Convergence 2014 Speakers

The exact schedule will be posted closer to the event, in the meantime, here are the confirmed speakers and topics.

Eric Toensmeier
(Special Pre-recorded Presentation)

Eric Toensmeier has spent twenty years exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. Both books have received multiple awards, including the American Horticultural Society Garden Book of the Year and ForeWord Magazine Home and Garden Gold Medal Book of the Year Award, Garden Writer’s Association Silver Medal and American Library Association Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title.

His current project is promoting perennial farming systems, including agroforestry and perennial staple crops, as a strategy to sequester carbon while restoring degraded lands, and providing food, fuel and income, and ecosystem services.

Designing Nutrient Budgets for Perennial Crops

Learn how to calculate the number of nitrogen-fixers and mineral accumulators to include in your forest garden, orchard, or edible landscape, to supply all of the nutrient requirements of your cropping plants.

Bio: Ben Caesar
Ben runs Fiddlehead Nursery, which provides plants and resources for edible landscapes.  He has been reading about and experimenting with forest gardening and appropriate technology for 10 years.

Growing Our Future One Landscape at a Time:
Design and Management of other Ontario Polycultures

Case studies of projects for home gardens to large commercial operations will be covered. Types of polycultures to be discussed may include silvo-pasture, orchard polycultures and perennial vegetable gardens.

Bio: Brad Peterson
Brad is an ecologist, farmer and environmental landscape architect with over 22 years of experience in sustainable land management, environmental design and landscape architecture. Mr. Peterson has particular strength in application of permaculture principles, design and management of sustainable landscapes and organic production systems with application to smart growth, planning policy and organic standards.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Practicing Holistic Herbalism

Description: Entering the world of herbalism in 21st
Experienced or not, must deal with many aspects that arise when considering the use of herbs for health in our society. These aspects include education, designation, regulation and confidence. And not least is the pressure that both society and the judge-within-us often imposes.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Practicing Holistic Herbalism is an introduction to holistic herbalism which draws on Tracey’s experience and education, as well as her desire to reconnect our health to the health of our land. This session will look at what ‘herbalism’ is, and some of the uncertainties that prevent people from exploring herbs and their many benefits. Participants will get started right away as Tracey introduces them to herbs that are in abundance around us. The group will also discuss ‘next steps’ in using herbs as part of a holistic health-style.

Bio: Tracey Ogilvie McDonald
For Tracey, attending a general interest course in Aromatherapy through the Institute of Aromatherapy (Toronto), in 2003 was her ‘ah ha’ moment. While learning about the oils – and the plants and flowers that provide them – Tracey realized that we were always part of Earth. This realization has changed the course of her life.

As well as being a 2nd Level Usui ReiKi practitioner, Tracey is an accomplished dowser, and Qi Stone Massage practitioner. Yet it was the desire to bring natural ingredient products to her family and friends that brought Tracey to herbal healthcare.

In 2009, she started her formal education in herbalism through The Living Centre (London). In 2010, she and her husband spent an awkward but incredible three day weekend exploring the unfamiliar world of green through a Forest Gardening workshop. That weekend brought new awareness and passion, and today Tracey is a strong voice for Earth.

Tracey has brought herbal healthcare to her family and friends, but her focus remains on holistic healthcare, of which our green friends are a major part.

Small Slow Solutions: Sowing Hell’s Half Acre

I love growing food. This session is an introduction to the 6 year old forest garden at our home, lovingly nicknamed Hell’s Half Acre. I’ll outline some of the challenges the site contains, and some of the design elements I’ve incorporated to address these. There will lots of opportunities for participation in this session, as I seek ideas and discussion from audience members.

Bio: Rob Read
Rob spends his time outside his day-job as Administrative Assistant in the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University between permaculture, writing, and spending time with his family. He is a co-founder of the Carolinian Canada Forest Garden Guild, and co-owner of Artemisia’s Forest Garden Nursery. Rob’s passion for forest gardening and permaculture began when he came across Robert Hart’s book about his forest garden at a used book fair. This dovetailed nicely with his concern over our current food production system, and made perfect sense based on his many years as a naturalist and amateur ecologist. Over the past six years he has been actively converting his half-acre property from a lawn to a forest garden and edible landscape. Since 2009, he has been actively involved with Transition Middlesex, a part of the Transition Network, an international initiative to help us navigate the path to a future that is short on oil, but high on abundance. Prior to pursuing permaculture, Rob trained in creative writing at York University, and his poetry appears in O Spam, Poams (2005, BookThug) as well as in numerous magazines and small press publications. He is currently working on a science fiction novel for young adults with permaculture as a central theme.

