Permaculture blends natural and social ecosystems into a genuinely sustainable symbiosis. It is a system of design that enables people to live in their surroundings in a regenerative manner. But a lot goes into it. Fortunately, some institutions and organizations offer permaculture design certification. This article looks at three remote courses of study that can get beginners started or help professionals delve further into their permaculture education.
Advantages of Online Permaculture Courses
Studying such a practical agricultural subject online can seem odd. However, online permaculture courses have a place for both novice and expert students. They can enable an interested newcomer to learn more about the field without attending class physically or paying money up-front.
Another option is to use an online permaculture course to develop even further in the profession if you have already done hands-on workshops or earned your certification. In addition, influential figures in the discipline teach several courses on our list.
Oregon State University
There are several alternatives available at Oregon State University for online permaculture courses. For individuals interested in becoming initiated into the discipline, a free course offers a month-long introduction to the fundamentals of permaculture.
For those interested in learning further, there are two options. A 10-week online permaculture design certificate course for $900 caters to hobbyists who want to design their own permaculture system. For those seeking to earn a living with permaculture design, there is a 20-week course for $1200 that ends with a professional design portfolio, leaving students ready to start businesses. Both versions provide an internationally recognized design certificate.
Cornell offers three separate Permaculture Design courses: Fundamentals of Ecological Design, Ecosystem Mimicry, and a Practicum. The first two courses are $675 and run for six weeks each, whereas the Practicum is 4-weeks and $325.
What makes the Cornell course of study special is that beginners can start with Fundamentals of Ecological Design, while more experienced permaculturalists can skip it and start with Ecosystem Mimicry. The prerequisite for the Practicum is either of the first two courses.
The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute will award a permaculture design certificate to participants who complete all three courses. This qualification is respected worldwide and would be a valuable addition to any résumé, particularly for individuals working in community development, landscape design, ecological restoration, and land management.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst’s four-year Sustainable Food & Farming curriculum stands out as the country's most extensive online degree program focusing on sustainable agriculture. It offers two permaculture courses: Intro to Permaculture and Social Permaculture for Food Justice. Unlike many other permaculture courses, the UMass program addresses the social equity of a permacultural system.
These courses can be taken as part of the associate's or bachelor’s degrees in sustainable food and farming, the 15-credit online Certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming program, or as a standalone course for $482 per credit. Permaculture at UMass is more than just a theoretical concept; their student-kept plot is on a top 30 list of sustainably run college farms and boasts its own CSA program.
- Take a Step Back – An introductory permaculture course will show how the disparate factors that influence our food system come together and how destructive they are. But, of course, the added benefit is that these courses also teach you what you can do about it.
- Get Creative – Practicing permaculture in your backyard is both constructive and creative. It allows you to solve complex problems in innovative ways that quite literally bear fruit for you and your community.
- Move Forward – Whether you come away with a certificate or not, learning about and practicing permaculture will make you an environmental leader. You can help solve problems and promote food justice in your community.