Free Presentation on Permaculture & Our Community Training Course in Ithaca, NY.

The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute will be holding a free, public presentation about the upcoming Community Training in Ecological Design class.

Tuesday, January 6th

5:30-6:30 p.m.

New Roots Charter School in downtown Ithaca, NY

Steve Gabriel, Becky Sims and other FLPCI instructors will be on hand to answer questions about the course topics and outcomes. There will be a short presentation at 5:30 p.m. including a brief explanation of permaculture design and its benefits.

This is is a quick and no-cost way to learn about permaculture, the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute and how our short, 36-hour course can help you design your land and projects more sustainably.

New Roots Charter School
is located in Ithaca
at 116 Cayuga Street.

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Community Training in Ecological Design: Ithaca (Winter 2015)

The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute presents  Photo by Jim Bosjolie 

Community Training in Ecological Design

SOLD OUT on January 10th, 2015.  

Design your backyard or acreage for the coming season and long term.

Grow food, build soil, and manage water in rural and urban landscapes.

Meet others and make beneficial connections in your community.

Hosted at New Roots Charter School in downtown Ithaca, NY

Permaculture design mimics the patterns and processes found in nature. Learn strategies for garden and farm-scale systems that meet human needs while improving ecological health. Join a learning environment where teachers support students to develop design ideas for their own projects.

Classes and take-home assignments cover a wide range of site mapping, assessment, planning and design skills. Students learn the how and why of many strategies including gardening, cover cropping, sheet mulching, backyard poultry, mushroom cultivation, tree crops and rainwater catchment.

Photo by Jim Bosjolie

36 hours of instruction

One full weekend & nine Monday evenings

January through April

Since 2005, the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute has taught audiences and community members across Central New York. Our instructors are professional educators, extension workers, farmers, parents and entrepreneurs actively working on and designing sustainable, permaculture-based projects.

Classes are a mixture of engaging lecture, discussion, and group activities. Rich conversation and connection between community members at our classes offer support and collaboration after you complete the course.

Participants (which have included college students, Cooperative Extension agents, educators, farmers, nonprofit-managers, ecovillage residents and gardeners) are equipped with practical knowledge and skills that can be shared with their neighbors and colleagues.

Graduates of the Community Training in Ecological Design (CTED) leave with a new way to see their landscapes and a renewed sense of possibility for sustainable design.  Students also walk away with a draft design of their property or project site.

Photo by Jim Bosjolie


Michael Burns

Steve Gabriel

Karryn Olson-Ramanujan

plus guests


Introduction Weekend (9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.):

Saturday & Sunday, January 31-February 1

Monday evenings (6:30-9pm):

February 2, 9, & 23,  March 2, 9, 17, 23 & 30,  April 6 & 13


SOLD OUT on January 10th, 2015.  Do not send payment if you have not already registered. $200-600 based on what you can afford. Currently, no scholarship funds are available. A non-refundable $50 deposit is required for registration.


[Sign up for CTED here.]


New Roots Charter School, 116 Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY

Room location to be announced

NOTE: This is not a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. This introductory course is based on—and is an abridged version of—the internationally recognized 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) curriculum. Students who wish to earn the PDC can deduct their tuition for this course from our full PDC course tuition. (This discount cannot be combined with other discounts).

Photo by Jim Bosjolie


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Ithaca Authors Presenting “Farming the Woods” Book on Nov. 19th

Presentation & Book Signing

with Ken Mudge

and Steve Gabriel

November 19, 2014

6 to 8 p.m.

Tompkins County Public Library

Ithaca NY


Local authors, teachers and researchers Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel love the forest. They met in the MacDaniels Nut Grove in 2009 when Steve took Ken’s Practicum in Forest Farming class at Cornell University. Through the frameworks of forest farming and permaculture they found a way to see the forest for more than just the trees. The two began working, researching, and writing together which resulted in a new book from Chelsea Green Publishing (VT) called Farming the Woods.

