Jason joins me from Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica to talk about permaculture, ecological impact centers, and living a life of impact. He owns a farm where he’s worked with the local community for years to create a sustainable place that people can come to visit, to live, and to learn.
Jason recently started the Sharing Insights Podcast, through which he’s helping people who are connected to ecological impact centers connect. He’s bringing together:
- people who own land and would like to start a center
- people who already own a center and would like to hear best practices from others
- and people who are ecological enthusiasts who would like to learn more about this movement and see where they can get involved
5 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:
- Stay open. When things don’t feel right, accept that we don’t know all of the answers and stay open to learning from others.
- Spend our money with businesses who are doing good things. Sometimes we need to spend a little extra money, time, or effort to make sure we are not perpetuating the damage that many large corporations are doing.
- Support the people who are creating the world we want to see. Like, comment, share, rate, and review content that we appreciate. Help creators and business owners reach a larger audience and make a bigger difference.
- Make a plan. Use Jason’s free permaculture ebook to design a more ecologically beneficial life.
- Visit an ecological impact center. Jason recommends going to NuMundo.org to find a place that speaks to us.
Jason is a guy who spent 6 years, in his twenties, hitchhiking around north and central America, as a vagabond gypsy balloon artist, volunteering at dozens of homesteads, permaculture farms, and intentional communities along the way.
In that time, he saw land management and community living done a whole lot of different ways. 12 years ago he left Minnesota in a veggie oil school bus, heading south looking for a new place to live. 6 months later he landed at what became his farm in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica. A lot has transpired and changed over that time, and after a few years away, he’s been back on the land, bringing the place back to life, and loving it!
About The Sharing Insights Podcast:
The Sharing Insights Podcast is designed to support landowners who have a dream to do something ecologically and socially beneficial with it, as well as those veterans who want to broaden their own perspectives for who’s doing what, and how they might improve the model of their existing project.
The podcast sets out to explore stories about how different people are operating different aspects of their businesses. Each of the projects on Jason’s list has its own unique focus and may be called by a different name (permaculture farm, retreat center, homestead, eco-lodge, intentional community). But they all have this in common:
- they chose to live somewhere in harmony with nature
- they make an effort to build and do business in an ecologically beneficial way
- and they’ve opened their doors, for others to join them, in co-creating these life-enriching experiences
Jason's property in Costa Rica:
Jason started our conversation by painting a picture of his property in Costa Rica for us. He described his 20 acre permaculture farm as being on a ridgetop between the towns of San Isidro and Uvita in the South Pacific.
It’s about 40 minutes to town, and about an hour to the beach on a slow driving mountain road. He has a view of the mountains and of the valley. The house he’s staying in is actually called Casa Vista! For that reason. It has a beautiful view.
Jason’s property has its own spring water and fresh breezes. He says the climate is the best on the island. It gets plenty warm, yet cools off. He loves it.
They have cabins, a dorm room, and a community center. When they first opened the center, Jason and his ex-wife taught a lot of classes. They were figuring it out as they went, and they wanted to invite people in to share that experience with them. They operated that way for many years and then took a break to come back to the States. Jason has been back in Costa Rica for about a year, regenerating the place.
What is an ecological impact center?
Impact Centers is a term that NuMundo has used to refer to the properties that they showcase. These properties are ecologically mindful, socially beneficial, and have some type of education outreach as a part of their business model.
Often people come to these properties and live for weeks or months. By coming to these rural communities and living communally, the outside world becomes a less prevalent part of their lives. What’s happening is what’s there.
Jason believes that this alone has an impact on humanity. People leave with a different perspective and create new things in their lives and the community around them when they go home.
Many permaculture and ecological impact centers help people learn conflict resolution as well. Some business models focus on teaching this, but others have this learning as a byproduct of so many people living together. Regardless, it results in more kind and compassionate people in the world.
A disconnect in daily life:
Jason began changing his life from what he thought it would be when he was about 22 years old. He grew up in the city of Detroit and began struggling with health problems when he was 17. He was frustrated with the health system and tired of his doctor prescribing medicines without addressing what the problems actually were.
He moved to Arizona and into corporate America, working for Guitar Center. You can tell by listening to Jason that he felt stifled and unable to be who he felt he genuinely was. He quit the corporate job and started on entrepreneurial adventures, doing everything from selling tamales to becoming a balloon artist, to doing sound engineering for a church and a blues club.
Over a couple of years of doing entrepreneurial gigs, his life evolved. He began getting into whole foods, and yoga, and meditation. He became more rebellious and got into politics and commerce.
He says he was a raw foodist, tying balloon animals in a steak food restaurant, and that was a moment of awakening. He felt it was a departure from his ethics as he walked around the restaurant knowing that he was the attraction that brought people to the restaurant. He says he felt in conflict with himself and realized that he wasn’t even using the money he was making to buy things. He realized he didn’t need to be in the city. And he didn’t need to be driving around to different gigs. He didn’t need to be living the life he was living.
One night after work, he went to see a movie called Instinct with Cuba Gooding Junior, based on the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It affected Jason so deeply that when he left the theater he climbed a tree and watched the traffic go by for a half an hour before getting into his car. He drove up to Sedona, to the red rocks, and slept on a rock for the night.
The next morning he saw a homeless man on the side of the road waving to people. He stopped to talk to the man, and the man was a divine messenger of sorts. This man was a vagabond who told Jason to be still and listen to the voice inside himself above all others. And this would lead him to the true treasures of life, those inside himself. He knew that his life had changed.
