Permaculture Design Course

September 16 - September 27, 2020


A practical, hands-on permaculture design course, full of site visits and interactive learning

This experiential permaculture design course (PDC) engages the mind, body, and heart. You’ll learn from teachers who are living permaculture in their day-to-day lives. During the class you’ll see permaculture in action in a variety of settings, from urban gardens to forest farms, and more.

Throughout the 12 intensive days you’ll build connections amongst your fellow students while working on real-world design projects for local community members. Interspersed within the course are hands-on activities like gardening, natural building, spoon carving, and pressing fresh apple cider.

permaculture homestead diagram with greenhouse and chickens

Learn to integrate a whole-systems approach to your life and landscapes

If you want to dive even deeper into permaculture and Earth-based living, check out our Permaculture Design Certificate Immersion too. It’s spread out over 9 months (1 long-weekend/month), instead of an intensive 12 days.

What you’ll learn in this Permaculture Design Course:

This class will empower you to become an effective ecological designer. You’ll learn tools and skills to integrate permaculture principles, and whole-systems thinking, into every landscape and situation. We follow the Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA) curriculum. To this we’ve added more time covering aspects that we find especially compelling (and useful). Plus, we emphasize design considerations for the Southeastern US bioregion. Topics include:

  • Principles of ecology
  • Introduction to forest guilds
  • Reading the land and observing patterns
  • Plant identification
  • Climates, biogeography, microclimates
  • Understanding zones and sectors
  • Mapping
  • Plant succession
  • Holistic forestry and orcharding
  • Urban farm tour
  • Conservation, waste and recycling strategies
  • Human nutrition
  • Social ecology and invisible structures
  • Client relations and interviews
  • Economics

Shiitake logs with edible mushrooms

This course will revolutionize how you view and relate to the Earth and your everyday life

permaculture design course students

Who is this Permaculture Design Course for?

This intensive class is appropriate for everyone interested in apply Earth-inspired philosophies to their lives, and for those pursuing a career in permaculture design. All students will cultivate a deep engagement with the natural and human systems of which they are an integral part. You’ll learn tools for gardening, communication, mapping, community engagement, landscape design, and much more.

Our students have come from many walks of life. For example, we’ve taught gardeners, builders, teachers, coaches, engineers, parents, writers, herbalists, and even lawyers. Permaculture principles can be applied to diverse places and situations. This permaculture design course is accessible and relevant to everyone who desires to live their life more in-tune with natural patterns and cycles.

Permaculture Design Certification Course presentation with map

Your Permaculture Design Certification:

Students who complete the course (and submit thoughtful designs and presentations) will receive their Permaculture Design Certification. Please note that we advise investing significant time into applying your skills with real-world landscapes beyond this class before you  advertise your design skills.

Course Locations:

