“I support individuals, micro/small/family-owned business owners and people in not-for-profit or social enterprises. I do this because I believe that grassroots action and people working together locally is better for all of us. I see the enormous difference not-for-profits and social enterprises make in our communities. I believe that local business is a cornerstone of connection and resilience. And behind it all is you and I – just people with our own personal and family commitments, trying to do our best.”
PA’s Kym spoke with Bonnie Tuttle, one of our new PA members based in lutrawita / Tasmania about the links between permaculture & Holistic Decision Making, building local economy, and obtaining many yields by working with small community organisations/groups.
For those who don’t know you, tell us more about yourself?
I’m a business and community consultant and my core focus is on helping our communities grow through service and enterprise. I offer training, facilitation, coaching, project management and marketing/communications support. I’m based in the South of the beautiful lutrawita / Tasmania, on the ‘sunny Eastern Shore’ which has allowed me to create some lovely little microclimates in my garden, where annual veggies were a (very time consuming) passion before I discovered permaculture! Now we have significantly more perennials.
I can’t remember how I first came to permaculture. I think living here with such a small and well-connected community meant that I just stumbled across it when keeping up to date with fellow PA members Hannah at Good Life Permaculture, and Lauren and Oberon from Spiral Garden. I did some reading and although the gardening aspect really spoke to my hands-in-the-dirt obsession, it also set off all the bells in my strategic/solutions/design/planning brain, which had lived in the corporate growth economy for far too long.
What are some of the wins and challenges of your work activities and running your own business?
The main challenge is that I have chosen to work with grassroots organisations, and people who don’t generally have a lot of access to funds. During my Permaculture Design Course (with GLP) I became more interested in the economic aspects of permaculture, because it helped me to better understand the issues, but also some of the solutions.
I am still grappling with how to best obtain a yield from my work whilst maintaining a sense of fair share, but I have adopted barter as a form of payment, set up payment plans, and joined the CENTS network to try to make my services accessible to everyone. I do a little bit of ‘Robin Hood-ing’ with corporate clients every now and then, as long as they align with my values – by working with some larger clients who have capacity to pay I can then offer time pro-bono to other volunteer-led grassroots groups, or start-ups without any capital.
“Although this ‘target market’ may not be the most appealing in a marketing sense, I am all the richer for it. I have created the most wonderful tapestry of friends and acquaintances, and I now have the opportunity to share my knowledge with people I know will use it well and build a better future for themselves and our community.“
Another ‘win’ is that I am able to live a more holistic life, with work integrated into the flow of my days. If I fancy a walk in the bush, I can take it. If the tomatoes need watering, I can pop out and do it. My days are still extremely busy, and I do work early in the morning and late into the night on occasion – but I pick my kids up from school every day, and am always here if the neighbours need a hand.
You are doing some great work in Holistic Design Management (HDM). How do you see this linking with permaculture (ethics & principles) and broader community resilience?
I learned HDM with Dan (Palmer) early this year, and it immediately sparked something. I have used the framework on a number of occasions now, with individuals, couples and groups. There are many similarities to other forms of strategy and design, and I tend to pick what I think will be the most effective tool for each client.
I see many linkages with permaculture. The most powerful impact I have seen so far (and I’m only at the beginning of my HDM journey) is the impact it can have on Zone Zero. Many people put substantial energy into People Care, but their focus is on the ‘other’. By using the nested wholes structure we can see that there is no ‘other’ – we all exist in symbiosis with the living systems we are nested within. Without clarity and care for ourselves, we can’t possibly be sustainable nor regenerative.
I love that it is a Patterns to Details approach, and this aligns with my philosophy no matter what the framework is. I always start with the ‘big picture’ and work down, because in my work I see people, in their personal and professional lives, get very ‘stuck’ in the doing. Using HDM it is easy to give appropriate space to these enabling actions, but they are always in service of something bigger, and of great importance to the person or the organisation.
For me personally, the whole HDM system’s value is in Applying Self Regulation and Feedback. The tools have really helped me to stay on track, Observe and Interact with the things influencing my progress towards where I want to be, and adjust – usually through self regulation! I am known for being ‘all in’, and have been prone to burnout in the past. Utilising HDM energises me, and gives me little indicators when I’m putting too much energy into one thing (and so it helps me to better value diversity too!)
You are a member of PA (thank you!) – why do you think permaculture and supporting the national permaculture organisation is important?
Although I have a very grassroots focus in the work that I do, I acknowledge that the impact we can have on many issues including the economy and climate change really needs to be addressed at a higher level. This requires momentum and pressure. We can’t do it alone, and our many voices make our message louder.
I also think a sense of belonging is important – to all of us, but to me as an individual too. I have been very lucky to have only experienced a short lockdown period in April 2020, but my work can be very isolated which is hard for a social person like myself. I went from busy offices to being alone all day with my sleepy dog much of the time, and it made me realise that the only connections I had were work colleagues and family.
“Being a member of Permaculture Australia and Permaculture Tasmania has given me opportunities to connect with like minded people and spend my time doing things I consider to be a good use of what precious time we all have. I’m also relatively new to permaculture, and I love to learn. PA exposes me to such a wealth of knowledge – I’m so grateful.”
What do you see as the challenges we are currently facing (e.g. climate crisis) and how could these be addressed?
Wow that is a big question! There are so many opportunities, but the one I focus on is building local economy and taking the wind out of the global growth economy. There is such big ‘bang for buck’ in local economy! People have richer lives because they can work close to home; they can get what they need in their neighborhoods, cutting down on monocultures and carbon miles; we would consume less, and what we would consume would be more necessary and less frivolous if it wasn’t just available at the click of a button from the other side of the earth. From a business owner’s perspective I think it would be easier to find our own place in the market, because we wouldn’t be competing with people online from everywhere. And services would be place based and therefore more tailored and effective…
This isn’t all necessarily true of local economies all of the time, and it would take a lot of work. But I think if as consumers and business owners we turned our minds to providing for ourselves and our neighbours, buying only what we need, and took our feet off the accelerator in the quest for global domination then a lot would change for the better.
What does the rest of 2021 have in store for Bonnie Tuttle Consulting?
I fell into working for myself because of a family emergency, and so at the time I didn’t have time to do things ‘properly’. I certainly didn’t go through any of the steps I advise my clients to take! So I have recently spent a lot of time and energy on the business – looking at systems which support my way of working and reduce the time I need to spend at my desk. I also continued the momentum which started in January this year with my PDC and HDM study, and really looked into who I am and what impact I want to make – how I exist with my business and how that exists within the world. It led me to a rebrand, which I have just launched. So for the rest of the year I will be continuing to get my systems in place, and become more routine in the way I work. And now that I have something I can be proud of, I’ll be promoting the brand a bit more.
I have also been working hard to develop relationships with local government bodies and other organisations who have access to funds to support grassroots organisations, and so I will be delivering some workshops called Business Fundamentals for Grassroots Organisations over the next few months. I have teamed up with my dear friend and fellow permie Jo Smith (Naturally Well with Jo, and Bruny Island Market Garden) and we are running a ‘Living with Purpose’ workshop too – that should be great fun.
And last but not least, I have a Permablitz I’m helping out with in October, and my husband Andrew and I will be starting to roll out the permaculture plan I created for our own space. It will be a slow process, and Small and Slow Solutions is the principle I struggle the most with, but we make a great team so I’m sure we will get the balance right.
For more information:
Bonnie is a Professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisations. You can find out more, including how to sign up today, here.