Permaculture Design Course F.A.Q.s


Permaculture is a global social movement centered around the grassroots training of a system of holistic ecological design. It aims to improve the lives of all people while conserving and regenerating ecosystems everywhere. The design system makes use of locational values, ecosystem models, and patterns in nature. It draws on traditional knowledge and modern science. Permaculture is also a personal practice of applying permaculture ethics and principles to one’s life, while exploring and sharing empirical findings about the natural and human worlds.” 

~Permaculture Institute of North America, FAQ’s

Permaculture design is rooted in 3 core ethics (Care of the Earth; Care of People; and,  Fair Share), which guide the application of ~12 design principles (see permacultureprinciples.com for examples).  Permaculture ethics and principles can be used as tools for creatively thinking about any real life situation.

Permaculture practitioners observe at various levels , such as cycles in nature, cultural norms and practices, and patterns of social behavior, both personal and interpersonal. These observation skills are key in finding ways to transition toward regenerative systems.  Permaculture uses ecological principles to design sustainable human communities that are harmoniously woven into the environment, aiming to have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  

Permaculture focuses on designing systems that can adapt and thrive in changing conditions. Permaculture design principles enable the creation of self-sustaining systems that require less input over time and are more resistant to external shocks. Permaculture emphasizes the importance of biodiversity and the interconnectedness of all living beings. It aims to teach techniques for designing productive, regenerative, and sustainable food systems. By gaining the skills to grow your own food and manage resources effectively, you can contribute to food sovereignty and reduce your reliance on industrial food production.

A Permaculture Design Certificate course (PDC) is a comprehensive educational program that covers the principles and techniques of Permaculture Design. A typical PDC involves at least 72-hours of class time. Upon completing the curriculum, participants are awarded Permaculture Design Certificates. For more information on PDC’s writ large, check out Permaculture Institute of North America’s FAQs about PDCs. 

It is common for PDCs to include a combination of classroom lectures, hands-on activities, design exercises, and group discussions. The certificate obtained after completing a PDC is recognized internationally as a standard in permaculture education. It can be valuable for individuals pursuing careers or projects related to sustainable agriculture, landscape design, community development, and ecological restoration. The PDC certification represents a solid foundation of knowledge and practical skills in permaculture design, empowering individuals to apply these principles in various settings.

There are many compelling on-line and destination PDC’s offered these days. So why take the Whatcom PDC? We believe that permaculture thinking and skills are best learned in-person and in contact with the plants and landscapes participants will work with after the course. Ideally, the PDC is not a one off experience, but a foundational step in building supportive relationships with people and places.

Here’s some of what’s special about Whatcom PDC:

– place-based bioregional education

– multiple educational sites at varying scales and stages of development

– multiple instructors with unique experiences, insights and styles

– a two month time lapse for observing slight seasonal change on the sites.  

– a diversity of instructional styles for a diversity of learning styles, including sensory learning (ex. smelling healthy compost; seeing nutrient dense leaf color; hearing a functional motor; tasting successful ferments; or touching silty soil)

– hands-on skill practice

– relationships you can keep up after the course is over

The Whatcom Permaculture Design Course provides an opportunity to join a like-minded community of individuals passionate about sustainability and permaculture. You can connect with fellow participants, share knowledge, and collaborate on future projects. By taking the 2024 Whatcom PDC, participants not only learn new tools and skills; they begin building a more resilient future with their classmates in the community.

This multi-site course will take place on the ancestral lands of the Lhaq’temish and Nooksack peoples, who have lived and stewarded this land since time immemorial.

Queen Mountain Homestead is an 8-acre intergenerational family home; biodiversity bank; therapeutic space; and demonstration site nestled on the western flank of Bellingham's Queen Mountain.  Our team of family and friends has been stewarding here since 2016. Over the last 8 years, we have practiced phased implementation of gardens and fruit and nut orchards; operated a silvoculture system with American Guinea Hogs and chickens; managed beautiful native forests; and grown and expanded a strong community of family and friends.  Increasingly, we grow a significant portion of our own food (as well as for sale) and are expanding our living inventory of useful plants. Queen Mountain Homestead not only offers tangible examples for rural homesteading, but also showcases techniques appropriate for urban and suburban settings rooted in our decades of experience designing, building and maintaining landscapes.

Inspiration Farm is located 6 miles North of Bellingham in Whatcom County. It has been a prime showcase of permaculture in action for over 20 years. The 9 acre farm was founded by Brian and Alexandra in 1994 when they started raising their two daughters and stewarded the land. They host tours and workshops in hope to Inspire others. Inspiration Farm highlights the roles of animals in the landscape, Water integrated earthworks, perennial food forest guilds, seed saving and appropriate technology. More information can be found on Inspiration Farm's website

These sites will be the primary hosts throughout the course. Visits to additional local sites may be woven into the developing schedule.

