Below is an article by Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski. Reprinted here at TW by permission.
3 of the Permaculture Design Courses mentioned below are also on the TW Events calendar:PDC led by TW Member David Zhang, beginning June 14PDC led by Starhawk and Transition Trainer Bill Aal, beginning July...PDC led by Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski, beginning July 12
For ongoing Permaculture related classes locally, check out the series of classes being offered by TW member Brian Kerkvleit at Inspiration Farm
Shopping for a Permaculture Course
History and Current Situation in Washington State and Surrounding Regions
The following 16 permaculture design courses are all the courses I know of being offered in, or near, Washington State this year, 7 in
Washington State, 4 in northern Oregon, 1 in Idaho and 4 in British
Columbia. I do not have as intimate a knowledge of Oregon’s courses so
did not attempt to review all of Oregon’s courses in this article. The
reason for this article is to give an overview of the kinds of courses
being offered, their prices, instructors and some comparisons. The
article is meant to be a service to people looking to take a course and
to the permaculture community in general.
Permaculture is a design science with a set of principles and ethics. Permaculture is a holistic, integrated systems methodology which
deals with ecosystem health, food production, the built environment,
and energy, as well as social and economic systems.
“Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity,
stability and the strength of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious
combination of land and people, supplying their food, energy, shelter
and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without
sustainable agriculture there is no possibility of a sustainable human
The first ever permaculture design course was held in 1980 in Australia. The first permaculture design course offered in the Pacific
Northwest was in 1982 at Evergreen State College’s organic farm in
Olympia, Washington. Australian Andrew Jeeves was the instructor and
Bill Mollison (the co-founder of permaculture) taught for three days. I
was a graduate of this first NW course along with 25 other people. It
changed the course of my life, which is a common comment from people
after their first PCDC (permaculture design course).
During the rest of the 1980s it was typical for one to three courses to be offered in Washington each year. Bill Mollison came
several times during this time period. In 1986 Mollison taught a course
in Eastern Washington in the upper Kittitas valley. A course which I
hosted and graduated from. It was Bill’s first time teaching the dryland
permaculture design course curriculum he had just developed. This was
the first departure from the standard permaculture design course
curriculum which he developed in 1981. In the 1990s the number of
courses offered in Washington State gradually grew to become three to
five courses a year. In the first decade of the 2000s this number has
gradually increased. Eight courses are being offered in Washington in
2010, which is an all-time record for the state. I would estimate that
there have been somewhere around 100 permaculture design courses in
Washington State to date. With an average graduating class of 20 people
is around 2,000 graduates from Washington pdcs. There probably have been
a similar number of courses held in Oregon so far and perhaps 30 in
British Columbia. The inland Northwest has had much less action. Three
courses in Montana and one in Idaho. There have been about 10 courses in
eastern Washington, primarily taught by Simon Henderson or myself.
There have been no courses in eastern Oregon to my knowledge. This adds
up to around 240 pcdcs altogether in the Pacific Northwest. With an
average graduating class of 20 people that is around 4,800 graduates
from Pacific Northwest pdcs.
Here is a brief rundown on the permaculture design courses being offered in Washington State and vicinity in 2010. For each course I have
listed date, title, venue, format, instructors, fees, class size, brief
comments, and contact information. Notice that the length and format of
the courses varies as well as the prices. There are a number of
reasons for the range of course fees. Some venues cost more than
others. Some courses are residential and have housing and food costs.
Courses have differing emphases and themes. They are all supposed to
cover the standard permaculture design course curriculum but some do a
better job of this than others. Each teacher has their own expertise,
some have worked in more climate zones than others, some have taught
many courses and others are just starting their career, each has their
own personality and style of teaching.
All of these courses (and instructors) are unique. Pdcs are not cookie-cutter stamp-outs. The diversity of courses means that they can
serve a wider range of clients. People can pick the course format, theme
and instructors that suits them best. All of these courses have
value. Prospective students are encouraged to look at the range of
courses available and do some research before choosing their first
course. Some people take multiple courses to experience different
instructors, bioregions and venues. I have completed 22 full design
courses in many states, provinces and countries, most of them as senior
instructor. Please note that there is currently no quality control
mechanism for pdcs. Some courses claim to offer certification. Until
recently there was a course certification program from Bill Mollison’s
Permaculture Institute in Australia. He has recently closed this
program due to the difficulties in insuring quality standards in
courses all around the world. There is currently a move afoot to set up
certification standards in the US. Just because a course says they offer
certification does not necessarily mean they are better than courses
which do not make such claims. Prospective students are advised to
research the reputations of courses and instructors.
