What to Know: Your Course at Commonweal Garden
Commonweal Garden is the home of the Regenerative Design Institute. The following information about Commonweal Garden is for course participants. Please read this carefully. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the RDI office. You can download a PDF version of this information.
Commonweal Garden is located at 480 Mesa Road, Bolinas, CA.
Click here for a map and driving directions.
Commonweal Garden is a 17-acre farm located in Bolinas, on the beautiful and rugged California Coast. Nestled into its own quiet valley, the site features registered organic gardens, orchards, production green house, ponds, seasonal stream, springs, goats and chickens, a yurt classroom, multiple grey water systems, and several natural building features.
Northern California coastal weather can be unpredictable — and we definitely get coastal weather patterns at the site, so be prepared. Nights can be cold and the days warm. We recommend bringing layered clothing for varying weather and different levels of physical activity throughout the day.
Commonweal Garden is a pet-free environment. Help us respect the diversity of wildlife and habitat at Commonweal Garden by refraining from bringing your pets onto the property — including leaving them in your car.
Residential Program Information
Camping and Accommodations
If you will be camping during your stay at Commonweal Garden. Please be sure to bring the proper gear — a tent, a warm sleeping bag, sleeping mattress, a tarp to keep moisture from getting to your tent from the ground, and any other desired gear. See suggested What You Should Bring list below.
The site has portable toilets and solar showers. There are several sink stations for washing hands and brushing teeth. All of the sink stations have potable water. Please do not drink from the garden faucets.
There is wireless internet access in the Yurt, as well as electrical outlets for charging cell phones and laptops. Cell phone reception is spotty but usually accessible by taking a short walk down the road. There is not a public computer available.
Meals (for programs with meals included)
There will be vegan and vegetarian options served at all meals. Meat will be served occasionally. We do our best to serve organic vegetables; meat and dairy will be free-range and hormone free and also organic if possible. You will be asked to pitch in at meal times, and you will be divided into groups to share in kitchen set-up and clean-up duties.
We do not provide for gluten intolerant, raw food, or severe food allergy diets. While there are often options available at each meal to accommodate such special diets, we request that those with dietary restrictions please provide for their food needs.
Coffee and Tea
There will be tea, coffee and snacks set up adjacent to the eating area — and available throughout the day. Please clean up after yourself.
Commonweal Garden and Surrounding Parklands
The core area of the Commonweal Garden is surrounded by a deer fence. This core area includes most of our course activities and the garden where our food is grown. Though things growing in the garden may look tempting, we ask that you please refrain from picking anything. The camping area is outside the fence line — please be sure that the deer fence gate to the camping area is closed and latched at all times.
Commonweal Garden is surrounded by parklands. There are several nice hiking trails accessible from the site. The Palomarin trailhead is a few miles down the road with a wonderful hike to Bass Lake and beyond. We are a short hike from a beautiful beach and there is beach access in the town of Bolinas. So, if the ocean calls you, bring your favorite northern California beach gear — bathing suit, wetsuits, boogie/surf boards, etc.
When hiking outside of the core area, watch for poison oak — there is a lot of it around. If you're not sure what it looks like, ask a staff person or fellow course participant. Be aware of ticks in spring, summer, and fall (May through July is peak tick season).
Commonweal Garden is on a spring-fed water system. With careful management, there is plenty for our needs—people, animals and the garden. Please be mindful of water usage while on-site, especially during the dry season.
Guests are welcome to park in the designated parking area. Please follow the indicated parking rows so as not to block cars from exiting. It is possible to camp in your vehicle (camper van, small trailer, etc) in the parking area. Please let the office know when you register.
Commonweal Garden is also the home of many RDI staff. Please be respectful. In addition to the kitchen/eating area, the area to the east of Wish Creek is private. This includes James and Penny’s house and the lands surrounding it. The public area is west of Wish Creek and includes the yurt, greenhouse, garden, solar showers and path to camping area. Please note that our garden staff housing is to the left of the showers at the top of the garden. Be conscious of noise level after 10pm around staff housing.
The yurt classroom is a shoe-free zone. Please remove shoes before entering.
