Learn Permaculture Design … a real life project!

An important part of our Permaculture Design Certificate is the real life design project. For each course we choose a property that we feel will give the students the best learning opportunity for their future work as designers.

As we get a range of students from rural and urban settings we like to choose a property that has elements of both. This year we have a one hectare property recently bought by the Rowley family. Today I spoke with Sarah Rowley and Byron Joel (our lead teacher for the Jan 2017 PDC about the design).


Looking up at the Rowley block

Sarah has had a long time dream of creating a permaculture property and is excited about being ‘the client” as she is looking forward to hearing fresh ideas from other perspectives, trying to minimalize mistakes before she makes them on the ground and being a part of the conversation about the property.

While growing food is an important part of the permaculture design of the property, there are some other critical elements;

  • Design for fire
  • To create habitat for the abundant wildlife that surrounds them
  • Water management/catchment (especially as they have a water easement next to there home)
  • To design for their future lifestyle including making an income from th property (holiday rental)



View from the Rowley home

Getting  things right at the design stage rather than making decisions on the go can mean a lot for the future health and happiness of everyone who is sharing the land.

Talking to Byron Joel from Oak Tree Designs,  I asked him what was so important about the design process, “being realistic! there is no point doing an amazing design if there is not the time and budget to implement it so lets get realistic about what resources are available and create a design that will work” and “fire, this is not so much an if but a when so design for fire is absolutely critical”

Catching water that is moving onto the property is also important, in some cases this may mean building dams, ponds, tanks etc

 learning surveying

Learning surveying with local teacher Jamie McCall from Burnside Organic Farm

but, it can also be as simple as building the soil health and creating small changes in the landscape.  These simple changes can slow down the potentially damaging water and hold it in the soil as long as possible, reducing watering needs and extending the growing season.

Byron is keen for the students to study topographic maps, aerial photos and other documents as well as getting out into the field and learning basic surveying, collecting information about the soil, existing flora and fauna, previous land use and neighbouring property uses.  All of this is important in achieving a realistic and manageable design for the property regardless of the size.

Permaculture is not just about designing for land, it is also about designing for the people and animals that are going to be using it, their needs, their resources and how they want to interact with their community …..remember the three permaculture ethics…Care for the Earth, Care for the People and Sharing of Resources.

During the course Students will learn;


  • Principles and Ethics of Permaculture
  • Site Analysis
  • Sector Analysis
  • Soil profiles
  • Water in the landscape
  • Design for catastrophe
  • Appropriate plants for food, fibre, fodder and fire management
  • Integrated Animal Systems
  • Composting systems
  • Home design principles
  • Broad acre management principles


Our teacher team consists of highly trained and experienced teachers from around the South West, the line up changes each year according to teacher availability…..see teacher bios here

As a live in fully catered course you will also get to experience permaculture in actionriver copy


The January 2017 PDC will be our 7th 2 week, live in course……..see images here form previous courses

PDC  May 2012, PDC May 2013, PDC Jan 2014, , PDC May 2014,PDC Jan 2015, and a student blog about the  PDC May 2016

To find out more or join up with the January 2017 course click here

If you are thinking of joining a PDC and are concerned about your design ability…..don’t worry! The first week of the course is jammed packed with information about soils, water, plants, animals, design principles and more. We also get out to visit a number of great properties to get you thinking.


artistic impression by student

When the time comes to do your design you are grouped with four or five other students all bringing their skills and ideas to the table. Every year students look at previous years designs and shake their heads saying there is no way they can do that. Every year they come up with even more amazing designs.

student group working on design

student group working on design


3D contour mapping

Last January we did our design project at Cate and Hamish’s block…

Hamish and I had the great good fortune to put our block of land forward for the Fair Harvest PDC students to use for their project.  Having done the fantastic “Introduction to Permaculture” weekend back in October we had a smattering of knowledge and thus were pretty excited about the designs Jodie’s students would present to us. 

With such high expectations we were far from disappointed, in fact Hamish and I were nothing short of blown away. The four final designs were each brimming with innovative ideas and superb suggestions for how to best harness the potential of our land. It was a real privilege to have such an opportunity and we are both so grateful for the passion and enthusiasm of each of the students. Now we are left to ponder over what to implement first!” 

Cate Chater  1.02.2016



students with IT skills suitable for design are encouraged to use them in the design process



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