People are not supposed to hang out their shingle as a permaculture consultant or teacher unless they have gone through at least one pdc
and hopefully have a lot of practical experience under their belt.
Advanced permaculture design and advanced permaculture teaching courses started being offered in the 1990s. Only permaculture design
course graduates can attend. The first advanced courses offered by US
instructors started in the last decade. Northwest advanced course
teachers include Jude Hobbs, Tom Ward and Andrew Millison.
* February 12-28, 2010
Sahale Permaculture Design Course
Venue: Sahale Retreat Center, Belfair, WA
Format: Two-week residential course
Instructors: Laura Sweany and Larry Korn. Guest instructor: Deston Denniston.
Cost: $1195, $995 early registration
Class size: 12 graduates
Comments: This was the fourth course at Sahale. Larry Korn was the translator for Masonabu Fukuoka’s book “One Straw Revolution”
and has been part of the Northwest permaculture movement since the 1982
Olympia course. Laura Sweany is a relatively new to permaculture
teaching. Sahale was a wonderful venue for the first and second
Washington State Permaculture Convergence (an event for permaculturists
statewide). 115 attended in 2008 and 170 people in 2009.
* February-September, 2010
Tacoma's 1st Permaculture Design Course
Venue: Kings' Books and Tacoma Waldorf School, plus many other sites around Tacoma
Format: Weekends course. One weekend a month including Friday night presentations.
Instructors: Kelda Miller with guest speakers Jenny Pell, Heidi Bohan, Marisha Auerbach and Paul Kearsley
Cost: $800-$650 Sliding Scale
Class size: 25
Comments: Kelda is a young firebrand of a pc teacher who goes out of her way to involve a wide diversity of less privileged
folks. Her courses aim to reflect a multi-cultural outlook. The course
emphasis is on urban areas.
* April 3 - June 13, 2010
Vashon Permaculture Design Course
Venue: Vashon Cohousing, Vashon Island
Format: Weekends course. 6 weekends April 3 through June 6, 2010
Instructors: Emet Degirmenci, Kelda Miller; Guests: Larry Korn, Jenny Pell,
Mark Musick and Deston Denniston.
Class size: 10. They had a hard time filling the course.
Comments: Emet is new to the Northwest Permaculture scene but brings a lot of experience and an international perspective from her
work in Turkey, New Zealand and Australia. Emet is teaching pc in
Turkey, her native country later this year.
* May 8-9 to October 9–10, 2010
Seattle Permaculture Design Course.
Venue: South Seattle Community College
Instructor: Toby Hemenway and guests
Format: Weekend course meets every 2nd weekend of the month from May to October.
Cost: $900 for 12 full-day classes
Class size: They are expecting 40 to graduate.
Comments: This is Toby Hemenway's 3rd annual Permaculture Design Course in Seattle. It is sponsored by Seattle Tilth. Toby is a
well-known teacher and he has brought in many long-time permaculturists
as guest speakers.
* June to November, 2010
Portland Permaculture Design Course
Venue: Portland State University
Instructor: Toby Hemenway and guests
Format: Six Weekends.
* June 11-27, 2010
Tryon Farm Permaculture Design Course
Instructors: Marisha Auerbach, Matt Bibeau, Leonard Barret and guests
Venue: Tryon Life Community Farm, Portland, Oregon
Format: Residential course with non-residential option.
Cost: $1100 to $1300 sliding scale. $850 to $1,000 for non-residential, local students.
Comments. Tryon farm is an intentional community set in seven acres of rolling meadow, gardens, homes, naturally-built
structures, and wooded cliffs which is adjacent to one of Portland’s
largest urban parks. An oasis preserved from development by a community
effort. Grass-roots urban. Marisha is one of the dynamic, 2nd
generation wave of permaculture teachers.
* June 14 – August 27, 2010
Oregon Coast Permaculture Immersion
Instructors: Henry Stanley and Gabe Shaddy-Farnsworth with other guest instructors
Venue: Neah-Kah-Nie Natural Farm, Manzanita, Oregon
Format: 3-month long immersion course. Class is 3 days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Cost: $1750, Room & basic food staples are included.
Class Size: Small number of participants
Comments: North Coastal Oregon. I added this one because of the long-term format and it is close to Washington. Henry works with
Trackers Northwest and Portland’s Village Building Convergence and has
recently begun teaching courses.
Info/contact: Molly, Trackers Northwest 503-559-2825 .
* June 14-27, 2010
Feral Farm Permaculture Course
Venue: Feral Farm, Rockport, Sauk River Valley.
Format: Residential course. Camping.
Instructors: David Zhang and Laura Donahue with guest instructors Matt van Boven, Michael Pilarski, Heidi Bohan.
Class Size: Class size limited to 16.
