Social Permacuture for Food Justice

STOCKSCH 397 FJ – 3 Credits


Course Description

Access to fresh foods in urban centers
Access to fresh foods in urban centers

Social Permaculture for Food Justice  prepares students with methodologies from the fields of permaculture design and social justice to enact change in the food system. Students learn tools to help them critique food system inequities, articulate goals for social change, and analyze their own power, privilege, and competencies as makers of change. Finally, students are guided through a permaculture design process in which they create social design models to catalyze the changes they wish to see in the food system. Through out the course, there is an emphasis on maintaining personal sustainability as food justice activists and developing leadership skills.

If you have questions, please contact Abrah Dresdale at:

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

Learning Objectives

  • Articulate components of a food system
  • Understand permaculture ethics and principles
  • Demonstrate knowledge of permaculture design process
  • Identify food justice and food sovereignty issues
  • Apply the permaculture design process to eco-social food justice projects
  • Understand the relevance of diversity and difference in the context of the food system
  • Describe how power, privilege, and oppression operates
  • Articulate tools for undoing oppression
  • Outline strategies within solidarity economics
  • Engage with ecology of leadership practices



5%—Glossary of Permaculture & Food Justice Terms

20%—Class Participation & Weekly On-line Response Discussions

20%—Permaculture Analysis & Leadership Development Exercises

25%—Lifestyle Shift Design Project

30%—Food Justice Design Project



  • Week 1: Current Context for ‘A Call to Action’
  • Week 2: Introduction to Social Permaculture
  • Week 3: Mapping Our Individual Power and Collaborative Potential


  • Week 4: United to End Structural Racism in the Food System
  • Week 5: Food Worker Justice & Challenging a Corporate Controlled Food System
  • Week 6: Food Sovereignty Struggles—Facing our Grief and Celebrating our Victories


  • Week 7: Social Permaculture Design Process
  • Week 8: Social Permaculture Analysis Tools for Leveraging Systems Change
  • Week 9: Working Effectively in Groups: Communication Tools & Policy Advocacy                                                               


  • Week 10: Personal Sustainability and the Importance of Self-Care
  • Week 11: Regenerative Leadership Development in the Food System
  • Week 12: Reframing Our Work in a Wider Context of People and Time
  • Week 13: Skills for Catching and Committing to a Vision
  • Week 14: Becoming a Conduit for Implementing and Sustaining Social Change


Required Texts:

  1. Harvesting Justice: Transforming the Global Food Supply Chain by Tory Field and Beverly Bell (2013) (*Note: you will need to download a free copy of this book as a PDF from BlackBoard Learn)
  2. Regenerative Design for Change Makers: A Social Permaculture Guidebook by Abrah Dresdale (2021) (*Note: at this time this book can be purchased at; soon to be available at wider distributor sites)
  3. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012)

Suggested Texts:

  1. Permaculture and People: Caring and Designing for Ourselves, Each Other, and the Planet by Looby Macnamara (2012)
  2. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Marie Brown (2017)
  3. Change Here Now: Permaculture Solutions for Personal and Community Transformation by Adam Brock (2017)
  4. Regenerative Enterprise by Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua (2015)
  5. Regenerative Business by Carol Sanford (2017)

Additional ResourceBuilding a Toolbox for Social Permaculture

Students delivering gleaned apples to a Food Bank


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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