Permaculture Design Certification Course

An immersive, hands-on approach to learning permaculture

September 10-23, 2023

Earthaven Ecovillage
Near Asheville, NC

This hands-on permaculture design course (PDC) engages the mind, body, and heart. See permaculture in action at Earthaven Ecovillage, the 28 year-old community-scale permaculture demonstration site. Throughout the program we get our hands dirty and engage all of our senses; it’s about learning by doing. Every one of the instructors incorporates permaculture into their landscapes, businesses, and day-to-day lives. You’ll learn from their successes and failures, as they share candidly about diverse experiences applying permaculture principles to real-life situations.

This PDC is focused on community-scale applications of permaculture in real-life situations.

This 14-day Permaculture Design Course is grounded in the integrated life of Earthaven Ecovillage — an ideal experimental classroom in the mountains of Western North Carolina. In addition to the core PDC curricula, this special course will include a unique layer of how to approach bringing permaculture alive in your community. We’ll be engaging with ancient and new practices of cooperation, mutual aid and community-scale work, all through the lens of racial, gender and economic equity.

As a longstanding, off-grid ecovillage on 330 acres of land, Earthaven is a potent learning playground for this focus on permaculture applied at the community level. You’ll get to see permaculture in action through land stewardship and agroecological practices, buildings, energy and water systems, and other shared infrastructure. What’s more, you’ll get a view into Earthaven’s self-governance, participatory economic culture, and conflict transformation practices.

Presenting a permaculture design project

Earn your Permaculture Design Certificate while while nurturing connection

As we learn together, we’ll also have time for connection and reflection. Each day, students and instructors  partake in meals together, which gives us a chance to deepen our relationships outside of “class time.” This Permaculture Design Course is as much about embarking on a journey of togetherness as it is about learning “hard skills.” In fact, the majority of our students tell us that the bonds they form and experiences they share are some of the most precious fruits of their PDC experiences.

Learn to integrate a whole-systems approach to your life and landscapes

Permaculture students working on a spring water system

What you’ll learn in this Permaculture Design Course

This class will teach you to become an effective ecological designer in relationship with landscapes and communities. You’ll learn tools and skills to integrate permaculture ethics, principles, and whole-systems thinking into any situation. We follow the Permaculture Institute of North America’s (PINA) 72-hour curriculum, which is based on permaculture founder Bill Mollison’s model. To this foundation, we cover aspects that we find especially compelling and useful, including design considerations for the Southeastern US bioregion and interactive, hands-on learning, all with a focus on community-scale application of permaculture in our day-to-day lives.

Core Curriculum Topics

With the principles and ethics guiding us and weaving everything together, we’ll dive into the ideas, skills, and tools that allow you to apply permaculture into your life. These are the nitty-gritty subjects that form your toolbox as you move into the design process. What’s awesome is that we teach most of them outside at a site where you can see them in action, or in a comfortable outdoor learning space; no stuffy classrooms here!

Core curriculum topics include:

  • Principles of ecology and the local ecosystem
  • Introduction to agroforestry guilds
  • Reading the land and observing patterns
  • Plant identification and succession
  • Climates, biogeography, microclimates
  • Gardening and soil science
  • Holistic forestry and orcharding
  • Conservation and renewable energy
  • Waste, recycling and bioremediation
  • Social ecology and invisible structures
  • Economics and budgeting
  • Home, ecovillage, and neighborhood design
  • The built environment
  • Water systems, conservation, and catchment
  • Earthworks and broad-scale landscape design
  • Incorporating animals
  • Appropriate technology
  • Designing for catastrophe
  • Access to land
Kissing Jersey cows

Bonus Material Unique to This Course

This course is a collaboration of Wild Abundance, Earthaven Ecovillage, School of Integrated Living, and Cooperate WNC. Our course goes above and beyond the 72 hours of required material. In fact, this year’s program will be run by a dream-team of organizations and individuals that have been living permaculture for decades.

The course will take place at Earthaven Ecovillage, where many projects, systems, and techniques of permaculture have been applied over the past 28 years in this village setting. You’ll get to see and explore what’s worked, witness unique innovations, and also learn from lived experiences that not all trendy permaculture ideas pan out as smoothly and easily as many claim.

