How to Marry your Business Partner: Weaving a ritual container for right relationship in business

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By Alla Guelber

The bride and groom enter the room from opposite corners as the upbeat electro swing of the Formidable Vegetable Sound System’sGet Together” pipes in.

He nervously adjusts his large white and blue top hat while looking out on to the assembled room of fifty or so friends, family, colleagues and clients, takes a deep breath and approaches his bride. She is resplendent in a flowing green and blue gown, decorated with a profusion of flowers and sprigs of greenery, carrying curly Russian kale, plump golden beets, spry little radishes and more, assembled in an ambitious mid-winter bouquet of last fall’s bounty.

“We are gathered here tonight in the presence of Gaia and all of our relations on traditional Blackfoot Territory.  We are joining in ceremony similar to one celebrated by countless cultures around the world… gathered to witness and support the creation of a fruitful and symbiotic relationship,” says the officiant.

They approach the rest of their wedding party: the best man, dressed as a voluminous yellow chicken (this is, of course, longstanding friend and mentor Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture), and me, the mastermind and maid-of-honour for this most lovely and unusual of celebrations.

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The reGenerate Design business wedding party. Photo courtesy Chad Chudyk

And so, with great pomp and circumstance, Mike Unrau, in the guise of the Fantastic Mr. Fox, opened the Business Wedding Ceremony for reGenerate Design, represented by the business’s principal owners, Lindsay Meads and Adrian Buckley.

Thus begins a community ritual several months in the making to celebrate two friends and business partners committing to working together, not only in right relationship with each other as colleagues, but also in alignment with their shared values in ecology, permaculture, and community.

Ensconced in a warm community space in downtown Calgary as winter winds howl outside on the first Saturday in February, Lindsay, Adrian, and their friends, colleagues and family members set strong intentions for a business that not only creates right livelihood for its owners, but sends out wider ripples true to their business mandate of holistic design solutions and empowering people to be leaders for positive change.

Plant nerd jokes, permaculture theory, well-wishes and light-hearted humour all interweave in a tight circle of connectivity, creating a ritual container to hold the larger-than-life endeavour of the “Great Work” that permaculture designers like Lindsay and Adrian take on as their chosen meaningful work.

Mike continues: “Both Lindsay and Adrian deeply respect the earth-based traditions in their personal and professional lives; Lindsay comes with a rich history in urban design and environmental geology and Adrian comes with experience in botany and community design. Together, they share a deep passion for ecologically and socially regenerative systems.”

Weaving community
As friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators, Adrian and Lindsay arrived into my life at approximately the same time. I met Adrian at the inaugural Calgary Harvest pick in October 2009 (Calgary Harvest is an urban fruit recovery initiative). At the time, Adrian was also actively starting a new permaculture design company called Big Sky Permaculture. In the spring of 2010, Lindsay attended the first-ever Meaningful Work Retreat that I organized, where Adrian was a guest presenter.

Fast forward to 2015. As their business “matchmaker”, I reveled in the joy of their individual journeys toward meaningful work converging in such a momentous occasion.

“The wedding ritual is one of the most powerful rituals in Western society,” says Sarah Kerr, owner of Soul Passages and founding director of the Holistic Death Network in Calgary. Sarah is a death midwife, celebrant and facilitator who offers nature-based spiritual support to individuals and communities navigating illness, death and loss.

A week prior to the business wedding, we all had a sense of the importance and gravity of the words spoken during the ceremony, and it took Sarah’s deep experience and insight to ensure that we created an appropriate ritual container.

“By formalizing their business partnership in a community ceremony, Lindsay and Adrian honoured the sacred aspect of their work. The ritual invited their human community and the larger living world, to participate in and support their endeavour,” Sarah says.

Sarah’s teaching reminds us that as we move forward in the work of ensuring that humans are a regenerative force on the earth, it is important to remember to weave ourselves back into an intimate relationship with the earth that sustains us.

“As healers and visionaries for a new world, permaculture designers and change-makers of all kinds have an opportunity to create appropriate rituals. These ceremonies help to anchor us in the wisdom and tradition of the infinite healing powers of the Earth, and honour those who have come before us,” she adds.

At this challenging junction in human history, the work of earth repair and people care can be deeply supported by personal and community rituals that anchor and sustain us in this transformative work.

