In 2009, Brandon Moncrief received his PDC at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California with Penny Livingston-Stark and other great teachers. Here he was an intern for 9 months and met some incredible people. Enjoying wwoofing and being an intern on other farms, he was able to get a real-life snapshot of what it is like to live on a homestead, grow lots of food, and take care of animals. Brandon has lived in various climates and eco-regions. Currently he is developing his property in Costa Rica and has 2.5 acres that he is designing, planting, and enjoying.
Introduction to Permaculture
In this blog post, we explore Brandon Moncrief’s introduction to permaculture—a fascinating journey fuelled by diverse interests and experiences. Brandon’s love for sustainable building and survival skills, combined with his tech background, led him to search for a way to apply these concepts to nature. Discover how his encounter with permaculture became the missing puzzle piece that harmonized his passions and set him on a transformative path of ecological design and deep connections with the natural world.
After completing an internship in Montana, Brandon decided to delve deeper into his newfound passion for permaculture by embarking on a journey of experiential learning through WWOOFing.
Having spent years dedicated to soccer, Brandon reached a pivotal moment in his life where he questioned his true purpose and desires. At 25 years old, he knew he wanted more from life than just sports. Seeking a meaningful path, he embraced the concept of sustainable living and ecological design.
With a strong desire to explore permaculture further, Brandon and his partner, Ashley, decided to join the WWOOFing program. WWOOF, short for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” connects volunteers with organic farmers to exchange labor for valuable hands-on learning experiences.
WWOOFing provided Brandon with an immersive and transformative education in permaculture. Traveling to different farms, he exchanged his efforts for practical knowledge and gained a deeper understanding of sustainable farming practices. Through these experiences, he developed a profound connection with the land and its caretakers.
During his time WWOOFing, Brandon participated in various programs and attended festivals, further expanding his knowledge and network within the permaculture community. He actively sought opportunities to learn and grow, and in return, he contributed his dedication and passion to each farm he visited.
Brandon’s journey unfolded in unexpected but beautiful ways. His decision to embrace WWOOFing led him to not only accumulate valuable skills and insights but also to discover the richness of experiential learning. Each new farm and experience became a stepping stone in his permaculture education.
WWOOFing became a pivotal chapter in Brandon Moncrief’s permaculture education. By immersing himself in diverse farming communities, he gained invaluable hands-on experience and expanded his knowledge of sustainable living practices. This transformative journey of learning and exchanging efforts served as a foundation for his future endeavors, paving the way for his continued growth in the world of permaculture.
PDC with Penny Livingston-Stark
Brandon Moncrief obtained his Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) under the guidance of permaculture expert Penny Livingston-Stark. Brandon’s dedication and commitment as an intern on the farm granted him the privilege of participating in the comprehensive Four Seasons course, offering a unique and immersive learning experience.
As an intern on the farm, Brandon immersed himself in the world of permaculture, contributing his efforts while gaining valuable insights into sustainable farming practices. This engagement provided him with a solid foundation, making him eager to explore permaculture further through a formal PDC course.
One of the perks of being an intern on the farm was the opportunity to access the highly coveted PDC with Penny Livingston-Stark. This nine-month course was thoughtfully designed, allowing participants to absorb the knowledge in smaller increments. The course structure encouraged students to integrate the teachings into practical applications, enabling a deeper understanding of permaculture principles.
The Four Seasons course offered Brandon the chance to learn and practice permaculture in sync with the changing seasons. This approach allowed him to observe the site’s dynamics, reflect on the teachings, and implement permaculture design concepts thoughtfully and effectively.
Brandon’s PDC journey was more than just an educational pursuit; it was a transformative experience. Throughout the nine months, he immersed himself in permaculture, embracing its ethos of regenerative design, sustainability, and ecological harmony.
By taking the course in smaller increments, Brandon had the time to observe and reflect on the concepts taught. This process enhanced his ability to think critically and apply the principles to real-world scenarios, further solidifying his understanding of permaculture design.
Brandon Moncrief’s PDC journey with Penny Livingston-Stark was an incredibly rewarding nine-month experience. As an intern on the farm, he earned the opportunity to engage in a well-structured Four Seasons course, which allowed him to fully absorb and apply permaculture principles in harmony with nature’s cycles. This comprehensive learning approach deepened Brandon’s connection to permaculture, preparing him for the meaningful contributions he would make in the permaculture community in the years to come.
