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History of
The Briarpatch Network
The Briarpatch Society
The Briarpatch

Drilling for Information


The Briarpatch was founded in Menlo Park in 1974. Fathered by Dick Raymond of the Portola Institute and mothered by Gurney Norman, author of "Divine Rights Trip" in The Last Whole Earth Catalogue, the phenomenon of mutual support for right livelihood and simple living was an idea whose time had come.

Folks involved in the extended family/community that grew up around the Whole Earth Catalogue formed various businesses including a coop food market, a woman-owned auto repair store, and several others. Gurney Norman put together the first Briarpatch Review using Whole Earth's layout studio. In it he described this new form of socially conscious, mutual self-support for businesses.

Former banker Michael Phillips was a key organizer of the Briarpatch and his efforts were principally responsible for the extended life of the community during the first decade following its founding. He introduced Dick Raymond to CPA Elliot Buchdrucker, insurance broker Werner Hebenstreit, and lawyer Tom Silk and the five of them together raised enough money to hire the first Briarpatch coordinator Andy (Bahauddin) Alpine, who later became the publisher of Common Ground and Specialty Travel Index. Phillips continued to recruit consultants and coordinators until his withdrawal from active involvement in the late 1980s. Up until that time, he traveled to many communities to assist them in starting their own Briarpatches and even got the Briarpatch principles introduced into the World Bank.

In the beginning, Phillips and Alpine started out using the old C.O.Y.O.T.E offices (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics -- Margo St. James' organization that was working for the decriminalization of prostitution) on San Francisco's Pier 40 to hold free consulting sessions every Wednesday. Very soon, so many people were coming for advice that Phillips asked Dick, Elliot, Werner and Tom to help out.

From 1974 to the present day the Briarpatch has seen more than 1,000 people pass through it's membership roles. There were always about 200-300 names on the current mailing list and 100-200 active members at any given time. Hold a lecture by a Briarpatch celebrity and several hundred people might show up. Throw a party and 50 to a hundred people would attend. Hold a workshop on business skills and you could always get a couple of dozen members to sign up.

In the Bay Area there were also several satellite networks in Marin and Sonoma counties, in the East Bay and on the Peninsula.

Cover: Briarpatch ReviewIn San Francisco there were three coordinators: Andy (Baha'uddin) Alpine, Charles (Shali) Albert Parsons, and Claude Whitmyer. Marin Coordinators included Peter Oldfield, Sylvia Gorman, and Michael Stein. East Bay coordinators included Roger Pritchard, Elissa Brown and Portia Sinnot. Sonoma coordinators included Jim Bucheister, Tom Hargadon, Salli Rasberry, and Joan Leslie Taylor. In 1988, on the Bay Area Peninsula, a branch Briarpatch Network was started by Dave Smith and Paul Hawken. It met weekly at the Late For The Train restaurant in Menlo Park for about a year. Smith & Hawken then decided they should start their own business by importing garden tools from England.

In 1974 Gurney Norman published the first issue of The Briarpatch Review. Over the next few years eleven more issues were published with Annie Styron as editor and Tom Hargadon as publisher of the first eight. Numerous volunteers brought out the final three issues. The first eight issues were published as a book compilation by New Glide/Reed in 1978 and entitled The Briarpatch Book: Experiences in Right Livelihood and Simple Living from the Briarpatch Community.

Other Networks

In addtion to the San Francisco, East Bay, Marin, Sonoma, and Peninsula groups, we know about networks offering similar support structures to those offered by the Briarpatch that appeared in the U.S. in Tennessee and Washingtion and internationally in Australia, Denmark, England, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden.

The Briarpatch Contribution

Find more photos like this on the Briarpatch Network Community Site

Exemplifying the important contributions that Briars have made to society in general and the causes of right livelihood, simple living, social responsibility, social justice, health and well being, the arts, and just plain fun, several other important books have been published by Briars, some of which are listed below. And several important publishers also have been Briars over the years as well.


