Third annual Florida Earthskills Gathering starts today

By on January 31st, 2013

About 30 minutes north of downtown Gainesville, past farm land and dirt roads, under shady trees and the bright sun, Finca Mycol bustled with volunteers Wednesday.

They worked on setting up a green house, preparing a first aid tent and putting up signs for the hundreds of visitors expected this weekend.

Meanwhile, Michael “Mycol” Stevens sat inside his home Wednesday surrounded by books, musical instruments and colorful tapestries. With another volunteer, he hashed out the legal terms in a waiver and refined the workshop schedule.

Stevens, 43, owns Finca Mycol, an off-the-grid homestead that focuses on permaculture and ecological restoration. The name comes from “finca,” a Spanish word for farm, and “Mycol,” Stevens’ way of spelling his name that removes biblical connotations and adds his love of mycology.

Thursday, the 20-acre property will become home to the third annual Florida Earthskills Gathering.

The four-day gathering will focus on ecological reconnection and experiential learning. About 80 instructors from around the country will lead more than 200 workshops and demonstrations.

“This is edutainment at its finest,” Stevens said.

The skills instructors will teach include knitting, thatching, canning, tanning, wood carving, animal trapping, fermentation, pottery, medicinal herb use, foraging, butchering, beekeeping, massage, bicycle repair and cooking techniques.

Other group activities will include yoga, bartering, music and dancing.

“The drum circle will be kicking it,” Stevens said.

More than 300 people attended last year’s gathering, he said, and about half came from Asheville and the Appalachian mountain area. He expects more people this year, with a couple coming for the weekend from as far away as Central America.

Walking down the connecting loop trail Wednesday, two 18-year-old volunteers said they met at Finca Mycol a week ago.

Mark Rhones, from Washington D.C., and Lukas Jaeger, from Switzerland, said they were there to improve their cooking skills and learn skills like tree climbing.

Another volunteer, Debbie Harkrader, a 56-year-old masseuse, potter and tutor from Virginia, said she was most looking forward to experiencing the community the gathering will create.

Stevens regularly hosts volunteers at his property, he said, and he estimates about 100 have stayed in the last six years. Originally from Ohio, Stevens studied nuclear and environmental engineering at the University of Florida. He spent time as an engineer in the Navy, then he traveled around the world and worked for a nonprofit in Central America.

“I’ve been rogue my whole life in a lot of ways,” Stevens said, “especially after the Navy.”

He now works as an ecological restoration botanist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. On the side, he teaches wild mushroom foraging, ethnobotany and conservation and restoration ecology.

Stevens said he hopes the event inspires people and changes the way they think. For example, instead of replacing a broken tool at a corporate store, he said, people can learn to fix it. And instead of pressing a button on a music player, they can learn to make music together.

He imagines some visitors will leave the gathering wanting to recreate the ecological focus and sustainable practices of his homestead on their own property, he said. He hopes others leave with a greater sense of care and respect for the land and the native species surrounding them.

“Allowing them to thrive allows us to thrive, too,” he said.

Third Annual Florida Earthskills Gathering

When? Thursday through Sunday (January 31 through February 3). Workshops and group activities will take place all day, and overnight camping is encouraged.

Where? Finca Mycol, 23589 NW 19th Terrace, Brooker, Fl 32622

How much? A sliding-scale donation of $100 to $200 for all four days or $35 to $70 per day. Participants can enjoy communal meals for another $50 for four days or $15 per day. Children under 12 attend free and can join supervised children’s activities during the day. The suggested donation for children’s meals is $25 for four days. Stevens said all the money will go toward the event and paying instructors.

If you go: After registering and signing a waiver, participants can sign up for the workshops. Heavy alcohol consumption and pets are not allowed, and cigarette smoking is discouraged. Visitors should bring their own bowls, plates, cups and utensils and are encouraged to bring local, organic food and musical instruments. Those staying overnight should bring gear for primitive camping. The property does not have electricity, shower facilities or trash services.

A full schedule of the workshops and activities and more information about the event can be found at floridaearthskills.org.

This entry was posted in Arts and Entertainment and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

More Stories in Arts and Entertainment

Jenica Frederickson paints an original work called “Dream Land.” The artist is also  teacher at Matanza High School and volunteers at the local theater

Flagler County Artist Developing Documentary On Community

Jenica Frederickson’s documentary centered on how students and teachers define community focuses on peoples’ need to feel love, safety and understanding. She is gathering the point of view of artists, teachers and healers to spread awareness of the problems her subjects faced with identity problems.

Gainesville Adopts Plan to Form Arts Council, Improve Website

The Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department adopted its 352ArtsRoadmap Cultural Plan on Thursday. The 10-year plan aims to enhance and promote the city’s arts community through an arts council and website.

Andrew Schaer works the front desk of Hear Again Music and Movies in downtown Gainesville. The storeowner said he’s noticed a rise in the popularity of vinyl records among the younger generation.

Younger Generations Revive Vinyl Business For Local Record Stores

The vinyl records market has been revived. Business at local record stores has followed an upward trend with the resurgence of a younger audience.

UV-TV records their album in their warehouse studio on May 26, 2015. Rose Vastola, 24, began playing bass a few years ago with her boyfriend and UV-TV guitarist, Ian Bernacett, 25, and 22-year-old drummer, Matt Brotton.

Gainesville Punk Scene Provides Creative Outlet Beyond Traditional Norms

Women are entering the Gainesville punk subculture as an alternative to the mainstream norm. According to Rose Vastola, lead singer of UV-TV, Gainesville welcomes creativity regardless of gender.


Vine Makes Celebrity Out Of Local Actor

Gainesville resident Thomas Sanders has produced about 800 Vine videos and amassed an army of 5.8 million followers on the social app. Despite this new-found fame, Sanders is still an active member of the local community.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments