A graduate of the University of Calgary’s commerce program, Rene did a 180 after learning about sustainability and the nature of consumer culture. Inspired by an encounter with Rob at a food security conference, Rene registered for Alberta’s first PDC in 2009 and embarked afterwards on a two-year practicum. In 2011, Rene hosted a major regional sustainability conference presented from a food, fuel and finance lens. He went on to set up an urban homestead complete with a rainwater harvesting system, hoop house, annual garden and food forest in Oriole Park, Red Deer. In 2013, he delivered his first two-week PDC course in Craik, SK. This year, he’s pursuing his official Permaculture Educator Certification and plans to build a geodesic dome greenhouse for The Food Garage in the summer.

Rene’s Approach to Permaculture, Summarized in Quotes:

  • “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” – Hippocrates
  • “It is better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in the war.” – Martial arts maxim
  • No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” – Carl Jung 

Rene’s Philosophy:

“…It’s the relationships between elements not the elements themselves that makes anything sustainable; be it the environment, a culture, or your own income. In the ’90s we had those posters of repeating patterns (stereograms) that you had to relax or blur your vision in order to see the 3-D image come forward. That’s the key to making a living as a permaculturist, relaxing societal norms and views to see what is actually going on around us, not what our culture is telling us. And it all starts with your relationship with the things that give you life – land, water, and air. From there, it radiates outward through relationships and the exchange of energy, which is really all that money (income) is.
My success comes from being a conduit for that energy, not a container… thriving in perpetual change by taking nature’s example and learning from it as measure, model, and mentor. In everyday terms, it’s a living demonstration of what human activity in the natural world can be…”

rene michalak 2013
rene michalak 2014


Phoenix Fire Consulting specializes in supporting non-profits with a focus on water issues. It has provided implementation support for the Alberta Water for Life Strategy and assisted in the development of the Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project, the Food Garage, and other urban agriculture projects that showcase sustainable community living.

Rene is passionate about bringing resilient community living and planning into everyday conversation. He’s currently immersed in biomimicry and resilience theory, attempting to make these exciting ideas accessible for Albertans to get behind and act on with confidence.

Interested in learning more about Phoenix Fire Consulting? Contact Rene:

phoenix fire consulting

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jeremy-zollersven stave field to farm