The Why and How to Transition Agriculture


This talk will first bring focus to the current issues with agriculture–it’s very important to stick our noses in this pile every once and a while. Then, using quantitative, academic research, we will discuss the possible pathways to move food production towards regenerative, food forest-based practices (don’t worry, the academic stuff will be fun, like trying to harvest apples with just your mouth after a cup of hard cider).

Participants will leave with:

  • An understanding of some of the major issues facing agriculture (and the world).
  • A mind blown with all the possibilities to introduce food forest practices into agriculture.
  • Wonderful metaphors that will help make the quantitative academic stuff stick in the head.
  • Design examples for backyard- and farm-scales.
  • Inspiration (guaranteed)

Bio: Paul Wartman
“Imagine walking down the street and being surrounded by rhubarb plants, cherry trees, and raspberry bushes. Imagine all the jam!” Paul Wartman likes to create space to imagine what’s possible when communities are grown from good, accessible food systems. Bringing that vision into reality is his mission. Paul has founded the group Many Rivers Permaculture that is working tocreate a healthy, environmentally-protective, politically-engaged, food-loving, “I-wanna-grow-that-in-my-backyard” community.He is currently researching Edible Forest Gardens as a Master Student at the University of Guelph and collaborating with community groups to bring healthy food to everyone in the Guelph and Mississauga communities.

Paul’s understory consists of being a board member and vo-livin-teer with Transition Guelph, a grass roots community organization working and playing towards a thriving resilient community. His character is built from experiences in organic farming, permaculture design, appropriate technology development, eco-camp counseling, and many potlucks! Go ahead and ask him about it.

Growing Fun in a Forest Garden

This interactive workshop is for children and adults of all ages. It teaches how to teach permaculture and forest gardening through games, acting, engaging projects, art, meditation and music.

Bio: Jeremiah Riehl
Jeremiah is the resident gardener at Circle R ranch ( where he teaches children from ages 4 to 16 about permaculture, ecology and how to grow food. He is a recent graduate of the Living Centre’s Four Season PDC, and a passionate musician and artist.

Living Like the Forest

What can the universal laws of nature teach us about creating regenerative lifestyles?

How will a shift from an industrial growth consciousness to an ecologically centered model – living like a forest – guide us through these challenging times on Earth, and help to lay the foundations for a culture based in peace, ecological regeneration and spiritual fulfillment?

How does a ‘living systems’ design approach achieve greater efficiency, lessen our ecological footprint and eventually balance co-habitation and long-term survival on the planet?

How do we move beyond ‘sustainable’ to ‘regenerative’?

Why is this important? How do we get there, and what are the obstacles?

As we apply these shifts in consciousness, what will this look like in our personal, professional, community and agricultural lives?

Through Forest Gardening Permaculture principles, Deep Ecology and Living Systems Theory we will explore these questions.

Bio: Lorenna Bousquet-Kacera
Is a Certified Permaculture Educator with a specialty in evolutionary regeneration at the personal, ecological and spiritual levels. She is the founder of Shamanu: Earth Wisdom Teachings, practices that support an earth-based cosmology, teaching visionary and practical solutions for personal and social change. Her 35 years of training in the field of inner permaculture and deep ecology provides individuals with the skills to reconnect with the ‘original instructions’ revealed to us from nature. These empowerment practices call us forward into our full potential, and the ability to actively participate in creating sustainable personal, community and environmental solutions. Lorenna is the co-director with her husband Shantree of The Living Centre and Living Arts Institute, eco-spiritual education sanctuary.

Forest Nutrition: Secrets of Our Bioregion

Discover a world of almost entirely forgotten or under appreciated plants of our bioregion. Perennial vegetables are a perennial solution for a changing world, which require a far less time and effort than annuals. An amazingly low-maintenance, low-impact vegetable gardening practice and requires no fossil fuels. They support the regeneration of the soil, the ecosystem and our bodies. There are numerous benefits to growing these amazing foods; they extend the harvest season; the soil structure is not disturbed in their cultivation, keeping the CO2 carbon in the soil. The focus will be on how to grow these essential plants by applying ecological design principles in polyculture patterns. Since perennial plants tend to have deeper and more extensive root systems, the food is often richer in trace minerals and nutritional-density, learn what they are.

Bio: Shantree Kacera, D.N., Ph.D
Shantree is a Permaculture Educator, Nutritionist, Therapeutic Herbalist, Ecological Consultant & Forest Garden Practitioner with 40 years experience in the Organic Natural Healing Arts. He is an expert on the medicinal and nutritional properties of herbs and trees of Carolinian Canada. His primary focus these days are on research, demonstration and education. He is the founder and co-director of The Living Centre (1983), and Living Arts Institute. Shantree received his doctorate in Nutritional Medicine and Herbalism in the 70’s.

Shantree has studied useful edible, nutritional and medicinal plants and organic gardening for 40 years. The Living Centre maintains about 5-acres of forest gardens which has around 1,000 useful perennial foods and medicinal plants or self-seeding species.