Spades in the soil
Returning to the community room, warmed with repeated peals of laughter, the Fantastic Mr. Fox continues with an effusive, even theatrical flourish:

“If the sun is the guiding light, then ethical protocol is the torch that holds the flame.  In the permaculture tradition, ethics are the greatest manifestation of principled action to benefit the planet and people.”

Partyguests-AG“I am to remind you of the serious nature of the relationship you are now about to enter.  Therefore, if any persons can show just and sufficient reason why these two businesses cannot be joined in a business merger, let them now declare reasons, or from this time forward, forever keep their spade in their own soil.”

Peals of laughter erupt from the room. A little girl in a bunny costume darts across the room. Bright eyes and red cheeks spread out amongst our brightly coloured guests donning various stages of earth-themed costume radiate warmth, love and support.

At that point, inspired by the Celtic ritual of the warming of the rings, we passed around the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement. The business partners asked each person in attendance bestow their wishes upon this agreement to help and support the business in moving forward.

Asking each business wedding guest to spend time offering their blessings and positive intentions into the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement created an additional layer of structure and support into the ceremony.

“Ritual provides a structure through which energy can flow. People aren’t very often given structures through which they can flow love and support – and this ritual was about sharing love and support. This energy is real, real and it matters. That’s why the community warming of the rings – or the business agreement in this case – is so powerful,” Sarah explains.

Sharing Vows
Adrian and Lindsay wrote their own business vows, and, at this point in the ceremony, they recited them in unison in front of their assembled guests:

“We engage in transparent communication based on mutual respect.

“By continually understanding each others’ gifts and talents, we balance and support each others’ professional growth.

“We maintain a healthy degree of separation between our professional and personal lives. The business creates meaningful, fulfilling and sustainable livelihoods for us.

“We are professional, organized and unrushed. Our approach to problem solving is solutions-oriented. We activate and inspire people to create positive change in the community.

“We have fun!”

Mike then continued: “I now call upon you both in the presence of family and friends, and in the presence of this land, to benefit future generations, and deepen our connection to Mother Earth, and commit to the important work of being a regenerative force on the great lands and waters of this abundant world. Please repeat after me…”

Lindsay repeated: “I commit to you in a business partnership / until such a point / when it is better for the both of us / and for the world / for each of us to move in our separate ways.”

Adrian followed, “I commit to you in a business partnership / until such a point / when it is better for the both of us / and for the world / for each of us to move in our separate ways.”

With this statement, the audience lets out a deep sigh.

And the final icing on the cake, Mike said, “Now, I shall ask you to exchange your business cards, to finalize this business merger.”

Adrian and Lindsay exchanged business cards, and Mike added:

“As life is not without death, with these cards, Big Sky Permaculture will now serve as business mulch and sprout anew as reGenerate Design through both of their mycelial networks.”

“In the name of Bill Mollison and Jane Jacobs and by the power vested in all of us collaboratively, I now proclaim reGenerate Design Ltd. to be a new business. I now pronounce you business partners in right relationship to each other and your business. You may pound your fists!”

Business bride and groom sign the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement

Business bride and groom sign the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement

And so, with some fist pounding and the signing of the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement, the deed was done.

After the ceremony, we enjoyed three sisters burritos, honouring the sacred New World triad of corn, beans and squash, and a lovely potluck, as well as local mead and beer. We doled out small potted plants as prizes for best costumes. Adrian, Mike and several other friends performed live music, and the evening concluded with a DJ.

The business wedding served as a memorable, meaningful and creative way to recognize a significant commitment and transition in the lives of two business partners.

As Rachel Carson famously wrote in Silent Spring, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

And this well-intentioned, at-times silly, at times immensely deep ritual in the dark time of winter served to anchor in a new awareness for valuing age-old ritual. It planted seeds of structure, intention and support to lend energy and direction for the business’s continuous thriving. The partners in reGenerate Design and others like them engage in meaningful work that is far more than drafting and landscape design. Through their concerted efforts, they are contributing to the healing of our world, and the more that they and others are supported by community, as well as ritual process, the stronger their work will become.

This article is also posted at: http://regeneratedesign.ca/archives/787

City Repair Calgary workshops in July

The Meaningful Work Project is proud to support an exciting upcoming workshop with Mark Lakeman from Portland:

Cracks in the Pavement

Placemaking and the remaking of a modern city with Mark Lakeman

Thursday July 17th

7pm – 9m

We invite you and your friends to join us for an inspiring look at what is possible in the city of Calgary and in your neighbourhood!

This inspiring talk is geared towards anyone from community builders, public service people, artists, industry professionals, municipal government employees and activists.