Kristin Anundsen Creating Community Anywhere: Finding Support and Connection in a Fragmented World (with Carolyn R. Shaffer)
Nobody's Victim: Freedom from Therapy and Recovery (with Christopher J. McCullough)
The Faster Learning Organization: Gain and Sustain the Competitive Edge (with Bob Guns)
Joani Blank Femalia
Good Vibrations: The New Complete Guide to Vibrators
Kids First Book About Sex
Herotica 2: A Collection of Women's Erotic Fiction (with Susie Bright)
First Person Sexual: Women & Men Write About Self-Pleasuring
I Am My Lover: Women Pleasure Themselves
Playbook for Women About Sex
Playbook for Men About Sex
Playbook for Kids About Sex
Still Doing It
Stewart Brand How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built
The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility: The Ideas Behind the World's Slowest Computer
The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT
Bart Brodsky The Teaching Marketplace: Make Money With Freelance Teaching, Corporate Trainings, and on the Lecture Circuit
Debra Lynn Dadd Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products in the Home
The Nontoxic Home and Office: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Everyday Toxics and Health Hazards
Healthful Houses: How to Design and Build Your Own The Nontoxic Home and Office
Healing Environments: Your Guide to Indoor Well Being (with Carol Venolia)
Healthful Homes: How to Design and Build Your Own (with Clint Good)
Nutritional Analysis System
Nontoxic, Natural and Earthwise: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Harmful Products and Live in Harmony With the Earth
Nontoxic & Natural
Jed Diamond The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind and Spirit After 40
Surviving Mail Menapause: A Guide for Women and Men.
Male Menopause
Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man
The Warrior's Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions
David Harp Instant Blues Harmonica 9 Ed: Three Minutes to Blues and Rock Improvisation!
The Pocket Harmonica Songbook/over 40 Folk, Blues, & Country Favorites for Beginning & Intermediate Players!
Instant Chromatic Harmonica: The Blues/Jazz Improvisation Method
Bending the Blues
How to Play Country & Western Harmonica
Blues & Rock Harp Positions Made Easy
Blues & Rock Harmonica Made Easy: The Complete Method That Everyone Understands!
Music Theory Made Easy
Blues, Rock, and Jazz Improvising Made Easy: For Guitar, Keyboard, Harmonica, Flute, or Any Other Instrument- Including Vocalists
David Harp's Instant Flute/Book and Flute
Make Me Musical: Book, Cassette, Harmonica
David Harp's Instant Blues Harmonica: Zen & the Art of Blues Harp Blowing
How to Whistle Like a Pro (Without Driving Anyone Else Crazy)
Instant Harmonica for Kids
The Three-Minute Meditator (with Nina Feldman)
The New Three Minute Meditator: 30 Simple Ways to Unwind Your Mind Anywhere Anytime (with Nina Feldman)
Paul Hawken Growing A Business
The Ecology of Commerce
Natural Capitalism
Arthur Hough Pulling Yourself Together: A Brief Guide to Resolving Inner Conflicts Through Subself Negotiation
Dynamic Silence: An Introduction to Concentrative Meditation
Let's Have It Out: The Bare-Bones Manual of Fair Fighting
Jim Lewis The Astro*Carto*Graphy Map
Joanna Macy Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World
World As Lover, World As Self
Widening Circles
Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems
Dharma and Development: Religion As Resource in the Sarvodaya Self-Help Movement
Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age
Despairwork: Awakening to the Peril & Promise of Our Time
Patricia Ryan Madson
Improv Wisdom book cover
Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up
Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durett Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourslelves (with Ellen Hurtzman)
Freda Morris Hypnosis With Friends and Lovers
Self-Hypnosis in 48 Hours
Ken Norwood Rebuilding Community in America: Housing for Ecological Living, Personal Empowerment, and the New Extended Family (with Kathleen Smith)
Yana Parker Damn Good Resume Guide
Damn Good Resume Catalog: A Crash Course in Resume Writing
Resume Pro: The Professional's Guide
Resume Catalog: 200 Damn Good Examples
Blue Collar & Beyond: Resumes for Skilled Trades & Services
Ready-To-Go Resumes
Fran Peavey A Shallow Pool of Time: An Hiv+ Woman Grapples With the AIDS Epidemic
Heart Politics
Heart Politics Revisited
By Life's Grace: Musings on the Essence of Social Change.
Michael Phillips
Gods of Commerce book cover
A Citizen Legislature: A modest proposal for the random selection of legislators (with Ernest Callenbach)
Simple Living Investments for Old Age (with Catherine Campbell)
Marketing Without Advertising (with Salli Rasberry)
Honest Business: A Superior Strategy for Starting and ManagingYour Own Business (with Salli Rasberry)
The Seven Laws of Money (with Salli Rasberry)
Gods of Commerce
Salli Rasberry Rasberry Exercises: How to Start Your Own School and Make a Book (with Robert Greenway)
Living Your Life Out Loud: How to Unlock Your Creativity and Unleash Your Joy (with Patti Selwyn)
The Art of Dying: Honoring & Celebrating Life's Passages (with Carole Rae Watanabe)
Marketing Without Advertising (with Michael Phillips)
Honest Business: A Superior Strategy for Starting and ManagingYour Own Business (with Michael Phillips)
The Seven Laws of Money (with Michael Phillips)
Running a One-Person Business (with Claude Whitmyer)
Will Schutz The Human Element: Productivity, Self-Esteem, and the Bottom Line
The Truth Element: A Practical Technology for Human Affairs
Profound Simplicity
Elements of encounter
Joy: 20 Years Later: Expanding Human Awareness
Leaders of Schools: Firo Theory Applied to Administrators
Joan Leslie Taylor In the Light of Dying: The Journals of a Hospice Volunteer
Carole Rae Watanabe The Art of Dying: Honoring & Celebrating Life's Passages with Salli Rasberry
Michael Wenger Thirty-Three Fingers: A Collection of Modern American Koans
Claude Whitmyer
Running a One-Person Business (with Salli Rasberry)
Mindfulness and Meaningful Work: Explorations in Right Livelihood
In the Company of Others: Making Community in the Modern World


