The Ecovillage Training Center began in 1994 as an effort to break new ground in education by teaching people the skills that will ACTUALLY be needed in the 21st Century. It is not enough to understand the challenges; what is needed are viable strategies and, more importantly, the capacity to think, improvise, and create. Those skills do not come out of a book or DVD. They come from hard won experience, trial and error, and the chance to make mistakes, regroup, and try again.
The Farm is a protoecovillage that was started by 320 San Francisco hippies moving to rural Tennessee in 1971. It is now a successful community that meets its needs from a variety of homegrown businesses such as book publishing (the largest imprint for Native American authors) and electronics (geiger counters and solar devices). It has more than 20 km2 under management, with keylined pasture cells, agroforestry and extensive water systems. Over the past 20 years we have evolved our permaculture training program to take advantage of the feedback from our graduates and the changing landscape. What we have arrived at is an immersion residential apprenticeship pedagogy that combines one hour per day of classroom instruction, some independent study assignments, collaborative work with small teams on special projects, and a lot of normal farm labor, including animal husbandry, natural building, organic gardening, beekeeping and small business enterprise. No two months are alike, and all are informed by the skills and abilities of the engaged and brilliant participants who come from all over the world.
Apprentices are asked to pay $200/wk to defray expenses of food, lodging and instruction. we award a Design Certificate for 2 consecutive months attendance. WWOOFers are not charged but do not participate in the instructional program and may have incidental costs.
This year we will be offering two complete permaculture design certificate programs for students who can attend for two consecutive months, beginning March 30 or May 1. Most 2-week residential permaculture courses cost between $1500 and $2500, so anyone staying with us 9 weeks to receive the certification is paying about the same but receiving much more.
We provide mentoring in advanced techniques of permaculture, such as holistic management, aquaculture, natural building, keyline, free energy, and carbon farming, and will assist you towards a Permaculture Diploma or a self-directed B.S. or M.S degree from Gaia University should that be your goal.
Our primary focus in 2015 will be natural building with a view towards completing several large building projects on site that have been underway for more than a year. The construction includes hands-on experience with natural buildings of all types as well as the fundamentals of permaculture design and ecovillage master planning. Among the subjects you will learn through hands-on work are cob, earthbag, strawbale, light clay-straw, bamboo, earthen floors, zacateca, living roofs, round-pole, freestack stone, cordwood, clay renders, hemp-lime, baubiologie and earthships.
We are in the process of completely remodeling our Ecohostel, using our best techniques and "designing for enchantment." These are some of the most exciting and artistic parts of the natural building experience, and include creating natural paints and dyes, clay plasters, alis and fresco, and fine detail carpentry.
Other normal daily activities on site include poultry management; beekeeping; garden production from seed through harvest; compost, microbial teas, and soil amendments; fruit tree & bamboo maintenance; biochar fuel & stove development; biofuels and electric vehicles; and biodynamic waste-treatement aquatics systems management. Minor lab work may be involved, such as bacterial counts in soil samples.
Possible field trips include bicycling the nearby Amish country, canoeing the Buffalo River, Earth Advocates Research Farm & bamboo nursery, Spiral Ridge Permaculture, Solar Springs, Walnut Hill Farm, Jack Daniels Distillery and more. Apprentices will learn ecology, energy and resource conservation, social and community skills, and the economics of sustainability. They can attend and observe all of the open community meetings and committee meetings within The Farm community.
Weekends are reserved for community activities and free for getting in 18 holes on our tournament-quality disc golf course, mountain biking or river rafting. Apprentices will also have the opportunity to attend our monthly Transition Town meetings at our county seat to experience how our community redesign concepts translate to the county level.