Practical Permaculture Experience



Twice a year, following the Permaculture Design Course (PDC), a 4-week Permaculture Internship Program is offered.  We go in depth on a hands-on experience looking at the management and development of the established systems at Finca Tierra. It provides you with the skills and experience as well as a frame of reference when you start or work on another project.

*Please note that Interns must have taken a Permaculture Design Certificate Course from Finca Tierra or other permaculture education program to participate in the internship.


Course Description

The Internship program is comprised of two themes,

Designing and managing a regenerative homestead and forest farm (Farm Management)

During the internship we look at how the whole farm functions, focusing on hands on work. Connecting theory to practice. Essentially, the participants will fully understand how to operate Finca Tierra. We will manage food forests, for profit vegetable gardens, fruit and nut orchards, chicken and fish systems as well as look at natural building and infrastructure. Finca Tierra developed this internship as a month long immersion program for PDC course participants that want to get more confidence, experience and the necessary skills to fully apply the knowledge from the course. This is a great way to see where your interests are and how land based enterprises are right for you. 

Diet design and farm-to-table (Food Management)

At Finca Tierra we LOVE cooking! We have researched and studied the nutritional values and medicinal properties of our food, and assembled amazing recipes for a balanced and super healthy plant -based diet with local seasonal ingredients. Wild harvesting and foraging, as well as looking at what are the most appropriate foods for this bioregion, are part of our yearly nutritional planning. We harvest and dehydrate plantains, bread fruit and cassava root in our solar dehydrator, to then blend them and create our own gluten free delicious flours to make breads and cakes. Some of our other homemade products are cold press coconut oil, fermented banana vinegar and other fermented foods, hot chili sauces, herbs and spices mixes, cashew nuts vegan cheeses, milk kefir to prepare medicinal smoothies, cheese and sourdough bread. Also, gluten free pastas made with a variety of very tasty roots and farm cereals, bean -to- bar chocolate, ghee, marmalade, sugar cane juice and caramel (used as sugar), different nut milks, and fresh medicinal teas.  We are always making new plates and experimenting with the possibilities of food, textures and flavors for all kinds of palates. At the beginning of the internship, participants will learn the how to's of homemade Finca Tierra products and will receive a variety of delicious recipes to take over the farm kitchen. The creation of healthy, fresh and tasty dishes farm-to-table on a daily basis, is an important practical skill and a big take away from the internship.


Enrollment open - Winter: Monday, January 21 – Saturday, February 16, 2019

Enrollment open - Spring: Monday, March 25 – Saturday, April 20, 2019


Week 1: Food Forest


Food forest fertility maintenance

  • Installing nitrogen and biomass accumulating species
  • Chop and drop mulching
  • Food forest succession
  • Natural fertiliser application

Tree management

  • Planting fruit trees from seed
  • Grafting  fruit trees
  • Potting up fruit trees and potting mix
  • Planting trees in the field
  • Pruning fruit trees

Farm Access

  • Path and access maintenance
  • Installing ground covers

Week 2: Intensive Vegetable gardens


Intensive Vegetable gardens

  • Seed saving 
  • Vegetable nursery
  • Bed preparation
  • Transplanting and seeding 
  • Composting
  • Fertilising
  • Ph and soil life
  • Biochar production



Week 3: Natural Building and Sustainable Infrastructure


Natural building

  • Bamboo production
  • Natural building techniques

Renewable energy systems

  • Domestic photovoltaic systems

Waste systems

  • Black water
  • Grey water
  • Kitchen waste

Cooking systems

  • Top lit up draft stoves
  • Pit kilns

Week 4: Staple Crops & Chicken and Fish



Main Crops

  • Planting staple crops
  • Greens, grains and tubers
  • Hedge rows & trellises

Fish and Chicken systems

  • Aquaculture 
  • Laying hens

Diet design and farm-to-table

Instruction and application throughout the 4-week program

Food Preparation

  • Learning farm recipes
  • Preparation of farm homemade products
  • Cooking and cleaning is done in shifts by the interns

Food processing

  • Making flours from roots and other gluten free starches
  • Fermented yuca bread
  • Sauerkraut / Kimchi
  • Wine making
  • Marmalade, pickles or chili hot sauces *Seasonal
  • Vegan cheeses
  • Bean -to- bar chocolate *Seasonal

Daily Schedule

Monday through Friday, mornings are filled with hands-on application in the gardens and forest farm. Afternoons are varied, ranging from kitchen instruction, continuation of morning lessons,  experimenting in the kitchen other aspects of farm life and free time to go to the beach or immerse yourself in our large permaculture digital library.

