Hands-on Sustainability Education

Hands-On Sustainability Program

Tryon Life Community Farm provides students of all ages with opportunities to connect with the natural world and each other to create a true sense of place and community. Our goal is to encourage people to develop a lifelong appreciation of the processes that support life, and to offer wisdom on how to steward them sustainably. To do this we offer this space for collaborative learning about social and ecological responsibility.

The Hands-On Sustainability Program offers one-time and multiple visit field trip experiences for students of all ages to come and learn about applied sustainability and creating community in a participatory way.

Activities include an interactive farm tour and seasonally appropriate hands-on activities and lessons on specific sustainability and ecology themes in these areas: ecological gardening, natural building, restoration and watershed ecology, and ecological living skills. We also offer service-learning projects.

Facilities include:

  • "Village Green" open gathering area
  • Outdoor kitchen (with earthen ovens)
  • Ecological Living Demonstration Projects (gardens, animals, naturally built structures, etc.)
  • Trail leading into Tryon Creek State Park (650-acre forest)
  • Large organic garden to nibble at and work in
  • goats, chickens, and bees
  • and much more!

Bring your group out to the farm!

Field Trip Scheduling: TLC Farm offers field trips Tuesday through Saturday.  We are an all-volunter program, and will work with you to coordinate a time that is good for your group and our volunteers.  The farm is open to the public Tuesday-Sunday between 9-6pm for self-guided tours, and it is closed on Mondays.

Cost : TLC Farm runs on donations, and requests that visiting classes donate $10/visit plus $5 or more per student if at all possible.

Contact us: For further information or to arrange a visit, please contact our education coordinators, at  edu[at] or by calling 503.245.3847.

Groups served include: Portland area schools, Boys and Girls Aid Society of Oregon, Girl Scouts, Portland Impact, Head Start, YMCA, Pacific Crest Community School, Waldorf schools, International School, charter schools, Lewis and Clark College PSU, PCC, and homeschool groups. Click here for our calendar to see who's visiting us!

Recflections about the program:
"Many of the students were totally new to the concepts of intentional living and, during discussions, expressed that they got a lot out of what they experienced at the farm. We would like to (endlessly) thank you for your patience with everyone. Earthen building was their favourite activity, but canning and making cheese was also a highlight for many people during reflections throughout the rest of the trip - as well as learning about the edibility of plants like fennel & broccoli leaf. The space was excellent for the students to open up to each other." - Hannah, coordinator of a New Student Orientation group from Pacific University

Resource Links:

Interested in starting a school garden? Check out this great school garden resource web page from local group Growing Gardens.

Other local educational farms:

Zenger Farm - located in SE Portland in the Lents neighborhood
Sauvie Island Center - located north of
Portland on Sauvie Island
Organic Education Center at Luscher Farm - located outside Portland in West Linn

Ethnobotany Education Program


We're SO excited to introduce a new focus for our Hands-on Sustainability Education Program.  Introducing:

Beyond Nature as Backdrop: Interactive Ethnobotany Education will provide students from k-12 with field trips to explore the importance of plants, native and cultivated, for food, medicine, and more. . . 

 TLC Farm is adding a curriculum focus on ethnobotany to our Hands-on Sustainability Education program. This project in direct response to the high level of enthusiasm we have seen in field trip participants when introduced to the idea of creating their own plant-based medicines and crafts.  

Through TLC Farm's Hands-on Sustainability education focus on ethnobotany, students, teachers and parent participants will learn more about the native plants that the Tualatin Kalapuya (the first peoples in our watershed) used for food, medicine and materials, and will also learn about medicinal herbs from around the world that now grow on this land.  We have observed that the simple act of learning plants that can provide sustenance and healing has enabled participants to view the world in a wholly new way.  Food, medicine and materials become something that one can grow or gather oneself or in one's community – not things where the means of production and access are controlled by outside forces.  

If you are interested in learning more about this program, or scheduling a class visit, please contact us at



Learn more about Recode!

Launched by TLC Farm in 2007, Recode is now an autonomous project with its own website:, office space, and director Melora Golden who can be reached at: info at recodenow dot org

Read on for a brief summary of Recode's goals, and see bottom of page to sign up for email announcement list, and download relevant files.

Recode is an organization that brings together citizens, planners, builders, activists, and other stakeholders in developing, coordinating, and building the movement for regulations that support grassroots sustainability.


·       facilitates collaboration among the existing organizations and people doing various aspects of the work;

·       creates space for grassroots groups in the discussion; and

·       specifically advocates for acting within a strategy of systemic change.