The Farming Experience
In this blog post, we explore Brandon Moncrief’s transformative experiences while working on various farms and living in eco-communities. From milking goats to understanding the dynamics of self-sufficiency, each farm visit offered unique insights into sustainable living. Moreover, living in ecovillages provided Brandon with valuable lessons on communal living and inspired his decisions for the future.
Brandon’s journey into permaculture was marked by “blended learning.” By combining internships, farm visits, and formal courses like the PDC, he obtained a well-rounded and comprehensive education in permaculture principles and practices.
Visiting different farms exposed Brandon to the diverse world of sustainable agriculture. From milking goats to raising chickens, each experience provided a deeper understanding of the commitment and nuances involved in homesteading and self-sufficiency.
Every farm Brandon visited was unique, reflecting the goals, capabilities, and resources of its owners. Witnessing the varying approaches to sustainable living and the challenges faced by each farm was an eye-opening experience.
Apart from farm experiences, Brandon also delved into the world of ecovillages and communal living. He lived in places like Full Bloom in southern Oregon, where he witnessed firsthand the governance, internal workings, and sustainable practices of such communities.
Living in ecovillages allowed Brandon to interact with people from different backgrounds, each bringing their unique knowledge and insights. Engaging with this diverse group expanded his awareness and inspired him to embrace different aspects of sustainable living in his own journey.
Transitioning into an eco-community represents a paradigm shift for many, including Brandon. He acknowledges that communal living requires individuals to confront their own reflections and deal with the dynamics that arise among members. Despite being viewed as a “permaculture hippie thing,” Brandon embraced the idea of living in a community to explore new possibilities.
Brandon found eco-communities to be diverse in their governance structures. Some properties where he worked as an intern had strict rules to follow, while others encouraged members’ active involvement in decision-making processes. The experience at Full Bloom, an eco-village in Oregon, allowed Brandon to invest and participate in shaping the community’s direction.
Living in eco-communities taught Brandon that the journey of communal living is an ongoing conversation. Finding a model that perfectly aligns with everyone’s needs and desires can be challenging, as each community is unique and subjective. Brandon believes that continuous dialogue and adaptation are key to fostering harmonious living arrangements.
Brandon mentioned Marcelo’s work in creating GoVia which he views as a shining example of a successful eco-community. GoVia’s success lies in the harmonious collaboration and mutual respect among its members.
While eco-communities have their allure, Brandon appreciates the value of individuality. He believes that it’s essential to find a balance between communal living and retaining one’s personal freedom. Brandon shares his preference for a neighborhood setting, which allows for a sense of community without rigid rules and restrictions.
Brandon’s family history offers a valuable lesson on the complexities of community living. His grandfather’s attempt to create a pilot community faced legal challenges, highlighting the importance of addressing human elements and communication in communal ventures.
Brandon Moncrief’s experiences in eco-communities provide a wealth of insights into the challenges and rewards of communal living. His journey demonstrates that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and finding the right community involves understanding personal values, governance structures, and individual needs. Embracing ongoing conversations and open-mindedness are crucial for establishing successful eco-communities. Ultimately, each person must find their unique patch—a space where they can flourish while being part of a larger communal experience.
After various experiences, Brandon eventually settled in Costa Rica. Here, he found a place where he could put his acquired knowledge and values into practice, creating a lasting impact on the environment and the community.
Brandon Moncrief’s journey through different farms and eco-communities shaped his permaculture philosophy and provided him with invaluable experiences. From milking goats to embracing communal living, each encounter contributed to his growth as a permaculturist and reinforced his commitment to sustainable living. Today, Brandon’s roots are firmly planted in Costa Rica, where he continues to embody the principles of permaculture and eco-consciousness, making a positive difference in the world around him.
Lifestyle Design for Family
The Moncriefs’ journey involved various relocations and real estate ventures, ultimately leading them to Costa Rica due to its self-directed learning opportunities for kids.
Brandon’s wife was passionate about home births, leading them to have their children at home with the assistance of midwives. This decision set the foundation for their holistic approach to parenting and education.
Throughout their journey, the Moncriefs embraced diverse experiences, living in different states, and engaging in various activities such as working on farms and real estate projects. They appreciated exploring life from different angles, allowing them to gain a broader perspective.
Discovering eco-community, GoVia, through the show “Down to Earth with Zac Efron,” inspired the family to explore Costa Rica. They were drawn to the self-directed learning approach of the local school and decided to embark on a new adventure.
The school in Costa Rica encouraged self-directed learning for children, allowing them to develop at their own pace. The educators aimed to foster independence, guiding students to take on challenges when they felt ready.