Weekends are free! You can stay and chill at the farm, eat some goodies, and go to the river near by (10 minute jungle walk from the farm). Or you can go jungle hiking, horse riding, have a beach day, kayak, surf, snorkel, dive or juts get some sun. Night life in town is great. If you like dancing in the beach with drums and bonfires this is your town! There are calypsonians and many other musicians playing live at the bars next to the beach with delicious dinners, fire shows, and more...

About your Instructors


A forest gardener, visual artist and social entrepreneur. Ian is a native of Ohio in the United States.  He holds a BFA Magna Cum Laude in visual art from Wright State University, and is experienced in geographic information systems (GIS), urban planning, sustainable community design and natural structures.  Growing up, Ian spent the summers visiting Native American archeological sites in the United States.  He's also traveled in Asia and Europe.

Ian enjoys exposing students from around the world to Finca Tierra's permaculture design science approach, which integrates biological systems with human structure.  He's a consultant for ecological design, tropical food, organic farms and home gardens,  and is active in the local community promoting practical and sustainable garden design solutions.  Ian received his formal permaculture education from Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Ian has taught dozens of PDCs and certified more than one hundred students from North and South America as well as Europe, Africa and Asia.



Ana is a human rights lawyer of Costa Rican and Spanish heritage.  She studied three years of Sociology in the Universidad de Costa Rica. She holds a degree in Law from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica and a Notary Masters from Universidad Santo Tomas.  Ana has worked with the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, and served as legal advisor to the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Costa Rican Congress. She is a certified trainer of Non violent communication 8 hour course by the UN Peace University and a certified Permaculture teacher. She is a co founder of Informate Caribe magazine and creator of Informative festivals in the Talamanca region, as a way of informing people through celebrations.

Widely traveled, Ana has lived and worked in Spain, China and the United States.  As both an activist and attorney she was specialized in indigenous rights and has long been a community organizer in local development projects focusing on excluded communities, local autonomous development, business alphabetization and social auto-organization methodologies.  Ana is passionate about Finca Tierra’s ability to contribute to the food security of the local community by supporting traditional uses of plants as food and medicine in the region as well as a center for sustainable development activism. She believes Talamanca region is the green face of Costa Rica, and is raw enough to develop in a sustainable way being the example for the rest of the country and the world. She is actively involved with the development planning of 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 developed in 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. 



Four bamboo cabinas were build 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 hold 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 rain water 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 cabin exterior.jpg
Bamboo cabin interior.jpg
Bunkhouse interior.jpg



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, as oils, raw honey, cheeses, yogurts and other fruits we buy at the local organic market. 

 All farm meals during the Internship are catered by interns. 

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



  • Internship instruction
  • 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)

Words From Past Students

Testimonials can be found here


Course Information, Fee & Enrollment

Tuition $1,550

Early Bird Tuition $1,400  ($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. Academic credits / partial or full grants are sometimes available to undergraduate and graduate students (ask us for more information). 

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



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




The most common way to travel to Costa Rica is through San Jose, Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).  More info about how to get to Finca Tierra go to our Contact page


Check-in is on Sunday after 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. More info about how to get to Finca Tierra go to our Contact page.


  • Travel insurance are not included and is recommended.
  • Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry.

A visa is not required for North American or European students. If you travel from Asia or Africa you might need a visa to go through USA or Europe. To check if you need a visa to enter Costa Rica go to  if your country is listed under "grupo ingreso con visa consular o restringida" you need to get a visa from the embassy before entering.

Travel Insurance is recommended. Please purchase ASAP so that you can be refunded in the event that you must cancel. 



  • This is a tropical humid forest, where it can rain at any time. 
  • Temperatures range from a nighttime low of 24°C (75°F) to a daytime high of 32°C(90°F) 
  • Be prepared for these conditions: hot, humid, rainy and muddy.
  • Umbrellas are essential.  Rain jackets in tropical weather can become hot and humid and are not recommend for on-farm use.
  • During times of extreme rain/humidity things can grow mold, especially leather but potentially anything, so avoid bringing items with fabrics/surfaces that can't be easily cleaned.



