Permaculture Design Course

What is Permaculture & Whole Systems Design?

Permaculture is an ethically based whole-systems design approach that uses concepts, principles, and methods derived from ecosystems, nature connected communities, and other time-tested systems to create human settlements and institutions. It’s also been called “saving the planet while throwing a better party.” Learn more about permaculture.

Grounded in the context of Permaculture & Whole Systems Design, this course covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Food Forests

  • Fruit Tree Pruning and Care

  • Agroforestry

  • Nature Awareness

  • Rehydrating the Earth

  • Creating Water Retention Landscapes

  • Rainwater Catchment

  • Gabions

  • Berms and Swales

  • Greywater

  • No-Till Agriculture & Carbon Farming

  • Preparing Garden Beds for Planting

  • Cover Cropping

  • Mycorrhizal Network & Fungi

  • Soil Ecology

  • Composting

  • Natural Building & Cob Construction

  • Plant Guilds

  • Crop Planning

  • School Gardens

  • Urban Gardens & Orchards

  • Sudden Oak Life

  • Integrated Animal Husbandry

  • Holistic Management & Rotational Grazing

  • Local Food Systems

  • Designing to Mitigate Disaster

  • Bioregional Networks

  • The World Café

  • The Work That Reconnects

  • Nonviolent Communication

  • Financial Permaculture

  • Alternative Currencies

  • Economic Permaculture

  • Public Banking

  • Community Development

  • City Repair

  • Transition Towns

  • Social Permaculture

  • Intentional Communities & Ecovillages

  • Neighborhood Resilience

Our Approach

The Santa Cruz Permaculture Design Certificate course includes the internationally recognized 72-hour curriculum, augmented by an additional 38-hours of hands on practice and field trips. Plus, folks have the option to camp on site each weekend, and build community around the fire!

Our course brings in leading designers and teachers from around the region, each experts in different areas of permaculture. The Santa Cruz Permaculture network of instructors, alumni, community partners, and resources continues to grow each season, and by participating in our course, you become part of this network! Read interviews with our alumni here to learn how folks use the skills and knowledge they gain in this course.

Additionally, course participants work in teams throughout the six month program to design a holistic permaculture plan for a real-life property in the community. The hands-on learning, workshops, and readings throughout the course prepare students with knowledge and whole systems thinking strategies that allow them to create detailed and thoughtful design projects.


Dates & Topics

Upcoming Six-Month Certificate Program Dates

Class typically runs 9am – 5:30pm both days, with a lunch break.
  • October 10 & 11, 2020 – Regenerative Design & Nature Awareness

  • November 7 & 8, 2020 – Regenerating Watersheds & Soils

  • December 5 & 6, 2020 – Personal & Economic Permaculture

  • January 16 & 17, 2021 – Home Scale Permaculture: Creating Natural Homes & Edible Landscapes

  • February 6 & 7, 2021 – Broad Scale Permaculture for Ecosystem Regeneration: Integrated Animal Husbandry & Forest Management

  • March 6 & 7, 2021 – Social Permaculture, Community Development, & Design Presentations

Current Certificate Program Dates

Here are the dates for our current program. You can sign up for an individual weekend using the PayPal link below:
  • April 11 & 12, 2020 – Regenerative Design & Nature Awareness
  • May 2 & 3, 2020 – Regenerating Watersheds & Soils
  • May 30 & 31, 2020 – Personal & Economic Permaculture
  • July 11 & 12, 2020 – Home Scale Permaculture: Creating Natural Homes & Edible Landscapes
  • August 1 & 2, 2020 – Broad Scale Permaculture for Ecosystem Regeneration: Integrated Animal Husbandry & Forest Management
  • September 12 & 13, 2020 – Social Permaculture, Community Development & Design Presentations
permaculture design

Weekend Descriptions

Regenerative Design & Nature Awareness

  • Explore the principles and ethics of permaculture

  • Learn design processes and methods for articulating client goals and desired outcomes, and site analysis

  • Study ecology and employ natural patterns as a design tool

  • Participate in a World Cafe with fellow students to access the collective intelligence of the community

  • Practice nature awareness and observation

  • Learn to add value to current systems and practices through the lens of regenerative design


Regenerating Watersheds & Soils


Personal & Economic Permaculture


Home Scale Permaculture: Creating Natural Homes & Edible Landscapes

  • Learn about natural building techniques

  • Gain hands-on experience building a small structure with cob

  • Learn about crop planning strategies

  • Tour the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Chadwick Garden

  • Explore the application of permaculture methods to educational curriculum design and the creation of school garden programs

  • Study food forests and fruit trees

  • Define and design “guilds” or constructed plant communities

  • Discuss local food issues and the importance of localization


Broad Scale Permaculture for Ecosystem Regeneration: Integrated Animal Husbandry & Forest Management


Social Permaculture, Community Development & Design Presentations

  • Explore the principles of social permaculture

  • Learn about community designs and programs that foster resilient neighborhoods

  • Explore best practices for starting and sustaining intentional communities and Ecovillages

  • Visit urban gardens and orchards in Santa Cruz

  • Present final permaculture design projects






  • $1,250 – Full 6-Month Tuition

  • $1,150 – Early-Bird Discount – Register Before September 1, 2020 and Save $100

  • $1,050 – Super Early-Bird Discount – Register Before August 1, 2020 and Save $200

  • $950 – Partner / Spouse Discount – When one partner registers for the full course, the second gets a discount

  • $950 – Teacher Discount – For K-12, College and University Teachers

  • $750 – Youth Discount – When an adult registers for the full course, their youth gets a discount (ages 13-18)

  • $300 – One Weekend Only

  • Please Inquire about Payment Plans, Low-income and Youth POC Discounts

Payment Options

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there readings, videos, and other materials to supplement our time together?

Yes. We provide a very comprehensive online course reader for free, and recommend you purchase the 2nd Edition of Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow.

What if I miss some classes? Can I make them up?

Yes. Once you enroll in our Permaculture course you are a lifetime member. You can make up material you missed during the next session, or even just come join us again for a refresher. Additionally, we often arrange with other California Permaculture teachers so that our students can make up courses with them, and vice versa. Isn’t the permaculture community great?

What time does class start and end?

Class meets Saturday and Sunday 9am-5:30pm with a lunch break. We typically have potluck lunches both days. On rare occasions the group may decide to begin earlier to catch a particular field trip and/or end earlier. We never end after 5:30pm.

Where is class held?

Although some days we go on field trips to sites in the surrounding area, most classes are held in Aptos, CA. The location of the course is the traditional and unceded territory of the Aptos tribe of the Awaswas Nation. Today these lands are represented by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, who are the descendants of the Awaswas and Mutsun Nations whose ancestors were taken to Mission Santa Cruz and Mission San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast.

How do I register?

Please use the PayPal link above. Registration includes access to all course sessions, online course reader and on-site camping. While a kitchen is provided, we do not provide food. There is a PayPal Handling Fee included in the price. You do not need a PayPal account to register. Clicking on the Pay Now button will take you to the PayPal site, and then once you make your payment please fill out the additional form to complete registration.

What is the refund policy?

Cancellations up to two weeks before the course begins will be refunded, excluding a $150 processing fee. No refunds are given after that date.

Our courses & services are still happening thru a mix of on-site and on-line learning.