Mark Lakeman is an inspired urban designer who, with his neighbours, transformed their own intersection into a place for community gatherings and interaction in 1996.  This started a mini-revolution in Portland, OR that has spread throughout the city and birthed City Repair, an organization that engages citizens in transforming places.

Register here: http://cracksinthepavement.brownpapertickets.com

Scott Weir

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Growing moral capacity through urban farming

Article by: Marta 

Passionate about sustainability, Scott Weir has started a successful urban farm in Calgary

Passionate about sustainability, Scott Weir has started a successful urban farm in Calgary

Starting an urban farm is not an easy task according to Scott Weir, but he has made it happen in a city where pursuing genuinely sustainable practices is yet to be taken seriously. Although Growing Gardeners Calgary Urban Farms started just one year ago, the idea and inspiration for it started much earlier. Founder Scott Weir says he’s always been inspired by the green movement and has been interested in hydroponics and building systems since he was only eleven, when he first got a glimpse of the technology at the EPCOT centre in Orlando, Florida. Since then, his interests have evolved and he now believes aquaponics is the way to go. After receiving a small grant to build his own aquaponics system, he started coaching others on building their own systems. He has developed course curriculum and websites, taught classes on the topic, and even presented the information to government officials. He says it addresses agricultural and societal hurdles such as “labour, water scarcity, waste, and cost issues.”

Our interview turned into a bit of a lesson plan for starting up your own business. Weir has a way of turning the conversation on you, so that it’s no longer about him; suddenly he’s teaching you the essentials of starting up a business so you don’t run into the same problems he encountered. There have been a lot of challenges with starting the farm, and Weir insists doing it alone isn’t the way to go: “the more support the better,” he says. He recommends that you “don’t buy anything new for your farm. Borrow or buy used equipment.” And, he says a key principle to the success of any entrepreneurial venture is to keep money for your business and money for your living expenses totally separate.

Weir hard at work on the farm

Weir, hard at work on the farm

Although Weir made it clear he’s had a rough couple of years starting the farm, he doesn’t want to discourage those interested in pursuing urban farming or gardening. “It can be difficult” he says, stating he put in eighteen hour days for months and noted challenges such as unexpected costs, poor land conditions, and crop failure, but he reflects saying “it’s one of those things where you have so much adversity before you, but also so much support behind you to help you succeed.” Now that the farm is seeing it’s last growing season, Weir isn’t worried; he says the land will most likely be sectioned off into growing plots for restaurant owners and the potential for growing will continue.

In the meantime, he’s had plenty of other commitments to keep him busy. He is a permanent board member of the University of Calgary Student Union Sustainability Board, the Parkdale Community Association Garden Community, and CJSW Radio Station. He has also been Vice President Operations and Finance of the UofC Students’ Union. He recently received one of three Calgary Arch Alumni awards given to future graduates the university deems “the innovators of tomorrow.”

He hopes urban farming continues to grow in Calgary, but more importantly he hopes that the “core values that go along with urban farming such as promoting organic and sustainably produced food and community involvement are integrated and supported on all farms that are local to us.”

If you’re hanging around the UofC campus, keep an eye out for Scott Weir. He’s happy to share useful information and knowledge gained through his many successful ventures. However busy, he always makes time to credit all those who have inspired him and helped him along the way. A future leader in sustainable practices, Scott Weir has the passion, focus, and credentials to keep us all on the right path toward meaningful economies and communities.

Mohamed Hage

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Growing abundance on Montreal rooftops

Article by: Marta 

Passionate about growing food and hydroponics, Mohamed Hage is revolutionizing the agriculture industry with his rooftop greenhouses.

Passionate about growing food and hydroponics, Mohamed Hage is revolutionizing the agriculture industry with his rooftop greenhouses.

Scattered throughout the city of Montreal are pick-up points, where Montrealers have access to rare varieties of vegetables that you won’t find at your local grocery store. They are fresh, have never seen a refrigerator, and were grown right in the heart of Montreal. These veggies have been grown through the mechanisms of hydroponic technology on rooftop greenhouses, thanks to a new company called Lufa Farms.

Eyes beaming, founder and president Mohamed Hage explains the inner workings of the farm and how it can bring people closer to their food and promote a sustainable lifestyle for those living in cities. It uses no new land, and harnesses heat energy usually lost through the rooftops of existing buildings as well as heat energy from the sun. It harvests rainwater and circulates nutrient-rich water within the greenhouse. There’s no waste, close to no fossil fuel inputs, a lot less packaging than conventional methods, and no synthetic pesticides are used in the process.

