Cliff Has Agreed To Be Co-Founder–and We Have A Board of Directors! And more updates

I feel so joyful because so many things are suddenly coming into place that I have wanted ever since I started Vegan Utopia Ecovillage.

  • Cliff Mikkelson, my former husband and friend, wants to be co-founder. Now I have someone to work with who lives on the Ecovillage land, and who adds such a beautiful energy and focus of his passion–teaching people about the oneness of all.
  • Kyle Luzynski, Rob McNeil, and Scott Masters are happy to be part of our board of directors and they are helping Cliff and I refine our Mission, Vision and Aims as well as figuring out what their roles will be, and sphere of decision making. Cliff and I are part of the board, of course.
  • I am working with Kyle and Rob to create the international organization, Project Animal Freedom, which will be very connected to Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and has a similar vision and mission.
  • I am taking an advanced class where I am learning through practice and study how to implement Sociocracy, AKA Dynamic Governance in Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and Project Animal Freedom.
  • I’m working on a team to write and edit the Vegan Intentional Communities Handbook for the US political party, Humane Party.
  • We are continuing to receive coaching from Diana Leafe Christian, one of the leading coaches of the best practices of intentional communities.

For once in my life, I am really trying to focus because I am supporting this wonderful group of people–4 separate teams–in being successful. Working with a team that is passionate about what we are working on, and in alignment with my vision and values, is what I have wanted to do for my entire life!

Now, I have 4 different teams to work with, and I love it! My roles vary in each team–but my duties include facilitating, creating agendas, taking and publishing minutes, tracking action items, writing proposals for the big picture and for policies. Whew! This is a full time job!

Fortunately, I am trading rent and getting most of my food expenses paid for through a trade so I don’t have to work very much, and I am living super frugally! I am doing my best to take care of myself–exercising, meditating, journaling, praying, connecting with friends and family, doing emotional release work, and other things that help me stay peaceful and joyful. All of the teams I am working with have big visions for helping to create a world where all of life thrives and this is a big job!

Here are a few specific things Cliff and I as cofounders who are setting the direction of the Ecovillage are working on:

  • Fine-tuning our new focus of being a training center for people who want to transition to veganism, be part of the animal rights movement, and learn the skills needed for optimally healthy community.
  • Developing all the things that are needed that Diana Leafe Christian recommends for healthy community to have in place.
  • Creating a plan for making the land a secure place that is owned by the community and has clear covenants which will insure that the community will live on through the next 7 generations at least.
  • Figuring out the roles of the board and our structure as a sociocratic organization.
  • Fine-tuning the membership and screening process so we can start welcoming people to live on the land by spring time.
  • Go over the website together and make sure that we are in alignment with everything on it and make it easier to navigate.

I have SO much to share, but I am way behind on my commitments, so I will leave you with this story from this article by Matt Morris.

“Like any plant, growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree requires nurturing – water, fertile soil, sunshine. In its first year, we see no visible signs of activity. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third, the fourth, still nothing. Our patience is tested and we begin to wonder if our efforts (caring, water, etc.) will ever be rewarded.

And finally in the fifth year – behold, a miracle! We experience growth. And what growth it is! The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!”

My sense is that all my dreams are going to shoot up this year. Why has this has taken so long? That’s another story!


Examples of Universal Principles of Living

I felt drawn to most of these principles in this article.  I might even be able to embrace them all! I want to share them with you and see what you think. Of course I would add the principle of treating all of life with kindness and nonviolence, including animals.

This principle was helpful to me:


You’d be surprised how many lies I told myself and how many times I suffered because of them. Indeed, the lies I told myself fed into the lies I told other people and left me isolated when all I ever craved was connection. Can you believe that? My cure for loneliness was isolation. But I changed all of that when I started to speak my own truth and gave the people around me the opportunity to truly know who I was and what I stood for. We live in fear of what other people will think or say about us, but do you really want those kinds of people in your life today? Tell your truth; embrace who you are and let the naysayers know that, if it’s going to make a difference as to whether they love you or not, then it should start making a difference now.”


Difference Between Principles and Values

I will be re-writing our values and principles along with co-founder Cliff and our Mission Circle based on the thoughts in this article. 

This paragraph was particularly helpful:

Ask yourself…

What are the universal, unchanging principles that you can clearly identify? What are the values that you now hold? Do your current habits reflect those values and, ultimately, do your habits and values reflect the principles that transcend current circumstances and can provide a purpose and mission for your life?

View story at

View story at

Excerpt From The Book, “Power Under”

This is how I want our community to respond to violence.

Excerpted from this chapter. Thanks to Steve Wineman for generously sharing this book online for free.

