Biochar Education & Awareness: a matched grant

December 29, 2019. Ryder Coen received a grant from CommonGoods Network in 2019 to support him as he learned, taught, and created biochar in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Here are his reflections.

My project gave me the opportunity to learn, network and teach about biochar.  Through these experiences I got to experience being a part of and contributing to networks of community in a new way.  The more people showing up to networks to share information and skills, learn and teach, the stronger the network is.  Trust can be a foundation of these networks and communities that we can engage with and intentionally strengthen.  Through supporting each other trust is developed.  Through me sharing information and education around biochar I have been able to support others in learning more about fire, carbon, carbon sequestration, soil building and more.  All of the people I got to connect with and share information with are now more empowered to share that information too, and ripple it out.  My project allowed me to travel to conferences and convergences that are essentially structured network and by getting to be a part of these networks in a meaningful way was able to contribute to the shared trust of these networks.  Each person having a purpose and place in a network is mutually beneficial for that person and the network as a whole.  Me getting to focus on biochar, gave me a new sense of purpose from which to contribute to these networks, and therefore contribute to a greater shared sense of trust amongst each individual in the network/community.  

The experience of getting to be a part of the conferences and convergences I went to, with a specific focus and purpose allowed me to engage with those containers in a way that strengthened my trust in the container and I think contributed to an overall strengthening of the web of trust. Simply the experience of networking, learning and teaching seemed to enhance the fabric of trust amongst the networks/community/container.  Getting to be a teacher to people my age and older, I feel shows others that they can follow their passions and be a teacher too. Also the intergenerational relationships formed by elders and youngers, teachers and students, mentors etc allows for relationships of trust to develop, and this is something I got to experience firsthand through this project. The experience of embodying purpose and place in a new and greater way I found to strengthen the network of trust with people around me.

I have learned about both the humility and confidence needed to share information, skills, and teach others. I have learned more about what it feels like to embody purpose and place in different communities, containers, and networks. Now, I have more trust in myself and my ability to engage with the networks around me. In some ways this learning is experiential and energetic, and not easy to put words too. Its like the experience of embodying purpose and place in a greater way, allows me to foster networks of trust to a greater extent. Both by enhancing my own sense of trust in life, spirit, community, self and thereby allowing me to contribute to the strengthening of the fabric of trust throughout the networks of which I am a part. I have also learned more information, skills, and resources to share with others and thereby increase shared trust throughout the network.

Throughout this project I got the opportunity to share knowledge about biochar with many people.  I gave over 6 workshops and got to attend and share information at three big events: The Global Earth Repair, The Indigenous Wisdom and Permaculture Skills Convergence, and the Permaculture Skills Convergence.  Through all of this teaching and education, people became more empowered to make biochar themselves, with greater understanding of how to integrate it into their systems.  So I not only did I get to share information, but also was able to teach the abilities and skills needed for people to feel more confident making and using biochar.  At the Indigenous Wisdom and Permaculture Skills Convergence, I also got to set up a hot water and cooking stove system that ran on biochar producing DIY stoves.  Throughout the gathering I taught people how to make and use the stoves, and then gave away the stoves I made at the end of the gathering to Native participants in the gathering to bring back to their communities for use, and production of more if desired. This showed people an alternative cook stove that did not rely on propane and also produced biochar.  Throughout this gathering while running the stoves for cooking and heating hot water I was able to produce a couple hundred gallons worth of biochar to go towards soil building and food security at the OLCERI site in Pine Ridge.  Thereby sharing a physical resource with the land and community.  

For me the essence of my project was all about sustainability and harmony.  I often described biochar to people, as a way of learning about how to work with fire to bring balance to the elements.  Through better understanding and respecting the gifts of fire, we can create biochar.  Through creating and working with biochar we can bring balance to the air through carbon sequestration, we can clean and purify water of toxins and contaminates, and we can create more resilient and fertile soil.  This contributes to greater harmonic balance amongst the elements of which we are deeply connected.  Biochar is a permaculture skill, and a skill for learning how to live in this world more harmoniously and sustainably.  Through the education I was able to offer through this project, I empowered more people to understand the role biochar can play in this healing work that is being called for, and be able to create and work with it, when it makes sense to. 

There is still much work to be done to make more holistic strides with this project.  For instance there are over 500 vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley that in my opinion should definitely be incorporating biochar into their systems.  The same could be said for blueberry farmers, other orchardists, forestry workers, and cities.  There is still so much education to be done and people to reach to effectively make use of biochar in our systems to create a more harmonious and sustainable world.  I hope to continue making strides in this direction moving forward.  With the remaining funds from the grant I will be investing in myself to be even more empowered to consult, teach, and reach more people to integrate biochar into their systems.  

I had nothing but extremely positive interactions with all CommonGoods volunteers and Staff ... all extremely supportive and helpful.  I am so grateful for all of you, and CommonGoods Network for supporting me throughout this project, and thereby supporting the success of the project.