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8 Month Practicum in Permaculture and Agroecology

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The Practicum in Permaculture and Agroecology is meant for anyone wanting to go deep into Permaculture, honing their practice as a designer, installer, and manager of integrated ecologically based agricultural systems. This program serves anyone committed to building resiliency through whole systems design and sustainable food production in communities. In particular, people interested in managing ecological farm systems, working on sustainable development projects, and becoming professional Permaculture designers and consultants benefit greatly from this program.

Aprovecho specializes in providing hands-on education of the depth and quality necessary to enable our students with the ability to put their skills to work both profitably and practically in the world. We have found that in order to gain the skills to manage integrated permaculture systems, one needs to spend time in a place getting intimate with the landscape. This is why we have established the eight-month Permaculture Practicum.

Over the course of our time teaching Permaculture, we have seen the cost of Permaculture Design Courses increase while the length hovers on average between two to three weeks. At the same time, almost all of our students say (and these are graduates of our 5-6 week PDCs) that they yearn to bring the inspired theory of whole systems design out of the classroom and into practice. While the number of PDCs and advanced courses in Permaculture are constantly on the increase, there is still a great lack of full season practice in the true doing of Permaculture work. This program is designed to be cheaper than the typical living expenses for the same time-period so that people can invest in their future as Permaculture professionals without bending over backward to make the leap.

Four Elements

The Permaculture and Agroecology Practicum 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 gain a comprehensive understanding of agroecology by working 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 to assure interns leave prepared to manage farms in a diversity of contexts.

Assessment and Design

Participants in the Permaculture and Agroecology Practicum will leave the program with 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 work in a team to complete 3 Permaculture master plans for both urban and rural sites. 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 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, spring development, planting of a nut orchard with coppice interplantings, design and installation of keyline systems for water and timber distribution, hedgerow and windbreak installation, restoration of oak savanna and riparian waterways, and greenhouse installation. 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

The week starts on Sunday with a day of lecture. The lecture mixes classroom time with hands on time focused on a specific subject. 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 community work parties. There will very likely be paid work opportunities during Fridays and Saturdays.


Students participate in a full season of Aprovecho’s weekend workshop programming including at least 24 full day classes in Natural Building, Permaculture, and Organic Gardening. A Permaculture Design Certificate may be obtained through this program as an outcome of the practicum. In addition lecture is scattered throughout the week in less formal presentations ranging from talks on plant families to detailed talks on specific systems.

Applied and Hands On Learning

This course includes over 650 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. This experience leaves you with the skills to manage and market both annual and perennial food systems. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to work in the extended community of non-profits (habitat for humanity, community sharing of Cottage Grove) 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 develop three Permaculture master plans throughout 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 Friday for lunch. Meal shifts are shared between all students for breakfast and dinner and on weekends. Organic and local fod 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.

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