Eco Learning Center

10277 Bingham Rd.
Traverse City, MI 49684
Phone: (231) 620-4775

For More Information Contact:
Jayne Leatherman-Walker

Special Events

Past event: Community Networking 2009:
the Wise, Seasoned Farmers/Artisans/Homesteaders

See the workshop schedule page for information on this series of community gatherings held each month from March through November.

Great Lakes Bioneers

Ninth annual Great Lakes Bioneers Conference hits Traverse City, October15-17, 2010.

Since 1990, the annual Bioneers conference in California has been the pre-eminent gathering of leading social and scientific visionaries with practical solutions for restoring the Earth. These biological pioneers - or bioneers - represent a wide array of fields ranging from biology to botany to industrial ecology - organic farming and integrative medicine to activism to the arts. For the fifth time, Bioneers is hosting satellite conference sites to allow more people more access to the speakers, information, and networking. Traverse city, Michigan has the honor of being one of these 20 select sites!

The Great Lakes Bionneers Conference 2010, organized by the Neahtawanta Center, SEEDS and other local educators, will again be hosted on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in October. A live staellite downlink of headlining speakers from the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA will be part of this unique regional event. Workshops will focus on the people and issues integral to our own Great Lakes region, including music, food and farming, renewable energy, and water.

Meet us at the crossroads of ecology and social justice...and eat really well!

For more infortmation go to
Or contact Great Lakes Bioneers:
      PO BOX 2454
      Traverse City, MI 29685

Buildings in the works

The Eco Learning Center is a 40 acre parcel, 50% woods, 15% dunes and reforesting hills, 25% farmable land. This is sacred ground. Any project created here must integrate with the ecosystem and be proportionately scaled to the ecological footprint. The goal is to demonstrate man's ability to live within the biological system maintaining human dignity and a reverence for the natural. Design will focus on using renewable resources and available building materials or recycled building products.

  • A library - currently a small strawbale greenhouse, the building will be renovated and turned into an insulated library. The roof needs to be reinforced, the inside plastered, a clay floor installed and a heated bench created.

  • A herb drying and seed saving building. This is a strawbale structure created from the frame of a corn crib. The inside and outside have been plastered and await a lime coating. A clay floor will be created and the roof insulated.

  • A bioshelter. Winter growing has great potential to extend the growing season and increase production in Michigan. The main challenge that needs to be overcome is one of finding a way to warm soil temperatures.

    A bioshelter is a greenhouse that is modeled after the natural environment, that takes into account the body of heat of chickens housed within the building, the heat produced by composting and heat retension from sunlight in thermal mass, as well as the importance of gas exchange and growing medium. The skeleton of this structure will be timber-frame.

    A section of the rear shed portion has been raised and boxed in to house batteries for the solar and wind system as well as the pressure tank for the irrigation system. More timbers need to be raised to complete the shed portion.

  • The Food and Friends building: a food building/demonstration center in which CSA members can gather, where food can be prepared for pickup and classes in natural cooking can be offered. This building will also provide housing for future volunteers and interns. Design-wise, it will be a combination of earthship and strawbale construction with a timber-frame. Our goal is to create community and an enhanced network of communication in the design process and implementation of the designs. The design process was begun in the 2005 Green Building Design Charrette where experts in sustainable building design facilitated a four day intensive planning session at the Eco-Learning Center.

  • A caretaker's cabin.

Formation of a Junior Board

The Eco Learning Center would like to assemble a team of interns, graduates and interested youth who will become the Center's first Junior Board. The board will receive training in negotiation skills and consensus building and will be given responsibility for some of the day to day operations, fundraising and administrative work. If you are interested, please contact Jayne Leatherman-Walker.


In the spring of 2005 the first stage of the agriforest was planted. Much of the property at the Eco Learning Center is wooded and therefore is not available for traditional agricultural crops. A group of interns and herbalists are devising a plan to re-establish native herbal species in some of the forested areas. Studies are also being done on the healthy growth of tree species that produce marketable products, such as nuts and fruit.

In conclusion, the afore mentioned projects will give our local public access TV channel 2, our multiple specialty tabloids, Traverse the Magazine, the Record Eagle, Interlochen public radio, the eTeach web site (connected to the local school systems) and all alternative news sources a few topics for creating public awareness through local programming. (They told me once that in the Fall during grape harvest season everyone wants to do an article in the vineyard. Well lets give them something to write about in every season, so we learn to hear the rhythm again,)