The PDC will take place at Wild Abundance (located 20 minutes north of Asheville in Barnardsville, NC) and at the Ruby Roost in Madison County, NC. One homestead is nestled in community, and the other is a multi-generational homestead; both are fantastic examples of permaculture in action. Please note that both sites include camping and meal options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the Wild Abundance Permaculture Design Course (PDC) special?
This is a hands-on, experiential PDC. In teams, each student will create a design plan for an actual place with which they’ll get to interact throughout the course. We get our hands dirty in the garden with building projects – and even carving spoons and pressing apple cider. Additionally, we engage in group exercises and activities that go way beyond discussions. The course also includes lots of local field trips. Students get to see permaculture in action on many scales, including urban gardens, pristine forests, woodland farms, and an integrated homestead micro dairy. Everyone is invited to share their knowledge, ideas, questions, and wisdom throughout the class, fostering a strong sense of community.
What is each day’s schedule like?
The PDC is an intensive! Class runs from about 9:30-1:00 pm, 2:00-5:00 pm, and 6:30-8:30 pm each day. Class blocks include bathroom and stretch breaks. This schedule is somewhat flexible, with changes on days when there are field trips or special guest lectures. However, each day will be very full throughout the course. If you purchase a meal plan, lunch or dinner will be provided during each break time. If you don’t purchase a meal plan, you’ll have time to prepare and eat your meals during those times.
I live in a different climate/FDA zone than Asheville. Will the content be applicable where I live?
Yes! The content of the PDC will be applicable to any location. The foundational principles and approaches to design translate easily from place to place. Some specific information about plants may not be applicable where you live, but you’ll leave with tools for researching plants that suit your climate. We’ve had students from Zones 5 – 9. Each of them have been able to apply what they learned in the PDC to their home environments.
Why take an in-person PDC, rather than an online PDC?
An in-person PDC provides you with real world, hands-on experience. You’ll be able to apply what you learn as you go, getting a feel for how things work as you learn about them. What’s more, you get to make personal connections with instructors and fellow students. Permaculture is a blend of theory and practice. Online PDCs and permaculture courses can be full of wonderful information, but they don’t provide an opportunity to practice what you learn with real-time support. Graduates from our PDC who’ve gone on to take online permaculture courses have found online learning to be a wonderful complement to – but by no means a suitable replacement for – an in-person course.
Is permaculture mostly about gardening?
Permaculture is about way more than gardening. In fact, it’s not even a particular way of gardening. It can include various agricultural techniques like French Biointensive, Korean Natural Farming, and Biodynamics. Permaculture is actually a way of seeing and working with systems. Some permaculture projects don’t involve growing food at all, although many do. Other areas in which permaculture can be applied (beyond the garden) include the design and construction of buildings, power systems, landscape-scale layout, perennial plants and orchards, interpersonal and community dynamics, decision making, business structure, and social movements.
What can I do with a Permaculture Design Certificate?
A permaculture design certificate signifies that you’ve completed the requirements of at least 72 hours of instruction, including the topics laid out by permaculture founder Bill Mollison. Earning this certificate shows that you’ve put in the time and commitment to learning permaculture design. A Permaculture Design Certificate is not a license and won’t automatically open any doors for you professionally. However, clients and employers alike will recognize its value, as permaculture is becoming more and more well known. Since permaculture can apply to a wide range of activities, there are many ways to use your certificate. Some examples include landscape design; development of your own project/property; consulting with schools, businesses or individuals; designing for schools, businesses or individuals; incorporating permaculture into educational curriculums; doing permaculture-oriented social projects’ and incorporating permaculture principles into the work that you already do.
I don't own land or have my own garden. Will a PDC still be useful to me?
Yes! Permaculture can be applied to all kinds of situations. You don’t need to own your own land or have a garden in order to use what you learn. In fact, many of our graduates have gone on to work with community or school gardens or to develop businesses that utilize their skills with other people’s properties through design and consulting. In fact, it can be advantageous to complete a PDC before starting a garden or land project, so you can know what you’re looking for and make a solid plan before you begin. For more on how permaculture can set a good foundation for a new land project, check out How to Live off the Land: A Permaculture Guide. Additionally, since permaculture can be applied to so many situations and projects, what you learn will be useful in many other areas of your life, beyond land-based living and growing food.
Can I design my own land during the course?
Yes! You can design your own land either by yourself or with a partner who also lives there. If you choose to design your own land, you won’t work in a group, unless you have a group of land partners who also come to the course. We’ve found that when folks design a place to which they have strong attachment, it goes more smoothly without teammates who aren’t as connected. Another option, if your land is within one hour of the Wild Abundance campus, is to have a team of your fellow students design your land. We do have some requirements for folks designing their own land; to receive a full list of them, email Hannah at

If the 12-day intensive isn’t accessible to your schedule, check out our Permaculture Design Certificate Immersion. It’s spread out over 9 months (1 long-weekend/month).

Josh Riley permaculture design course student
“The whole experience was just life changing.”


