What is permaculture?

Permaculture is the holistic approach to designing human systems to mimic the abundance and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture integrates several disciplines, including biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, gardening and community building.

Permaculture comprises many facets of our world from society to the economy to the environment. What makes permaculture so useful in this day and age is that it bridges or fills the gaps that many disciplines tend to overlook or which fail to work together. The overarching goal is to create a better tomorrow.

The word permaculture was coined in the 1970’s to mean ‘permanent agriculture’. The original definition was written in Permaculture One, by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and was applied to mean perennial or permanent agriculture. Currently students of David Holmgren learn the definition of permaculture as, “Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs.”

The definition has since changed to, in addition to how we grow our food and fiber, to include people, our buildings and the ways in which we organize ourselves. This is permanent culture. A design system for regenerative living and land use that is based on working with nature as opposed to against it and understanding ecosystem services and how nature functions. Ultimately it is a tool-box for making decisions.

Does Earthshed Solutions teach Permaculture?

We teach a variety of subjects within the realm of permaculture. Our Chico Permaculture Guild Gatherings are introductions to permaculture and our PermaBlitzes teach about the design process and it’s implementation. We place an emphasis on teaching introductory subjects, such as the foundation and specific strategies, as well as going ‘Beyond the PDC’ to provide advanced training in areas like the permaculture design process, water harvesting strategies for our Mediterranean climate and edible forest gardening in our local bioregion. Our Hands-On Workshops are advanced trainings. At this time we do not teach PDC’s.

What is a PDC (permaculture design certificate)?

Formally known as the Permaculture Design Consultant’s Certificate, this document is awarded to those who attend all sessions of the design course and who successfully complete the design project. The certificate gives the holder the right to use the word “permaculture” in a business or other professional practice, and signifies successful completion of the permaculture design course.

The certificate does not mean that you are a “certified” permaculture designer, as the design course covers roughly the same amount of material as two college courses, which is not enough to make you a certified practitioner, just as two courses in chemistry would not make one a certified chemist! The design course is the first step in becoming a permaculture practitioner, whether in design, education, construction, or any one of many other fields.

The curriculum covers a wide variety of subjects. Below is a typical course syllabus. This course will not make you an expert in any of the individual subjects covered, although in many cases PDC’s go into considerable depth. The point of the course is to introduce you to the relationships and synergies among the disciplines that permaculture connects. In a sense, permaculture creates an ecology made up of the many tools and concepts used to design sustainable communities. You will learn what these tools are and how to decide which to use, and when. The course will show you how these subjects connect. Then, after the course, you can go into whatever depth you desire in your areas of interest.

The order of topics in a course may change due to the presence of guest instructors, and emphasis on certain subjects may shift due to the needs and focus of the participants, such as urban or rural residents, city planners, farmers, and so on.

Foundations of Permaculture
Course overview and logistics; permaculture defined; observation skills; ethics and the basis of ecological design; permaculture principles, indicators of sustainability, and how to use them.

Design for Pattern Literacy
Designing from patterns to details; natural patterns as a design tool; the permaculture design process; methods of design; the Zone and Sector System.

Thinking Like a Watershed
The water cycle; Catching and storage water; designing tanks, cisterns, and other water storages like earthworks. Rooftop water catchments.

Design for Water Conservation
Ponds, swales, and keyline design; water in the permaculture landscape; greywater and blackwater system design; aquaculture.

Soil: The Living Skin of the Earth
Soil structure and composition; soil ecology and nutrient flow; creating healthy soil; analyzing your soil; compost, nutrient teas, and mulches; cover crops and green manures; strategies for your own soil conditions.

Ecology 101
How ecosystems work; the home garden; plants of many functions; polycultures; integrating animals and insects into the garden; pest management; wildlife habitat

Food Forests, Guilds, and Ecosystems
Trees and their many roles; designing plant communities; the orchard; food forest design; hedgerows, windbreaks, and shelterbelts; biomimicry.

The Built Environment
The functions of shelter; methods of green and natural building; designing shelter for climate and culture; living roofs; site selection; designing for disaster.

Energy and Tools for Working Wisely
Population, energy use, and Peak Oil; renewable energy strategies; appropriate technologies for heating and cooling, transportation, cooking, and construction.

Ecovillages, Community,and Thinking Globally
Community dynamics; intentional communities, co-housing, and group decision-making processes; city repair; ecovillages. Designing for urban, suburban, or rural situations. Tropical, dryland, and temperate strategy review.

Green Economics and Right Livelihood
Money, finance, and local currency networks; permaculture in education; green business guilds and networks; building social capital. Design project preparation.

Putting it Together: The Design Project
Where to from here? Group design project presentations; talent show and final party.

Who should take a PDC?

  • Homeowners, gardeners, and farmers learn to increase the value and productivity of their property and to create home and land environments that better support their own needs as well as nature’s.
  • Real estate, construction, and development professionals are able to better address the public’s growing concern for the environment and to reduce resource use and impacts.
  • Educators learn to integrate permaculture design into their curriculum in ways that have been proven to raise student performance.
  • Planners and public officials find holistic solutions to land-use and resource issues, and will identify and solve bottlenecks and impediments to implementing their programs.
  • Energy, water, and waste-systems workers will learn holistic management strategies for integrating their projects into the larger community.

Most participants find the course life-changing, and they form powerful new viewpoints and enhanced social networks.