Resilience as Revolution

Resilience– a term becoming more prominent in discussions of well-being and health - is the ability to adapt to and accommodate stressors and challenging situations. Also called the “bounce back factor”, resilience can be examined across different scales, such as the individual, community, and the environment.

The term resilience subverts typical ways of thinking about tragedy and stress as negative and destructive by flipping the language – instead of asking what went wrong, resilience asks what went right? How did the individual, community, or ecosystem adapt to, reintegrate, and grow? How can we utilize personal and community resilience for bigger social change, such as environmental activisim? Indeed, resiliency and its corollaries and synonyms of abundance, regeneration, replenishment, adaptation, relationship, collaboration, and community are the intent of permaculture*, the model on which The Resiliency Institute is based.

“Resilience is perhaps our most beautiful, miraculous trait” (AM Brown, Emergent Strategy)

What makes us, individuals and communities, resilient? Research has identified individual indicators of resilience, such as genetics and other biological markers that are, one their own, weak. However, one key concept when considering resiliency is relationship or community support, and not just breadth of relationships, but depth. Close, supportive, loving relationships allow for security and adaptive capacity. “When we are engaged in acts of love, we humans are at our best and most resilient” (AM Brown, Emergent Strategy) Resilient individuals make resilient communities and vice versa – bidirectionality and mirroring of parts to the whole, individuals to community.

To create resilience, we need self-care, earth-care, and community-care (see permaculture* definition). At The Resiliency Institute, we engage individuals and communities in these care concepts – resilient self-care and community care through our women’s circles and yoga classes, nature connection and earth-tending care through herbalism, edible wild plants, permaculture, and forest-bathing classes (people remembering their connection to nature and desiring to care for the earth is, itself, revolutionary), and collaborative efforts with similar organizations to bolster and support and nourish community abundance, such as Sustain Dupage, and the Theosophical Society.

We are approaching our 7 year anniversary at The Resiliency Institute. Anniversaries demarcate effort and encourage self-reflection. What has our organization done in 7 years? How have we changed and adapted? How can we regenerate and progress our vision, mission, and community offerings? How have we contributed to individual and collective resilience? - All self-reflection and organizational care at the workplace level to allow for resilience. And we are proud of our record. Classes, nature connection, community collaboration and abundance. Tiny revolutions** with a big reach. Thank you to those that have supported us – together, we can craft the resilient individuals and communities that will sustain us in the future.

*Permaculture is beyond the frequently used pseudonym of “permanent agriculture”. It is a holistic design approach for creating resilient systems for daily living practices (people care), land care, and community care. Permaculture involves working with nature rather than against, with the goal of creating abundance so that individuals and communities become producers rather than consumers. Permaculture has been described as “revolution disguised as gardening”

**‘Tiny revolutions’ was the theme of our Wild Woman Project Circles for 2019 . The idea was to create and foster tiny, individual acts of self-care, sustaining, whole ways of living that ripple out from individual to greater community. Harnessing our individual and collective resilience for well-being, health, and holistic ways of being is an abundant mode of existence that contrasts strikingly with the typical fixation on illness, dysfunction, and scarcity. In this way, resiliency is revolution – a circumventing of negative framing of disturbance, stress, and even tragedy into empowerment and the positive identification of flexibility and growth. Tiny acts that are actually big.

Recommended Resources:
Brown, AM. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. AK Press, 2017.

Southwick SM et al. Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014, 5: 25338 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338

The Hive Podcast: Permaculture, Sustainability, and the Art of Frugal Hedonism with David Holmgren https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nathalie-nahai-2/the-hive-podcast

Find more information about our classes and registration HERE.

Photo by Jana Blue Photography

Be a Forest Garden Friend

Volunteer to be a Forest Garden Friend to support the growth of public permaculture edible forest gardens!

The Resiliency Institute Forest Garden FriendsForest Garden Friends are eager to learn about permaculture design and contribute to projects that are growing food security, reconnecting people to nature, and increasing biodiversity. With the support of volunteers like you, The Resiliency Institute community has established two edible forest gardens in 3 years! This is an amazing accomplishment, that is even more amazing because both of these projects were 100% designed, prepped, and planted by volunteers who donated their time, labor, expertise, skills, and resources.