Josh Riley


Hear more about Josh’s experience on our blog

Josh and Rachael – Bringing it Back Home







“Taking the Permaculture Design Course opened my mind drastically. The knowledge I gained will benefit my family, community, and myself tremendously. I am forever grateful to Natalie and Laura. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”


Rosie Soto


Ben Marchman permaculture design course student

“I especially liked how Natalie and Laura tied in so many different aspects of permaculture into the course. I see now how it’s so hard to really cover everything in a PDC, there’s just so much! But they did a great job. I also loved how it was really hands on.”


Ben Marchman


Hear more about Ben’s experience on our blog

Ben Marchman – Regenerative Community Building




Natalie Bogwalker

Natalie is the founder and director of the Wild Abundance.  She’s passionate about teaching and sharing skills that are essential for living harmoniously within the natural systems of the earth. She and her family live at the Wild Abundance homestead campus in the Southern Appalachians. Natalie spends her time harvesting in the wild, building, gardening, ...

Laura Ruby

Laura earned her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2002 from Crystal Waters EcoVillage in Australia. Since then, she has been implementing permaculture systems on her own urban property in downtown Boulder, CO, and for her clients in the area. She recently moved to Western North Carolina and is designing and implementing a 56-acre Permaculture education center ...

Becky Beyer

Becky started her crazy love affair with all things homesteading while growing up on a farm in central New Jersey. After getting her B.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Vermont, she moved to Asheville, NC, to explore all the amazing work being done in this beautiful bioregion. She teaches spoon carvin ...

Ben Falk

Ben Falk lives permaculture every day at his Vermont homestead, a testing-ground for ideas and projects that he shares with the wider world through teaching, consulting, and writing. He founded Whole Systems Design, LLC as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. He’s the author ...

Cailen Campbell

After dropping out of college in 1994, Cailen completed a permaculture design course and year-long natural building and permaculture apprenticeship at the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Summertown, TN, followed by a year-long apprenticeship with Eustace Conway at the Turtle Island Preserve, where he learned a diversity of skills related to early American ...

Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens as well as a contributor for Drawdown. He is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, and an international trainer, presenting in English and Spanish in the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean. Eric has studied ...

Our Campus is Unconventional

To read about our facilities, including accessibility for alter-abled people, read about our Campus here.

Local Accommodations

Wherever you’re coming from, you’re welcome to pitch a tent in one of our flat camping spots in the woods or field, or to tie a hammock in the forest on our seven-acre property. If you live locally, you may prefer to commute to Wild Abundance from Asheville (25 minute drive). If you choose to camp, please bring your own bedding and rainproof tent or tarp. In the early spring and late fall it can be cold at night, so please bring warm bedding if you’ll be here before May or after September. We have a lovely outdoor kitchen equipped with a stove and running water, an outdoor shower, and an outhouse available to campers.  In extremely cold weather, the sink and shower may be out of operation due to water freezing.

If you prefer something with more creature comforts, we suggest you browse Airbnb for numerous options close to the campus. You can also check out local motels and B&Bs within a 10-15 minute drive to Wild Abundance. We’ll send a list of links to several options (with varying amenities and prices) in a welcome letter upon registration.

Registration Info

We strive to make our classes accessible to those who wish to learn. Please pay on the sliding scale what you can afford, given your income.

September 16 – 27, 2020

  • Early-Early Bird Price: January 1 – May 21, 2020: $979 without meal plan or $1,279 with meal plan
  • Early Bird Price: May 22 – July 23, 2020: $1,079 without meal plan or $1,379 with meal plan
  • Regular Price: July 24 – September 15, 2020: $1,149 without meal plan or $1,449 with meal plan

The following are included in the price of the course: instruction, optional camping, and facility use (kitchen, outhouse). The Women’s Carpentry classes and Natural Building and Tiny House Workshop include lunches. The Permaculture Design Course has a meal plan option. 

To register, please complete the online registration by clicking on the “Register Now” button and then make your payment. Registration will be processed upon receipt of payment.

Expect to receive a confirmation email within one week of sending payment. Additional emails will cover logistical details as the date approaches.

Click here to see our policy on refunds, payment plans and work-trade opportunities.

Also, feel free to read our Frequently Asked Questions.