History of Culture's Edge

Culture’s Edge was incorporated as an educational non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 1996, with the mission of providing programs in permaculture design and sustainable community development.  Most of its founders were members of the newly-formed ecovillage called Earthaven, which had been established in 1994 on the border between Buncombe and Rutherford Counties in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

For much of the next decade, Culture’s Edge focused on presenting three seasons a year of courses, primarily on-site at Earthaven, in Permaculture Design and Teaching Certification, Natural Building, Consensus Governance and Decision-Making, and offshoots such as Organic Gardening, Herbal Medicine, and Chinese Healing Arts.  Early in our tenure, we organized the “Citywork” project in Asheville, bringing together activists from many disciplines to determine levels of shared purpose and potential collaboration.  We also collaborated with

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Earthaven on several regional and national events, including the Continental Bioregional Congress of North America in 2003 and the Katuah Bioregional Gathering in 2005.  As part of our commitment to sustainable community development, we co-hosted the regional Reclaiming Economics event, bringing individuals and group representatives together on the subjects of trade, bioregional planning and alternative currencies.

Within that decade, permaculture, natural building, and ecovillage culture and philosophy became more widely known, locally and globally.  In response, Culture’s Edge shifted focus to providing extended onsite learning experiences and internships in these areas.  We also expanded our offerings to include cutting edge programs, such as Sociocracy (also called “Dynamic Governance,”) Compassionate Intimacy, and Healing Dance.  We co-hosted one of their annual community gatherings with the Fellowship for Intentional Communities at Earthaven. More recently, we presented international conferences (2015, 2017, and 2019) in Restorative Circles, a practice developed by Dominic Barter in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Restorative Circles aims to help connect groups in conflict through shared needs for justice and safety. Mr. Barter, who attended the 2015 event, will be in attendance again at our next scheduled conference in July 2021.

Culture’s Edge has been active in the incubation of programs and projects aligned with our mission and has offered fiscal sponsorship as a support for fledgling and single-event programs with related values and goals. In 2017, the Southeastern Permaculture Gathering was approved for fiscal sponsorship and in 2018, the fledgling Ten Thousand Love Letters project, which initiated the annual Compassion Camp at Earthaven, requested and received fiscal sponsorship.

We held planning retreats in 2019, and by early 2020 the Board of Culture’s Edge had defined a closer connection with Earthaven Ecovillage, in order to bring more of our resources and potential for development to the community while expanding our outreach to the larger American culture. We began planning the development of podcasts, webinars, and videos about permaculture skills, regenerative agriculture, and governance and communication skills that allow intentional communities to flourish.  At the same time, we acquired the outstanding educational program that had functioned independently at Earthaven since 2013 as SOIL, aka the School of Integrated Living. SOIL has traditionally focused on in-person experiential learning with Earthaven as its campus and model.  Its well-developed website, which has an excellent presence on the web, will become the platform for our on-line education program.  We will also continue SOIL’s in-person offerings beginning in May of 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Both Culture’s Edge and SOIL have offered their programs primarily on a fee for service basis.  In our 2019 planning retreats we identified a goal of extending our offerings to disadvantaged people through lowered fees or scholarships.  

With these developments, we look forward to increasing our expertise, incubating new ideas, and building our capacity to provide inspirational models of regenerative culture to our region and beyond.