Everyone! Permaculture provides tools and skills for whole system thinking applicable to a diversity of lifestyles and professions. Past students have included:

  • Homesteaders
  • Architects
  • City planners
  • Software engineers
  • Regenerative landscapers
  • Earth repair enthusiasts
  • School teachers
  • Community organizers
  • Gardeners!
  • And, more! All are welcome! 

Design professionals can add new qualifications to their resumes and offer improved services to their clients. 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.

Certification is an important step for the following:

  • teach classes on permaculture be they short workshops, presentations or permaculture design courses
  • running a business that uses Permaculture as a stated guiding force, or,
  • working as a Permaculture consultant or designer 

While a PDC certificate is a necessary step for those hoping to use Permaculture design professionally, there are many other values for PDC students.  These include the shifts in thoughts and feelings that occur through engaging  with whole systems design thinking,  the sense of camaraderie that the PDC learning community imbues and many fun and practical tricks for integrating your values with your lifestyle.

There will be some homework, reading, video viewing and other exercises suggested to be completed  between class times. These will augment the course material. As the saying goes you are likely to get out of the course what you put into it. So it goes for these assignments. They are optional but highly recommended. The amount of time may vary between 1-5 hours per week.

Throughout the course we will be offering foundational online presentations covering additional concepts and content. These will be hosted on Zoom and offer more depth for those who are interested. They will be recorded to provide an asynchronous option for those who can’t make the timing work with their schedules. The goal of this format is to prioritize our in-person time for hands-on and interactive learning.

Students who miss a day(s), are encouraged to read available handouts and catch up with other students to learn what they learned. At times there will be midweek opportunities to do hands-on activities related to the course work which may supplement missed class time. There is no penalty for missing day(s). We do appreciate knowing in advance when participants have scheduled absent days. This helps us plan our hands on projects in particular.

At selected times, both Queen Mountain Homestead and Inspiration Farm will be open for bonus hands-on learning in between the scheduled course weekends. In other words, we will be maintaining our sites between class times and would love to continue building community with participants while taking care of real homestead business! Stay tuned.

Scholarships are a way for us to ensure that this course is available to all who want to learn Permaculture skills with us, especially those who bear the brunt of systemic forms of disenfranchisement and marginalization.

If you need financial help let us know and we will send you an application. Applications are due April 1st, Don't delay, no kidding

If you are able to pay more, it goes to support those who need it.

Work trading is another way in which we try to make this course possible for those in need of a cost reduction. “Work traders” work alongside facilitators before, during, and after class time in exchange for reduced tuition; they help operate the course through tasks like, set-up and clean-up of the classroom, facilities and preparing for hands-on projects. Let us know if you are interested in learning more.

One of the tried and true takeaways for PDC participants is the impression left by living, albeit temporarily, in a permaculture community and interacting with landscape at the edges of the day.  Camping maximizes your time in good conversation and experience with your inspired cohort. If you want to camp, but camping gear is a barrier to participation, please let us know so we can troubleshoot with you.

What to bring on the course days: 

  • A Backpack, or day bag 
  • Clothing you can work in, ie.get dirty, such as work pants, gloves, crusty outdoor jacket, etc. Avoid wearing clothes you don’t want to get dirty.
  • Sun protection, ie. sunscreen, sun hat and/or sunglasses; and/or, rain gear, i.e. boots, jacket
  • A notebook and/or camera for taking notes.
  • A small sitting pad and/or blanket for keeping warm.
  • Favorite handy tool, ie. pocket knife, multi-tool, pruners, Hori Hori, Kama, or serrated sickle
  • Your own cup, plate/bowl and utensils
  • Please feel free to bring your favorite tea or other treats to share.

A more complete list will be sent out once you are confirmed for the course.

Due to the presence of livestock and other farm animal dynamics, we ask that you make arrangements to leave your pets behind. 

A refund will be issued, minus a $100 administrative fee, up to 60 days before the course start date.

After 60 days, a full refund will be given if you fill your spot.

If you do not fill your spot, a 50% refund will be given up to 30 days prior to the course start date.

No refunds will be granted after 30 days prior to the course start date.

Personal hardships, like family emergencies, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We reserve the right to cancel class with full refund given minus transaction fees. 

Refunds will also be granted in the event of canceled class time due to extreme weather, such as unsafe smoke particle levels.

For additional questions, please contact us.