permaculture design Course

Learn to design a sustainable lifestyle + eat healthy + immerse yourself with hands-on experience in a tropical food forest.

From $1,500



SOLD OUT - Fall: Sunday, October 27 – Sunday, November 10, 2019

Enrollment is almost full. - Winter A: Sunday, January 5 – Sunday, January 19, 2020 Make your reservation today!

Enrollment open -Winter B: Sunday, February 9 – Sunday, February 23, 2020

Enrollment open -Spring A: Sunday, March 8 – Sunday, March 22, 2020

Enrollment open -Spring B: Sunday, April 19 – Sunday, May 3, 2020

Permaculture Design Course

The Fundamentals of Ecological Design

Permaculture is a conscious, integrated design system based on ecological principles. It provides a framework for creating landscapes that mimic the patterns found in nature, which delivers diversity, stability, and resilience. Permaculture creates an abundance of shelter, water, energy, and food, to address local needs in efficient, cost-effective and productive human environments; while reducing our 'footprints' on Earth. 

Course Description

Finca Tierra offers the international standard curriculum of 72-hour permaculture certificate course. The course covers the fundamentals of ecological design with a particular emphasis on perennial woody polyculture food systems or food forests. This course goes beyond the theoretical and focuses of real-world situations in this food forest and has a strong emphasis on hands-on application and practical skills. It offers the experience of learning in an immersive setting from mature systems with which students have daily interactions. The methods and techniques will transfer directly to any climate.  The accommodation is in natural buildings, and the food is from our farm and other local organic farmers. With the completion of the course, Finca Tierra will issue a Permaculture Design Certificate. While the information serves as a general education in permaculture, this course offers an in-depth examination of the function of the homestead and farm and is designed to inform students who will gain the skills and design thinking to implement and manage a system. This is a very hands-on course. Mornings are usually devoted to practical applications and afternoons are dedicated to course lectures.

Course Topics

  • 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

  • Strategies for creating an alternative nation

Hands-on Application

Mornings are dedicated to the hands-on application of useful skills.

  • Blade and knife sharpening.

  • Land clearing with scythe or machete.

  • Plant identification.

  • Food forest fundamentals.

  • Clearing and planting new disturbance in agroforestry systems.

  • Techniques in small-scale vegetable gardening.

  • Tree planting fundamentals, support species, and broad-scale fertility management.

  • Plant propagation fundamentals, including propagation and planting of seeds, rhizomes, cuttings as well as various forms of grafting.

  • The construction of thermal compost and its use in hot water heating.

  • Nursery management including making an in-house potting soil.

  • Soil pH testing and techniques to balance pH.

  • Leveling for application of swales, hedgerows, and techniques for finding key points and key lines.

  • Food processing skills including lactoferments of vegetables, nut milk, milk kefir, and mead.


Off Site Visits

MEET DON JONI, crossing the river and into the jungle, he will teach us about Cabecar indigenous cosmovision, traditional land use management, and how he interacts with the land to produce his building material, food, and medicine.

Also, prepare for a good swim in the river!

*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!

About the Location

Finca Tierra is a 9-acre permaculture homestead and a food forest located in the lush jungle of the Costa Rican Caribbean Coast. Finca Tierra has become an important demonstration center for permaculture education and sustainable development activism. Our infrastructure includes natural buildings constructed from local materials (bamboo, leaf thatch and onsite timber), renewable energy systems, biological flush toilets, rainwater catchment, organic vegetable gardens, a plant nursery, a seed bank, medicinal plants, food forest, bamboo woodlots, and native trees.

What began as an off-grid homestead on degraded cattle pasture, has been developing for the past decade into a productive agroforestry system consisting of hundreds of varieties of fruit trees, staple crops and integrated animal systems. Due to the local and global interest, Finca Tierra started offering education courses and internships for ecological design, the good food movement, and sustainable living.

Permaculture homestead.jpeg


Four bamboo cabinas were built in a mix of indigenous and local Afro-Caribbean style. The materials were harvested from our farm and surrounding forest, then cured and constructed with hand tools. They offer orthopedic queen beds. The walls and floors are bamboo, and we supply large mosquito nets.

Also, a bunkhouse built with the same construction techniques and up in the air on stilts. It holds 8 single beds and great views, it's like camping under a roof above the forest.

The bathrooms are located near the accommodations and have biological flush toilets. The showers are supplied with warm rainwater by a biothermal heating system.

We supply sheets, pillows, towels and biodegradable organic shampoo and body wash.

* Accommodations are provided on a first come, first serve bases. The first students to pay the totality of the payment are accommodated in the cabinas, then bunkhouse beds.