Brandon appreciates the school’s philosophy of letting kids find their curiosity and embrace challenges on their own. While he likes being engaged and supportive, he also values allowing his children to cultivate their own interests.
Brandon Moncrief’s lifestyle design for his family centers on creating a dynamic and exploratory environment for his children. By embracing self-directed learning and allowing them to take the lead in their education, the Moncriefs foster independence and curiosity in their kids. Their journey of diverse experiences and openness to new opportunities has shaped a holistic approach to family life that values growth, curiosity, and embracing new adventures.
Brandon Moncrief’s passion for design started with his exposure to permaculture principles through the PDC and the Global Gardener series. He was inspired to learn permaculture skills and implement them in his own life. As he delved deeper into the permaculture world, he realized the value of design in creating sustainable and regenerative systems.
When Brandon joined Food Forest Abundance, he had the opportunity to apply his design skills on a larger scale.
Before Food Forest Abundance, Brandon had already been designing for himself and his family’s projects, using his creativity to add value to their homes and spaces. He found joy in the design process and saw it as a natural extension of his thought process.
Regarding design software, Brandon experimented with various free options but ultimately settled on Affinity Designer. He appreciated its functionality and found it to be a great fit for his needs. The one-time payment model made it a cost-effective and accessible choice for his design work.
As Brandon continues his permaculture journey with Grow Your Grass Off, he embraces Affinity Designer as a powerful tool for creating base maps and designs. His use of Affinity Designer exemplifies his approach to permaculture—finding sustainable solutions that work well within his resources and align with his values.
Coaching Grow Your Grass Off
Grow Your Grass Off (GYGO) is a company founded by Dr. Ian Scott and Lana Medina, along with Brandon Moncrief. GYGO aims to provide comprehensive support and coaching for beginner gardeners who want to transition from conventional grass lawns to food-producing landscapes. Their focus is on the suburban landscape, helping clients grow their own food in a sustainable and regenerative manner.
GYGO offers various services, including coaching sessions, personal training, and permaculture design. The coaching sessions involve consultations to understand the client’s goals and provide guidance on how to proceed with their gardening projects. The personal training program is centered on accountability, providing clients with an app-based platform to stay on track with their tasks and deliverables.
As for the company’s name, “Grow Your Grass Off,” it represents the idea of shifting the emphasis from traditional grass lawns to productive food gardens. The goal is to cultivate a harmonious environment where nature is brought back, and food production becomes the main focus, making the grass more of a supplemental element rather than the centerpiece.
GYGO ‘s mission is to educate and empower individuals to implement permaculture principles effectively in their gardens. By offering ongoing support and guidance, they aim to help clients create sustainable and regenerative landscapes that are not reliant on harmful chemicals and emphasize the importance of living soil and sustainable practices.
Overall, GYGO seeks to be a source of inspiration and knowledge for those who want to make a positive impact on their environment, grow their own food, and cultivate a deeper connection with nature.
Building a Homestead in Costa Rica
Armed with passion and curiosity, Brandon delved into creating a harmonious space where nature and humans coexist in perfect balance. With two and a half acres of land at his disposal, he began to conceptualize the layout, incorporating food forests, fish ponds, and polycarbonate-sheet greenhouses.
Building the Casita: One of the key elements of the homestead is the casita, a charming A-frame house nestled amidst the tropical greenery. The casita features a loft, a cozy living room, a well-equipped kitchen, and a balcony that offers breathtaking views of the jungle. He recently completed the construction of the casita, and it’s now available for those who seek an experiential stay in the heart of nature.
Final Thoughts From Brandon
As I look back on our conversation, one significant theme stands out—the importance of breaking free from the scarcity mindset and fostering a culture of collaboration and support within the permaculture community.
In permaculture, we have the potential to create abundant and sustainable solutions for various challenges, whether it’s addressing supply chain issues or finding eco-friendly alternatives to combat insect problems. However, to fully harness the power of permaculture, we must shift away from the idea of limited resources and embrace a mindset of abundance.
By supporting one another and sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can collectively elevate the field of permaculture and accelerate our progress towards a greener and more sustainable world. Cross-pollination, in the sense of collaborative efforts and networking, can lead to transformative growth and positive impacts on a larger scale.
As permaculturists, we should celebrate each other’s successes and lift each other up, acknowledging that we are all part of a greater movement striving for a better future. Together, we can overcome challenges, learn from one another, and build a stronger and more connected community.
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