Farming the Woods combines Ken’s decades of research and international agroforestry experience with Steve’s permaculture and farming knowledge to offer readers a plethora of concepts and ideas for growing a range of non-timber crops in their woods. Mushrooms, medicinals like ginseng and goldenseal, fruits, nuts, and wood products along with design and management considerations are covered in this book which has been called:

A must-read for anyone interested in agroforestry, forest gardening, or utilizing forests for specialty crops. ” —Martin Grawford, author of Creating a Forest Garden

Join Ken and Steve for an evening to celebrate the book and learn about some of these crops and the farmers around the US growing them.

Books signed by the authors will be available afterwards for $35.

The event is free. RSVPs are not required but can be made through the Facebook event page.

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Inclusive Leadership Sought at the North American Permaculture Convergence

The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI), is proud to be a sponsor of the inaugural North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC) that will take place August 29 – 31, 2014, in Clarks Grove, Minnesota. Some aims of the convergence are to  “help to connect and advance North American networks of permaculture practitioners” and  “defining the structure, function and organization of our collective groups moving forward.” We are happy that two of our instructors Rafter Sass Ferguson and Karryn Olson-Ramanujan will attend.

FLPCI Co-founder, board member, and instructor, Karryn Olson-Ramanujan seeks to advance the conversations around women’s leadership in permaculture. While researching for her recent article in the Permaculture Activist magazine (“A Pattern Language for Women’s Leadership in Permaculture.”), Karryn interviewed women working in permaculture worldwide who voiced the desire to create structures that help more women move into high-level, visible leadership positions within the movement. Karryn’s article outlined patterns of best practices towards this goal. She plans to get input from other women at the convergence and consult together on next steps.

Karryn emphasizes that this conversation around women’s leadership is a key leverage point to help the permaculture movement become more inclusive.

“Learning about the systemic and often invisible dynamics of privilege is foundational for effective social permaculture.”

In 2014, women are not at 50% of all levels of leadership in the United States or in the permaculture movement.  Karryn asks “Why does this happen when surely most people in permaculture would self-identify as strongly in support of women’s leadership?” Her short answer is: “It’s the system.” Even today, myriad subtle social dynamics culminate in barriers to women’s leadership.  Men and women need to understand how these dynamics work. Permaculture designers need to design equitable, win-win solutions. To do this process-oriented work, we have to roll up our sleeves and enter the workshop of relationship. This means building trust and creating safety for people on the historical side of oppression to speak their truth, to determine their own emancipation, and to be heard and supported in their leadership. By supporting women’s success in permaculture, we learn some of the skills needed to support leadership of historically oppressed populations.

It is not about being politically correct. As permaculture practioners, we know whole systems thrive when their parts function optimally, manifesting their highest potential.

To read the Pattern Language for Women in Permaculture, or to read more about Karryn’s Olson-Ramanujan’s work at the NAPC, click here.



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Finger Lakes Summer Permaculture Course: Four weeks away…

There are at least a half-dozen confirmed openings for the upcoming

Permaculture Design Certificate Course.

July 25 through August 10, 2014


Ithaca, N.Y.

Join the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute for an intensive 15-day course with experienced permaculture designers.

Study design and permaculture in practice among our amazing community of organizers, farmers, homesteaders, teachers, researchers and community activists.

Live within a unique temporary learning community at our off-grid permaculture camp in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. Enjoy the richness of the small cities and villages, culture, natural areas, and vibrant agriculture found in our area.

The course’s curriculum, methods, and practicum have been developed by teachers Michael Burns, Rafter Sass Ferguson, Steve Gabriel and Karryn Olson-Ramanujan over nine years and eleven PDCs. The thousands of hours they have devoted to research, practice, teaching and organizing have made the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s PDC one of the longest running and most successful summertime intensive courses in the Northeast.

Last year the course sold out by July. Take advantage of the slower pace of registration this year to secure your place.

NOTE: Through Paypal, there is a six-month payment plan for tuition.