Bamboo cabinas on tropical permaculture farm.jpg
Bamboo cabin on tropical permaculture farm interior.jpeg
Bamboo bunkhouse of tropical permaculture farm


We love to cook! Food abundance is what we want everyone to experience at our farm kitchen. We promote the good food movement, and therefore most of our fruits, veggies, greens, roots, and spices are fresh from our permaculture farm. We process many of our foods like plantain and yuca flours, coconut and cashew milk, coconut oil, banana vinegar, fermented foods, mead, kefir and more. We have a plant-based diet, but we also have free range chicken eggs, and the aquaculture system provides fish and river prawns. Some other products, like oils, raw honey, cheeses, yogurts, and other fruits we buy at the local organic market.

Finca Tierra carters all meals during the course.

Plates are typically vegetarian, we can also cater to vegan and gluten-free diets, please let us know when you register.

Permaculture farm to table Breakfast table.jpg

Course Includes

  • 72-hour Permaculture Design Course (PDC)

  • Certificate as a Permaculture Designer

  • Lodging: Private bamboo cabins or a shared bamboo bunkhouse

  • Sheets, pillows, blankets

  • Biodegradable soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent

  • Solar lamps

  • Three organic meals daily

  • Field trips

  • Internet access (see the below section INTERNET AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES for more info)

Why do your PDC at Finca Tierra

We live what we teach

Permaculture is Ian and Ana's life. Finca Tierra started as an off-grid homestead, and due to local and international interest, they created the Finca Tierra permaculture education center, to be able to share with you the knowledge of a resilient, peaceful and sustainable future that integrates human life with Earth. 

The farm

Finca Tierra is a vibrant permaculture farm where you will gain hands-on practical experience, directly from mature onsite systems and immerses in a completely off the grid self-sufficient space and productive small farm. Eating delicious organic farm-to-table meals. Surrounded by food forest and jungle, close to fabulous beaches and rivers. Half of all class time is outside in systems on the farm looking at the function of mature systems to understand the strengths and weakness of systems and how they have evolved as well as seeing the strategies and techniques used in production. We are not just studying concept. We are looking at observations and interaction over the past decade.

Passion to action

We seek students that are inspired to learn about the practical application of permaculture. The course is designed to provide you with the confidence to apply permaculture from the homestead to a profitable farm scale.

University Credit

Many university students have received full or partial grants, and academic credits have often been available from their university. Meet with your academic advisor or professor about receiving internship or independent study credits. Four semester credit or equivalent. (see the below section UNIVERSITY CREDIT for more info)

Words From Past Students

Learned more in those 6 weeks than I did in my entire degree. Hands down one of the best places to learn about Permaculture.
— PDC Student & Intern, Angus from New Zealand
Wow. I’m not even sure where to begin. My time at Finca Tierra taking the January PDC training was absolutely life changing. Ian and Anna were both a joy to learn from, were incredibly accommodating, open to feedback, and both of them really know their stuff (not only theory, but also in application). I came to the course already knowing the fundamental principles and ethics of Permaculture (the “Why” and the “What”) but did not know HOW to apply those principles and ethics to actually implement a design on a property. Now, after taking the course, I feel confident that I would have the fundamental level of understanding needed to design a site anywhere in the world. The two week course will not teach you every little last detail of what you need to know about Permaculture to be a professional Permaculture designer, however, it provides a base map that will show you how to get started and where to find whatever information you still need. The PDC lays the foundation that will teach you how to teach yourself, and what techniques actually work. Once again, I had an amazing time and I highly recommend Finca Tierra to anyone looking to invest in an education/ certification in Permaculture.
— — PDC Student & Intern, Josh, USA
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
Possibly the most incredible experience of my life. I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone and everyone.
— PDC Student & Intern, Liam from Florida, USA
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
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

More testimonials can be found here

Course Information, Fee & Enrollment

Tuition $1,650

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

Deposit $400 - Reserve a place now with a $400 deposit & pay the balance of $1,100 30 days prior to course start date. We will email you an invoice for the remainder showing the due date.

Please register early, as the course can fill quickly and space is limited, only 12 seats available.   Tuition does not include airfare or travel to/from Finca Tierra.  The $400 USD deposit required to reserve your space is non-refundable.  Final payments are due 2 weeks before course commencement.  Tuition is refundable until 30 days before the course start date.  The program is taught in English.

* Private cabins are appointed to the first four students to make full payment. There is no additional fee.



Logistics and Planning info

Logistics and Planning info can be found here


If you have questions about this design course please contact us at