for growing social enterprises.
Kevin also serves as the Senior Financial Fellow at Project Drawdown developing the business case to address climate change through existing practices and technologies. He is also co-founder of the Force for Good Fund – the first crowdfunded accelerator and development fund supporting a more diverse, inclusive economy for solving global warming. Kevin co-organizes a working group of food systems impact investors identifying regenerative agriculture organizations creating the highest leverage beneficial impact for all life. He has developed internal and external beneficial impact strategies for market leaders in regenerative agriculture, compostable goods, energy efficiency and socially beneficent technology service providers. He frequently teaches classes, workshops, does public speaking, facilitates meetings, plans events and provides one on one mentoring as a founding partner of the Urban Permaculture Institute San Francisco. Kevin co-founded Clarus Systems and spent nearly a decade starting and growing companies in enterprise software and technology. He is as fluent with information technology, leadership development, cooperative process, discounted cash flows, as perennial polyculture agroforestry, saving seed and conservation hydrology. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinbayuk or email him email@example.com.
Lara Birchler is an environmental educator with a passion for nature connection and bird language. For fifteen years, she taught Art and Ceramics in California public high schools and also worked in therapeutic wilderness programs for teens. She is currently finishing her third year in the Weaving Earth Immersion, where relational education and deep nature-connection practices such as bird language, animal tracking, permaculture, the work to dismantle systems of oppression, and ancestral skills are at the core of the curriculum. Lara lives in a bright yellow converted ol’ ambulance with a mini wood-fire stove and loves to wander. Lara is especially passionate about sharing ways to strengthen relationships with members of the beyond-human world (birds!), thereby cultivating the birth-rite of belonging for all beings here on Earth.
Janine Björnson is a natural builder, educator, and consultant who has a specialty in natural paints and plasters. She began her career in natural building in 1996 when she studied with Cob Cottage. Since then, she has taught over 100 workshops in Canada and the United States. Her passion for building with natural materials bloomed out of her love for the earth, in conjunction with her concern for diminishing ecological resources and toxic buildings. Since then, she has devoted the last 2+ decades to immersing herself in the world of natural materials and the knowledge of how we can shape dwellings that are healthy, healing, inspiring, and beautiful. She loves teaching and particularly loves to inspire and teach women how to build, and this is evident in her enthusiastic teaching style. Janine has presented at various Natural Building Colloquia. She has taught the natural building component of Dominican University EcoDwelling program and is the “natural materials” cyber panellist at www.greenhomebuilding.com. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (janinebjornson.com) and artist. She lives and builds in Sebastopol, California.
Terra Phoenix Design, co-author of Practical Permaculture
Dave Boehnlein is principal at Terra Phoenix Design, and co-author of Practical Permaculture, an excellent entry-level permaculture design text. He is also the education director at the Bullock’s Permaculture Homestead on Orcas Island where he lived for seven years. He offers Permaculture Design Courses through Bastyr University’s Holistic Landscape Design Certificate Program and Alderleaf Wilderness College’s Wilderness Certification Program. Dave is a member of both the Cascadia Permaculture Institute and the Permaculture Institute of North America. He holds a diploma in Permaculture Education and seeks to mainstream permaculture design with integrity. Dave is passionate about plants, especially weird but useful ones. Ultimately, Dave just wants to make the world a better place and eat really good fruit while doing it.
Della Duncan is an alternative economist, teacher, and broadcast journalist interested in returning the field of economics to the realm of moral philosophy. She holds a Master of Arts in Economics for Transition with Distinction from Schumacher College, a graduate certificate in Authentic Leadership from Naropa University, and has completed Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects Intensive Program. She is also a Gross National Happiness Master Trainer with the GNH Centre in Bhutan. Currently Della produces the Upstream Podcast, teaches courses about economics for transition at Schumacher College, leads Work that Reconnects retreats around the world, and serves as a mentor and consultant for those individuals, local governments, and organizations committed to freeing themselves from the chokehold of capitalism and transitioning to more beautiful, sustainable, and just alternatives.
Ken is a native of Santa Cruz, Ca. In 1970 at the age of thirteen he met Alan Chadwick, the founder of the UCSC Farm and Garden. In 1985, he was an apprentice at that program and has a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from there. He also has an A.S. degree from Cabrillo College in landscape horticulture.
