The Fruits of Facilitation

Hillary Lowenberg
Hillary Lowenberg.

During winter break, I attended a weekend workshop on group facilitation at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Occidental, CA. I was hoping to hone my skills as a group facilitator to be a more effective leader for the Fall in the Field program. With the financial support from the SOU Biology department and the Student Fee Committee, I could afford the costs. The workshop was run by Adam Wolpert, a member of the intentional community and non-profit.

Egg dish.

Over the course of the weekend, I gained a wealth of knowledge about group facilitation, group development, conflict management and prevention, consensus building and working as a cohesive group. We slept in beautiful, modern yurts. They fed us delicious food (most of which came directly from the garden). One of my favorite meals was an egg dish baked in a muffin tin layered with potatoes and fennel from the garden. The dish was served with mini heart-shaped biscuits and home-made jam, yum!

During our breaks from the workshop, I would meander through the Center’s biodynamic and permaculture gardens. The gardener has been employed by the center for 30 years and planted 90 varieties of tomatoes this past summer. Many seeds were given to the Center by their friends in a cooperative from South America. There are also cob benches, outdoor classrooms and a full-size theatrical stage in the garden.

Garden and cob bench.
Tree dahlia.

I was so excited to learn about the fruit and flowers of northern California that I had never seen before. Another participant in the workshop taught me how to peel a prickly pear with a knife. I shared the delicious, bright pink and juicy fruit with my peers; smiles beaming. I also tasted for the first time a medlar, the fruit Shakespeare has made famous in many of his books. It tasted like cinnamon applesauce! I also discovered a tree dahlia. I wore one of the lavender colored flowers in my hair. The stem is as thick as a bamboo stalk and it grows nearly as tall.

Slicing through the flesh of a prickly pear.
Slicing through the flesh of a prickly pear.

I made a lot of connections with interesting people involved in meaningful environmental and non-profit organizations and alternative schools. It was an inspiring and rejuvenating experience. To end my weekend in California, I walked along the beach with a friend and watched the sunset thinking about how fortunate I am.

Spectacular sunset on the beach.
Spectacular sunset on the beach.

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