Leading Minds In Water Quality, Ecological Design Visit WNC

Staff Report

WNC – Water quality affects everything, from the capacity of the ocean to harbor life, mitigate weather and produce food, to the health of a small flowerbed. Since the seventies, John Todd has been a leading ecological designer and engineer of regenerative systems, reclaiming vital nutrients and regenerating land via a focus on water quality.

On March 8th, 2019, Living Web Farms and The Organic Growers School bring John Todd and his son Jonathan, also a visionary in the field, for a full day workshop focused on the many options for healing the water cycle and improving water quality in food production systems.

Mills River, NC- Water is essential to life. Whether you consider the recent widespread drought in California or the lack of clean water in developing nations, the availability, quantity, and quality of water touches all beings. As the climate changes and humans seek solutions to sustaining the systems on which life depends, looking to effective water cycling and improved water quality can have ripple effects that create functionality on multiple levels. John Todd and his son Jonathan have been working in ecological design with an eye toward the world’s water for over eighty years, collectively. In March, leading organizations in regenerative agriculture in WNC bring the Todds to Asheville to share knowledge and techniques for both small-scale landholdings, and overall planetary health.

John and Jonathan Todd spend their lives re-designing the way water flows through systems, both manmade and natural. A short list of their projects includes the development of ecological wastewater treatment systems for the likes of The Omega Center for Sustainable Living and Oberlin College, as well as municipalities in Vermont and California. If that isn’t enough for you, consider their installation of what they call “living machines”- biologically active feedback systems made up of plants, fungi, fish, and other beings on a canal in China, or a water treatment lagoon in Saudi Arabia.

Jonathan Todd, who lives in California, is currently implementing systems he developed for controlling the disastrous outbreak of golden algae causing fish kills in coastal waters, rivers, and lakes. “No one has been able to control it using copper, or other typical treatments,” Jonathan says, “but we’ve developed an ecological solution that we can use effectively at much less cost.” And while the Todds have garnered enough science and installed their systems for large companies and city-level projects, the essence of their work has implications for management of all scales.

For this reason, Living Web Farms and the Organic Growers School are bringing John and Jonathan Todd to the Asheville area, March 8-10, 2019, to discuss their panoply of ecological design tenets as applied to smallholder food production. Their first presentation, on March 8th is at Living Web Farms, and will explore holistic nutrient and water management on a local watershed farm scale. The class will use the example of an on-farm pond as the focal point for discussing a range of regenerative design concepts, such as erosion control with plants and mycology, rain gardens and bioswales, to name a few. Then, on March 9 and 10, the Todds will present condensed sessions at the Organic Growers School Spring Conference about the critical importance of water cycling and water quality in food systems.

“Smallholder farmers are really where the rubber hits the road when it comes to effective water management,” Jonathan Todd continues. “Farmers understand the correlation between water quality and food quality, and they have a powerful ability to make change in the world.”

Even if one doesn’t possess a farm, or a pond, the event will provide perspective on water issues that are a reality for everyone. “Who hasn’t experienced flooding?” asks Todd. “What we have developed is a collection of safe, ecologically-friendly options that can be applied in lots of different situations to initiate positive change.” A follow up session in early June will bring the Todds back to WNC to implement the design plan for Living Web Farms’ pond, for a hands-on continuation of their March daylong event.

“We could not be more excited for this collaboration,” says Living Web Farms Education Coordinator Meredith Leigh. She asserts that the Todds have been implementing world class, cutting edge biomimicry to heal ecosystems since before there was a consciousness of human-induced environmental change. “At a time of large scale environmental controversy and urgency, proven positive approaches to management are critical at the grassroots level.”

To register for Water and Agriculture: Critical Consciousness for Healing the Planet on March 8th, 2019 at Living Web Farms, and the March 10-11 sessions at Organic Growers School Spring Conference, visit

To request a scholarship for the March 8th event at Living Web Farms, visit

Living Web Farms is an education and research organic farm located in Mills River, NC. With over 35 acres, four greenhouses, alternative energy innovation, pastured livestock, forest crops, and diverse vegetable production, Living Web is a leading demonstration site for effective organic farming in western NC. Living Web conducts year-round education in farming, homesteading, cooking, and sustainable living. All education conducted at the farm is archived online in a free video library, and all food produced at the farm is donated to charity, via seven North Carolina food banks. For more information, visit


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