It’s no surprise that in 2011, after the grand opening of the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse, universities and people from a diversity of communities wanted to check out the agricultural transformation happening within Montreal. Lufa Farms now offers open house tours to those interested in the farm, giving consumers a direct link to their food.

Mohamed is revolutionizing the agricultural industry, reworking the system, and giving his clientele a chance to be involved in the process. Originally from Lebanon, he says his inspiration stems from the already self-sustaining village he grew up in, where growing sustainably and responsibly is “nothing new.” But, he sees farmers slowly getting roped into the same pesticide-promoting monoculture farming practices we’ve seen happen to our farms here in Canada and what’s more he says, “they’re not able to make a decent living.”

Rainbow Chard grown with hydroponics in Lufa's rooftop greenhouse

Rainbow Chard grown with hydroponics in Lufa’s rooftop greenhouse

Hearing Canadian and Lebanese farmers’ difficulties with today’s agricultural practices catapulted Hage into what seems to be his innate talent for coming up with sound and efficient ways of addressing our global agricultural hurdles. “There are solutions, and people want change,” says Hage. He sees Canada being a global leader in shaping “Earth 2.0,” where we tackle environmental and social issues in a responsible way and set an example for the rest of the world.

A self-proclaimed “lover of technology,” Mohamed has the credentials and knowledge to back up his passions. Having studied electrical engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa, he says he’s always been interested in hydroponics and a plethora of environmental technologies. In his spare time, Hage can be found building solar panels or learning how to generate electricity from water.

Clearly a workaholic, Mohamed laughs saying “he feels bad when he goes on vacation” and, always humble, gives credit to his entire team, stating that he “surrounds himself with the best people,” describing his co-founders Lauren and Kirk as his mentors.

A leader in the green movement and the epitome of meaningful work, Mohamed Hage is facilitating change and paving the way for sustainable and responsible agriculture everywhere, starting right here in Canada.

Now What?!? Idea and Action Blitz for Verge Permaculture

Eager permaculture students meet each other on the opening night of the Verge Permaculture PDC

Eager permaculture students meet each other on the opening night of the Verge Permaculture PDC

Calgary’s permaculture community is chock full of inspiring individuals who are actively creating their own meaningful work through small businesses, small grassroots projects, and non-profit initiatives. Last fall, I had the opportunity to take part in the ever-popular Verge Permaculture 72 hour Permaculture Design Certificate. My friends at Verge and I have partnered to organize an evening of inspiration, community-building and dialogue on Saturday, May 25. This gathering is geared at permaculture students, but is open to the public for anyone trying to figure out how to move their world-changing dreams and passions to reality. Admission is only $5. Come out for a fun evening connecting to the most dynamic movement for positive change in Calgary ~ Alla

Now What!?! Idea and Action Blitz for Students and Alumni

Wondering how to turn your permaculture passions into meaningful work? Need a boost of inspiration and support? Come out for an evening of (re)connecting with fellow permaculture enthusiasts, support each others’ permaculture businesses and projects, and share snacks, ideas and more!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Winston Heights Mountainview Community Hall | 520 27 Avenue NE, Calgary

Snack-luck: 6 pm | ProAction Café Start: 7 pm End: 9 pm.

Please bring a small dish to share (label your ingredients and bring your own dishes & utensils). Tea/coffee will be provided.

Space is limited! Please register online through the Verge Permaculture website to reserve your spot! Admission: $5 – All proceeds to the Permaculture Calgary Guild

About the “Blitz”

Are you working on a permaculture business or project? This is your chance for feedback and support!

 Some of you have already launched permaculture-inspired businesses or non-profit projects. Others are in the dreaming and scheming phase. We’ll create a space for supporting each other, offering insightful feedback, resources and advice on specific projects for volunteers within the group.

How it works:

The “Blitz” is based on the ProAction Cafe model – a simple but effective facilitation tool that creates a fun, interactive space to collectively brainstorm business and project ideas of participants. It taps into the intelligence of the group to offer insightful feedback, resources and advice on specific projects for volunteers within the group. More about ProAction Café

More info and registration

This was an "Earth Repair Cafe" I helped Verge Permaculture organize for the opening evening of the Fall Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)

This was an “Earth Repair Cafe” I helped Verge Permaculture organize for the opening evening of the Fall Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)