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A few years ago, someone suggested that I look into Permaculture when I was at my wits’ end trying to figure out how to grow anything in the woods we live in. I had never heard of the term, but only after a few minutes of reading up online, I was hooked. I read books, lots of books. But I wanted to learn more — especially practical skills like how to inoculate mushroom logs or make liquid fertilizer teas. I was craving real interactions with other like-minded “Permies”.
As a result, I started looking into internationally recognized Permaculture Design Courses, which means a minimum of 72 hours of instruction with a somewhat set curriculum given by a certified teacher. If you are in the same position as I once was, let me save you some time and share with you the result of my research and my own experiences.
Online Courses Versus In-Person Courses
One of the first decisions you will have to make when choosing a Permaculture Design Course is to decide whether you want to learn with a group of people face-to-face or if you rather do a course online. To answer that, ask yourself some tough questions, like:
- Do you prefer to study at your own pace alone or as part of a group setting?
- Can you take two weeks off in one swoop, or can you fit in 3-4 hours every week?
- Do you live in an area where a PDC is offered?
- And if not, are you willing (and able to travel)?
- Are you comfortable camping onsite?
- Do you want to be able to review the information again?
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it gives you an idea of what considerations need to be made.
In-Person Permaculture Design Courses
There are many different in-person certification courses to choose from.
One of the most sought-after Permaculture Design Certification course is taught by Geoff Lawton, Bill Mollison’s student and world-renowned permaculturist, at Zaytuna Farms. This 2-week course costs $2,800 at regular price or $2,500 if paid in advance.
Other courses cost between $1,200 and $2,500, depending on the location and who teaches it. Sometimes, there is an added special focus area, like Midwest Permaculture’s Winter PDC, which focuses on “Creating Productive Growing Spaces – Kitchen Gardens to Small Farm”.
There are many advantages, too:
- If you are staying locally, you can start building your tribe immediately!
- Most likely, you will get a lot of practical know-how and hands-on experiences.
- If you are staying within your local area, you will gain a lot of local plants, climate, and other knowledge — although the PDC will cover all different climate zones.
- If you are an extroverted person and you are not shy about asking questions, this might be more enjoyable than studying by yourself.
Initially, I looked for a PDC locally, but I have a full-time job, two children, and about 30 chickens to take care of, so the option quickly became a no-go — which in hindsight, I think, was the better choice. While I love working in a group and I would very much enjoy the hands-on part, I study better on my own time, review things, rewind the video, take notes, and do some side research! Which brings me to the online version on PDCs.
Online Permaculture Design Courses
Ultimately, I decided to enroll in two Permaculture Design Courses — yeah, I know. I waited more than 9 months for enrollment for the Geoff Lawton Online PDC 2.0 to open up and enrolled in Matt Powers’ Advanced Permaculture Student Online course as well.
Geoff Lawton Online PDC 2.0
If you have read anything about Permaculture, chances are you are familiar with Geoff Lawton! His course is divided into 14 total categories, EACH containing somewhere between 30-50 videos, animations, or lessons. The contents of the course follow extremely closely to Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”.
To keep pace, one probably would need to dedicate 8-10 hours every week of just studying. Later in the course, practical exercises were added, and the students who successfully demonstrate their Permaculture Design knowledge and skills in a Final Design Exercise will receive their certification.
Questions can be submitted beneath each lesson and will be answered by very knowledgable teaching assistants in a timely manner. Every week, a few questions will be answered by Geoff in video format. You can also post questions in the private Facebook group, which is nice as you also get peer feedback, encouragement, and perspectives.
Students have 13 months to complete the course and hand in the Final Design Exercise. It is unclear if the Facebook Group will remain open or if we might be granted access to the course material afterward — but it doesn’t look likely, and if, it seems it will only be paid.
Cost: $1,247 Early Bird Signup Special
Matt Power’s Advanced Permaculture Student Online
Matt Powers is a lot of things: a teacher, permaculturist, musician, author, and family man — but through and through, he is just a good person. Someone who truly lives by the Permaculture principles — Earth Care, People Care, and Future Care. His beliefs become instantly apparent how he structured his course: instead of making himself the center of the entire course, he invited 70 of the best Permaculture experts in Mycology, Natural Building, Aquaculture, Social Permaculture, Ocean Farming, Regenerative Agriculture, Holistic Management, Keyline Design, Agroforestry, Rewilding, KNF, Natural Farming, Regenerative Entrepreneurship, Large-Scale Land Restoration, and much more to contribute. This not only resulted in a deeper, more practice-oriented instruction but also creates more marketable skills in the area that you are interested in.
The format is similar to the Geoff Lawton course (in fact, they use the exact same online learning platform), but with some major differences: 1) you have life-time access, meaning that you can take as long or as little time as you want, but you can also go back and review and keep current with new developments, 2) it is still a live course if you choose to (the next iteration starts on October 28th, 2019 but you can join at any time), 3) the final project can be any kind of Permaculture project, but it needs to be implemented not just designed on paper, and 4) you get direct access to Matt and the experts.
Before You Decide, Research The Instructor(s)
While every recognized Permaculture Design Course must follow the same curriculum and be at least 72 hours of instructions, I highly recommend researching the teacher(s) before deciding for a particular course.
- Where and when were they certified?
- Who taught them, and what have they done in the meantime to keep up with recent developments?
- Do they have a particular specialty that they like to focus on, and how does that align with your goals and interests?
- How do you like their teaching style, and are there any particular books you have to buy?
I hope you find this useful. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.