Our Story

The Evolving Story of Quail Springs Permaculture

In every story told there are countless people, situations, and synchronicities that weave together in seen and unseen ways to make up the very threads in the fabric of its unfolding. We wish to thank the myriad of people and circumstances that have led to the creation and ongoing tending of Quail Springs Permaculture.


In 1997, Warren Brush and Cyndi Harvan began a program for homeless youth out of a shelter for families in Santa Barbara, California, which grew into Wilderness Youth Project (WYP), an independent nonprofit organization sharing nature connection and mentoring with youth and families. Their aim was to support the healthy growth of youth from all backgrounds. Each year, WYP spent many a day in the Cuyama Valley tracking animals, building shelters, learning about earth-based skills, tending fires, mentoring, stewarding the land, and sharing stories.

In 2004, a former cattle ranch with a dwindling spring in the Cuyama Valley was secured through the generosity of a local Santa Barbara family foundation. Warren and Cyndi moved onto the land to lead the care taking and development of what would become Quail Springs, and the subsequent birth of a new nonprofit organization called True Nature Society to steward education and land stewardship. Just one year later, Kolmi Majumdar and Paul Swenson joined Warren and Cyndi on the land. Since then, many other dedicated and inspired people have taken part in developing the organization Quail Springs is today.

Specific achievements over the years:
  • 2004: 450-acre site acquired by the non-profit for permanent land stewardship, through a 10-year no interest loan. At that time, a 200-year plan was written for the organization and land.
  • 2005: the first courses were held, focusing on sustainable human settlement. The integrated permaculture farm designed and implemented to support staff and programming.
  • 2006: the first full Permaculture Design Course (PDC) taught, along with a natural building internship.
  • 2007: QS outreach extended to international sites and audiences.
  • 2008: a three-week annual immersion program for youth called Sustainable Vocations launched, becoming a powerful model for permaculture education for young adults. Was re-launched in 2017 with greater emphasis on social justice.
  • 2012: QS partners with Craig Sponholtz of Watershed Artisans to further its on-site watershed restoration efforts. Methods for riparian zone stream and habitat restoration techniques implemented have helped increase groundwater and spring flow over time.
  • 2013: QS staff begin working with the Cuyama Valley Community Association (CVCA) to actively support quality of life for the greater community.
  • 2014: QS staff begin holding youth programming in Cuyama with support from the FUND for Santa Barbara
  • 2015: QS launches a 2-phase capital campaign to pay off the demonstration site loan, and construct a permitted ecological building
  • 2017: staff begin promoting sustainable groundwater legislation in the Cuyama Valley. Brenton Kelly joins the Stakeholders Advisory Committee to the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency.
  • 2018: partnership begins with Art Ludwig of Oasis Designs and Cal Poly to further cob building codes. Seismic testing of cob walls (regular and reinforced) to be conducted on-site in September. Phase 1 of the capital campaign completed, raising over $400,000 to secure the 450-acre demonstration site in perpetuity.

The Present & Our Hope for the Future

Our spring symbolizes the overall progress made on the demonstration site. Today, the spring’s yearly average flow is about 40 gallons per minute during the day and 60 gallons per minute at night. Wildlife is flourishing with the increased water supply. We know first hand that natural springs can be restored and rejuvenated. This gives us and future generations hope and a great reason to celebrate.

As of late 2018, the Quail Springs staff has grown to about 12 – consisting of core administrative, programming, building, and farming teams. The site hosts between 25-35 programs yearly, with some partnerships ongoing for over a decade. Our Rangelands Manager has started a regenerative grazing enterprise, Cuyama Lamb, that will help restore the Quail Springs’ landscape and provide food and fiber to the region. Other staff members are spearheading policy work in the areas of sustainable groundwater management and natural building codes. And all of this work has helped us strengthen relationships with area foundations as well.

Moving forward, the nonprofit is driven by strategic goals, set by staff, the board of directors, and community members. Five key goals will be assessed each year through 2022:

  1. Complete Capital Campaign
    • Phase 1 has been completed, Phase 2 Feasibility Study slated for 2019
  1. Increase Diversity (diversify staff and student enrollment)
  2. Streamline Programming
  3. Improve Financial Resiliency
  4. Ecological Research and Restoration

Please see more in the full Strategic Plan below.