The Course & Curriculum

Holyoke edible forest garden field trip, Holyoke, MA

This permaculture design course moves from principles and patterns to details in a supportive, respectful and collaborative atmosphere to promote rapid learning of whole systems design. The course will center around experiential learning and hands-on skill building, including local field trips where we will see theory in action.

The course will conclude with a design practicum,

students giving their design presentation

where participants will work in small groups to develop a design for the course client.

Topics  include:

  • Permaculture principles & ethics

    Forest Garden Bed at the Montview Neighborhood Farm, Northampton MA

  • Reading the Landscape & Understanding Natural Cycles
  • Urban Homesteading
  • Forest Gardening
  • Water Harvesting
  • Soil Regeneration
  • Creative Waste Cycling
  • Micro-livestock
  • Energy & Building Systems
  • Social Justice
  • Food Systems Planning
  • Cooperative Economics
  • Design for Climate Change
  • Community Building
  • Aquaculture
  • Soil Regeneration & Land Restoration
  • Design Projects, Methods, & Tolls

“I looked at the Northampton Permaculture Course as a fantastic introduction to the new world paradigm, I felt a sincere need to stop worrying about the future and start acting on creating a future that I could be proud of. The teachers were kind, knowledgeable and quite fun, field trips (even outside mid winter) were full of people brimming with interesting points of view and more info than I could digest in one sitting.  The best part of the class was the variety of wonderful people dialoguing on all the facets of our culture and humanity and trying to lay the stones for the foundations of a new whole system mentality”   -Bryan Long, Cambridge, MA; graduate spring ’11

Sample Day

9-9:30– Meditation, Daily Preview, Announcements

9:30-10:45Water in the Landscape- water cycle and functions, techniques for water conservation & harvesting


11-12:30Sandbox demo-Keyline design, contour, swales, pond building

12:30-1:30– Lunch Break

1:30-3Hands on- how to find contour lines in a landscape, building an A-frame, using a water level to dig and plant an edible swale

3-3:15 Break

3:15- 4:45Aquaculture systems– passive and recirculating, chinampas, bioshelters

4:45-5– Wrap up, closing

Course Materials

Required Materials:

1) Text: Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living; by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Bloom                                                                             (the text will be bulk-ordered from Food for Thought Books and available to you on the first day of class)

2) Drafting Supplies: expect to spend between $15-35 for drafting supplies; a list of required supplies will be given to you during the course