Introduction to Permaculture

STOCKSCH 186 – 3 credits



Description: The Introduction to Permaculture Course is a three-credit course that offers students a foundation in permaculture history, ethics, principles, design process, and practical applications. The framework behind the theory and practice of permaculture is rooted in the observation of natural systems. By observing key ecological relationships, we can mimic and apply these beneficial relationships in the design of systems that serve humans while helping to restore the natural world. This course trains students as critical thinkers, observers, and analysts of the world(s) around them, and then goes on to provide students with the tools needed to design for inspired and positive change.

Instructor: Abrah Dresdale (she/her), MA, co-founding Director of Regenerate Change, is a social designer, consultant, and educator. Named a New England Fixer by Grist Magazine, she was the Founding Faculty and Coordinator of the nationally acclaimed Farm and Food Systems program at Greenfield Community College. She later established and led the Jail-to-Farm-to-College & Employment program in Massachusetts’ Franklin County Jail. She has been faculty and developed new courses for the Sustainable Food and Farming program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (since 2011) and for Omega Institute’s Center for Sustainable Living (since 2015). Her former edible landscape design business, Feeding Landscapes, developed projects ranging from the design and implementation of “Edible Pathways” for Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India to providing technical support for the creation of a campus permaculture garden at Wesleyan University. Abrah is certified in Permaculture Design and holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Landscape Design and Planning from the Conway School. She is the co-author of Feed Northampton: First Steps Towards a Local Food System and author of Regenerative Design for Changemakers: A Social Permaculture Guide. She teaches Introduction to Permaculture, and Social Permaculture for Food Justice online. More at: and

If you have questions, please contact Abrah Dresdale at:


STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The goals for this course include 7 key outcomes. Students will:

  • Understand permaculture history, ethics, principles
  • Identify connections between social, cultural, environmental, and challenges
  • Recognize and analyze patterns found in society and the natural world
  • Apply whole systems thinking to problem solving through design
  • Observe, analyze, and assess a site to determine its resources and constraints
  • Gain knowledge of a rigorous design process
  • Learn techniques for clean water, soil, food production, buildings, and economics
  • Week 1: Introduction to Whole Systems Thinking
  • Week 2: History, Overview, Ethics, Definitions of Permaculture
  • Week 3: Permaculture Principles & Niche Analysis


  • Week 4: Pattern Recognition
  • Week 5: Design Process Overview & Goals Articulation
  • Week 6: Reading the Landscape: Site Assessment & Analysis
  • Week 7: Design: Putting it All Together + A Case Study


  • Week 8: Water: Stormwater Management, Water Catchment, Aquaculture
  • Week 9: Soil: Composting, Vermiculture, Berms/Swales, Keyline Planning
  • Week 10: Food/Vegetation: Edible Forest Gardening, Livestock, Urban Agriculture
  • Week 11 Waste: Humanure, Bioremediation, Greywater Systems, Living Machines
  • Week 12: Building Strategies: Natural Building, Alternative Energy, Site Location for Efficient Energy, Adaptive Reuse


  • Week 13: Local Economies: Timebanking, Worker-Owned Cooperatives, Local Currency
  • Week 14: Building Resilient Communities: Community-Supported Agriculture, Transition Towns, Local Food Systems

Questions about the class may be sent to Abrah Dresdale at:



This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.

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