Within the container of Earthaven, your lead teacher, Zev Friedman, will bring his passion for mutual aid, cooperative economics, and the human collaboration that’s required to put permaculture into action. These topics bridge the gap between permaculture ideals and real world application for personal and community transformation. Through his work founding and directing Cooperate WNC, Zev continually explores how mutual aid and the application of ecological design can be effective on a bioregional scale here in Western North Carolina.

This course dives deeply into:

  • Cooperatives and mutual aid organizing
  • Collective economics
  • Edible perennials for the Southeast and beyond
  • Decolonization of “sustainability”
  • Growing food on various scales
  • Racial equity and social justice in this context
  • Wild foods and plant identification in the magical Appalachian mountains
  • Farming the forest
  • Food as medicine
Preparing the field to plant a milpa

Program Schedule

The PDC is an intensive! Class blocks include bathroom and stretch breaks. This schedule is tentative, with changes on days when there are field trips or special guest lectures. However, each day will be very full throughout the course.

Sunday, September 10
1:00 Arrive. Check in to accommodations and course
2:30 Welcome circle & orientation
4:00 Tour of Earthaven
6:30 Dinner
7:45-9:30 Opening Circle

Daily flow for full program days
7:30 Breakfast
8:30 Morning circle
9:00 Morning sessions
12:30 Lunch and rest
2:00 Afternoon Sessions
5:30 Rest and integration time
6:30 Dinner
7:45-9:00 Evening activities

Friday, September 23
7:30 Breakfast
8:30 Morning circle
9:00 Morning session
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Closing circle
4:00 Program close

Who is this course for?

This intensive course is appropriate for everyone interested in applying Earth-inspired philosophies to their lives and communities, and also for those pursuing a career in permaculture design. All students will cultivate a deep engagement with the ecological and human systems of which they are an integral part.

Our students have come from many walks of life, including gardeners, builders, teachers, landscape designers and architects, nurses, coaches, college students, engineers, parents, writers, herbalists, lawyers, and more.

Permaculture principles can be applied to diverse places and situations. Indeed, the special focus of this PDC is bringing a permaculture approach into our functional lives and communities. This course is accessible and relevant to everyone who wants to live their life more in tune with living patterns and cycles. And it’s especially relevant for those who want to be agents of positive change and healing in this beautiful, vulnerable world.

Permaculture Design Certification

Once you’ve completed the course and submitted and presented your final design, you will earn your Permaculture Design Certificate. This recognizes all the work that you’ve put in and all the skills that you’ve learned and demonstrated throughout the course. It’s a jumping-off point to your unique integration of permaculture into your life, whether you plan to design for a living, want to work on your own land, or hope to engage these concepts on a community scale. If you do plan to make a career out of permaculture, we advise that you first invest a significant amount of time applying your skills with real-world landscapes before you advertise your design skills. The permaculture design certificate marks the beginning of the road for a professional permaculture designer.

Registration Process

Because this course is a collaboration, participants will register for the course on the Wild Abundance website.

Once accepted into the course, participants will register and pay for the required meal plan and optional accommodations on the SOIL website. The link to register for the meal plan and accommodations will be included in the welcome email from Wild Abundance.

Registration Schedule

Wild Abundance will have a short registration window open January 2-10 and then re-open in May if space is still available. Before and between registration windows, Wild Abundance maintains a waiting list.

To be notified when the registration window opens, click this link and then fill out the WAITLIST form.

Cost

Tuition

Regular Tuition Sliding Scale: $1,650 – $3,300

Please pay what you can afford. The median price is suggested to help cover the full cost of hosting this class. Please select the low end of the sliding scale if you are low income. If your household income is over $115,000/year, please select the maximum fee. Please place yourself in this range where you deem appropriate, based on your income.

Tip: Use the coupon code “SOIL” for a 5% discount on tuition!

Tuition includes free camping.

Meal Plan (Required)

Cost: $620

As a PDC village, students and instructors will partake in all meals together. These shared meals are often a time to deepen in relationships and learning outside of “class time.”

Delicious, omnivorous meals are prepared by talented culinary artists from the Earthaven community. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available.

