2015 Permaculture Design Course

Course 1) July 10 - July 19
Course 2) August 21 - August 30

And A Permaculture Practitioner's Course (PPC) from August 6th - August 9th.

Our 2014 courses filled before spring - please sign on to ensure a spot if you'd like to enroll for 2015. 

please mail or paypal the registration fee ($300 per person if mailed) AND fill out the form here

A three minute video overview of the course:

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

And a video being made about the experience:

The Permaculture Design Course : learning to see the world differently from Olivier Asselin on Vimeo.

For registration please click here.  

See past course images and more on our Facebook Page. 

See a non-facebook gallery of images here.

See testimonials here.

This course offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain hands-on applied permaculture skills immersed in one of North America's most diverse and intensive permaculture research sites now in its 2nd decade, along with our 2nd year site esablishing our proven approaches at the permaculture farm scale. 

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.
These include systems such as:

  • A high performance cold climate home and established zone 1 gardens
  • Mature fruit, nut, pond and paddy systems
  • A high performance earth-sheltered greenhouse
  • A root cellar and established food preservation strategies 
  • Esablished medicine gardens and medicine-making techniques in use
  • A working homestead shop, barn and much else

This is not permaculture as a fantastic idea, it's an immersion in how numerous systems actually work over a decade and beyond.  It's proof of concept. Participants have the unique opportunity to immerse 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. Our 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
  • layout on-contour swales and build them
  • harvest biomass with a scythe and sharpen it, sharpen and maintain other basic tools
  • perform earthworks, harvest water, inoculate mushroom logs and spread mushroom patches
  • knots, herbal medicine, fermenting, 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. 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 design 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.  This does not mean that many beginners don't take the course - they do - and they get tons out of it.

Course Highlights  

  • Immersion and practice in one of the most sophisticated permaculture sites in North America coupled with our larger farm scale permaculture site, to compare and contrast permaculture on differering scales, goals and time frames.   
  • Incomparable Vermont mountains in high summer: swimming, views, sunshine and fresh local food.  
  • Locally-sourced (and site grown) meals of the highest quality.  
  • Spring water for drinking 
  • A team of top notch facilitators including Ben Falk and Cornelius Murphy of Whole Systems Design, LLC, Erica Koch, N.D., Mark Krawczyk of Keyline Vermont, Erik Shellenberg, Sean Dembrosky of Edible Acres, Mark Angelini and Trevor Newman of Roots to Fruits, 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 an established 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.   
  • 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.    
  • It includes pre-course study support and dialogue with the participants during their pre-course work.


  • Course fee for 2015 is $1900 for early bird discount and $2050 for later payments.  
  • All inclusive, top quality catered meals, camping.

A $350 (if paypalled, less if mailed, see top of page to register) 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 2015. 

The remaining balance, due in cash or check, is due six (6) 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.