Shop Whole Foods 9/17 to Grow Food Security

WFM 5 Percent Day Circle LogoWhole Foods Market Naperville will hold a 5% Community Giving Day on Wednesday, September 17, to support the building of a demonstration edible forest garden by The Resiliency Institute on The Conservation Foundation’s McDonald Farm. Bring the family and enjoy our in store activity.

The Whole Foods Market store is located at 2607 W. 75th Street in Naperville and open from 8 am to 10 pm.


Edible Forest Gardens

fruit trees, herb spiral, compost, bees, water management, keyhole garden

An Edible Forest Garden is a land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs, perennial vegetables, herbs, flowering and medicinal plants.  Companions or beneficial plants are included as insectaries, pest confusers, dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, and mulch plants. Together they create relationships to form a forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with minimal maintenance.  Edible forest gardens can play a significant role in cultivating community food security and reconnecting people with nature.

Benefits of Edible Forest Gardens:

Pat Armstrong Yard Tour

  • Provides fresh local food to the community
  • Demonstrates a commitment to food security and ecological restoration
  • Reduces or eliminates lawn maintenance costs
  • Creates a community park
  • Serves as an outdoor classroom or educational resource
  • Connects people to food and nature
  • Inspires the growth of individual edible forest gardens
  • Increases wildlife habitat and biodiversity

“As Masanobu Fukuoka once said, ‘The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.’ How we garden reflects our worldview. The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world. Forest gardening gives us a visceral experience of ecology in action, teaching us how the planet works and changing our self-perceptions. Forest gardening helps us take our rightful place as part of nature doing nature’s work, rather than as separate entities intervening in and dominating the natural world.” ~Dave Jacke, Edible Forest Gardens

Why Grow an Edible Forest Garden?

feedingamerica-foodbank-illinois-northernillinoisfoodbank-2012Food security is achieved when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. With 1 in 8 families facing hunger in Northern Illinois, our suburban communities are not food secure. The current food system's dependency on cheap fossil fuels and transportation infrastructure cannot be sustained as resources become constrained, not to mention the impacts their practices have on soil, air, water, and human health. If food delivery trucks stop coming into your community, how long do you think you will be able to feed your family with the food you have access to in your home and from your land? Most communities are said to have only about three days worth of food in their local grocery stores.

It is imperative that we begin growing a new food system that places food security as the primary goal. With more than half of the U.S. population living in the suburbs and an abundance of land, the suburbs can become food producing communities able to feed themselves and support neighboring urban and rural communities.

The Resiliency Institute sees a new suburban reality where underutilized and resource intensive lawns are converted into productive and abundant edible forest gardens growing fresh, nourishing fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs for public consumption. Fruit and nut trees have supported human grow-pear-tree-cutting-800x800nutrition for thousands of years, but as the population has urbanized, people have lost touch with their food sources—even the ones that grow right in their front yards. The Resiliency Institute's Growing Food Security program aims to change this by bringing tree based food gardens back into communities and reconnecting people with their food sources.

The pleasure of picking a ripe pear, plum, or persimmon from a tree in your yard or neighborhood garden is not just a sweet seasonal joy. It also offers fresh and nutritious food to communities that may lack ready access to quality produce. It educates people about food sources and growing cycles, and about basic tree biology and agriculture. It brings neighbors together to dig and plant and prune and harvest, and to enjoy the delicious bounty of their trees. It engages residents to alter their landscape, turning vacant lots and derelict spaces into beneficial gardens that can help turn a neighborhood around.



The Resiliency Institute offers edible forest garden consulting to non-profit and private businesses with land and public access. We invite collaborations with hunger relief organizations, park districts, forest preserves, counties, and municipalities interested in addressing food security and regenerative land management. Designing and installing an edible forest garden involves goal creation, community building, and a commitment to creating and maintaining an enduring, productive, ecosystem.

Contact us to schedule an appointment.

We are currently designing and installing two edible forest gardens and one Growing Food Security garden. Each of these projects demonstrates how lawns can be transitioned into food producing systems that regenerate soil, ecology, and biodiversity. People will visit the edible forest gardens and experience the joy of harvesting fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, medicinal, and dye plants. They will see bees, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and other animals. Areas for children and picnics invite people to enjoy the shade and beauty. Combined with educational components and hands-on activities, people will have the tools to grow an edible forest garden in their own yards and begin the transformation of the suburbs into resilient permaculture communities.