As much food as possible is sourced from Earthaven and its surrounding farms and gardens, with some ingredients sourced from local grocery stores. Our meals are created with seasonal, local, fresh, wildcrafted, humanely-raised, and organic ingredients.

Purchase of the PDC meal plan will be through this SOIL website. Course registration is not confirmed until a student has paid 1) Wild Abundance for PDC Tuition, AND 2) School of Integrated Living for a meal plan. Registered students will receive a link to purchase the meal plan in their welcome email.

Accommodations (Optional)

Although lodging at Earthaven is optional, we refer to this PDC as a residential course because students who stay in the ecovillage have consistently experienced more ease, depth of connection, and profound learning than those who choose to commute. Although it’s possible for commuters to still experience a rich experience in the course, the additional travel time makes for longer days and less time with fellow students and/or time on the land and enjoying the natural world that the course is grounded in.

Accommodation Options

Camping is included in the PDC tuition. Private and shared indoor accommodations are available at an additional charge.

Shared Campground Cabin Lodging
Cost per person: 13 nights $235

Shared Indoor Lodging
Cost per person: 13 nights $275

Private Indoor Lodging
Cost for 1 person: 13 nights $365
Cost for 2 people (shared bed): 13 nights $547.50

Instructors

Mutual aid expert Zev Friedman

Zev Friedman

Earthaven Experience Programs Faculty

Zev is a leading permaculture designer, researcher, teacher, and writer in Western North Carolina. Almost a decade of study with world-renowned teacher Martín Prechtel helped feed his passion for regrowing our own diverse indigenous lifeways through youth initiation and ritual.

Off-grid energy system expert Chris Farmer

Chris Farmer

Earthaven Experience Programs Faculty

Chris has cleared his own farm field, designed and built passive solar homes using the wood from the trees he has killed (including his own Microhut), held leadership positions at Earthaven Ecovillage, raised turkeys, grown vegetables, co-founded the Forestry Cooperative, designed and installed multiple off-grid energy systems, and a few other things.

Wild foods expert Dimitri Magiasis

Dimitrios Magiasis

Earthaven Experience Programs Faculty

Dimitri is a naturalist, natural builder, and naturopathic doctor, one who teaches that wellness comes from cultivating a deep connection to the natural world.  His other passions are nature awareness, foraging for food and medicine, gardening, and supporting bonds that engender a tightly-knit community.

NikiAnne Feinberg

NikiAnne Feinberg

In-person Programs Director, Faculty

Throughout the last two decades, NikiAnne has been immersed in community and in service to a wide range of educational endeavors focused on nature connection, personal empowerment, and community resilience. No matter what she’s teaching, NikiAnne is always on the same mission: to raise awareness of our whole selves – gifts, passions, blind spots, shadows – and help those whole selves find and fill niches in their communities.

Becky Boisvert

Becky Boisvert

Program Coordinator

An inveterate adventurer, Becky (she/her) has grown to see life itself as the adventure. That life is made richer in community at Earthaven where Becky, her daughter Willow, and her co-parent Sanne moved in 2018. She loves bringing lofty, creative visions to life. In her first career as an educator, she taught at an arts-integrated charter school, mentored gap-year students in India and Guatemala, and created a holistic middle school. Since then, she has produced two documentary films, coached individuals and couples toward greater wholeness, and begun holding mediations.

Intentional community governance and financial expert Carmen Lescher

Carmen Lescher

Assistant Director, Bookkeeper, and Faculty

Carmen is dedicated to learning how to be human on this planet at this time. She considers herself a generalist and has owned and operated a pasture-based poultry farm; worked on construction crews building passive solar, off-grid houses; and supported many small businesses with online marketing, administration, and bookkeeping.

Elizabeth Díaz

Elizabeth Díaz

Earthaven Experience Programs Faculty, Farmer

Elizabeth has been getting her hands dirty in Western North Carolina since 2004. She runs a small subsistence farm at Earthaven, tending to a variety of animals and plants, including milk and beef "cows," pigs, laying hens, broiler chickens, turkeys, livestock guardian dogs, as well as grasses, cover crops, and silage crops of many varieties.