Andy (Baha'uddin) Alpine Common Ground
Specialty Travel Index
Joani Blank Down There Press
Good Vibrations
Stewart Brand CoEvolution Quarterly
Whole Earth Magazine
Bart Brodsky Open Exchange (formerly Open Education Exchange)
Tom Ferguson Medical Self-Care Magazine
Michael Glicksohn Yoga Journal
Virginia Mudd Desert Rose Press
David Palmer The Bodywork Entrepreneur
Leonard Rifus Educomics
Carol Seajay Feminist Bookstore News
Jim Silverman California Kids History Catalog
Lee Spiegel Crafts Fair Guide
Jake Warner Nolo Press

Briarpatch Schools

Noren Institute

In 1980, Stuart Brand organized a "learning expedition" with Paul Hawken and Michael Phillips as fellow faculty. The three of them took participants around to visit Briarpatch businesses as exemplars of values-based businesses that also made a profit.

In 1981, based on this "learning expedition" idea, Andora Freeman, Shali Parsons, Michael Phillips, and Claude Whitmyer founded Noren Institute, a business school affiliated with the Briarpatch. After the first year, Shali Parsons moved away to Hawaii, Charmian Anderson joined Noren breifly and then Salli Rasberry came on board. Noren offered courses twice a year until 1986, including "Honest Management," "Honest Consulting," "Honest Selling," "Running A One-Person Business " and "Marketing Without Advertising. The latter two courses became well known books.

The Noren Institute advertised "Hands-on Business Learning" and used Briarpatch members as teachers. Students came from all around the world to take the courses when offered. Just as with the original Brand/Hawken/Phillips event, classes were taught by taking students, in a bus to study exemplar Briarpatch businesses. Noren had nearly 300 alumni by the end of its five year life-span.

Other Briarpatch Schools

From 1993 through 1997, Briarpatch members were also involved in creating a Master of Arts in Socially Responsible Business at California Institute of Integral Studies that graduated 36 M.A. degree students before a CIIS fiscal crisis caused the program to be cancelled.

