Tobias Roberts

After working in the development industry for over a decade, Tobias decided it was time to stop advising Central American farmers how to do things if he didn´t have a piece of land to live coherently with what he taught. Together with his family he runs a small agro-forestry farm, tourism cooperative, and natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador.

The Problems with Corporations and Phantom Wealth

In the late 1800´s, corporations became people. It´s kind of hard to imagine Shell or Wal-Mart or other immensely large companies as a person that could be considered your neighbor, but for judicial and legal purposes, corporations have many of the same rights and protections as any ordinary person. Corporate personhood paved the way for mega-corporations to effectively govern the world. Of the world´s 100 largest economies, 51 of them […]

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The Mindset of Monoculture

Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, it has been fairly easy to fall into the mindset of monoculture. The lure of big machines offering us power and control; making our lives easier in some senses, but more complicated in others; has led us into an all-encompassing embrace of the mindset and paradigm that made the modern-day world possible. For thousands of years, we collectively labored away at a lifestyle […]

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The Watson Wick Flush Toilet System

During a recent visit to a friend´s organic farm in Costa Rica, I made my way up the steps to his composting toilet system surrounded by bamboo posts and palm-thatched roofing. As I sat there listening to the birds, I noticed a small poster hanging on the door. It was a comic strip with two drawings. The first drawing showed two extraterrestrials staring into a toilet with question marks over […]

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Perennial Polycultures and the Richness of Diversity

The Way Nature Provides Imagine walking down a country road. On one side of the road, you see acres and acres of corn grown in neat rows. On the other side of the road stands an old-growth forest filled with towering trees and a thick underbrush. If you were to ask anyone which side of the road produced the most food, almost everyone would say that the cornfield is a […]

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Black Maca, Mashua, and the Richness of Andean Tubers

For thousands of years, the ancient Incan empire developed a strong, resilient agriculture system that thrived even in the tough climate of the highlands of the Andes Mountains. One of the principles of their agricultural development was the diversification of different species that were well adapted to the local climatic conditions. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN considers the Andes region to be one of the […]

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A Primer on Raising Goats

Goats have gotten a reputation as one of the peskiest, most irritating, and bothersome farm animals. Images of “Billy” goats eating tin cans or tearing clothing off the line as it dries have been commonplace for several generations. While raising goats certainly does come with its own set of challenges, many of the supposed challenges to raising goats can be adequately dealt with through proper design that best utilizes the […]

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No-Till Farming for Healthier Soil and Lifestyles

Masanobu Fukuoka, the late Japanese farmer, developed a unique farming system he called “Natural Farming.” Trying to replicate what he saw in Nature, Fukuoka´s no till system allowed the soil to continually grow in fertility. Through the use of mulch and cover crops, this system effectively allows for continuous harvests of crop rotations, eliminates weeds and builds healthy top soil allowing for organic food production that is ecologically sustainable. Problems […]

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What Animals and a Barn Offer to Permaculture Design

The Importance of Animals in Permaculture Landscapes Our agrarian past reminds us that farming without animals is like trying to drive a car without gasoline. While crop rotations, cover crops and periodically maintaining the land fallow were some strategies our grandparents used for keeping the farm productive, the dairy cow, the flock of chickens, and the few hogs were the guarantee of the continued fertility of the fields. When done […]

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The Importance of Pasture: How to take Advantage of What Animals Bring to the Farm

While barns are important on any farm, keeping animals on pasture is almost always the better option. Pasture raised animals are usually much healthier and the meat and other animal based food products they offer come with much more nutrients when those animals are raised in a natural setting. From a humanist and ethical standpoint, animals that are allowed to live outside for the majority of their lives are much […]

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The Need to Limit Energy Use

Energy: An Addiction or a Necessity? Energy is arguably the most defining aspect of industrial civilization. For the first couple hundred thousand years of human existence, our ability to affect the world around us was limited by the amount of energy the human body can produce. It is estimated that, on average, a fit laborer can produce about 75 Watts of energy over an eight hour period. To those of […]

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The Importance of Guilds and Nitrogen Fixers

How is it that the natural world provides excessive abundance while not relying on any external sources of nutrients? Nature produces her own fertility needs, firstly through accumulating organic matter on the soil surface which protects the soil, adds to the layer of humus, and stimulates the biological activity of the soil. The natural world, however, also takes advantage of the abundance of nitrogen in the air to supply plants […]

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What Zone 5 Has Taught Me

Defining those infamous “zones” across your landscape is one of the first and most cherished challenges that newcomers to permaculture embrace. For most people, the idea of defining certain tasks and characteristics to different areas of the land seems like a common sense idea, and the permaculture concept of zones offers a straightforward path towards that end. It also allows people to begin to envision the transformation of the landscape […]

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