Executive Director’s Report to the Membership
Peter Bane, PINA E.D., Autumn 2021 

    As I look over the frosted and decaying remnants of garden growth, and peer through the spare canopy of the woods to blue and gray skies beyond, I am reminded that every year over much of the continent, we undergo sudden shifts in a short span of time. Though these kinds of challenges are familiar, they now come at us in all aspects of life, and in all seasons. I wonder what winter holds for us here on the farm in Lower Michigan, and for PINA’s expanding efforts in a fast-changing world. Will there be a winter? How intense, how long? Will snowstorms cover the ground enough to protect the roots of perennials, or just tease us with strange showers of sleet and punchy, short-lived blasts of Arctic air. Will snow cover the Rockies, the Sierras, and the Cascades enough to provide water into the summer? How will our landscapes emerge in spring? What threats will the climate hurl at us next year?


    Parts of the Canadian West are cut off from the rest of the country as I write. Epic flooding has isolated Vancouver, the worst of it stemming from drainages where fire scorched the hillsides recently. PINA’s network of members and allies stretches coast to coast, so we are saddened by the losses of our colleagues and friends there, knowing that we can do little to alleviate their immediate suffering. But we are applying permaculture design to core problems at the root of these and other recent tragedies.

Our crews take to the woods

    Our last newsletter announced funding for PINA Growth and for the Fire Ecology Restoration Project (FERP). I am happy to report progress in both areas. Our Oregon crews are fast preparing to start work on four sites near Eugene and Ashland. Multiple teams of 5-7 workers plus some volunteers and landowner helpers will spend several winter weeks thinning the woods and making biochar in place. We have been hiring and training team members, mustering gear, securing insurance, working out logistics, and signing agreements. It turns out even good ideas have lots of moving parts.

    We will employ men and women, sawyers and brush handlers, soon-to-be skilled kiln operators, research biologists and data collectors, a film crew, and documentarians, all aimed at testing and refining a new protocol for fire-risk mitigation in Western forests, while measuring and analyzing its costs and impacts. If widely adopted, it could dramatically reduce fire risk and the flooding that often follows wildfire.

Biochar workshop planned for Colorado

    We are also planning the first steps to share this knowledge base with a workshop scheduled for Steamboat Springs, Colorado, June 3-5, 2022. More details will soon be posted to the PINA web calendar, and announced over various media. Dr. Ken Carloni, researcher and advisor to the FERP, will present on the technology and implications of biochar, demonstrating an advanced flame-top kiln of his own design. In addition, PINA board member Andrew Millison with the Horticulture Dept. at Oregon State University, will present the broader picture of fire danger in the West and Permaculture’s potential role in repairing the ecological conditions driving it. We hope some of you will be able to join us for this exceptional event.

    While FERP is supported from money graciously provided by Terry Huffington and Huffco Group of Houston, Texas, not all aspects of our work are covered by those funds. PINA general revenues and other gifts support FERP’s documentary and research elements. Your dues and donations are thus making this possible. If you contribute at the standard level, please considering becoming a Supporting Member at $50 or $100/yr, or making a one-time or continuing donation on Giving Tuesday, November 30th. To make a donation, visit www.pina.in/donate

    Moreover, we are seeking second- and third-year funding for FERP to expand its reach, put more crews in the field, and augment the data set we are collecting. We have to fund outreach and extension of the project to public agencies and land managers across a large territory, and this will take more than postcards.

PINA is growing its capacity

    The same donation that funded FERP has provided money to grow PINA as an organization with a special focus on increasing our public visibility, attracting additional funds, training the board, and growing the staff. My own work load has more than doubled since June as a result. From October 1, we hired Gloria Flora, of Colville, Washington, to serve for the next year as our Development Officer. 

    Gloria is a distinguished ecologist, trained in landscape architecture, a veteran of the U.S. Forest Service, an author and researcher on biochar, the Executive Director of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, and a director on a number of non-profit boards. Some of you will recognize her as a regular contributor to Permaculture Design magazine. She has been helping PINA and 501c3 partner, the Assn. for Regenerative Culture, to get our fundraising houses in order, polish our public personas, refine messaging, and lay out pathways to grow and reinforce our networks of support. She will guide us in seeking and applying for grants, gifts, and donations of all sorts, and has already contributed to a planned expansion of member services and engagement.

    The board and staff are hard at work developing a communications strategy beyond my quarterly columns in this newsletter. PINA has secured a license for the software known as Brilliant Directories and a dedicated domain on which to host it; we will launch that facility early in the new year. Among many things it can do for us is to provide each PINA member with the opportunity to create their own web page, offering goods and services. We are excited by the possibilities this opens for us to more effectively represent our members’ needs. We want to put you to work!

    We are also defining the jobs we need in communications, and will be looking for talent to fill those roles over the next few months. Follow our Job Kiosk at pina.in.

Please lean in

    And last but not least, we are bolstering the resource base that makes all of this possible. While we must grow revenues to support staff and capacity, we can only do so in a sustained way if we also grow the community invested in PINA’s success. We are reaching out to thank our donors, contributors, volunteers, and collaborators, but let me ask here and now that you stay with us, boost your contributions if possible, and share news of our progress with your friends, colleagues, and networks. In a few short years, PINA has grown from an esoteric effort to support diplomas, into a nascent trade organization advocating for permaculture’s historic message of planetary and community healing. Hundreds of people have made this possible, and I am humbled to account for that generosity. It will take thousands, and tens of thousands of us to sustain a generational response to the global crisis, but the people and resources to propel us already exist. It’s our job, together, to call them in, harness their skills, and earn their trust. I hope we’ll continue to enjoy and deserve yours.

    —Peter Bane, exec@pina.in