New Cuyama, California

Quail Springs Permaculture Farm


Dates: Jan 13-Jan22

Group Size: 2 student leaders, 1 advisor, 8 participants

Cost: $1400

No travel clinic visit needed. 


Quick Facts:

  • A great trip for Environmental Studies majors!
  • Camp for 10 days in the beautiful high desert.
  • Work alongside Quail Springs full-time caretakers on conservation projects.


The Site

 Quail Springs is on a 450 acre piece of land located in the Santa Barbara backcountry in the Pinyon-Juniper woodlands of the upper Cuyama Valley.  This land is situated at the base of Mt. Pinyos and Mt. Abel, “sister” mountains that have been the center of the universe for the Chumash people for thousands of years.   The small Quail Springs community is made up of  families and individuals dedicated to living on and caring for the land.  They are experts in permaculture farming, habitat conservation, natural building  and stream revitalization.  Since 2004, the Quail Springs community has invited groups like St. Thomas to spend time learning about the diverse ecology of the land while working along side them on conservation efforts.


Justice Issues Overview

  • Environmental Consciousness— Recognizing that all things are connected by “an infinitely diverse web of ecology,” Quail Springs strives to live within the means of this natural infrastructure.  With the ever-growing effects of pollution and irresponsible misuse of land and natural resources both in the United States and around the world, this conscious practice at Quail Springs serves to raise awareness and nurture what natural resources are still available.
  • Sustainable Farming— Permaculture farming attempts to design and maintain permanent agriculture practices that function with the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  This integrative approach to farming allows its practitioners to be productive while avoiding practices that threaten the environment.
  • Fresh and Local Food— The Quail Springs community has a special interest in good, local food.  They grow much of what they eat but what they don’t grow they buy from local farmers and co-ops.  Meal time is not just an event but a celebration. The VISION group will be invited to join the Quail springs community in preparing meals using only local ingredients.


Cultural Opportunities

Although the VISION group stays in the United States, don’t be fooled.  You will experience a very rich and unique culture at Quail Springs .  You will live alongside them and learn about this community’s way of life. There will be daily learning opportunities and activities to help participate in the life of the community.  Activities will include breathtaking hikes, journaling, bread making sessions, and learning about how to make a friction  fire, the art of animal tracking, and how to milk goats and make cheese.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn what it takes to live off the land and connect with nature.  Your time will be filled with camping, hands on physical work, wonderful home made fresh food  and the beauty of nature!


A Sample Week

Monday—Wake up to the smell of juniper in the foothills of the Cuyama Valley and head to the farmhouse for breakfast.  Hike to the valley’s water source to get a better understanding of the amazing ecosystem where you will be spending the next 10 days. Spend the morning working alongside highly knowledgeable environmentalists learning the basics of permaculture design. Eat lunch.  Head back to work.  Finish the work day and spend time winding down.  Help cook dinner.  Enjoy craft/music/storytelling time by the warmth of the makeshift cook stove. Evening reflection with the group and then off to bed.

Tuesday— Wake up to fresh baked food from a cob oven.  Learn how to make your own cob oven as well as other products such as a house.  Tour the Quail Springs gardens and hear about water collection.  Head back to the farm  for lunch and work preparation.  Go to a small construction site to tackle a work project during the afternoon.  Eat dinner.  In the evening go on a midnight walk with your team and share a reflection under the stars.

Wednesday—In the morning, spend time alongside the site leaders understanding alternative energy sources and planting trees while practicing the techniques of permaculture design. Eat a bagged lunch.  Finish up the project in the afternoon.  In the afternoon, swim in the nearby lake (if you can brave the chilly water) and spend the afternoon preparing a vegan dinner.  Return for dinner and spend the night storytelling, making music, and reflecting as a group. Then go on a fire walk with Warren Bush (will blow your mind).

Thursday—  Learn about how the locals at Quail Springs maintain clean and sufficient water sources.  Take solo walks in the late morning. Spend the afternoon gleaning carrots from the nearby farms.  After dinner, share in conversation with long-term volunteers of the mission discussing their lives and the justice issues of the region around a campfire. 

Friday— Learn to make fire from a bowstring and wood.  Experience a guided walk through the canyon lands of the region.

Saturday— Wake up early and hike to one of the areas beautiful vistas for sun rise.  Come back for a big breakfast and a day of building stream bank reinforcements.


Food, Lodging, and Travel

The group will leave Minneapolis/St. Paul and arrive in California by plane. You will be met at the Bakersfield  airport by a representative from the Quail Springs Community.  The group will camp on the Quail Springs property so bring a good mat and sleeping bag.  All meals, and local transportation will be provided. **Note: Passport is NOT Required**



 The trip fee of $1400 includes round-trip airfare to Bakersfield, transportation to and around the site, work materials, lodging, meals, and programmed group activities.


Student Reflections

 “Going to California was like diving into a lake and not knowing its depth. I knew it would be refreshing and beautiful, but I had no idea the breadth of knowledge the people of Quail Springs would be willing to share.”

                 -Rory Mattson, 2009 Leader


“The love and acceptance I felt at Quail Springs was out-of-this-world.”

                 - Kira Fielding, 2009 Participant


For more information go to: