After obtaining a degree in biology from Tufts University, Toby worked for many years as a researcher in genetics and immunology, first in academic laboratories including Harvard and the University of Washington in Seattle, and then at Immunex, a major medical biotech company.
At about the time he was growing dissatisfied with the direction biotechnology was taking, he discovered permaculture. A career change followed, and Toby and his wife, Kiel, spent ten years creating a rural permaculture site in southern Oregon. He was the editor of Permaculture Activist, a journal of ecological design and sustainable culture, from 1999 to 2004. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2004, and after six years of developing urban sustainability resources there, Toby and his wife now divide their time between Sebastopol, California and western Montana.