He got a book on long distance backpacking from the library and read it twice, preparing himself to live out of his backpack. He sold everything he had and had a friend drop him off for a 10 day hike across the desert. He spent that time processing everything and journaling and walking. From then on he followed his heart to music festivals and other places that people mentioned to him. He tied balloon animals to make money and hitchhiked around North America for 6 years.
The path to Costa Rica:
Jason found himself being drawn more and more to rainbow gatherings and permaculture farms, organic farms, and intentional communities. He shifted into living a life of service and working on projects where he could help. And his needs were always met. He describes sleeping in a myriad of different locations, from under bridges to out in the open on park benches, to mansions and house boats. He even drove adventure travel tours.
After that, he was drawn to do big art and was hired by multiple festivals. But a couple of years into doing this type of work, he realized he was living in the city again and not in alignment with what he truly wanted.
He met his ex-wife, who is a permaculture expert, and the two of them bought an old school bus and converted it into a vegetable oil RV and began to road trip to the south, looking for a new place to live. Six months later they found themselves in Costa Rica and felt the country was different from any place else that they had been. The people were very welcoming, and the police and politics were very different.
They bought property and began to build their homestead. Jason laughs that he thought he had a lot of experience that would help him run the place, but he found out that he had a lot to learn.
He says that no matter what, he continues to live his life with a commitment to love, community, and radical forgiveness.
Jason describes that he is embarking on yet a new adventure with his property. He’s reopening it after being in the US for 4 years and he’s re-learning how his property can have the biggest impact. This is what drove him to start the Sharing Insights Podcast.
He’s traveling around the country of Costa Rica, learning from people who have successful properties, and sharing their tips and tricks with anyone who wants to hear them. He encourages people to start, or improve, a property of their own. He’s learning at the same time, to take these ideas back to his property, and frame how he runs it from now on.
How do we visit an ecological impact center?
Jason said right off the bat to try NuMundo.org. He said that this is the best website for finding a permaculture or ecological impact center to visit.
He mentions that you can find places all over the world. And each place is so different. He speaks of the 12 places that he has already interviewed in Costa Rica for his podcast. He said they range from an eco lodge that is working to help local businesses get established, to a community with a retreat center attached to it. Another property is run by a man who has an amazing fruit forest and nursery, who teaches classes. Another one focuses on horse yoga therapy. And yet another one is located in a ship yard on the coast that’s building a giant carbon neutral sail cargo.
He said that they all have different programs and different requirements that you agree to. Some even have various programs on the same property, such as spending just a couple of hours a week on property, to studying as an apprentice, or coming on a work trade.
If you’re a professional and you have video editing, or social media, or web development skills, they would be extremely helpful to these places. You could probably travel for free offering these skills to the various impact centers and helping them.
If you’re just looking to volunteer, Jason recommends planning to pay your way. He says it’s not a sustainable model for centers to have volunteers who aren’t really helping their bottom line. They need to stay in business and that requires people paying for the education that they’re getting.
We’re likely to have expectations when we book a stay at a permaculture farm or ecological impact center. Jason recommends that we try to let go of those as best as we can.
We will be living in a bubble. And we will be living a very different life than we do in the city. We’ll be using a composting toilet. And we’ll see a lot of big bugs. Huge cockroaches being one of them!
Snakes, spiders, scorpions and cockroaches are a part of Costa Rica. And the reality is that people live with them. And they survive. ;-)
Jason talks about the fruit trees that guests get to climb and harvest. He talks about the gardens and the weeds and learning which weeds actually taste good. There are opportunities to eat meals with others and cook from the food that was just harvested.
He also describes the river on his property and how guests get to wander through the neighbor’s yard to get there. And how they relax and grow to enjoy boredom and lack of internet access.
Jason’s brother visited and lost 100 pounds! Just from being willing to come and eat natural foods and walk.
He also speaks to the group retreats and the impact that living with others has on us. We learn what conflict actually is, and how parts of us trigger that conflict. And how we can grow internally.
If you want to start an impact center:
The Sharing Insights Podcast is made for you if you have land, or want to purchase land, to start a project like this. Start by going to Jason’s website and listening to the episodes that he has available. Check the show notes. You’ll be blown away by the helpful information.
There is also a private Facebook Group that is just starting to grow. You’ll find that at SharingInsightsCR on Facebook. This is a perfect place to ask your questions and build relationships with other like-minded permaculture enthusiasts and land owners.
If you like any of the people you hear on the podcast, support them, even if you can’t visit. You can share, like, subscribe, rate and review. And that is tremendously helpful to everyone who is working to make these things happen.
Permaculture is not just about land:
Jason urges us to look into permaculture, even if we don’t own land. It’s a system of thinking and designing one’s business, life, family, and decisions. We can design a more ecologically efficient life with permaculture. He has a free e-book to download on his website called The Eco-Enthusiasts’ Guide to Efficient Living to get started. I was lucky enough to see this book before it was released to the public, and it is FULL of great ways to bring permaculture into any of our lives. I plan to sit with it more myself to generate some new ideas. I hope you’ll check it out.
Get in touch with Jason:
You can find Jason with his podcast, Sharing Insights. And the best way to contact him is by email.
Facebook page: @jsun.bliss
Podcast website: sharinginsights.net
Podcast Facebook group: @SharingInsightsCR
Podcast Facebook page: @SharingInsightsPodcast
Podcast Instagram: @SharingInsightsPod
If you enjoy reading or listening to Jason’s episode, I recommend also listening to episode 1 of our podcast. In that show I talk to Brooke Freeman, just before she started her new property, Natural Freedom Farm. In her interview, she speaks of her dream of starting a permaculture property like this. And here we are 9 months later, and she has the property about ready to open! I hope you enjoy her talk too.