It takes one person to change a community! A story from Basalt, Colorado

It takes one person to change a community! A story from Basalt, Colorado
October 28, 2014 Perma Action
Aspen Permaculture

In Colorado, we met that person. Her name is Stephanie Syson and she worked tirelessly in collaboration with the City of Basalt to transform a previously unused plot to a permaculture food forest and seed saving park. This land was once just a patch of grass in the center of Basalt across from a gas station and Subway, but now it’s on the way to becoming an organic food forest for the community of Basalt and a garden that grows seeds for the seed library, housed within the town’s public library.

You have more power than you think in changing the use of public space! 

Our Action Day for Aspen, Colorado, took place at the Basalt Food Garden on Saturday, October 18th, 2014.  The Permaculture Action Team and the Polish Ambassador joined the community to improve and expand the diversity of the young food forest. We arrived to dozens of volunteers and community members diligently at work spreading wood chips between garden beds, building a cob bench, and planting perennial, medicinal, and edible plants.


Blue skies and beautiful weather were on our minds as we built the cob benches, laid down cardboard on the garden beds for the winter, and spread mulch on the pathways.  Additionally, there was an educational tent for permaculture lectures throughout the day.

The five lectures offered discussion on topics that included: ‘Quantum Leadership’ with Gwen Garcelon, (Highlife Unlimited), ‘Colorado native plants’, soil health, and ‘Hemp in CO’. Nearby was the “Wild Style” food tent that served locally raised meat and organic, seasonal produce.

Paul Suttenhower of 'Aspen T.R.E.E., a local organization guided volunteers to construct two half-moon shaped cob benches.

The Basalt Food Garden is an open space where anyone can connect with the trees, plants, the earth, and the soil.

During the project day, Jose Garcia and his son were biking by and couldn’t help but stop in to see what was going on. Jose moved to Aspen from Puerto Vallerta, Mexico, just shy of three years ago, to get away from the violence in his hometown. This was his first time in the Basalt Food Garden and a twinkle of familiarity glistened in his eyes when he saw the cob benches being built. He explained to his son that this was how his father built Adobe huts in Mexico.  He left with a smile and said he will come back with family, friends, and neighbors too!

The crew was well taken care of at the Aspen/Basalt action day.  basalt foodJerome Ostentowski, founder of Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI), brought a huge salad of fresh greens and edible flowers from his 30-year mature food forest. We were able to receive a tour of the CRMPI food forest the morning before the action day, getting a glimpse of the broad diversity of edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful plants a food forest can grow, in addition to the astounding habitat and natural beauty Jerome fosters.   Stephanie actually lived and worked at CRMPI for three years before starting the Basalt Food Library and the Forest Garden.

We strongly recommend a visit to the CRMPI Food Forest!

Check out their website –


Stephanie and the Basalt Food Forest are examples of what is possible when a dedicated visionary works with her community to build an idea from the ground up. Basalt is pushing through the pavement and the seeds are growing like wildflowers.

Common Space

The commons is a new way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good of all.

The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works.


The Basalt Food Garden

A farmer sells fresh produce!

A group mixes sand, mud, straw and water between their toes to make cob.

JJ Evanoff Experience plays music while volunteers work