Sign Up for Recode’s newsletter:


Community Workshops


TLC Farm is an amazing place to learn ideas and practices for growing sustainable culture.  We are currently taking a break from creating our own workshops, and we plan to offer more in the near future.  Meanwhile, please check out the list of past workshops, and also feel free to contact us with a workshop that you would like to host on the land. 
 Past workshop topics have included:

  • Earthen plasters
  • Wild fermented foods
  • Medicinal plant identification
  • Introduction to Bonsai
  • Basic Gardening
  • Permaculture Design
  • Carpentry for women
  • Primitive Skills
  • Cheesemaking
  • Chickens!
  • Needle Felting
  • Bird language and tracking
  • Earth Activist Training (a permaculture design course)
  • Plant wisdom and earth songs
  • Zen meditation
  • African drumming
  • Food forest design
  • Indigenous lifeways
  • and many more!

Most workshops ask for a donation on a sliding scale or offer work-trade, to assist in paying for the presenter, facilities, and materials. Want to present a workshop? email or call our office at 503-245-3847.

Volunteer Educators

Kids in Greenhouse with Education Intern Alycia Bouyanan

Do you have a passion for working with kids in an outdoor setting? Are you excited to learn about sustainability while passing on your knowledge to the next generation? Then get involved in our Hands-On Sustainability youth education program by becoming a 'Volunteer Educator.' Now recruiting volunteers for 2014.

Volunteer Educator Position Description
(possible internship or independent study credit available)

Our Hands-on Sustainability Program engages youth ages preschool through college in an interactive farm tour and hands-on activities and lessons on specific sustainability and ecology themes (gardening, natural building, forest ecology, restoration, etc.). There are opportunities for volunteers to develop ongoing relationships with groups that visit regularly.

Volunteer Educators will lead youth field trip activities at Tryon Life Community Farm using activities from TLC Farm's Curriculum and their own creativity.

Volunteer Training:

Training for each volunteer educator includes attending a training session and observing / co-teaching 1-2 classes before being the primary teacher for visiting students.

Sign up for our next Volunteer Training! Check in late spring 2014 - date TBA. Contact Isobel at hos(at) for more info and to register. Training is free and lunch will be provided.

Volunteer Commitment: We are now recruiting volunteers who can commit to leading regular field trips throughout the winter and spring (although a longer commitment would be great!) Each volunteer will commit to leading a trip twice per month. We can arrange your commitment based upon your current schedule and the requests we get from interested youth groups and schools. Field trips are usually scheduled 9am and 5pm, Wednesdays-Saturdays.


Requirements: Volunteers must have prior experience working with youth in an educational setting. Experience with sustainability education is a plus, but not required. Must be willing to have a background check if you do not currently work within a school system or other employer where it was recently required.

For more information please contact our Hands on Sustainability Education Coordinator. 

Email: hos (at)

Farm Phone: 503.245.3847

Land Projects


At TLC Farm, Portland's sustainability movements are creating one example of how urban density human habitat can coexist with thriving food systems and native ecologies. Our demonstration projects, all of which are workshopped and volunteer-run, illustrate how specific technologies and practices work, and how they can interconnect.

Of course, you're welcome to come and walk through the land, learning from the signs along the self-guided tour. But the best way to get involved and learn about what it's like to build a new world, is to help create it alongside the rest of us!

The areas we're focused on are:

Primarily focused on food production using standard organic and permaculture techniques: sheet mulching for weed control, interplanting, insectivories, etc. Primarily annuals and small perennials. Coordinated through the Garden working group, which has regular meetings.
Food Forests
Planning and implementing multi-story food forests both within existing native forest and orchard areas, and from scratch. In the medium-term we intend to establish a Food Forest Research Center in collaboration with local permaculturists, educational institutions, and urban policy planners. The purpose will be to develop experimental trials of various micro-habitat configurations and assess human food productivity, native habitat suitability, and human habitat usability. The goal will be to identify combinations that can be used on both public and private land to create corridors of stacked habitat and function. We are starting to meet on Tuesdays (child care coop!) to plan and implement food forest designs.
Working with volunteer professional architects, designers, and builders, TLC Farm pushes the envelope for regenerative design in Portland: built environments that are fully integrated into energy, water, food ("waste"), and habitat cycles with the rest of the local ecology. This includes a wide variety of demonstration natural building techniques (strawbale infill, cob, light straw/clay, earthen plaster, earthen paint, poured earth, earthbag, etc.). Saturday work parties frequently include a building element.
    Water flow
We intend to wean ourselves from city water, and to catch and use as much of our stormwater as possible (while keeping all our inside places dry). Our planning calls for bioremediation for runoff, multiple rainwater cisterns, multiple irrigation/aquaculture ponds, greywater systems, keyline swales, and possibly a nanohydro generation system.
    Domestic partners
TLC Farm currently manages a flock of chickens and herd of goats, and hosts several honeybee hives. The goats especially offer a wealth of volunteer opportunities: learn to milk goats, tend to their needs, and help them eat our blackberries. The goat working group meets irregularly; contact to get connected.
    Native habitat
Starting with the edges of the forest, and moving inwards, we are improving the native habitat function of the land. At the same time as we are managing invasive species like ivy, blackberry, thistle, garlic mustard, knotweed, and the like, we are planning long-term perennial plant systems that will create environments conducive to native plants and animals. Contact for more details.

