In Memory of Toby Hemenway

Toby’s excellent books…

Toby Hemenway was my first permaculture teacher before I took a “formal” PDC. I met him back in 2013 and after having read and re-read his books. He was the first person introducing me to systems thinking and the possibility of applying permaculture to a city or suburban area. He not only walked the talk, he was a brilliant teacher and gifted writer.

His was also the first permaculture book I read, even before Holmgren’s and Mollison’s “classics”.

I gave away Toby’s first book to a dear friend, so Toby dedicated a new one when we met in Vancouver

May Toby’s legacy be expanded by his many students, may Gaia receive him in her loving arms.

He said: “Yet soil is miraculous. It is where the dead are brought back to life. Here, in the thin earthy boundary between inanimate rock and the planet’s green carpet, lifeless minerals are weathered from stones or decomposed from organic debris. Plants and microscopic animals eat these dead particles and recast them as living matter. In the soil, matter recrosses the boundary between living and dead; and, as we have seen, boundaries-edges-are where the most interesting and important events occur.”

And: “Permaculture is not the movement of sustainability and it is not the philosophy behind it; it is the problem-solving approach the movement and the philosophy can use to meet their goals and design a world in which human needs are met while enhancing the health of this miraculous planet that supports us.”

Toby: we never really leave earth; we just pass from one form of matter-energy to another. Your physical body will survive, magically transformed through the many layers of earth ecosystems and will appear in thousand locations as a bird, a leaf of grass, an earthworm, a mycelium string.

Your soul and spirit, through your works and teachings, will stay with us forever.

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,

And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.”


~ Excerpt from “Song of Myself”, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman


Thanks Toby!

Toby’s website:

3 Comments on “In Memory of Toby Hemenway

    • Thank you Michael, he was a great teacher and permaculture practitioner. My wish is that people in the permaculture world stop competing and fighting each other and embrace the true roots of this amazing movement of love for the Earth, the People and the Future Generations. We have a huge responsibility to sustain and share those values…for Toby, for Bill and all the ones who are doing their work quietly in communities or households, rural or urban…


  1. Thank you Silvia for this personal tribute to Toby. For me it is a introduction to his lifework, and I thoroughly enjoyed and was inspired in reading and watching one of his lectures. Although you, and another friend, Jack Anderson from Lund, have introduced me to Permaculture, Toby’s life (and passing) may be the sort of kick in the butt I need to begin to be more serious in it’s implementation. “If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles” Rest in Peace, Toby…

    Liked by 1 person

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