Permaculture Design Classes/Courses

TheTick(z5 Iowa)January 8, 2005

I am interested in taking a permaculture design course this spring. I am very wary, however, of dropping $1000+ on a course that I know little about with no recommendations.

What should I look for in a permaculture course; i.e. how do I know it is good? Who has had positive and negative experiences with courses? Should I simply take a one-day orientation or go for a full two-week course? Is it necessary to stay within or near my growing zone (zone 5)? Are there other questions I should be asking?

My background: I am currently a Master Gardener in Iowa seeking to expand my knowledge and prepare for a future of backyard market gardening. I believe deeply in the principals of sustainability and designing with nature, but I have only recently encountered the concept of permaculture. I am very new to the discipline, but it seems to be a perfect fit with my values and my future direction. My professional experience is as a software interface designer and usability specialist.



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overrocked(SW USA)

I have read several books about sustainable living from the library and researched some of the ideas introduced by PC- and one that I bought called introduction to permaculture.($16) If I had the money, I would take the course if it was 2 weeks, included MANY books and materials, and if I had some idea of where these people were educated to give the course.$1000 sounds a little steep, so the more materials and ground covered the better the value. The course probably covers a wide variety of zones because permaculture is really about attempting to fit the best use of practices to a particular set of circumstances. Congratulations on being a master gardner- that sounds like a great start! I am practicing some of the ideas at my city house- so I can be proficient by the time I lose my job and move to my country house :) Vermicompost, composting, leaf mold, tree planting, sheet composting, rainwater harvesting, and seed saving are a few of my current practices. Remember trees, soil, and water! (no, i have not taken any courses)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2005 at 3:19PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

permaculture isn't just about design and zones, it needs to start with the mind set that we need to be looking after our environment better than what we are and most starts within your mind and within your home, no good doing all this fancy whiz bang stuff outside if the home is totaly ineffecient in all factors.

i looked through introduction to permaculture book by molleson i reckon there would be enough ideas in there to keep someone going for a lifetime. did a 2 day intro' to perma-c course (waste of money) only to learn i was already doing that. and i can't see the sense in paying for those expensive courses just so someone can teach what is already in print. there's no rocket science involved. use the K.I.S.S factor.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2005 at 1:25PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I went to the site below and clicked on the nearest location for me, WA state. One name leaped out at me, Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden (wonderful book!). Now I will try to find out more info on the other instructors, & use that to help gauge the quality. If they've written anything, I'll try to find it.


Here is a link that might be useful: resources

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 12:10PM
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TheTick(z5 Iowa)

Toby's courses look great (just like his book), but they are not conducive to my schedule.

I e-mailed Toby and asked what to look for in a course. He indicated a competent instructor as the number one criteria.

I am leaning heavily toward the Earth Activist Training (EAT) permaculture course ( due to the reputation of Penny Livingston-Stark.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 2:16AM
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i absolutely adore Hemenways writing, as I have read Mollison and one other (permaculture in a nutshell i think, i forget the author, but very basic)

I took my course at Three Sisters Farm in PA with instructor Daryl Frey. It was a neat experience, and the site visits were priceless. He left us lots of reading time at night in the BioShelter. It was a neat thing to do, but if youve already got a bent for reading, thats a LOT cheaper. I found my Mollison manual for like $65 on

If youre going to a class that has onsite perma-buildings, thats great. We saw one earth sheltered house, one college building with a Finnish Fireplace, and the homestead of the Humanure Handbook author, Jenkins. oh, and the Frey's bioshelter. We also helped make the passive solar shower (brrr! on cloudy days!)

Please feel free to email me about this further!
Classes are expensive, and i know lots of hippie kids who wish they could afford them, but these folks usually let you camp on their property, and provide (at least some) food. You cant take any other vacation for $1000 with meals included for 2 weeks. and if you can, let me know where!
Take Care,

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 12:24AM
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SofiasfarmNC(z7 NC Piedmont)

This may not be for everybody but Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, NC has a sustainable agriculture degree program. One of the teachers, Harvey Harman has a permaculture based farm and is an awesome teacher. He teaches the class every spring (entire semester course) and then in the fall there is a companion class which is a practicum type class. When you finish both courses successfully you get a Permaculture design certificate.
Lots of folks actually relocate here for the sustainable ag program (2 year assoc. degree or certificate program) and we have taken lots of courses there. The wealth of permaculture and organic knowledge in this area is absolutely incredible. This semester there is a sustainable farms course, sust. livestock management course, spring organic gardening course (market scale), grey water landscaping design course, and on and on. There is a 'land lab' where they maintain an organic garden, have a greenhouse, start seedlings, compost, work on biodiesel with the biodiesel folks who have a huge program and teach class. If anybody is ready for a change, even temporary, and wants this incredible opportunity, check out CCCC. We also have an arts incubator with a degree program in sculpture- amazing program as well.
Tuition is really cheap too! I think I paid $110 or so for the semester permaculture course.

Here is a link that might be useful: Central Carolina Community College

    Bookmark   March 5, 2005 at 7:20PM
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eden_on_earth(Z5 Flagstaff AZ)

I completely recommend taking a permaculture design course.
There is only so much one can learn from a book and taking a
course with qualified instructors will be well worth your
money. I took the the earth activist training in 2002 and I have to say that it was well worth the money. It will change your life and the way that you look at nature and the human role in it. Now I am working on a Master's Degree in Ecological Landscape Design and putting short permaculture courses together for my home town.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 5:07PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

There is a fellow up here (western Canada) who runs the Kootenay Permaculture Institute and puts on very well reputed courses. I have been to his Permaculture homestead many times, but have not myself taken the course.

I believe the full-fledged introduction course is 12 days. Some days are devoted to touring the area to see exceptional organic farms and homesteads and investigate their strong points. He brings in various presenters, too: a professional ecologist, a specialist in off-grid electricity production, the manager of a cooperative, etc.

This is a Zone-6 climate situation, if that is of any relevance to you. Because you are American, I'll just add that your dollar goes a little bit further in Canada (due to the exchange rate).

Oh, yeah - the guy has a Web site. An easy Google search, I'll bet. Kootenay Permaculture Institute.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 8:54AM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)


The State of Washington has an ambassador tallship berthed in Grays Harbor Historical Seaport - The Lady Washington.
For $250 to cover food expenses, you can spend two weeks aboard sail-training as volunteer crew. (Winter season is a transit to San Diego and back up the coast, stopping in many ports-of-call for tours, battle re-enactments, etc.)

The most inexpensive adventure I know of!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 5:01PM
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