The easiest way to get connected is to come out to a workparty on Thursday or Saturday. Or contact us. Together, we're building a better world!

Rooted Spirituality

Tryon Life Community Farm extends a special invitation to all communities of faith:

Come share your unique wisdom here at TLC farm.

We welcome all efforts to inspire dialogue, generate workshops, and spawn ceremonies that inter-activate our highest spiritual potential.

  • How does your community root itself in its relationship to the earth?
  • How do the lessons and teachings of your community connect us deeper with the web of life?
  • How can we learn and work together for a healthier, wiser world?

A transformation towards just and sustainable economies requires a sea-change in values -- a dynamic necessarily founded in the ways of spirit. We accordingly seek to make TLC Farm accessible to all spiritual communities oriented towards the sacredness of the earth, and have hosted services and gatherings of Native American, Buddhist, Wiccan, Christian, Jewish, Sufi and other traditions, as well as interfaith ceremonies rooted in growing connection with the land.

In the past, TLC Farm has hosted blessings from Rabbis, Monks, and indigenous spiritual leaders. Currently, this land space holds a Native sweat lodge, earth-based altars built through community collaborations, rituals honoring the shift in seasons, and quiet sacred spaces.

Please contact us to discuss possibilities for occasional or regular engagement with this land and the networks connected through it.

TLC Farm provides common ground where a diversity of movements, communities and individuals in the metropolitan Portland region may:

  1. EDUCATE themselves and one other in skills, values, and paradigms for holistic human integration within our wider ecosystem;
  2. EXPERIENCE a sustainable urban ecology as possible, practical, and desirable; and
  3. EMERGE as empowered co-creators of cultures, economies, and polities of deep change.

We invite communities and individuals of faith to build a relationship with this land and the beautiful creatures co-habitating here. Please:

  • come visit this incredible land base,
  • create sacred space,
  • hold ceremonies and social gatherings,
  • and participate in the ongoing visioning of the sacred transformation of ourselves and this piece of Portland's legacy.

We seek to share this earthly sanctuary for group and personal renewal, meditation and prayer, rites of passage, celebrations, youth retreats, seasonal services, and spiritual ceremonies of all kinds.

TLC Monthly Workshop Series

Animal Husbandry Workshop, VBC May 2008

Welcome to our schedule of monthly workshops. We endeavor to be well-rounded in our exploration of what it takes to create a sustainable world, and hope that you will find both what you're looking for and what you never expected to find.

September 9-11
Plant Medicine & Disaster Herbalism
Come join us on the land for a weekend of learning about plant medicine, community building, and emergency preparedness. Friday will present several workshops with local herbalists, ranging from hands-on medicine making to plant meditation to facilitated conversations about herbalism, dynamics of privilege, and efforts for healing both people and place. Saturday & Sunday will be a two-day intensive, called Community and Herbal Approaches to Disaster Situations, with Leah Wolfe.

September 18, 10am-4 pm
Food Preservation
Just in time for harvest! Learn about and practice various methods of food preservation, including canning, freezing, drying and long-term produce storage. Using TLC Farm's garden, orchard and outdoor kitchen as a classroom,  this class will involve both discussion (your ideas, thoughts and wisdom invited!) and hands-on engagement with food preservation.  Sliding scale fee of $15-50, with worktrade options available. Kids welcome!
Please register for the class (and contact me early if you are interested in work trade) at

October 8-9
Natural Building
Get your hands dirty working with light/straw clay and earthen plaster to insulate & plaster our beautiful old barn. Class will be taught by expert earthen plasterer, Joshua Klyber (visit to view Joshua's work). Contact to register.

November 12-13
Human Resources for the Revolution!
Apply Permaculture Principles to social relationships, from individual, to group to the ecosystem of movement of movements. Learn practical skills and share reflective, interactive experiences for exploring our social ecology.

Unless otherwise noted, workshops have a sliding scale fee of $20-60/day, with worktrade options available.
Many of our workshops are family-friendly, with children's activities included. Start and end times vary - please check this website for details about each workshop closer to its date.


Herbalism for Intentional Communities


This six-weekend program is designed for members of intentional communities to learn the skills for sharing herbs and addressing the health needs of the collective experience with plant medicines.