The Resiliency Institute Demonstration Edible Forest Garden

McDonald Farm Edible Forest Garden, Fall 2013
McDonald Farm Edible Forest Garden, Fall 2013

In 2013 we began the installation of the FIRST edible forest garden in Naperville on The Conservation TCF Color LogoFoundation’s McDonald Farm! McDonald farm is a 60-acre farm surrounded by suburban development, preserved for conservation, education, and agriculture.  Over 8,000 people visit the farm annually to participate in activities and learn about renewable energy, water conservation techniques, native landscaping, green roofing, organic farming, and soon, how to transform lawn into an edible forest garden. The Conservation Foundation, a 41-year-old non-profit land and watershed protection organization, owns the farm and is headquartered there.

The Resiliency Institute demonstration edible forest garden (135’x40’) includes areas for WFM_NPV_Logorecreation, children’s exploration, and inspiration. The design incorporates existing trees, re-purposes materials currently there, and reuses the water from the vegetable washing station to irrigate the site through a connected swale/berm system. Being added to the area are 12 trees, 73 shrubs, 14 vines, countless herbaceous and ground cover plants, bridges, rock gardens, rain gardens, mandala garden, kiwi igloos, and hop arbors. It is a demonstration and educational programming tool for how we can transform suburban lawns, grow food security, and have beautiful, self-maintaining landscapes.


Ferry Forest Gardendupage-logo

Ferry Forest Garden site Warrenville, IL
Ferry Forest Garden site 2014
Naperville, IL

Soon Illinois Prairie Path users will be able to enjoy foraging and relaxing at the Ferry Forest Garden, a third-acre of DuPage County right-of-way land along the Illinois Prairie Path on Ferry Road just west of 59 in north Naperville. With the help of volunteers, The Resiliency Institute began the land's transformation with sheet mulching in November, 2014.ipp-contextual-logo

In spring 2015, we planted 20 trees funded by the Illinois Prairie Path. Over 30 shrubs and a hugelkultur berm have also been installed funded by The Resiliency Institute until sponsorships can be secured.  We would love to include a gazebo made from pruned branches with a mosaic tiled floor growing with grapes and artwork crafted from scrap materials inviting path users to enter the garden and explore. This project is expected to cost $16,000 including all plantings and signage. All labor has been volunteered.



Northern Illinois Food Bank Growing Food Security Garden

Northern Illinois Food Bank Growing Food Security Garden
Northern Illinois Food Bank
Growing Food Security Garden 2014

The Resiliency Institute is developing a Growing Food Security pilot program to introduce Northern Illinois Food Bank and its network partners to permaculture as another approach to growing food security. Through the installation of “Growing Food Security Gardens” at the food bank and its network partner locations we will be providing an educational tool and a scalable model for building community edible forest gardens. Nutritious, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs will become freely available for food insecure people to harvest within the communities served by the Northern Illinois Food Bank and its network partners.

Northern Illinois Food Bank serves 13 counties surrounding Chicago and has 800 network partners (pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child and senior sites) assisting 600,000 people annually. The demands placed on hunger relief organizations have increased dramatically in the last few years with 46.5 million people living in poverty, the largest number since statistics were first published more than 50 years ago. This program is designed to offer another option for feeding people that increases self-reliance and decreases use of hunger relief organizations.

Please visit our Get Involved page to learn how you can support these projects!

Resilient Communities on the Edge

By Amy Coffman Phillips

b-collaborative_resilient-communities_thumbStudies have shown that America has become much more polarized in the last twenty-five years in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and particularly political world views. These divisions have been exacerbated by structural forces, such as fragmented news media, increasing disparity of socio-economic conditions, and indoctrinated societal world-views, to name a few.

Each of these barriers are complex and interrelated, but if you accept we have inadvertently created these structural barriers that serve to disconnect our communities, we should be able to identify and break down these barriers as well. Doing so would foster interconnected, resilient communities that are able to resolve disputes and weather disturbance more effectively than is possible today.