Nonviolence and the Health of Social Change Organizations

Imagine progressive social change organizations in which:

  • There are no personal attacks.
  • There are no opposing camps.
  • No one is treated as an enemy.
  • In the face of disagreements, we maintain full respect for each other as valued human beings.
  • People listen well to each other and actively consider the possible validity and value of other perspectives – particularly the perspectives of those with whom we disagree.
  • People have effective conflict resolution skills.
  • There is a robust capacity to deal with differences based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other kinds of life experiences.
  • Even when confronted with behavior we believe to be oppressive, dominating, or in other ways unacceptable, we maintain full respect and resist that behavior nonviolently and with compassion.

This of course is an ideal description of a healthy social change organization – one that realistically is not entirely achievable. The practical question is how close we can come to achieving it, and what kinds of resources can enable us to come close enough to have robust, well-functioning organizations and movements.

To develop useful resources along these lines, we need to identify the sources of organizational dysfunction. Trauma – particularly in its expression as power-under – is one of the major obstacles to the healthy functioning of social change organizations (as I have tried to show in Chapter Four). I am thinking specifically of the ability of our organizations and movements to weather crises, to resolve in-fighting, to forge wider alliances and coalitions, and to humanize our adversaries.

Your thoughts?


Trauma and Nonviolence: Essential Community Living

We all have unhealed past trauma. Science is proving that we even have trauma from our ancestors. Even with an ideal childhood, family and community life, just knowing about or witnessing all the suffering in the world can cause trauma. We who are vegans for the animals and animal rights activists, yearn to alleviate the pain of animals.

I have not read this book thoroughly, but it was recommended by Melanie G., a person who has generously contributed her time to give very helpful feedback to me about the website. Jerry Koch-Gonzales, one of my sociocracy class teachers and a person I respect very much–has recommended this book as well.

I look forward to reading more of it soon, and hope to hear your feedback as well.

Restorative Practices in the Unitarian Universalist Church

These ideas could very well be adapted for our community. I especially like that a Unitarian Universalist minister address multi-species communication.

Here is a very helpful. hand out:

Here is a video and description of the webinar:

I would love your feedback!

Thanks to Melanie G. for contributing this resource and all of her input which has helped me tremendously.



Song I Wrote About My Part In Events Leading Up to the Fayetteville Tree Sit in 2000

Ballad of Upholding the Tree Ordinance Leading up to the Fayetteville Tree Sit of 2000

In April of 2000 Patricia attended a planning commission meeting for fayetteville

The commissioners wanted public input on the proposal Kohl’s department store made

They wanted to violated our brand new tree ordinance

Instead of changing the architecture of their store.

Seems like a no brainer but that is how the government behaved in those days under Mayor Hanna’s leadership

30 people attended that meeting and 11 spoke against the plan, including Patricia Mikkelson who had never been involved with government issues in her life.

The commissioners said they’d think about what we said,

Patricia asked Fran Alexander why they didn’t listen to the people and make a decision then and there.

Fran said “They will keep having meetings that are hard to find out about until no one shows up to protest and then they’d do what Kohl’s wanted”.

Patricia said, “There is no way they are going to do that cause that’s not fair.”

How do I find out about the meetings so i can let people know?”

She gave me the instructions and I followed her wise advice.

And Patricia found out the dates of every meeting where they would discuss the issue and the numbers of people who attended each meeting increased each time.

Paula Marinoni and Barbara Moorman were invaluable as Patricia’s mentors in this effort. Paula said, “Use the slogan uphold the Tree ordinance” instead of save the trees

because we want to involve all kinds of people and most people  want to uphold the law. People woke up from their slumber and got involved.Activists, working class people, spiritual leaders,  lawyers, professors, other professionals, young and old, white and people of color, gay and straight–all united for this common cause.

Patricia gathered emails of people who were interested in the issue

She sent out notifications about updates including the upcoming meetings. She held meetings to encourage and empower people to do what they felt inspired to do.

People sent the emails to their mailing lists

Mary Alice Serafini of the League of women’s voters Dick Bennett of Omni had large lists which were super  helpful.

The news spread like wildfire and people were very upset and wanted to help.

The Morning News and Arkansas Democrat Gazette Covered the story well often with front page pictures that got a lot of attention

For example they covered the sign making party  that Patricia held and Marquette and Linda Ralston came and helped with and their children came,

Patricia was the only demonstrator at the first city council meeting,

But the paper put her on the front page with her sign saying “uphold the tree ordinance” and the reporter neglected to say there was only one demonstrator

More and more people got creative and initiated various events

Joannie Conners organized a creative rally that got front page coverage.

Julia Butterfly Hill  came down from the tree and

The first place that she spoke was U of A at an event organized by Marquette Bruce

Mary Lightheart listened to Julia’s lecture and was inspired

That is why she came to the2nd City Council meeting and was willing to do a tree sit.

