Permaculture Design Course and Sustainable Living Immersion

6 Weeks : August 6th to September 14th Cancelled

***UPDATE: PDC graduates may now opt to stay for a 2-week Permaculture Design Installation project at NO COST. ***

Join us for 6 weeks of empowering and practical solutions at Aprovecho, a site renowned for over 30 years of work in Permaculture and sustainable development while learning from an assemblage of many of the best teachers throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Aprovecho’s Sustainable Living Skills Immersion is the oldest program of its kind in the Northwest and includes hands on training in appropriate technology, sustainable forestry, natural building, water harvesting, sustainable agriculture, and Permaculture.

The Permaculture Design curriculum is woven throughout the program, leaving students with a framework for integrating the learned strategies and techniques into cohesive designs for sustainable human settlement.  The internationally recognized certificate in Permaculture Design is presented at the end of the program.  While a typical Permaculture design course runs for two weeks, this course contains 200+ hours of classroom and hands on time.  Students will leave this program prepared to not only manage aspects of sustainable systems, but able to put all aspects together into an integrated whole.

See Aprovecho’s Permaculture curriculum overview here.

At the end of this course you will have experience with:

  • Building with natural materials including mixing and applying natural plasters, natural insulation techniques, and construction with cob
  • Designing and installing forest gardens and planting and tending trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants
  • Planning a garden for four seasons of food yields
  • Building a compost pile and brewing compost tea
  • Utilizing hand tools like levels and compass to establish base maps and plan water harvesting earthworks
  • Finding and maximizing the use of water as it moves through the land
  • Constructing swales, ponds, and greywater systems for increasing the availability of water in your landscape
  • Working with indoor and outdoor aquatic food systems including fish and aquatic plants
  • Canning, fermenting, drying and storing food
  • Designing rocket stoves and rocket mass heaters
  • Selecting and falling trees with hand tools
  • Restoring eroded stream channels
  • And putting it all together into a Permaculture master plan!

Life At Aprovecho

Apro Family

During the six-week course you may choose between staying in a shared dorm-room in our Strawbale dormitory or camping on our 40-acre land trust.  You may also choose to stay off-site, though the community living immersion is an enriching experience for most students. All students have access to showers, kitchen, library, hiking trails, and relaxation space.  All meals emphasize local foods (much of which is grown on-site) and are completely organic. Most weekends are free to explore the grander Pacific Northwest.

All residents utilizing the common spaces are expected to participate in Monday morning community activities: 9am household meeting, 10am Power Hour (group housecleaning), regular campus tidying, and work parties. Living at Aprovecho is an experience in cultivating community. While there are plenty of nooks and crannies for alone time, shared living spaces yield plentiful opportunity to practice harmonious habits and interpersonal skills.


$2,000 through July 1 (New Price as of April 1st!)

$2,200 after July 1

***UPDATE: PDC graduates may now opt to stay for a 2-week Permaculture Design Installation project at NO COST. ***

Aprovecho strives to make our programs accessible to all. If the financial cost of this program is a hardship for you, please email us to inquire about opportunities including scholarships, discounts, work trade, and interest-free tuition financing. Our ability to offer these opportunities depends on program enrollment, donations, and other factors. Email for more info.

For more information please contact or call our office at 541.942.8198.


Click on the galleries below to get a visual sense of this program!  This is through our Facebok page.

Permaculture Design

The Land and Facilities

Food and Gardens

Greywater and Rainwater Harvesting

Ponds, Swales and Other Earthworks




Plant Propagation

Natural Building

Appropriate Technology


Aprovecho PDC Curriculum

Introduction to Permaculture Ethics, Principles, and Pattern Understanding

These introductory topics explore the application of the principles of Permaculture and the social and ecological ramifications of this ethically based design system.  We will discuss the guiding principles that allow us to apply ourselves to the repair of earth systems design and development of sustainable human settlements.  We will explore how an understanding of patterns (including spatial relationships, forms in nature, time, and sequencing of events) informs our relationship with the Permaculture design process.

Site Assessment and Design Methods for Permaculture Property Design

Students will learn site observation and assessment techniques for reading landscapes.  We will cover practical methodologies of design, enabling you to translate your observations into an optimized site plan.  Various approaches to optical surveying for assessing solar angle, slope, and contour will be utilized to plan and construct roads, trails, swales, home sites, and ponds.  Assessment of plant communities, microclimates, soil conditions, water quality, and forest health will be covered.  These assessment tools as well as various Permaculture design methodologies will be used to plan our systems prior to installation.