For many years Briar Paul Terry was principle consultant, instructional designer, and instructor for the business training programs offered by the San Fransico Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. In 1995, for his work at Renaissance, he recieved the Inc. Magazine/Kaufman Foundation award for "Outstanding Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year."

Other schools in the Briarpatch included:

Briarpatch Food Chain

Dozens of Briars started food related businesses and many of the original food coop businesses were Briars.

  • Briarpatch Coop Market
  • Bolinas People's Store
  • Market Place (Santa Fe, NM)
  • Noe Valley Community Store
  • Other Avenues Community Food Store
  • Rainbow General Store
  • The Earth Foods and Deli (Oklahoma City)
  • The Natural Food Store
  • Uncommon Grounds Gourmet Coffee

  • The Kitchens, Inc.
  • Creative Catering
  • Gail's Catering

  • Kathleen's Doyle Street Cafe
  • Green's Restaurant
  • Mudd's Restuarant and Crow Canyon Gardens

  • Wildwood Natural Foods
  • Bean Machines (first tofu making home kit)
  • Alfalfa Omega Express (Corn Cheaps)

  • Crop Care of Southern California
  • Integrated Orchard Management

Briarpatch Take on Tech

Briars often have unique takes on the use of technology in society. For example, founded by Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link or The Well was one of the earliest technology-mediated social networks, acutally using direct dial-up to the server rather than Internet based access back in the mid 1980s. Stewart also launched the Whole Earth Software Review and many Briars were active in the early stage development of Wired and Salon. Self-help law publisher Nolo Press was one of first publishers anywhere to sell their books online and to offer downloadable e-books. There have been dozens of technology related Briarpatch businesses over the years. Here are some that are still quite active:

Briarpatch Businesses About Community

Community organizing, community building and communities of practice have long been of interest to many Briars. There have been dozens of members involved in co-housing and intentional community from the earliest "hippie" communes to todays modern cooperatives and co-housing projects. Here are some examples:

(Somewhat) Well Known Briarpatch Businesses

Well known Bay Area businesses whose owners were Briars include:

  • Ananda Village Products
  • Berkeley's Buttercup Bakery (arguably the originators of "California Cuisine")
  • Margo St. James' C.O.Y.O.T.E. (the prostitutes union)
  • Fort Mason Center (the first urban National Park facility, founded by Ann Howell)
  • Good Vibrations
  • Greens Restaurant
  • Haight Ashbury Switchboard
  • Harvey Milk's Camera shop
  • Nolo Press
  • Pickle Family Circus
  • Rainbow General Store
  • Rosie Radiator and the Guinness World Champion San Francisco Rad Tap® Team
  • San Francisco Roommate Referral Service
  • San Francisco Zen Center
  • Smith and Hawken Tools
  • The Skin Zone (the original "Body Shop" type store)
  • Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking
  • Tassajara Bakery
  • Kaisek Wong Clothing Designer

Briarpatch Information

The most complete source of information on Briarpatch can be found in The Briarpatch Book a compilation of the first 8 issues of the Briarpatch Review. It frequently shows up on the shelves of used book stores along with first editions of "The Seven Laws of Money" and "Honest Business," muched preferred over later editions.

What is a Briar?

Media Note:

Some of you may be familiar with the Briarpatch Network. This group is an association of over 500 small business members, who believe in open accounts, business honesty and information sharing. The network has been so successful that other groups have formed in Canada, Japan, Sweden, and Finland. It contains every type of business, including fashion design, furniture manufacture, ranches, restaurants, circuses, libraries, bars, theatre groups, educational institutions, professional services and health clinics.

The Network aims to improve business viability, within a basic framework of honesty and openness. Studies of it have shown that:

1. Competition is a poor model of the real world; co-operation is more accurate. Members set their own prices with relatively little reference to competitors.

2. Profit has a detrimental effect when treated as a primary goal.

3. Social costs (environmental responsibility, etc.) are rewarded when included in business pricing.

4. Honesty is a major factor in business efficiency; dishonesty has negative effects and the extent of harm is proportional to the degree of dishonesty.

