Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The Fundamentals of Ecological Design

Permaculture is a conscious, integrated design system that's based on ecological and sustainable principles.  The goal is to create resource-efficient, cost-effective, productive human environments, while reducing our 'footprints' on the earth.  Permaculture provides a framework for creating landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, which delivers diversity, stability, and resilience.  Permaculture systems yield an abundance of shelter, water, energy and food, all to address local needs.  Basic permaculture practices (see the full list of topics below) are examined, and looked at in relation to Finca Tierra's agroecology and agroforestry ongoing practices. 

Our course offers the standard 72-hour permaculture curriculum for certification, recognized internationally by the permaculture movement, with a special emphasis on forest gardening in the tropics.  Although we're in a tropical setting, many of the methods and techniques will transfer directly to any climate.  The course thoroughly covers all of the fundamentals of ecological design.  With completion of the course, a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) will be issued by Finca Tierra.

Finca Tierra is a 9-acre permaculture facility that's become an important center for education and community development.  Our infrastructure includes: natural buildings constructed from local materials (bamboo, leaf thatch and onsite timber), terraced gardens, a plant nursery, a seed bank, medicinal plants, fruit and nut orchards, food forests, native tree and bamboo woodlots, water catchment methods, renewable energy systems,  and biological flush toilets.


SOLD OUT - Summer: Sunday, July 30, 2017 – Sunday, August 13, 2017 * (This course is followed by an optional internship)

Enrollment open - Fall: Sunday, November 12, 2017 – Sunday, November 26, 2017 * (PDC course only)

Enrollment open - Winter: Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 – Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 * (This course is followed by an optional internship)

Enrollment open - Spring: Sunday, March 4, 2018 – Sunday, March 18, 2018 (This course is followed by an optional internship)

* Check-in is on Sunday at 2 pm, followed by a brief orientation and dinner.  The course starts on Monday at 8 am.  All course work ends on the second Saturday.  Check-out is on Sunday at 11 am,  following breakfast.


  • Principles and ethics of permaculture design
  • Site analysis and design, from the tropics to temperate regions
  • Landscape master planning and microclimate design
  • Reading the landscape and pattern recognition
  • Design for climate change
  • Regenerative land management and stewardship
  • Water catchment, storage, filtration, and distribution
  • Biologically based treatment of greywater and blackwater
  • Using greywater in the landscape
  • Natural building techniques and vernacular architecture
  • Plant propagation and grafting
  • Organic horticulture
  • Medicinal plant propagation, usage and preparations
  • Biointensive gardening and seed saving
  • Soil rehabilitation and fertility approaches
  • Orchard design and maintenance
  • Renewable energies
  • Local and regenerative economics
  • Urban and suburban permaculture tactics
  • Ecovillage design and community building procedures
  • Networking within the permaculture community and beyond
  • Strategies for creating an alternative nation


Check in on Sunday after 2pm, eat dinner on the farm sunday night and start class on Monday morning.  Our breakfasts are at 7 am, lunches at Noon, and dinners at 6 pm.  The course will cover 12 chapters in depth.  Mornings are usually devoted to practical applications and afternoons are dedicated to course lectures. The second week includes an off-site trip to see local highlights.   We'll visit Don Joni to learn about the cosmovision of the indigenous Cabecar people, and see traditional land-use management in practice as he interacts with the land to produce his building materials, foods and medicines.  Also while there we'll go for a swim at the river!  Then we'll visit SEED Ecovillage Agricommunity to learn about designing to community scale and the incorporation of animal management.

*Because of weather conditions and other factors we can't guarantee the off site trips. However, nothing has stopped us yet, so be ready for it!


  • 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course
  • Lodging: Private bamboo cabins OR a shared bamboo bunkhouse ( Four Private cabins are available on a first come first serve basis and are given th the first four participants to complete their full payment.
  • Three meals daily
  • Field trips
  • Internet access


Doing the PDC (Permaculture Design Course) at Finca Tierra was an experience of a lifetime! Ian’s breadth and depth of theoretical and practical knowledge, together with his passion and enthusiasm for permaculture leaves you inspired, and with a strong foundation for knowing how to live in harmony with Mother Earth. The biodiversity of flora and fauna on the farm was incredible! It was also really cool to be able to walk around the food forest and just pick something off of a tree or plant and snack on tropical and exotic fruits and veggies. On top of that, being able to experience applications of permaculture outside of the farm, at SEED (Society for Ecological Education and Development) and Finca Inti, was also really cool.

The warm, rustic hospitality is definitely something to note as well. Ana, Ruth (Ana’s sister), Ian, Linton (the farm manager) and Bruce (Ian and Ana’s dog) made our stay very homey, and we felt at ease as soon as we arrived. The food was something out of this world! Ruth and Ana’s ingenuity in the kitchen was exceptional, and with fresh ingredients from the farm; every meal was amazing! Three times a day we would plunge into a wholesome culinary journey over some really stimulating conversations.

Thank you for everything… you guys are awesome hosts! Pura vida!
— PDC Student, Bemnet from Ethiopia
The best food we ate on our year trip. We have had such great memories from the Finca Tierra course and will be back once we get our farm and need a refresh.
— PDC Student, Andy from Australia
This place has changed the way I see the world and the way we choose to live with the land. What I have learned at Finca Tierra I can basically apply anywhere. I’m really excited to be coming back here soon. Ian and Ana are amazing, inspiring, engaging, and really passionate about sharing what they have learned through their experience of rebuilding the land and basically learning to be fully sustainable. You should come here if you want to be blown away! So beautiful.
— PDC Student & Intern, Gabriel from Louisana, USA
Ian and Ana are both incredible educators and gracious hosts and their permaculture farm at Finca Tierra is beautiful! After completing the 8-week permaculture design course and internship at Finca Tierra, I am very excited to design my own home site and edible landscape and feel confident that I could do so effectively in any climate zone. Ian and Ana are very knowledgeable, passionate, and inspiring, and made us all feel at home on their farm. I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking to develop a thorough understanding of permaculture design principles and gain practical hands-on experience applying those principles. As an added bonus, the food is amazing and the farm is only a half-hour walk from beautiful Caribbean beaches.
— PDC Student & Intern, JJ from Philadelphia, PA, USA
I could listen to permaculture lecture all day but Ian adds enough practical hands on stuff to keep everyone engaged, great mix of lecture and practical. The course instructor was very knowledgeable and engaging not to mention passionate. Always made time for the students and answered any questions we had. The location of the farm is just far enough from town to get peace and quiet but it’s close to some of the better beaches.
— PDC Student, Mario from Mexico


Space is limited to twelve individuals. Please register early, as the course can fill quickly.  Tuition does not include airfare or travel to/from Finca Tierra.  The $400 USD required deposit is non-refundable.  The final payment is due two (2) weeks before course commences.  Tuition is refundable until 30 days before the course start date.  Meals will include traditional cuisine and use farm products. Academic credits / partial or full grants are sometimes available to undergraduate and graduate students (ask us for more information).  The program is taught in English. 

$1,500 Tuition ( Early Bird Discount) $150 discount when you complete your full payment 30 days before course start date.

$1,650 Tuition 



If you have questions about this Design Course please contact us at