Comments: A youthful course with young instructors. We will cover 72 hours of permaculture curriculum along with over 10 hours
of primitive skills and wilderness awareness. Feral Farm is a model for
incorporating edible and useful plants into already existing wild
* July 3-17, 2010
Earth Activist Training Permaculture Design Course
Venue: River Farm, near Deming, Washington (east of Bellingham)
Instructors: Starhawk and friends, with guest teachers Bill Aal and Margo Adair of Tools for Change
Format: Residential course. Mainly tenting.
Cost: $1400-$1800 sliding scale until April 1, after $1500-$1900
Class Size: Usually around 25.
Comments: Starhawk is a well-known activist who combines a permaculture design course with activist training. Special focus on
social permaculture and affecting the world. Circles, rituals and
earth-based spirituality are part of the menu. These Earth Activist
Trainings have been held in locations around the US. The curriculum was
developed by Starhawk and Penny Livingston, a well-known California pc
* July 11–31, 2010
Bullock Homestead Permaculture Design Course
Venue: Bullock Permaculture Homestead, Orcas Island
Cost: $1900 ($1800 if paid in full by June 1st)
Instructors: Douglas Bullock, John Valenzuela, Sam Bullock & Dave Boehnlein
Class Size: Course is limited to 30 participants. The course is full and has a waiting list.
Comments: One of the longest-running, annual courses in the PNW. The Bullock Brothers Homestead is one of the Northwest’s
premier pc sites. The only 3-week course offered in the PNW. Emphasis
on hands-on. A well-known and popular course. Douglas Bullock is one of
the Northwest’s most experienced teachers. Brothers Douglas, Sam and Joe
are all world-class plantspeople and between them have taught in many
of the world’s climate zones. Their website is a great portal into the
national and international permaculture scene.
Info/contact: Dave Boehnlein, 360-840-8483 . firstname.lastname@example.org
* July 11-25, 2010
Skalitude Permaculture Design Course
Format: Two-week residential course. Rooms or tenting
Venue: Skalitude Retreat Center, Carlton, WA (Methow Valley)
Instructors: Michael Pilarski, with guest instructors Andrew Millison, Josho Somine, Deston Denniston, David Sansone and
Cost: $800. Innovative financing proposals considered
Class Size: 15 to 25
Comments: This is my course, so I am biased. Excellent facilities and teaching team. Focused on the Pacific Northwest,
particularly the Interior Northwest. Andrew Millison is one of the few
advanced pc teachers in the US. Pilarski has been teaching pdcs longer
than any other Northwest instructor (since 1988). A few of my
specialties include home food production, agroforestry, wildcrafting,
native edible and medicinal plants, forestry, ecology, barter economies
and permaculture cheerleading.
* August 16 – 28, 2010
Kamiah Permaculture Course
Venue: FNA Ranch, Kamiah, Idaho
Instructors: Kim and Julie Pagliaro
Comments: This course is added here as it is the only other Inland Northwest course offered this year besides my Skalitude
course in Eastern Washington. I believe this is the first course at this
venue. Includes footage of a Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton
design certificate course in Australia.
British Columbia, Canada.
I don’t want to completely ignore our neighbor to the north. So here are the url’s of four 2010 pdcs just north of Washington’s border.
* April 3-May 16, 2010. weekends
Permaculture Design Course in cooperation with Selkirk College in Nelson, BC
Instructor: Gregoire Lamoureux
* May 23 - June 4, 2010
Permaculture Design Course in Nelson, BC
* May 30 - June 12, 2010
Permaculture Design Course in Winlaw, British Columbia
Instructor: Gregoire Lamoureux.
* July 4 – 17, 2010
Denman Island Summer 2010 Permaculture Design Course
Instructor: Jesse Lemieux
Online Permaculture Calendar!
Northwest permaculture courses as well as workshops are posted at the useful, permaculture calendar:
Northwest Permaculture Events, from Bellingham to Portland.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief peek at the world of permaculture
design courses. Most countries and regions of the world have similar
lists. There are dozens or hundreds of permaculture design courses
running worldwide at any one time. The number of pc course graduates is
now approaching something like 200,000 graduates worldwide! Positive
solutions for a positive future. A permaculture course is one of the
best investments in the future that a person can make.
PDF of article (128KB)
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More Permaculture discussions at TW:
David Zhang: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/profiles/blogs/permaculture-desig...
Michael Pilarski: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/forum/topics/a-permaculture-appro...
Larry Korn: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-lar...
Rob Hopkins, Permaculture and Transition: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/profiles/blogs/rob-hopkins-permac...
David MacLeod: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/profiles/blogs/speaking-of-permac...