Advanced Permaculture Design Course in Food and Water Systems

August 31st – November 22nd

Join us for 3 months of applied hands on education as we explore the potential we have to weave our way out of our current crisis into a resilient and exciting future!  This course is designed for farmers, land owners, contractors, and students seeking to deepen their on-the-ground Permaculture skill-set at a level that empowers them to design and install regenerative systems on their land and within their communities.  With the certification course woven throughout this three month intensive, this program is suitable for both someone new to Permaculture or someone with prior education and experience wanting to take the next step in their Permaculture studies.

Projects will include construction of ponds and other earthworks, land survey and map making, indoor and outdoor aquaculture, food forestry, food preservation, root cellaring, greywater system construction, ferrocement tank construction, woodland and stream restoration, and rainwater harvesting.

See a detailed course curriculum overview here.

Four Elements

This Advanced Course has four core educational elements.  These elements and their specific outcomes are outlined below.

Agroecology and Food Systems

This program embeds students within a working farm environment.  Students will work with a diverse set of food production systems including sheet mulched and cultivated annual gardens, indoor and outdoor aquaculture systems, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, and forest gardens.  Direct co-management of a range of production schemes from homestead scale production to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) market farming combines with a diversity of farm landscapes from upland forest to bottomland field crops.

Assessment and Design

Participants in this program will develop the ability to assess and read landscapes, plan their farm systems, work with clients to formulate clear goals, and design master plans that achieve resilient and abundant outcomes. Each student will have the opportunity to  complete a Permaculture design for a site within the Cottage Grove area.  They will work with their peers and teachers to refine their design skills and ability to work with clients to achieve holistic goals.  These projects are then kept by the student for their designer’s portfolio.

Systems Establishment and Stewardship

This program allows students to be deeply involved in the construction and maintenance of Permaculture landscapes.  Knowledge of the elements inherent in many Permaculture systems is critical to accurate design.  And usually the only way to become familiar with these elements is to have a working relationship with them.  Additionally, as we manage homes and farms as integrated systems we must be familiar with the nuts and bolts of the landscapes we work in.

Projects for the 2014 Fall Season include construction of a ferrocement water tank, design and installation of food forests, design and installation of a large greywater system, construction of ponds and swales, planting of a nut orchard with coppice interplantings, design of keyline systems for water and timber distribution, hedgerow and windbreak installation, and restoration of oak savanna and riparian waterways.  Ongoing projects include management of indoor and outdoor aquaculture systems, management of annual and perennial gardens, timber cruising, tree falling, and milling, egg and meat bird production, coppice and green woodworking, and orchard management.  This array of hands on projects empowers students to take an active roll in the development and stewardship of the landscapes they work in.

Business Development and Holistic Goal Setting

In the final component of this program, students work one-on-one with the teacher of Aprovecho’s “Sustainabe Livelihood Program” to become well versed in the skills of business management from goal setting and market planning to sales.  This work prepares you to translate the tangible skills gained through this program into a future livelihood.

The Weekly Schedule

After a community meeting on Monday morning, students engage in hands on projects and work in the gardens through Thursday.  Friday is a mixed day for personal projects, design project time, and rest.   Every Saturday is a classroom based day focusing on Permaculture design.  Each Sunday, students are welcome to attend our ongoing community education workshop series or take a day for rest and relaxation.


Students receive their certificate in Permaculture design through attendance in the Saturday classroom based days.  These days total 77 hours of direct lecture.   In addition lecture is scattered throughout the week in less formal presentations ranging from talks on plant families to detailed talks on specific systems.  Finally, every Sunday throughout the year, Aprovecho runs a focused workshop as a way to reach out to the local community.  These workshops are offered on a gift economy basis.  Students in this program are welcome to attend any of these workshops free of charge. See the weekend workshop schedule here.

Applied and Hands On Learning

This course includes over 260 hours of direct hands on time.  Over the course of each week, students work with members of the Aprovecho community on our 40-acre land trust in the installation and management of Permaculture systems.  As part of this weekly cycle, you will work with Aprovecho’s farm manager in our 1.5 acre bio-intensive vegetable garden.  Additionally, you will have the opportunity to work in the extended community of non-profits, farmers, and homesteaders that neighbor our site as we weave a more resilient community through the establishment of water harvesting systems, food forests, community gardens and other infrastructure.

Personal Projects

Students have the opportunity to take on independent projects over the course of the Program.  Past projects have included research in mushroom insulation, undertaking optical surveying on our site, methane digester construction, and biochar production.  Aprovecho’s extensive library and local experts are available to assist in much of these independent projects.  We have an extensive list of suggestions for you!  You are also welcome to pursue your personal interests.

Design Projects

Students will develop a Permaculture master plan as part of this program.  In the context of developing plans for actual clients, you will hone your experience by bringing a site plan into reality from landscape assessment and holistic goal setting to final product.  You will become comfortable developing plant lists, producing zone and sector analysis, establishing holistic plans for water, access, and structure placement, animal integration, forestry planning, project phasing and budgeting, and many other design elements.


Students receive organic and locally sourced prepared meals Monday through Saturday for lunch.  Meal shifts are shared between all students for breakfast and dinner and on weekends.  Organic and local food is supplied for your use.  Students have their choice of a heated wall tent or their own campsite for this program.  All students have access to plentiful indoor space including a large common room, showers, kitchen and library as well as hiking trails and relaxation space.


$2,500-3,500  Tuition for this course is on a sliding scale. The sliding scale is offered for attendees to pay within their means.

For course details Email Abel Kloster.

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