Vermont Applied Permaculture Design Course

Dates for the 2014 courses are:
July 4th to July13th FULL
August 22nd to August 31st

NEW COURSE JUST ADDED: August  1st to August 10th.

Registration fee: $279, course fee $1850 for early bird. 

To register please mail the reg. fee or paypal it via this link AND fill out the form here

Course Date

A three minute video overview of the site and the course:

Whole Systems Design Applied Permaculture Design Course from Ben Falk on Vimeo.

For registration please click here.  

See past course images and more on our Facebook Page. 

Utilizing the Whole Systems Research Farm permaculture site in Vermont's Mad River Valley, a new 175 acre site we recently acquired in central Vermont, our design studio resources, and a team of leading facilitators, Whole Systems Design offers a one-of-a-kind skills-based resiliency training experience through permaculture. This course begins at our 10 year-old maturing permaculture site - a landscape layered with established agro-ecological systems. Along with this site we will be designing and developing a new 175 acre site. The opportunity in this course is different from any currently available in United States, or likely elsewhere.  Please see student experiences on this page to learn more.   Please see the Whole Systems Design Studio and Research Farm site for more info.  

[Please see funding info below - great opportunities for VTers to have much of this course funded.]

Note:  We provide all accommodations (beautiful camping sites) and the best of Vermont's local food for the duration of the course.

This course offers an exceptional opportunity to gain hands-on applied permaculture skills immersed within one of North America's most diverse and intensive permaculture research sites. 
Participants will engage with high-performance home and community resource systems that will be more resilient in the face of problems posed by peak oil, climate change, environmental toxicity, and the inability of existing economic and social systems to deal with such challenges.  Participants have the unique opportunity to live in a working small farm and homestead and see exactly what opportunities and challenges arise in developing and maintaining a productive and resilient home and land resource system. The site represents numerous cutting edge design opportunities for developing a self-reliant, liberated lifestyle customized for the cold climate, temperate biome.  This course includes the standard certificate curriculum but goes beyond the typical Designer's Certification Course by utilizing the background of skills-based trainings offered in Whole Systems Skills, and is filled with practice-based, learning-by-doing experiences, not only concept and information-based study. Students in this course will not walk away from the experience without basic post-peak oil resiliency literacy including:

  • how to plant a tree, fell a tree, split firewood, inoculate soil, make aerobic compost tea and biochar
  • layout on-contour swales and build them
  • harvest biomass with a scythe and sharpen it, sharpen and maintain other basic tools
  • perform earthworks, plumb basic waterworks and harvest water, inoculate mushroom logs and spread mushroom patches
  • perform basic metal work relative to home and farm fix-up projects, and innumerable other hard skills. 

NOTE: This course takes a different approach than every other PDC we know of: there are actual qualifications met by meeting this course's requirements and as such, taking this course actually means one has understood specific learning goals, rather than simply attended a course for a certain period of time. We are using an assessment to make this value of the course a reality.   This course is an applied permaculture training with a major focus on hard skills and designer-skill development. While we will cover permaculture and whole systems theory (through hands-on applications), some of this is expected to be gone over beforehand by students who have been exposed to the basics of permaculture via reading, courses or other experiences. This program is a principles in practice approach to offer students a much greater opportunity to gain hands on skill and designCourse includes all camping accommodation and incredible food throughout.  development than offered by any other permaculture course we know; the standard PDC model is theory-based and information-focused, not skill and practice-based. That approach is appropriate for students who have no exposure to permaculture, whole systems thinking or similar fields and is suitable for people at that stage. This course, however, is geared towards those seeking an intensive, very hands on, less academic experience where the actual reality of running a farm and optimized homestead are immersed in and utilized. We are offering this approach after two years of running (and being involved with a half dozen other PDC's) which have been fantastic, but academic courses. They have left students with still greater need for skills development and exposure. Whereas every other permaculture course we know of is geared towards (and often very appropriate for) those brand new to the world of permaculture and ecological design, this experience is for those who want to take the next step beyond theory and information. This has been lacking, we feel, in every other PDC we know of and in the PDC model globally. We will actually be practicing these techniques on the farm throughout the course.  

Course Highlights  

  • Immersion and practice in one of the most sophisticated permaculture sites in North America.
  • Immersion and practice in a new site which Whole Systems will be expanding into.   
  • Vermont in high summer: swimming, views, sunshine and incredible hyper-local food.  
  • Locally-sourced (and site grown) meals of the highest quality courtesy again of chef Sandy Lincoln, Joe Bossen and their team.  
  • A team of top notch facilitators including Ben Falk and Cornelius Murphy of Whole Systems Design, LLC, Erica Koch, N.D., Erik Shellenberg, Sean Dembrosky of Edible Acres, Mark Angelini and Trevor Newman of Roots to Fruits, Anthony Anderson of Grow Paradise, Mark Krawczyk of Keyline Vermont, and others.  
  • The foundation and resources of a professional landscape architectural firm - Whole Systems Design, LLC. 
  • An evolved, skills-based permaculture curriculum focused on resiliency and regeneration.  

Join us in developing new solutions to unprecedented challenges. 

