Join the Community

Episode 015: What Does a Successful Permaculture Community Look Like? With Garden Jane

Dec 17, 2019

Starting with Understanding Yourself to Create Regenerative Communities


This week in Episode 015 of the Seeds of Tao Podcast, Garden Jane joins us and shares her amazing journey to becoming a Regenerative Community-Builder. Through a number of different avenues and adventures, Jane boils down what it really takes to create prosperous, regenerative communities - amazing individuals. Jane tells us, “We need to take the time to do our own work,” and we couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly the direction we’re going to go in this blog post, doing your own work and what that can look like. 

Why Start with the Self?

We found it fascinating that originally when Josh and I were putting together the systems and approaches for Seeds of Tao, we believed it was imperative to start as Jane suggested, with the “self.” 


But why not just head out into the community and start throwing ourselves into service projects, grabbing a shovel and getting our hands dirty? 


While there’s merit in that, the strength of your mindset, your “self” is going to forever linger as your bottleneck to creating the impact you want to see.


If you lack focus and organization, it doesn't matter how much capital you have, or people at your back, you will find a point where you cannot push forward without getting better at focus and organization.


The same rule applies to any other weakness you have, obstacle you face, or mantra you tell yourself. 


The only way to increase your impact is to strengthen your “self” first.


We talked about this back in the Permaculture Compass Episode way back when, and the progression going outward… but let’s continue.


What types of things are involved in the “self” that we would need to work on? Well, that’s a loaded question, with answers depending on the person and situation, but the following are some places to get started.


Energy of the Self

What is your energy like?


Energy is an interesting thing, oftentimes we hear people talking about how they never have enough of it, kind of like time or money.


And just like time and money, it’s something to be managed and to be present with.


Are you aware of how your energy changes throughout the day? Are you getting to the end of the day completely wasted, without any energy left, and call it quits, yielding to Netflix and Oreos to round out the evening?


It’s not to say that Netflix and Oreos don’t have their place, but they certainly don’t have a place as an every night, default coping mechanism. That’s just plain irresponsible with your energy.


The more you start to be consciously aware of your energy throughout the day, how it changes, what you are doing to deplete or replenish it, and using it in strategic ways to move the most important things forward, the more in tune with yourself you will be, and the more able to create the change you wish to see around you.


This takes a lot of trial and error, and intense focus on being present and mindful, but the more you do it the greater the rewards you will reap.

Emotions of the Self

Emotions are beautiful, scary, amazing, confusing things. They can help us to overcome fear and protect those around us, and they can keep us in the thralls of anxiety, unable to move forward with our dreams.


You get to choose if you are master of them, or if they master you.


If you are not in control of your emotions, they will spill over on those around you and push people away if you’re not careful.


How do you control your emotions though? Must you remain a stoic robot, disconnected with anything that smells like emotion?


Um, no.


We are emotional creatures, and there is power in that, but as Uncle Ben from Spiderman said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”


We must take responsibility of our emotions and be aware of what emotions are swirling around inside of us. If they are negative emotions that are filling us up, we need to responsibly let them out in a way that doesn’t hurt ourselves or those around us, and then refill our emotional “cup” with positive, uplifting emotions. Bad out, Good in. And stay present with it.


Pushing away the negative emotions will only press them down under deeper pressure and heat until they explode like popcorn all over everyone. 


Emotional management is an amazing tool to master, and will give you a huge advantage when it comes to working towards your dreams, because more often than not, it’s people’s inability to manage their emotions that sabotages their success.

Anchors of the Self

Sometimes we have a hard time letting things go. Words. Experiences. Images. Anything, really.


Sometimes we like to stew in it. Maybe it gives us power, or comfort, or security, or a sense of knowing what to expect.


This is a dangerous pit to fall in with those in the sustainability sphere - holding on to a cynical view of humanity because of one experience with someone.


These “anchors” we hold on to are toxic to us. And they keep us from moving forward and having the impact we want to create. We literally will find ourselves like a boat with its anchor down stuck on a rock, unable to move forward no matter how hard we rev the engine. 