The goal of the course is to bring herbal medicine back to its function as a group activity for communities to use to engage fully in sustainable relationships with the plants of their bioregion. The skills taught in the course are intended to be shared amongst all community members in such a way that taking care of each other can be a collective activity: making medicines together, taking herbs together, gardening and harvesting together, and healing together. We are seeking to generate the tools for off-the-grid health care that moves beyond the practitioner-client relationship, restoring the tribal method of healing as a community endeavor.

We are restoring herbal medicine as a collaborative act of promoting community health from within. Off-the-grid healthcare that everyone in a community can participate in. “Healthy communities take care of community health.”

Taught by local herbalists Erico Schleicher, Rebecca Reeder, and others


Curriculum is oriented towards community herbalism, including classes in botany of Northwest medicinal plants, harvesting and gardening, therapeutic actions, cooking with herbs, herbal first aid, medicine making as community ritual, and taking herbs as a shared experience. We will focus on identifying needs of community that can be addressed with plant medicines, such as first aid, shared emotional stresses, communicable illness, seasonal conditions, local toxins, and specific work-based issues.


Course Details:

  • Class size: 10-12
  • $900 if registered before Dec 15, $1000 after Dec 15.
  • plus $50 materials fee
  • Location: Tryon Life Community Farm in Southwest Portland
  • Option for out-of-town participants to stay at Tryon Farm overnight with slight extra cost
  • About 100 hours of study
  • Dates and times: Six weekends, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm


The 2011 dates are not set in stone, but with only slight possible adjustment they are:

  • February 12-13
  • April 2-3
  • May 21-22*
  • September 10-11
  • October 15-16
  • December 3-4

*subject to possible change


For more info about the course, follow this link to our webpage:

Or feel free to contact the instructors:

Erico 503.473.3899

Rebecca 510.495.4494

Application available for download below.

Permaculture Design Course at TLC Farm

Permaculture Course

TLC Farm will be hosting a full 72-hour Permaculture Design Course this summer. This course will be a two-week intensive that will meet from June 11th to 27th. The course can be taken as residential, or not. The fee for the non-residential option is $1000 - 850 sliding scale. The fee for the residential option is $1300 -1100. Limited work trade may be available. More about the course: A Permaculture Design Course explores sustainable human habitation. We begin with the ethics and principles of permaculture which support a philosophical reverence for life and provide a framework for making healthy choices. The objective of a Permaculture Design Course is to provide a comprehensive overview of sustainable futures, based on permaculture philosophy, techniques, and strategies that one could incorporate into their everyday life, or enhance their career. These courses provide hands-on experience. The intention is to facilitate a systems approach to thinking about different issues, encouraging care for the earth and its inhabitants as a diverse community. Topics Include: * Permaculture Philosophy & Ethics * Permaculture Principles * Concepts and Themes in Design * Permaculture methodology * Pattern Understanding * Reading the Landscape * Climatic Factors * Edible Landscaping & Organic Gardening * Trees and their Energy Transactions, Tree Crops * Water, Water Harvesting * Soils & Composting * Earthworking and Earth Resources * Natural Building * Animal Husbandry * Urban Permaculture * Appropriate Technology * Intentional Communities * Sustainable Forestry & Agroforestry * Ethnobotany/ethnoecology * Plant Propagation * Ecosystem & Native Plant Restoration * Mycology * Permaculture Networks * Bioregionalism * Local Economics * Ecological Design * Ecovillages * And more.. Instructor Bios: Marisha Auerbach will be the lead instructor of the course. Marisha has been practicing, studying, and teaching permaculture in the Pacific Northwest for the past decade. She encourages sustainable futures through sharing knowledge with others on a variety of topics including: permaculture, polyculture gardening, seed saving, flower and gem essences, local economics, community building, ethnobotany, herbalism, edible landscape design, and organic gardening among others.  Matt received his Master's Degree in Education with a focus on Leadership in Ecology, Culture & Learning from PSU in 2008 and is also a certified Permaculture Designer and Teacher. For more information about this course, please email or call Matt Bibeau at 503-245-3847. To be considered for this course, please fill out the questionnaire below and send to TLC Farm PDC Application Full and Preferred Name: Address: Phone: Email: 1. What is your experience with permaculture? What do you hope to do with this certification? 2. Do you have any dietary restrictions or allergies that we should know about? 3. Do you have any medical conditions or physical limitations that we should know about? (TLC Farm is not currently an ADA-accessible site, so any alter-abled students should let us know about their needs and concerns). 4. Are you applying for the residential (camping) or non-residential (commuting) option? 5. How did you hear about the course?

Feedback and participation welcome! Please send bug reports to

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