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The Bullock Brothers Homestead on Orcas Island. Photo courtesy of

A Million Reasons to Invest in a Permaculture Design Certification

The above photo was taken from the Bullock Brothers epic permaculture homestead on Orcas Island. Check out more of their amazing work at

When I took my Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) from the Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute, I knew a good amount about how to grow food but was by no means an expert. Now, I grow and do my best to live permaculturally, have taken many additional courses (including the AK Master Gardeners course) throughout the years, and run a business teaching and promoting these methods. I’ve learned a lot. People ask me questions and let me speak in public all the time. So why exactly was I so excited when Cindee Karns of the Alaska Ecoscape Center emailed me about her upcoming PDC at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living?

Permaculture encompasses far more than any gardening/homesteading/foodie course you will ever find.  It is about designing your every element of your life in a way that works together like cogs in a well-oiled (sustainable) machine. This naturally takes time and learning all the facets is a process. The amount that one can learn from a course vs a book is exponential. The amount that one can learn from a course that actually talks about the place that they live is priceless. Especially when you live in a place like Alaska.

A Permaculture Design Certification has become the holy grail of training for the serious sustainable gardener. It is hailed in whispers at potlucks and envied by many as they peruse the bounty at farmers markets by those who have taken the leap into a Permacultural life. Unfortunately, the price tag is all that many newer gardeners see and justify their avoidance by claiming that they’re “not ready for it yet” or seasoned gardeners state that they “probably know most of it already”. I’m just going to go ahead and say it: That’s bunk.

I could literally name a million reasons how a PDC will pay you back tenfold and how it has changed my life in countless ways. Here are just a few of the reasons why I think you should take the leap:

You will be paid back after day 1. I sincerely felt that the amount of money I saved in more books, piddly workshops, grocery shopping, water and electric bills, and landscaping was far more than the cost of the course just after the first day. Not only does a PDC give you the tools and knowledge to move towards a more sustainable future, it empowers you to do it for yourself. If you are a beginner, you will have a primer to begin transitioning certain areas of your life. If you are more advanced, you will have the opportunity to critically think about how to move these concepts into a much broader scale.

Labor is included in cost. This is a concept that has really resonated with me. Not only are your financial inputs accounted for in Permaculture but your labor is included in this cost. Doing things Permaculturally can be a ton of work. Luckily, all of these ideas on establishing a home, land, and gardens are meant to pay you back endlessly over time, reducing financial and labor inputs and reaping the bounty. So not only can you get to work much sooner than with any other class or workshop, you’ll be reveling in flourishing orchards and cozy microclimates for years to come.

It’s a Permaculture DESIGN Certification. You can learn how to grow a carrot from a book. Heck, you can learn how to grow a carrot from the back of one of our seed packets. That’s not what this is about. This is is about designing systems that make your life easier in the end without compromising your health or the health of the world around you. It teaches you what goes where, when it should go there, and how to get it there and keep it there. Think about watering your garden without a hose, creating a forest understory of edibles, or a house that has 1/10 the heating costs. A PDC teaches you how to design those systems.

Experts will be at your fingertips. Have you ever gone to a workshop or event and waited in line for far too long to ask the speaker one single question out of the thousand milling around in your head? If you’re like me, this happens often and can be a terribly frustrating experience when you’re attempting to soak up every bit of knowledge available. Not only is Cindee our local expert and a living example of all things Permaculture, the course is being co-taught by Canadian expert Barb Hazenveld and other Alaskan Permies. It is a rare occasion to have these folks in the same room, let alone for it to be their job to answer your countless questions. Ask away!

Weekend courses are hard to come by. Most PDC are done as two week intensives. Sure, it’s fun to go hang out on a farm for a couple of weeks and play ‘Summer Camp’ but that’s not a reasonable option for most people over age 25. I did my certification at a weekend course over two months and I wish it was spread out even further.  Cindee’s course is one weekend a month for 6 months. Having time between each class gives you a chance to digest the information, research, and come back with specific questions and ideas that will make the course that much more valuable. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life to improve it and this format makes sure of that.

This course is particularly awesome. Cold-climate experts, relevant activities, a format that works for your schedule, and a community of students that will serve as a future support system and knowledge-base for your Permacultural endeavors are just some of the ways that makes this course stand out. In addition, students will have the opportunity to put their knowledge to work but helping design space at the Palmer Center for Sustainability along with their own projects. Field trips with create connections with local builders, bee keepers, growers, and educators for future resources. Lastly, the PDC requires only 72 hours of instruction often costing over $2,000. This course includes 107 hours of instruction at nearly half the price.

Cindee Karns will be teaching the Alaska Cold-Climate Permaculture Design Certification at the Palmer Center for Sustainability one weekend a month from October 4th-May 11th. The cost is $800 for those who already have their PDC and $1,350 for those who are attending for the first time. Indoor camping accommodations are included in the cost of attendance during course weekends. Please contact Cindee regarding payment plans, scholarships, and work-trade possibilities.

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