Social Ecology

Ecologies of Participation

Observing the last 5 years of work/play (what we call “plerk”) at TLC Farm, we've observed that there's quite a variety of different ways that people participate. All of these are just rough outlines, and many people fit between or beyond these categories (of course).

Some people are generalists: they're excited about many different kinds of plerk, and will respond to a wide variety of requests for help. Eg. cobbing a wall, canvassing a neighborhood, coming to a meeting, answering emails. This is beneficial for its flexibility & openness!

Others are specialists: there's a specific kind of engagement that they really dig, and that's mostly all they'll do: bookkeeping, teaching, farm hosting, etc. This is beneficial for its focus & expertise!

Some people are rooted: they have long-term, regular commitment to this place and project. Whether a couple times a year or almost every day, their participation is consistent. This is beneficial for its reliability & history!

Others are nomadic: they may be really focused on TLC Farm for a while, and then be off to another project across town or across the world. This is beneficial for its intensity & cross-pollination!

Some people are solitary: they really prefer to do something alone, if possible. This is great for minimizing the coordination of schedules etc. to get things accomplished.

Others love guilds: they do best when surrounded by a tight, highly functional groups with complementing abilities. This is awesome for ongoing working groups or projects where a variety of perspectives are key.

And others are communal: they love being part of a big community event with the energy of lots of different people. This is perfect for getting a lot done quickly.

Some people are looking to be (learners or) mitochondria: they'd like the steps in accomplishing something to be laid out for them. This is great when someone else has a clear idea of what needs to be done and just needs more hands.

Others feel called to be (coordinators or) enzymes: they're motivated to help bring all the different pieces and people together, co-create goals, support folk in reaching them, etc. This is valuable when folk want to just get out and do things but lack a structure for it.

Still others want to be (advisors or) neurotransmitters: they're best suited to offering verbal or written perspective on how to improve decisions or actions, rather than implementing things themselves. This is great for getting outside perspective & expert wisdom from someone with lots of experience, etc.

There are obviously a lot more categories! Still, having some idea where you see yourself in these terms will help us to know how best to support you in engaging in the way you want to here.

Start your own project

Anyone can propose a project, and it can take any form as long it meets the following criteria:

  • It furthers the mission of TLC Farm.
  • It has a co-creative accountability structure – that is, there's an agreed process (no matter how intuitive and dynamic) for taking next steps, evaluating outcomes, and supporting follow-through. This includes an oversight relationship with one or more mentors and/or WGs.
  • Its scope, resource budget, and plans are proposed to and approved by the relevant WGs.

This is how the living, breathing work of TLC Farm happens, and our focus is on figuring more and better ways to help different kinds of people become more effective, more healed, and more aligned with spirit and the earth.

Once you've got an idea and (some of) the people to make it happen, contact to take the next step by making a proposal at a working group or spokescouncil meeting!


Repeats every week until Mon Dec 31 2012 .
Jan 5 2009 - 12:00am - 11:55pm
Jan 12 2009 - 12:00am - 11:55pm

TLC Farm is closed on Mondays. This means that no TLC Farm events can be scheduled for that day, and that the public is not permitted on the land.

Global allies: Jenny building links between TLC Farm and Kufunda

Global allies: Jenny building links between TLC Farm and Kufunda

Navigate gallery: (thumbnails represent previous and following two images, if present, surrounding current image)

Organizational Structure painting

Organizational Structure painting

Navigate gallery: (thumbnails represent previous and following two images, if present, surrounding current image)

TLC Farm 2007 Accomplishments

TLC Farm Accomplishments in 2007

Land Projects
*Shaped bioswales and planted native plants to direct and store storm water in three different areas of TLC Farm. Transformed approximately 15,375 square feet (over a third of an acre!) from invasive blackberries into food forests and organic gardens.

*Site for the 7th Village Building Convergence, hosting workshops on food foresting, weeding for fertility, and swales/greywater. VBC participants removed blackberries, planted a food forest and re-designed the Village Green.

*Installed Portland's first public composting toilets! Along with increasing TLC Farm's ability to host visitors and classes, the toilets are a new educational tool, inspiring a PSU Master's Thesis and discussions about sewage and composting with every field trip that visits the farm.

*Successfully birthed and raised six baby goats, and sold 90 gallons of raw goat milk from TLC Farm.

Partnerships and Advocacy
*New and continuing partnerships with SERA Architects, Shining Star Waldorf School, Trackers NW, City Repair, Architects Without Borders, Architects For Humanity, Ancestral Lifeways Community, Portland Permaculture Guild, Coalition for a Livable Future, Center for a Sustainable Today, Salmon Nation, Sunroot Gardens, Cedar Moon, and more!

*Partnered with Shining Star Waldorf School to host Mother Earth Kindergarten, the nation's first bio-immersion kindergarten.

*Launched ReCode Portland, a campaign to develop new legal codes and permitting processes to allow for sustainable residential design.

Hands-on Sustainability Youth Education Program
* Hosted 103 field trips to over 1200 students and 300 adult chaperones.

* 19 volunteer teachers gave 292 teacher hours

* All classes provided on a donation basis, with $5540 in donations received this year

* Held TLC Farm's first sustainability-focused summer camp and second annual youth drum camp.

* Helped catalyze networking meetings with other farm/garden educational programs in Portland

* Received a $20,000 grant from Spirit Mountain Community Fund
and hired Matt Gordon as part-time education coordinator.

Community Education
*Hosted the Earth Activist Training in May, a two-week residential permaculture design certification course for 20 participants.

*Received a $3,500 Community Watershed Grant from the Bureau of Environmental Services to construct educational land signs, and have begun to design and construct the signs.

*Completed a comprehensive guide to over 100 medicinal plants found or grown at TLC Farm, which is available both on our website and as a laminated compilation to use while visiting the farm.

*Hosted over 20 community workshops on a variety of sustainability-related topics.

*Hosted seven interns, with internships from one week to one year,

*Hosted service projects with groups including Nike, PSU, AEI, Riverdale High School, Gilkey Middle School, Lewis & Clark College, and Northwest Service Academy Americorps.

Approximately 120 volunteers gave about 8,800 hours — WOW!!! TLC Farm is truly a volunteer effort, fueled by the love and generosity of the community. Thanks for another great year!


The Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust (OSALT) is a non-profit trust that holds land in various ways to ensure that it is used for research and education into sustainability. OSALT holds title to the land TLC Farm occupies, and enforces a 99-year ground lease that ensures that activities on the land support sustainability research and education purposes. Their website provides information about the various properties they hold title to, announcements of upcoming events, and information about educational activities, as well as other useful material.

Feedback and participation welcome! Please send bug reports to

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