Climate and Microclimate: Climate Change and Design for Disaster

How does climate and weather occur on the global scale and how do the global climatic patterns inform our climate and weather at the local level?  What changing climatic conditions can we foresee for the Pacific Northwest as atmospheric carbon dioxide climbs to levels higher than any time in the last 100 million years?  What can we do now to prepare for and buffer the impacts of these changes in the way we design our food, water, energy, and shelter systems?  In addition to exploring some of the answers to these daunting questions, we will learn about how we can work with microclimate to take advantage and manipulate some aspects of climate at the local level to extend our growing season, improve the livability of our homes, and increase total biological diversity and crop yields.

Soil Fertility Management, Compost and Compost Tea, and Biochar

All health starts with the soil.  We will explore the ways we can improve the health of our soil and thus our plants through effective compost management, cover cropping, agroforestry and perennial food systems, animal integrations, compost tea applications, fungal relationships, and biochar production.  We will examine the pertinent aspects of soil chemistry in order to gain an understanding of the processes that improve or decrease soil health.  We will learn how we can work with these processes to enhance nutrient availability, moderate soil pH, build and retain soil organic matter, and enhance water availability.  We will also explore the roles of the living members of the soil environment from earthworms to bacteria that ultimately are responsible for the health of the soil.

Forest Gardening

Forest gardens mimic the structure and function of woodland environments at the same time that they provide a supply of food and useful products.   Additionally, we will explore the principles behind the establishment and maintenance of perennial forest gardens.  We will work with Aprovecho’s orchards and forest gardens in both the context of young, intermediate, and mature sites to understand the management approaches and conditions at multiple ages of maturity.  We will cover forest garden management strategies throughout the year from winter and summer pruning techniques and principles, maintaining fertile ground and healthy trees, and managing common pests.

Agroforestry and Sustainable Timber Management

Agroforestry is the science of integrating perennial crops into animal and annual production systems.  This holistic approach to agriculture helps us diversify our yields and increases the overall ecological health of our landscapes.  We will discuss the ways that trees interact with the atmosphere and the soil to cycle water, build fertility, and manage microclimate.  We will then explore the applications of windbreaks, hedgerows, streamside woodland buffers, woodland grazing, and perennial forage systems to gardens and farms.  We will also tour Aprovecho’s forestry operation and learn the principles and techniques that guide sustainable timber management in Cascadia.  We will discuss forest management practices that are both regenerative and provide useful and marketable woodland products.  We will also look at forest dynamics of fire, mixed hardwood and conifer forest ecosystems, restoration forestry practices, and managed old growth systems.

Permaculture Earthworks: Ponds, Roads, Swales, Drains, and other Earth Repair Strategies

During this course we will examine the principles of water harvesting and have a look at Aprovecho’s water harvesting earthworks.  We will discuss considerations for pond placement and design, explore the utility of swales and drains for water dispersion and retention, and explain the legal ramifications of water harvesting in Oregon.  We will also learn how roads, ponds, swales, and drains can be assembled into a pattern of connected systems that enables efficient flow of energy on a site and can be connected with agroforestry, aquaculture, energy generating, and grazing systems to rapidly increase the productivity of landscapes.  Pond, trail, and swale survey and installation will occur as part of this program leaving students with the ability to plan, install, and manage earthworks as part of their future Permaculture systems.

Home Water: Water Purification, Greywater, Blackwater, Raintanks, Wells, and Springs

Students will learn how to actively address and design consistent access to potable water throughout the year, whether you live in an urban or rural environment. Design considerations for different styles of catchment tanks, springs, and wells will be discussed.  We will also have a look at how we can make the best use of water that leaves our home through blackwater and greywater treatment strategies.  We will also explore strategies for the filtration of water for potable use.


Aquaculture, the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals, is one of the most sustainable and high yielding forms of food production.  We will explore the potential of this at once new and ancient food system for both the home garden and the production farm.  Students will have the opportunity to explore a wide spectrum of aquaculture production systems including indoor sub-tropical aquaponic systems, outdoor pond systems, and stream based systems.  Topics covered include design and management of aquaculture systems and plants and animals for aquatic environments.

Sustainable Animal Husbandry

Students will learn about the humane care of chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, and cattle with an emphasis on their integration into the holistic management regimes of sustainable food systems.  Applications of animals for both home and farm scale production will be explored.  Specific topics covered include grazing systems for pasture management and prairie restoration, soil fertility management, ground preparation and tillage, weed and pest control, and approaches to livestock care specific to the animal.

Permaculture Design for Buildings and Appropriate Technology

We will explore the application of Permaculture to buildings and technology. Building design considerations for different climates and purposes as well as the choice of materials will be discussed.  We will also cover the use of technology in Permaculture from alternative energy systems to locally reproducible technologies for heating, cooling, and energy generation.

Political and Economic Strategies of a Sustainable Society

We will cover the practical structures that enable successful development of sustainable systems and communities.  Discussions will cover local currencies, banking, resource libraries, land ownership models, business models, and more.  We will use Aprovecho as a case study as we lay out the structures that have allowed our site to survive over 30 years of change and adaptation in the movement.