August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Lauren's Garden

Last week I was in the presence of a master.  For more than 25 years, Lauren Chase-Rowell has skillfully and intuitively cultivated the land around her house in Nottingham, NH to the point that it exists in great harmony with the beautiful farm house, people and fauna occupying that space.  Lauren is an ecological landscaper, organic farmer, and permaculture design teacher.  Her home, Dalton’s Pasture Farm (not pictured above), is a vibrant classroom and testament to the possibility of practicing earth-centered living.

I visited Lauren at the invitation of her neighbor, Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative, to discuss my/our evolving vision of creating opportunities for people to cultivate the skills and perspectives required to bring us back into balance with local and global ecosystems.  As we discussed our beliefs about the leadership competencies for getting us on track, Lauren weaved in constant metaphors from her amazing permaculture garden, which has achieved near regenerative capacity.  Three that I want to share in this entry are the concepts of biodiversity, biodynamism, and bioelasticity.

  • Biodiversity – One of the keys of success to Lauren’s garden (lush despite a 4 week drought and with minimal intervention on the gardener’s part) is the inherent diversity of the system she has designed.  Diversity exists with respect to the assortment of plants, trees, and shrubs in the garden as well as the life (not “pests”) intentionally attracted by these elements to help manage the system (birds, bugs, etc.).  Everything serves a purpose and is honored for such, all of which serves a greater whole.  The interactions between these diverse elements form a web that creates a richness and resilience beneficial to wildlife and humans alike.
  • Biodynamism – Biodynamic agriculture is an approach to organic farming that has roots in the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner.  Lauren seems less interested in Steiner’s specific philosophy than she is in the perspective that her garden is part of a larger systemic whole, and that it’s tending is aided by awareness of and action around various atmospheric and elemental cycles.  In other words, she sees her garden as an open system and is aware of and works with the vital energy flows within and without.
  • Bioelasticity – As described by Lauren, this concept is what drives her practice of setting aside the best specimens of each of her crop so that they go to seed and can be planted for the next season, rather than consumed.  Taking a long view, she sees the plants in her garden as going through a learning curve to adjust to a particular (and changing) environment and encourages successful and ongoing adaptation by constantly reinvesting and feeding learning back into the system.

These three concepts leave me much to ponder as I consider how to practice and encourage more synergistic and sustainability-oriented leadership through paying attention to and honoring diversity, systems dynamics, and nurturing adaptive capacity.  More insights from the master gardener tomorrow . . .

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  • Gibran says:

    Amazing perspective! I love how “rooted” / “grounded” it is in a successful and vibrant organic practice. The idea of shifting from driver to gardener seems appropriate for our time. Inspired by the very thought of organizational and leadership structures that are organically allowed to grow more diverse, more dynamic and more elastic.

  • Charlie says:

    There is so much to be said for these concepts and the discipline it takes to maintain a long view. Thanks for sharing, Curtis.

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