Milkwood wins Green Lifestyle award

Last week Milkwood Permaculture was the proud winner of the 2012 Green Lifestyles Awards in the Garden Company category.

We won it for being “a company whose products are consistently amazing, who are the pinnacle of sustainability behind the scenes, & who are working to green our food culture”. Wow. And I even got to meet Bob Brown at the awards ceremony, who’s been a household champion in my family since i was six. It was a pretty great night.

This award is really special to us because it recognizes that there is a new breed of social and ethical enterprises emerging who are changing and expanding what it means to create right livelihoods. From the start, we’ve been a permaculture enterprise, with our ethics at the core of what we do.

Over the years we’ve encountered a bit of flak here and there for devising permaculture livelihoods while working outside the accepted norm of non-profits, on the simplistic assumption that if you’re not a non-profit org then you must be a capitalist whore. But the world is much, much more complex than that, and so is the realm of ethical livelihoods.

I will, one day, write a pithy and concise article on exactly why we’ve chosen to be a Permaculture enterprise rather than a non-profit, but the simplified and summarised version is this:

We want to be part of a world full of small, ethical businesses, organizations and practitioners who are working to form a regenerative economy based on earth care, people care and fair share. We want to glean a right livelihood from what we’re passionate about, rather than having to work a non-regenerative day job to subsidize our passion.

We want to help save the world (and regenerate our communities and local foodsheds) full time.

We want to be transparent and honest, to create a positive and supportive community based on the outcomes of what we do, and we want to help create right livelihoods for others and be a working example of a crew of folks who can feed their families based on their permaculture work, to prove that it is possible.

We want to prove that you can make a living through permaculture without having to set up a charity to do it. We want a future world full of folks making a full-time living out of small farm enterprise, growing, designing, teaching and building permaculture systems.

We want to mainstream permaculture principles and thinking, and see permaculture theory incorporated into the design of many more aspects of towns, cities, financial structures, businesses, farms and education systems.

We don’t want to be at the whim of lengthy funding rounds, government initiatives or donations to realize projects or new education streams. We want to be flexible and try out new ideas where they fit, in the stream of that season. We don’t want our future decided by which grant we do or don’t get (that last bit probably comes from our previous lives as artists, and the ups and downs of arts funding).

Most of all we want to keep it simple, and we want to be able to prove you can be an ethical enterprise based entirely on what you do and how you do it, not what you say you are or are not.

We want to be a part of a community of awesome, ethical and creative self-starters who will not wait for top-down permission to start making change, but will get on with it, any way they know how, using whatever skills they have.

The best bit about ethical enterprise, collaborative consumption and sustainability leadership  is that I know the possibilities are far greater than we personally know of thus far – there’s a lot of amazing people out there now invested in dreaming, designing and trialling new models for regenerative economies.

All said and done, everyone intrinsically involved in Milkwood Permaculture is incredibly lucky to be doing what we do, and we all know that. We get to live our passions, whether that be teaching, hosting, growing food, cooking, designing, or creating sustainable systems for others.

We’ve got where we are through truckloads of gumption, long days and longer nights, the advice and astonishing generosity of many, many mentors, the unconditional love and support of our families, good friendships, common goals, and most of all the support of our students.

Because if all those students over the last 4 years hadn’t show up to our educational programs to learn new skills, we wouldn’t have been be able to create this whole thing, nor fund our start-up market garden, the forest garden systems, the intern programs, the fair share programs, the community gardens and everything else we do in addition to the courses + workshops.

So thanks most of all to our student alumni for wanting to learn. You’ve taught us a lot, and made this whole thing roll.

Cheers to Green Lifestyle Magazine for the recognition, and for creating the awards that, as Bob Brown said, help raise the green bar;

“I congratulate all of you that are involved in your various ways in raising the green bar, in raising real-world sustainability, it has to be genuine to an authenticity which we can feel strongly about. We have a long way to go, and I think tonight is a sterling example of a community on the move and I hope events like this will become the predominant thinking in our society in decades ahead.”

Go Bob! Household legend at my place since I was a wee thing.