A week before the fateful city council meeting Susanna _________ called Patricia saying,

“If they vote to violate the tree ordinance, I will be willing to do civil disobedience to draw attention to the fact that they are going against the people’s wishes.

200 plus people showed up in support of the tree ordinance

And over 30 people shared their valid reasons Only 3 spoke in favor so it was clear what the public really wanted the Fayetteville government to do

At the very end  the meeting, after Mayor Hannah broke the tie and the law was destined to be violated, Bob Jordan stood up in front everyone and said

“If you want to do something constructive to show the government that we want them to listen to us, come to the meeting in the room I have reserved.”

Then the organization We’ve Had Enough was born and lawyers, professors and other professionals

united to continue the battle to uphold the tree ordinance. Including the remember in November campaign to oust Mayor Hanna

Mary Lightheart told patricia after the City Council meeting that she would be willing to climb a tree to save them.

Patricia went home and called and emailed people telling them to meet behind Home Depot where trees that were going to be cut down were located.

5 women: Joannie Conners, Deborah Byron, Susanah_________, Mary Lightheart and patricia

Showed up and hoisted Mary int he tree

Patricia notified the press and the large email group that she had developed,

Without any other efforts on her part, people started showing up and helping

Tom Maringer made a yellow hammock so Mary could be more comfortable and other people provide food and other necessities. The story of the tree sit is yet another phase of the story that won’t be told in this song cause it willb e too long.

The lawyer Anita Schnee wrote the following words in a recommendation she wrote for Patricia“Patricia sparked the resistance movement at its beginning stages. It was she who began organizing against the city’s connivance at tree-preservation ordinance violations in favor of a huge mall development. The resistance grew to include tree-sit action and substantial civil disobedience of over twenty people. Needless to say her efforts were unpaid and largely unrecognized.

Here are some names of other people I haven’t mentioned who  who helped before, during and after the tree sit: City Council members Lioneld Jordan, Randy Zurcher, and another I can’t remember. Stephen Vallus, Robert Kersbergen, David Garcia, Nancy Maier, Donna and Kelly Mulholland, Roc Pursley, Dan Coody, Rev. Lloyd Grisham, Ginny Masulo, Al Vick, Chris Mikkelson, Mahriyanna Mikkelson, Marquette Bruce’s son, the late Nancy Maier, Martha Kay,and all the people who joined the march, attended rallies, donated, organized and supported the Tree Aid concert, voted for a new government, helped with Dan Coody’s campaign, supported Mary while she was in the tree, and St Paul’s Episcopal church which provided a space for activists to meet. Thank you all!

May the stories of the heroes who worked together on this effort be told often and well

Their amazing creativity, dedication and commitment shines brightly to us all.

May we all be inspired by the fact that when we work together we can do the impossible and achieve goals we would never believe that we could do.  

Let us build healthy community, reconcile with each other and find common ground so we can help Fayetteville and the world be a place where all life thrives.

Here are some resources:

Article about the impact of the Tree sit.

Anita Schnees Recommendation for a job that Patricia was applying for that talks about her involvement in the upholding the tree ordinance efforts.

I met Ms. Mikkelson over a year ago, when, as a lawyer, I was called on to mediate diverse grassroots resistance to an unlawful development project in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she and I live. …Patricia sparked the resistance movement at its beginning stages. It was she who began organizing against the city’s connivance at tree-preservation ordinance violations in favor of a huge mall development. The resistance grew to include tree-sit action and substantial civil disobedience of over twenty people.

Through a protracted and tense summer and at great personal cost, Patricia applied her considerable talents wherever she was needed. She initiated and participated in email bulletin boards and chat-lists that were vital in keeping communication lines open, when fast-moving events threatened to  overwhelm opposition. She responded to demands at all hours; this was important when the bulldozers were mobilizing under cover of darkness. Moreover, endurance became important when the tree sit failed and the development proceeded. Patricia had that endurance>

Eventually, the voters deposed the sitting mayor and even he conceded that he lost because of the tree fight. Further, due to intense community participation and oversight, the applicable tree ordinances have just been redrafted to remove some of the ambiguities that countenanced the violations in the first instance.

Had the resistance collapsed when the trees fell, we might still be suffering under the prior administration. But the resistance continued into the November elections, and the redrafting was due in part to Patricia’s substantial efforts. Needless to say, her efforts were unpaid and, especially regrettably, largely unrecognized.

Subsequently, Patricia and I have talked at length. Based on those conversations and my observation, I can assert that her faith in community action seems to flow from an inexhaustible well. I believe she has the vision and the commitment to work on national issues. She has the experience, the will, and the philosophical mettle to stay flexible and resourceful, in the face of what seems to be overwhelmingly big money interests. She is the right person for the job.

Anita Schnee

Melody of song: She’ll Be Coming Around The MountainLyrics to song written by Patricia Mikkelson, who is starting the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage near Kingston, Arkansas