There is a phone in the yurt that can be used to make outgoing calls outside of class time. Should someone need to contact you during the course they can leave a message at the office (415-868-9681). Please note that no one is in the office on the weekends.
Quiet time is between 10:00pm and 6:00am. Please be considerate of your course-mates and RDI staff. After 10:00pm, keep voices quiet and, please, no drumming. Acoustic music is OK around the campfire and in the yurt after 10:00pm.
The RDI library is in the yurt. This is a private collection that we are happy to share with you while you are on-site. You are welcome to read these books in the yurt; please do not remove books from the yurt, and please replace them on the shelf where you found them.
If there is a fire or if you need help, ring the bell hanging at the yurt entrance or the dinner bell at the entrance to the bunkhouse/kitchen. If necessary, use the phone in the yurt to call 911.
Smoking tobacco is not allowed anywhere on the property except near the sand pile along the driveway outside the front gate. Please put your extinguished butts in the trash. We are very serious about this due to fire danger.
Alcohol & Drugs
If you would like to responsibly enjoy an alcoholic beverage during your stay, you are welcome to bring one with you (unless specificied otherwise in your course confirmation). Illegal drugs are prohibited. Please help us respect the National Park regulations and do not pack them on your trip.
Look After Everyone Else
If you are looking after everyone else, then everyone else is looking after you. Please, if you see something that needs to be done—do it. Return wayward cups and dishes to the kitchen area, if the coffee/tea area is a mess give it a little love, let staff know if a toilet needs toilet paper, etc.
Commonweal Garden is located at 480 Mesa Road, Bolinas, California. Click here for a map and driving directions.
We encourage course participants to carpool. Please let us know on your registration if you DO NOT want to be included on the carpool list. If you do not indicate your preference you will be included. Once the carpool list is sent, it is up to course participants to self-organize rideshares.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
A West Marin Taxi
Tel: 415-868-8888, Cell: 415-497-6656
Cost is $110 each way to/from SFO and to/from OAK
Cost is $60 each way to/from Manzanita Park & Ride, Mill Valley
Public transportation to/from SFO
- Take the Marin Airporter to the Manzanita Park & Ride stop in Mill Valley. Cost is $20 each way. Busses pick up passengers at SFO every 30 minutes, on the hour and half-hour, beginning at 5:00 AM. Last bus leaves SFO at midnight.
- From Manzanita Park & Ride, take the West Marin Stage - Route 61 Westbound to Bolinas or arrange a taxi with A West Marin Taxi (see above). The West Marin Stage service is limited, so please check the bus schedule to plan your journey.
- The West Marin Stage Coach will let you out in the town of Bolinas. Commonweal Garden is a few miles outside of town. Please arrange with the carpool list or RDI office to arrange a pick-up.
Public Transportation to/from OAK
We have not figured an easy way to get from the Oakland Airport to Commonweal Garden. Check with the carpool list to see if someone in the course is willing to offer a ride or take the West Marin Taxi.
What You Should Bring
Please help to make a minimal impact on the land — plan to pack-out what you pack-in.
- Warm Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
- Flashlight & spare batteries
- Alarm clock
- Biodegradable personal items (soap, shampoo)
- Towel Mosquito repellant Technu – poison oak soap
- Dish, bowl, cup and utensils
- Cloth Napkin
- Thermos for hot drinks
- Water bottle for carrying with you
Layered clothing for varying weather
- Warm sweater
- Long pants
- Clothes for cold nights, cozy warm clothes for campfires
- Warm windbreaker type coat
- Raincoat and other rain gear
- Sturdy shoes/boots; rugged sandals are fine if you have boots as well
- Slip-on shoes are convenient for entering and exiting the yurt classroom
- A hat to protect from sun and cold
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Gloves for warmth
- Work gloves (for workshops with hands-on activities)
- Snacks or special foods
For Most Courses
- Pens and notepad
- Laptop and jump drive (if you have them): WiFi is available
- A tape recorder if you want to record the lessons
For Permaculture Courses
- Architects’ or engineers’ scale
- Compass, directional
- Compass, drafting
- 25’ measuring tape
Optional items to bring:
- Field guides or other resources
- Binoculars, pocket magnifying glass
- Art supplies
- Musical instruments, favorite songs for evening revelry