* Just a note that we know and love the work of many super non-profits, and are in no way saying that we think non-profits are a bad idea. We just want to be straight up: we set up this enterprise to make us and others a sustainable livelihood while we help regenerate our planet, so we might as well call a spade a spade. Viva la social enterprise.

Photos by Cathy Xiao Chen (cheers Cathy).

>> More posts about permaculture


  1. Nam-Ha Quach
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink | Reply

    You guys are awesome! I am currently doing my PDC with Bill and Geoff and one day, hopefully very soon, would love to come and visit your farm, check out your work and be see the amazing things you guys are doing and if we can replicate 1/10 of that I will be a happy man! Congratulations on the award and for keeping your integrity every step of the way :-)

  2. eremophila
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink | Reply


  3. Steph
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well said! Awesome accolade, well deserved!

  4. Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    as an active member of a not for profit i so applaud the path that you guys have walked. there is room for both! and being a living breathing example of living in community and doing it to with a bit of a profit? well why the heck not! good on ;ya guys! well done!

  5. Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations Milkwooders!! You’re an inspiration.

  6. Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congrats, we’ll deserved.

  7. Janet McConaughey
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congrats from Wisconsin.I’ve been following your progress and you guys rock!

  8. Marlo
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well done and very well said

  9. Christian Sànchez
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations!!!!! Way to go!!!

  10. Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    I haven’t read through the whole post yet, but congratulations! I’ll give it a better read in the morning. Way to go to your whole crew. I for one am loving what you’re doing there.

    • Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink | Reply

      I’ve read your post, and this is the first I’ve seen of your “mission.” I have a renewed respect and appreciation for your endeavors. Keep it up please!

  11. Cameron
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    fantastic work and well deserved recognition.

  12. Posted September 26, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    Yay you!! So glad you all got some well-deserved recognition.

  13. foodnstuff
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations! Well deserved! A mission statement to be proud of.

  14. Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This has made my day – you guys work tirelessly, and deserve every bit of recognition that comes your way.

  15. Posted September 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A well deserved award indeed. Congratulations.

  16. Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations Kirsten, Nick and team Milkwood! The more people working on regenerative agricultural systems and building enlightened communities the better. Keep up the great work.

  17. Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    yahooooooo! so proud of you guys! you all work so hard, great to see you getting recognised for it more and more!

    bel. x

  18. Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    our congratulations on the prize

  19. Annie
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    So well deserved! I’ve followed what you folks are doing, from afar, since your first PDC was advertised; and moved from initial (slight) scepticism re the ‘capitalist’ aspect to full admiration and respect for what you’ve done/are doing, how you’ve built right livelihoods for yourself and opportunities for others. Congrats on your vision, planning, enduring the sheer slog at times, community-building, and grand achievements and growth in so many ways!

  20. Posted September 27, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    A most well deserved award with associated kudos to my go to place for all things permaculture. You guys deserve this award because you DO give people “not for profit” information. Your posts are full of free information for those of us penniless student hippies that need a bit of guidence and either can’t afford or can’t get to your course days. You are most generous with your content and you give so much more than you ask for. I believe that profit making ventures, balanced out with a philanthropic outlook is the way forward in business. Small businesses supporting local community and making a living is what we should all be aspiring to. Three cheers for Milkwood Permaculture and may she always be the free spirited vessel that sails the Green seas and brings us land lubbers her precious cargo of knowledge!

  21. Posted September 27, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Way to go , Keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Posted September 27, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congrats on the recognition of the work you guys have been doing. Great to push the boundaries – you’re an inspiration to us all.

  23. Megan Robins
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow! Congratulations guys!

  24. Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    congratulations, you’ve inspired me. i think right livelihood/regenerative econ are the key words here. i hope to follow you into the field.

  25. Woody Meyer
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well deserved and well done, all!

  26. Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hear hear!! PS with your inspiration, our worm farm lid has been replaced (the middle-hinged design is a winner!!) and is about to be re-commissioned this weekend. Yay! Come in from the cold, little wormies…

  27. Kim
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations !!!! awesome work …

  28. Posted October 1, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    From one capitalist whore to another – CONGRATULATIONS AND VERY WELL SAID on the topic of ethical, non-profit enterprises. It’s lovely to see you going from strength to strength. Laura and Grant, Feather and Bone

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