In 1988 after completing the Farm and Garden apprenticeship program he co-founded Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping with a fellow apprentice. He is the owner of Terra Nova (http://www.terranovalandscaping.com/) and has been a landscape contractor since 1991.
Ken earned his first certificate in Permaculture Design in 1996 and has also earned certificates in Advanced Permaculture design and Permaculture teacher training. He also holds certificates in the Green Gardener and Advanced Green Gardener programs. Ken has a Permaculture demonstration garden with his partner/fiancé Jillian Steinberger, has been teaching Permaculture Design Courses since 2008 and has taught the Permaculture class at Cabrillo College since 2012. In 2018 Ken was awarded a diploma in Permaculture Education from the Permaculture Institute.
Paula Grainger graduated as an herbalist from The University of Westminster in London, England in 2004. She works with clients on both sides of the Atlantic as an herbal wellness practitioner, and delights in sharing her love of plant medicines through teaching and writing about herbs. She is the creator of The English Herbalist range of herbal skincare products and has authored two books: ADAPTOGENS and INFUSE: Herbal Teas to Cleanse Nourish and Heal, which has been translated into more than ten languages. Paula brings her deep knowledge of the ancestral British herbal tradition to the California herb garden.
Darren is passionate about the study, practice, and teaching of holistic health. He has spent over 20 years cultivating a deep knowledge of holistic life skills including western and Chinese herbal medicines, organic farming, nutrition, meditation, and Qi Gong. He is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, and teaches at Five Branches University, Esalen Institute, and University of California, Santa Cruz. A dynamic teacher and clinician, Darren loves his work and constantly expands his understanding of the human condition in wellness and sickness.
Lee Klinger, MA, PhD
Dr. Lee Klinger is an independent scientist living in Big Sur, California. Since 2005 he has served as director of Sudden Oak Life, a movement aimed at using ecologically-based techniques to address the problem of oak mortality in California and elsewhere. Dr. Klinger has over 30 years of academic experience in the environmental sciences and has held scholarly appointments at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Colorado, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Klinger also serves Chairman of the Board of Teleosis Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to developing effective, sustainable health care provided by professionals who serve as environmental health stewards. He is also a Fellow of the Geological Society of London.
Mark is a national leader in the development of sustainable public places. In the last decade he has directed, facilitated, or inspired designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone. Through his leadership in Communitecture, Inc., and it’s various affiliates such as the The City Repair Project (501(c)3), The Village Building Convergence, and the Planet Repair Institute, he has also been instrumental in the development of dozens of participatory organizations and urban permaculture design projects across the United States and Canada. Mark works with governmental leaders, community organizations, and educational institutions in many diverse communities.
Penny Livingston-Stark is internationally recognized as a prominent permaculture teacher, designer, and speaker. She holds a MS in Eco-Social Regeneration and a Diploma in Permaculture Design. Penny has been studying the Hermetic Tradition of alchemy and herbal medicine making in Europe and the United States for 4 years. Penny sits on the board of the Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA) and holds 2 Diplomas in Permaculture Education and Permaculture Design. She has studied, taught with, hosted and learned directly Bill Mollison, and David Holmgren the co-founders of Permaculture and the developers of the PDC curriculum. Penny has been teaching internationally and working professionally in the land management, regenerative design, and permaculture development field for 25 years and has extensive experience in all phases of ecologically sound design and construction as well as the use of natural non-toxic building materials. With her husband James Stark, and in collaboration with Commonweal — a cancer health research and retreat center — Penny co-manages Commonweal Garden, a 17-acre organic and certified salmon-safe farm in Bolinas, California.
Rita Manna is a designer who specializes in both the Landscape Architecture and Graphic Design professions. She has 17 years of experience in the design, landscape and construction industries. She has achieved a Masters of Landscape Architecture degree from Colorado State University with a concentration in Ecological Restoration and Community & Urban Development, a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Communication Design from the University of Connecticut, and has won numerous design, gardening and community service-related awards. With such a diverse design background that focuses in on not only restoration, permaculture and place-making but also visual communication, she is able to effectively communicate through a variety of mediums.
Over the years, Rita has worked with teams both large and small to create landscapes which are restorative, memorable, functional and rejuvenating. Daily, she works with teams of Restoration Ecologists, city officials, architects, and community members to rebuild landscapes throughout the American West.