Biochar Production/Use in Agroforestry Systems – Art Donnelly and Peter Kring Event Dates: January 24-January 26, 2013
This is part of our Applied Permaculture Series with well-known teachers and experts from throughout Central America Join Art Donnelly of Sea Char and Peter Kring of Finca La Isla for this unique workshop on making and using Biochar. Biochar is a soil amendment made famous through the Terra Preta soils of the Amazon, and has been called The Secret of El Dorado. Through the process of pyrolysis, organic material is partially combusted in an oxygen reduced atmosphere, the by-product is a durable fixed carbon charcoal. When added as an soil amendment, Biochar acts as sponge, holding key nutrients in the soil preventing them from leaching out due to heavy tropical rains.    This ancient process has been shown to have very beneficial effects on soil fertility in weathered tropical soils. As well, biochar provides an ideal host site for microorganisms and increases soil aeration. Especially if the organic material to be carbonized is grown and procured from on site, then the entire process becomes carbon negative. Biochar locks up carbon from the carbon cycle in our soils where we need it.
This workshop will explain what biochar is, the history and science behind it, how to make it and how it is best applied in agroforestry systems. As well, we will each construct an Estufa Finca Biochar Cook-Stove to take home and as a group build a 55-gallon drum TLUD    Biochar kiln. This workshop is designed for individuals, regardless of experience level, who want to learn about successful biochar theory and practice from these two experienced instructors.
Applied Permaculture:
 Applied permaculture is an evolving series of short courses hosted at top quality learning institutions like Rancho Mastatal. Enrollment is open to all, though PDC graduates may get the most out of it. The concept is to stimulate and develop climate and system specific skills sets for individuals and groups. Learn by doing and share your new skills with your local community.
About the Instructors:
Art earned an MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of design. For the past twenty years he has been a working metal artist. Art Donnelly is a co-founder and President of the Seattle, Washington, USA, non-profit : SeaChar.Org. SeaChar’s global mission is to develop, promote and share positive tools for carbon negative living. Teaching has always been central to SeaChar’s mission. To date more than 350 people have taken our Biochar/Stove building workshops.    For the past two years Art has been the Director of the Estufa Finca (Farm Stove) Project in Costa Rica. He developed the Estufa Finca in 2010 to be used by migrant Ngobe coffee bean pickers. The Estufa Finca cook-stove has been tested in the laboratory and on the finca, it uses 50% less wood, burns 92% cleaner and produces a highly adsorbent biochar. SeaChar is currently working with cacao farmers and processors in the Talamaca region to introduce biochar and biochar technology. You can learn more about SeaChar and the Estufa Finca Project at
Peter is an agroecologist, farmer, and orchardist with decades of experience in permaculture esign. In his own words, “I’d been a life-long hobby gardener/agronomist before coming to osta Rica 25 years ago to create a small, sustainable growing project, with the goal of earning espectable standard of living using a family farm model. Initially, the project was most heavily influenced by the teachings of Fukuoka. We produce many kinds of tropical fruits, black pepper, vanilla, ornamental plants, and artisan chocolate. Our farm is heavily diversified but some carefully chosen cash crops have made it
financially successful. For our critically important message to attract the attention of the common farmer our projects need to be financially viable. My greatest pleasure has been to plant a seed, watch a tree grow, see it flower, and taste the first fruit! You can learn more about Peter, his permaculture farm Finca La Isla, and the work he and his family have done over the past 25 years at their website:
Other Information:
Students should plan on arriving to Rancho Mastatal no later than 8 a.m. on the first day of the course (January 24) and are encouraged to arrive on the evening before (prices include lodging for the night of January 23). Costs Central Americans, US$200; residents and ex-pats, US$250; foreigners, $300. Cost includes four nights lodging starting on January 23, all meals, course instruction and full access to Rancho Mastatal and its private wildlife refuge.
For more information about food and lodging please see our website accommodations. Course
Please follow the link for payment options.
For more information and/or to enroll in this course please contact Tim O’Hara at and/or call the Ranch at 2200-0920. We have a maximum of 15 openings for this workshop and a minimum of 5 students to run the course.