  • Rubber Boots ( or let us know your size, minimum 3 weeks before the course starts. The price is $20)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Tall socks (half calf or above, like football/soccer socks)
  • Lightweight working pants and shirts
  • Sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Umbrella
  • Notebook and pen
  • Gardening work gloves
  • Personal medical supplies
  • Flashlight or headlamp, for off-farm use (solar lamps are provided for on-farm use)
  • Beach towel (you'll be supplied with towels for showering on the farm only)
  • A device to read PDF files (we have a large digital library)


  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • portable speakers
  • Laptop
  • Musical instrument(s)
  • Raincoat (for travel)
  • Snorkel mask and fins
  • Water bottle(s)



The wireless internet will be available in the common area. You must bring your own device to access the internet. Please note that internet access in Costa Rica and especially in the jungle can be very slow or sporadic during peak times of day and peak weeks or weekends.

Finca Tierra's electricity comes from an off grid solar system. This means that as the sun shines we have plenty of power and outside of daylight hours we try to limit our power usage as much as possible. So while it is possible to recharge your electrical items, please keep in mind that if it is overcast, or night-time, there will be no power available to recharge. Laptops, mobile devices, cameras and backup batteries may be charged during the hours of 9am to 3pm. They must be unplugged before and after theses hours. 



A typical hand washing station and large solar dryer are available for washing and drying clothes. The farm provides fresh towels sheets. Local wash and dry services are available on the weekend in the local town.

The farm is located about a mile and a half from the beach and public transport. Taxis cost about $12 to Puerto Viejo center. Typically students prefer to walk to the beach and share a taxi to town.



 For more info of how to get to Costa Rica, our village of Puerto Viejo and Finca Tierra please click on our Contact page.



Final payments are due 2 weeks before course commencement.  Tuition is refundable until 30 days before the course start date.

Sometimes circumstances change and you may be unable to attend a course you have paid for. If so, there are a few options available;

If you notify us at least 30 days prior to the course commencement, Finca Tierra will refund your course without reservation deposit but will deduct an administration fee of 10% OR you can apply the full amount as credit towards a future course.

If you notify us less than 30 days prior to the course commencement Finca Tierra cannot provide a refund OR you can send someone else in your place OR you can join one of the next four courses within one year of your first course registration. In this case you will need to place a deposit to reserve a space in the new course you wish to attend. All final payment will be transferred.

The $400 USD deposit required to reserve your space is non-refundable.

If Finca Tierra is forced to cancel an event due to unforeseen circumstances you will immediately receive a full refund. All other refunds can take between 7-30 days to process.

Please note, that travel to and from Finca Tierra is the attendee’s responsibility. Finca Tierra is not responsible for any loss or travel reimbursement, should the course be canceled or other circumstance. Travel Insurance is recommended. Please purchase ASAP so that you can be refunded in the event that you must cancel. 



We have had quite a few students who received grants from the US universities. We have had a lot of students apply for a grants which cover our course fees but not airfare. This is a great deal. You should meet with a professor, academic advisor, study abroad office or the department chair and explain what you what to do and see what for what grants you can apply. Typically students need to write a proposal to apply and then write a shout paper upon return. Past student have said it was a simple process it just takes some planning ahead and a couple meetings.

Here is some info a past student wrote about here grant experience to share with future students. 

"I received a grant to do a PDC through applying to one of the many grants that my university offers to undergraduates for experiential learning opportunities. I searched through my university's website, chose the grant that fit my project the best, and applied in the spring semester hoping to do the course in the summer. In the application I wrote a proposal of what I intended to use the money for and needed a letter of recommendation from a professor supporting my proposal. An essential part of my application was emphasizing how the PDC applies to my educational and professional goals, and how I could bring back what I learned to the greater student and local community. "

Academic credit depends on you school and program. we have had participants receive 4 credit hours, this could be internship credit, independent study credit or study abroad credit.  To start, meet with a professor or academic advisor to see what options are available to you in your field of study.  We are happy to provide a program syllabus to present or answer any questions.