The first step with this is identifying those anchors, which can be a powerful and vulnerable experience. Once we can identify those anchors, we can release them, and move on unencumbered. 

Patterns of the Self

Our habits form us and our results, and yet oftentimes we’re unaware of the habits we implement every day.


What types of habits do you have? Habits in the mornings? Habits in the evenings? Habits on the weekends?


Start paying attention to those habits you have are really ask yourself if they are serving you and your goals.


Oftentimes we’ll see people with big, hairy goals (and if you know us much by now we LOVE big, hairy goals) that leave them on their goal poster or vision board, but never actually break them down into action steps to build habits around.


If we want better results, we need to create better habits. And if we want to build good habits in our communities, we need to have good habits ourselves.


Creating the Self


We are creatures of creation and have innate powers of creation within us. 


We have the power to create a dream and achieve that dream.


We have the power to imagine a food forest and create that food forest.


We have the power to design our lives and create the lives we desire.


If we want to create big, amazing impact, we have to start strengthening those powers of creation muscles with small weights, and ourselves is a great place to start. Really look at your life, and if there’s something you would rather change, then really create in your mind how you want it to change, and then go make it happen.


Well-disciplined, visionary people have amazing success inspiring others and creating the change they wish to see in the world because they MAKE THINGS HAPPEN that wouldn’t otherwise.

Alright, well there you have it. If you want to create some seriously amazing regenerative communities, start with the self!

Keep Growing!



Here's a wonderful biographical sketch Jane wrote about her life if you'd like to dive more into her story...

" Clayoquot Sound was where I went in 1994, the year after the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Tzeporah Berman, one of the main organizers at Clayoquot Sound was my TA at University of Toronto as well as an inspiration to take issues on as fully as we can, and without apology. She has had incredible impactful on human/forest relations. Here's a little about her - Here are articles of interest about the impact of Clayoquot Sound 20 years later and 25 years later.

Once I returned to Toronto from Clayoquot Sound, I refocused my undergraduate thesis. I had the privilege of working with Rod MacRae and the Toronto Food Policy Council in researching some of the barriers to accessibility of community gardens in Toronto at that time. That, along with the blessing of free therapy and affordable education, helped me make a more direct path towards community, gardening, permaculture ...and more education. I went on to York University to their remarkable self-directed Environmental Studies graduate program. Many environmentalists and activists have been to that and I could dive deeply into learning as well as learning how I work best. (I wish that opportunity to learn about how you work best for everyone!) From there I did an internship at FoodShare for their Community Gardens program, and then was hired by the City of Toronto to help design the Children’s Garden Program and High Park Children’s Garden. I contributed to the Children's Eco Programs, and the City of Toronto’s Community Garden program. Permaculture was already in my vocabulary and had been for a few years, but I didn't do my PDC until I went to Oregon in 2001.
I launched Garden Jane in 2007 to help people learn about and access healthy food and build regenerative communities. Lately I’ve been working with Southern Ontario farmers and rural communities. I’m very drawn to work that connects rural and urban people and communities, and I’m reflecting on humbling questions around how we work with peace to tackle challenges that are so much bigger than any of us. In 2019, this led me to launch Regenerative Bioregional Community of Practice & Landscape Survey and to produce an interactive Permaculture in Ontario map. 
Here's a link to Hoffmann Hayes too, a joint venture I started with Daniel Hoffmann, an organic farmer and social worker, to help developers put urban agriculture into their buildings. We start 6-7 years before the building is built - in the design phase - and then after people move in, we work with the residents for about 2 years to help them grow food. We also help them grow a community that can run the garden together for years to come. 
If anyone is interested in connecting further about growing social permaculture in big cities, as well as across regions, please be in touch. 
Jane Hayes
(416) 534-4656
Book your quick consults or longer meetings with me at
You might also enjoy exploring the Permaculture in Ontario Map. "


Previous Episode: Hope as a Permaculture Principle with Levi Gardner