Medicines in the Carolinian Forest

Medicines in the Carolinian Forest –   This talk will look at a variety of medicinal plants and trees that have long been used as medicines and for healing.
Bio Christine Dennis:
Christine Dennis is a Medical Herbalist with a Master of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the University of Wales and is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in the UK and the Ontario Herbalists Association.  Christine is very Body/Mind/Spirit focused and considers herself to be an eclectic herbalist having had a balance of bio-medical and traditional training, as well as a great deal of personal experience in the healing journey and in the field. Living on an organic farm with large herb gardens allows Christine the perfect opportunity for her home based clinical practice where she works full time seeing patients, as well as giving herbal walks, talks, workshops and courses.
The Carolinian Food Forest – Successes, Lessons, and Future 

The Carolinian Food Forest is a 1-acre public food forest in London Ontario. Planning for the project was started in the fall of 2011 and planting began that spring. Four public plantings occurred over the next 2 years and major species are all in the ground. Different ground cover techniques were practiced in different areas and outcomes will be observed. The story was a success in that City of London approval and support was rallied so quickly and grants were found to cover our needs for the first 2 years, however the future of the project is uncertain and local community involvement is poor. This presentation will detail the project, outline our process, and reflect on how things might have been done differently to achieve a different outcome, both in terms of plant life on the site and community engagement. Open discussion with presentation participants is welcomed and encouraged so that this project and future public food forests can achieve long-term success.

Bio: Jessica Robertson
Jessica Robertson is the owner of Wild Craft Permaculture, a London-based permaculture  business founded in 2011. She has been using permaculture principles in her work since 2008 when she started applying them at a community scale as the head planner for ONPA Architects in Edmonton. Wild Craft designs and installs permaculture landscapes for private owners, businesses and public entities in Southern Ontario. Jessica also teaches a variety of workshops from breadmaking and canning to foraging and permaculture 101, to encourage greater self-sufficiency in people. She loves walks with her 3 dogs and baby through Wortley Village and The Coves.

Deepening Your Connection with Yarrow

“Reconnection with the Earth, the plant spirits, the intuition- experiencing forgotten healing powers of Nature ‘the simplest things are often the trues.” ~R. Bach

The intention of this workshop is to explore a practice that will allow participants to drop boundaries between kingdoms that humans have invented, and be guided to create the opportunity for deeper connection. Yes, plants can communion with us. Through a deep listening process and experiential tuning-in time we will be asking: what does this precious plant have to offer my garden and my life? Yarrow is a beautiful and powerful herb for both Herbalists and Forest Gardeners. Everyone will have an opportunity to, deepen his or her relationship with the herb Yarrow and bring this consciousness back to your own forest garden.

Bio: Zora Ignjatovic, B.Sc. Agriculture.
Her practices originated in her grandmother Sophia’s homestead and found the deep resonance in the ethics and principles of permaculture recognizing the nature as the best teacher; she is a certified Permaculture Designer and lifelong activist in the area of urban agriculture and food security. Zora searches for ways to help make our dream of a resilient society come true, by helping communities to accept and celebrate divers cultures. She works passionately on engaging networks of people involved in the similar grassroots projects, connecting the dots and acting as a catalyst by developing alliances, building community relationships, and finding synergies-for the benefit of all. Her personal journey deepened the relationship with the healing properties of nature and brought new aspects and depth into her work with the community. She helped develop school gardens, senior and rooftop gardens with containers and sub-irrigation systems, food-forest gardens, pollinator gardens and inter-planted native plants and diverse edibles, in the city as well the country. For Zora, her work’s most valuable yield is the joy she harvests from bringing people back to nature, encouraging the growth of intentional communities and nurturing necessary new generation of farmers.

Listening to the Land

Description: Sometimes we get a sense of what to do with a certain section of our garden or land.  We may wonder where some ‘sixth sense’ comes from, that thought popped into our mind.  It just might be that a part of is already attuned and listening to the land, hearing it speaking in our subconscious minds, telling us what it wants, or more important, what it needs.

In this workshop we will acknowledge our ‘hunches’ about how we work with our land.  We will do an exercise (or maybe two) to help attune ourselves to the voice of the land.  We will go out an listen and then share what we have learned.

The land reaches out to us in a variety of ways.  It seeks to capture our attention and guide us. It wants us to know.

Bio: Sophia Bonnie Wodin
Sophia has been proprietor of Golden Yarrow Landscape Design since 1986, and lived with Permaculture Principles since the late 1970’s.  She lived on a modest 6 acres for 30 years, listening to and being guided by the land itself. Coming to SW Ontario, she listens for the voice of very different land.  And what an adventure it has been   Now she brings her experience of the land’s voice to a public forum.

Register for the 2014 Forest Garden Convergence here.