• Bolinas coast line

Commonweal Garden

Commonweal Garden is a holistic permaculture center developed for the protection and enhancement of human and environmental health.

About Commonweal Garden

Permaculture 101

An Evolving Partnership with Nature

Nature is the most influential force at Commonweal Garden. From the first biodynamic gardeners who began developing the land in the early 1970s, a deep reverence and understanding of natural systems has guided the garden’s development. Today, Commonweal Garden is a living, breathing example of how people — connecting deeply with the natural world and designing from ecological patterns and principles — can create a thriving landscapes for sustainable human settlements.

Penny Livingston Stark and James Stark, distinguished leaders and educators in the permaculture movement, have been guiding the development of Commonweal Garden for the last 10 years. As visionaries and change makers, they have created a holistic, integrated, multi-dimensional, living classroom that facilitates transformative experiences for those who visit. More than just a garden, it is an example of how we can apply the principles of permaculture and biomimicry to create a high quality of life while improving the health of the environment. We think if it as a “vision nursery,, providing a rich environment for guests and class participants to discover new possibilities for themselves and what is possible for the planet. Profound learning experiences at Commonweal Garden has inspired many of our students to become activists, designers, farmers, community leaders and educators, taking what they have learned to make positive change in the world.

About the Farm

Commonweal Garden is a 17-acre site surrounded by the Point Reyes National Seashore, on the Northern California coastline. Features of the farm include chickens, fruit orchards, year-round vegetables, bees, edible mushrooms, culinary and medicinal herbs, grains, grey water and solar heating systems, aquaculture, natural buildings, and more. While it is just a short walk away from sandy beaches, it is nestled in a small, well-protected a coastal valley and enjoys moderate temperatures year round.

Although the farm has a perimeter fence, the interchange between wildlife and farm life is immense. It is not uncommon to see fox, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, quail, frogs, salamanders, and unusual migrating birds come through the garden, as well as the occasional mountain lion. The farm is also home to resident humans and receives hundreds of visitors each year. Some might think it is unusual for all this wildlife to come in so close to human activity when there are thousands of acres of wildlands around the farm. On the contrary, it is because the people are there, working within the framework of natural systems, that the wildlife has settled so comfortably.

This dynamic, living classroom offers a multitude of learning opportunities through direct experience. Everything from the soil, to the gardens, to the composting systems, farm animals, natural buildings, and abundant wildlife provide a rich surface area for learning practical skills. Students get to learn by doing, and benefit from observing and experiencing permaculture features that are already in place. 

The “wildness” of our site also provides a unique opportunity for studying animal tracking and bird language, skills that connect us more deeply with the natural world. In addition, when we can simply be present in the vitality and beauty of this kind of wild, synergistic environment, something profound is activated within us. Our minds quiet down, our senses become more fully awake, and we are able to connect more deeply to our true human nature and the world around us.