This is the reality in small business, where the consequences of a decision are close to the decision maker. But the basic ethical and business environment is the same as the one in which Microsoft, Exxon, operate.

Edwin Humphries
Mottahedeh Development Services
In a discussion thread on the Bahai Business Forum for the Americas about "Applying Devine Principles"

The Briarpatch is a system of self-reliance and mutual support, based on the ideas that you are a Briar if:

  1. You have an insatiable curiosity about how the world works.
  2. You seek to do the work you love and to make a living at it.
  3. It is more important to you to provide the highest quality product or service than to get rich.
  4. But you recognize that you must make a profit to stay in business.
  5. You prefer cooperation to "going it alone."
  6. You prefer honesty and openness to deception and secretiveness.
  7. You believe in personal and social responsibility.
  8. You believe in simple living and environmental preservation.
  9. Your financial records are open to your community.
  10. It is important to you to have fun in everything you do.

Are you a Briar? If so, please update your contact information and/or answer our survey by clicking on this link. And don't forget to join the online community at

The best way to find a Briarpatch where you live, is to just start one.

  1. What's your purpose? Every business support network is different. Most combine both emotional support and practical business counsel in various mixes. A clear purpose will make it easier for you to attract others.

  2. Recruit at least one buddy. If you already meet regularly with a support buddy, the two of you will make the perfect kernal of an organizing team. Each of you can invite another person and you'll have a support group. As each new person invites their friends and associates, you'll become a network.

  3. Avoid homogeneity. Many groups form around the similarities we see in each other, and that's ok. But for longevity and innovation and the opportunity to change and grow, make a focused effort to invite people who are different. Of course you will want to invite experts in accounting, law, marketing, and so forth. That's just good business sense. But also invite all genders and multiple ethnicities, and make a special place for the creative, the strange, and the wonderful.

  4. Choose the right meeting place. Bay Area Briars have met in the posh San Francisco Tennis Club, member business board rooms, the meeting rooms in local restaurants, right in the middle of bustling cafes, in school classrooms, at different member homes and just about any place you can think of. Our longest continuously running meeting took place once a month for 6 years in an art gallery where we stored tables and chairs that we brought out each time we met. Mutual support was the main attraction, but members also looked forward to the continuously changing exhibits.

    The place you choose will have a profound effect on the "look and feel" of the meeting. Make sure it's in alignment with what you're trying to accomplish.

  5. Meet regularly and continuously. If members know the regular time and place and that the meeting will always be held, you'll save on the time it takes to keep everybody informed about the meeting and folks will incorporate the rhythm of the meeting into their routines. Experiment has shown us that support buddies (2 people) should meet once a week, but support groups work best if they meet once a month.

  6. Use meeting facilitation techniques. Agree on an agenda, appoint a time keeper, work together to keep the meeting moving. The Bay Area Briarpatch usually spends the first hour giving each attendee 2 minutes to introduce themselves and describe their business. If there are more people than there is time for introductions, the coordinator helps attendees move quickly through their 7 to 20 word "elevator" speeches. Then the floor is opened for brainstorming about individual attendees business needs. These can range from simple resource referrals of suppliers or professionals to shared words of wisdom from hard won experience. The coordinator keeps people to the time limit and at the end, time is made for announcements and networking.

  7. Eat Lunch. Meeting over lunch draws more attendees because no matter how busy you are, you have to eat and lunch is a time that no one is expecting you to be at your desk to answer the phone. Many groups are successful at organizing potlucks, but it's a lot of extra effort. Bay Area Briars held a monthly bring your own "brown bag" lunch successfully for more than 12 years. Participants often brought food to share, but it wasn't a requirement.

Claude Whitmyer, January 1, 2007

Historical Briarpatch support and benefits (what we used to do)

Monthly meetings: Mutual support for doing good business.

Consultations: Clinics and technical assistance from volunteers who are experts in their own fields.

Networking: Cooperative discussions and support from other Briarpatch members. Currently available through

Occasional parties, classes, workshops, seminars, directory of members, and newsletter.