Additional Information
This course applies the core Permaculture Design curriculum including applications of Permaculture in a range of settings and strategies for meeting human needs via mutually-benefical participation in our ecosystems. Lectures and hands-on work will also explore: bioregional strategies, ecological history of the northern forest bioregion, energy and nutrient cycling, watershed health, gravity-fed water systems, tree crop care, agroforestry, mushroom inoculation and management, rapid soil building and more. The course will conclude with students doing their own group Permaculture site design.

What skills will I be exposed to? We practice the following techniques and tool uses in this course in addition to others.

  • Design process in the context of a professional landscape architectural firm and practicing designers
  • Medicine production and making from our in-house naturopathic doctor and herbalist
  • Mushroom log inoculation (shiitake) on site 
  • Blade sharpening: scythes, knives, sickles, axes Scything/pasture and yard management with scythes
  • Forest management  
  • Fruit harvesting 
  • Putting up and processing foods and medicines via various methods
  • Rotational grazing: fencing, moving fence, moving animals, setting up permanent fence, electric use and wiring for fencing 
  • Waterworks for home and farms 
  • Many other rural living and farm/homesteading techniques simply by living on the active farm site for the duration

Students are encouraged to bring tools to practice with and skills with which to share in the group. There will be ample time for group skill sharing as past courses were filled with experts in various disciplines relating to permaculture.

How is this course different from others? The Whole Systems Design permaculture design course varies from others nationally and in the area in several important ways:

  • It takes place on a working homestead and small farm.  For those interested in improving their own home or farm, or those seeking to develop one, this offers the opportunity to learn directly from the systems here, their successes and failure points, their best aspects and those that need advancement further.   
  • It is hosted along with a professional design and planning firm - Whole Systems Design, LLC - for those in the design fields or seeking to perform professional design this offers an inside view of how a leading firm in the field functions.   
  • It involves a pre-course test, issued at least 1 month before the course, to help students and instructors determine what areas of permaculture principles, theory and ecological knowledge are understood and what are lacking. The students will then be able to use this information to continue their studies before the course begins. At the end of the course an assessment will be given (yes a test!) upon which the granting of a Permaculture Design Certificate will be issued. In this way this course takes a significantly different approach than every other PDC we know of: there are actual qualifications met by meeting this course's requirements and as such, taking this course actually means one has understood specific learning goals, rather than simply attended a course for a certain period of time. Graduates can proudly share this certificate with employers and others along with a description of the curriculum and skills they have been trained

Course includes all camping accommodation and incredible food throughout.  in.  

  • A focus on HARD SKILLS through hands-on practice differentiates this course from others in the world. We send required readings out well ahead of the course date to help us cover the PDC curriculum while allowing more precious time on site for direct practice of skills with practiioners.  This is much less academic-focused and more hands-on practice focused than any other permaculture course we know of. It is heavily focused on know-how, not just know-why.    



Course fee for 2014 is $1850 for early bird discount and $1950 for later registrations. You may register online or email us for forms to submit in the mail.  A $279 non-refundable deposit is required upon registration to hold your place in the course and the course is very likely to fill before spring of 2014. 

The remaining balance due in cash or check is due three weeks prior to course date for the late course fee, and it is due ten weeks before for the early bird course fee.  The course is filled on a first come first serve basis. The student-instructor ratio will ensure that participants receive an exceptional level of training.  Yes, this course is about 20-35% more expensive than most other permaculture design courses.  And our past students have affirmed that the course delivers a value according to what is offered here. We deliver a different experience than other courses due in large part to the decade of large investment in land and infrastructure systems here which range from extensive earthworks to high performance buildings to hundreds of species and varieties to interact with. These have required much time and expense and the course is priced according to what is accessed and offered by the experience.  We are sure you will find it to be worth far more than 10 days of your time and expense. We also may be offering one to two enrollments for a work-trade.  If interested in this please send a resume and/or portfolio to us with a letter describing your interest and skills.

Accommodations and Food
We provide all accommodations (beautiful camping sites) and the best of Vermont's local food for the duration of the course.  There are 5-6 bedrooms available for the bulk of the course at our larger 175 acre site - these can be rented at an additional cost if you'd like.  Inquire about this when you register. Meals are local omniverous in emphasis withaccommodation made for vegan/vegetarian.  (NOTE: given the group setting, if you have significant food needs beyond basic vegetarianism it is unlikely that we can accommodate your needs.) 95% or more of what is served is local and organic, much of it produced on site this year. This is about as local, nutrient-dense and high quality food as one can find and the food is a consistent highlight of the course. Our chef's and their crew of awesome prep cooks, baker and producers do an outstanding job. 

University credit can be arranged through your own school via Ben Falk (M.A.L.D.), course instructor who can sign off on studies completed even if the sending school requires a Master's degree of instructors. Payment Payment can be made with cash, check, travelers check, or money orders.  Please make checks payable to Whole Systems Skills. 
If you cancel enrollment at least 10 (ten) weeks prior to the start date we will refund all payments less the deposit.  No refunds will be given for cancellations after the 10 (ten) week deadline.  

Discounts and Financial Aid
Residents of the State of Vermont have recieved major course support - at times full tuition payment assistance through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC).  The application process takes two weeks to a month and funds are limited.  For more information contact VSAC at (800) 642-3177 or online here.