Introduction to Permaculture

STOCKSCH 186 – 3 credits

January 21 – April 29, 2020


pERMA4Description: 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 Jordan Dresdale is certified in Permaculture Design and holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Landscape Design and Food Systems Planning from the Conway School. She lives in rural and culturally vibrant Western Massachusetts where she spent four years developing and coordinating the nationally recognized, interdisciplinary Farm and Food Systems degree program at Greenfield Community College. She teaches college courses on permaculture design, food systems, and Jewish agricultural traditions at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Greenfield Community College, and Brandeis University Summer High School Programs. Her edible landscape design business, Feeding Landscapes, has developed projects ranging from a Public Food Forest for the Town of Wendell, MA, to 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. Her current focus is on her consulting business, where she is developing a prototype Jail-to-Farm-to-College Pipeline at the Franklin County Jail and social permaculture curriculum for non-profit organizations such as Omega Institute and The Jewish Farm School. More 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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