Additional information: 

Go to course description page…

Read more details about the course…

Sign up…

Watch a video interview with PDC alumni and teachers…

Experienced teachers + diverse students = quality learning experience… 

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FLPCI Alum’s choreography finds inspiration through permaculture

Global Water Dances, Boulder Reservoir, June 2013 (Photo credit: Charles Dietrich)

Maren Waldman is a dancer, choreographer, educator, and body-worker who is passionate about researching the ways that dance and movement build connection. Her work draws on permaculture principles, body awareness healing practices, and dance technique to specifically investigate the relationship between the body and the planet. Her art-activism takes a heart-centered approach to addressing urgent environmental concerns.

Maren earned a Permaculture Design Certificate from the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute in 2012 and an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography with a focus on Somatics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2014. A former Ithaca resident, she is excited to return to her beloved homeland in June and share her work.

Maren relaxing on a foot bridge at Cayuta Sun, the site of FLPCI's summer permaculture course.

Ms. Waldman’s current project, Postcards to the Earth, engages people in expressing their personal, emotional relationship to the Earth. The project exists in many forms including a live dance performance, a dance film, and a growing postcard collection. Maren will be sharing her postcard project at Radical Reconnecting through Permaculture, Ceremony, and Movement on the summer solstice, June 21, 2014.

In an interview with this author, She describes her current work:

A postcard is a simple act of communication typically sent from one to another across a distance. In western industrial society, we have chosen lifestyles that separate us from the Earth. We have forgotten our integral role as members of our planet’s ecosystem. Writing a postcard to a favorite place in nature invites us to pause in our busy lives, remember our connection to the earth, and take action through expression. My hope is that this postcard collection grows as people worldwide contribute their voices. The growing collection makes our collective voices visible and material, elucidating the reality of our human-earth relationship.”

Performance at conference for Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Fall 2012

Maren tells FLPCI that the most valuable teachings from her permaculture education has been learning how much more possible it is to live in tune with nature. She says,

Nature reveals patterns and systems that we can apply to use less energy in our approach to agriculture while providing more surplus. I also felt an emotional shift during the course as I slowed down my lifestyle to notice and feel just how wise, intelligent, and expressive nature is. I swelled with appreciation for the tiniest spider and the most magnificent, 200-year-old white pine tree.

While I had never before studied agriculture or ecology, my FLPCI permaculture education has launched me into a world of curiosity about how I can more efficiently use resources in my life, from my personal energy to my container gardening… The course provided inspiration for lifestyle changes that I still strive to enact.”

Many students study permaculture to inform their work on landscapes. Maren reflects on how leaning about ecology through the lens of permaculture principles has influenced her analysis and her choreography:

Permaculture also taught me how to see space differently. This directly applies to my work in dance. After my permaculture course, I became more aware of how water moves through a landscape. Water is a major force in shaping landscapes, and designing for water is a crucial component in permaculture. My deepening interest in water, combined with moving to Colorado where water is a more urgent issue, became the topic of exploration for my most recent choreographic works, Enough, and Postcards to the Earth. I educated my cast of seven dancers about permaculture principles. I designed movement explorations to embody principles. We observed how applying the principle to movement could inform us, and we became curious about what moving bodies could teach us about the principle.”

In the upcoming Radical Reconnection Solstice experience, she is looking forward to using movement for discovery to facilitate growth into a deeper personal understanding of our relationships with the earth through the lenses of permaculture and embodiment. Maren is looking forward to “learning from the other incredible, wise-women permaculturists, Karryn Olson-Ramanujan and Megan Barber.” She states, “I look forward to co-creating intentional space with everyone there as we pause our busy lives and journey together to honor the earth through solstice.”

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Teaching Permaculture with Experience & Evidence: Steve Gabriel (audio)

The word “education” is rooted to the latin word educere, which means to “bring out,” suggesting that teaching is supporting students to come forward to actualize his or her own vision for the world. The permaculture course, since its inception by co-founder Bill Mollison in the 70s, has been the starting point for many people doing this work. The Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) is generally taught as a 72-hour course, often over two weeks time. The course covers a range of content and includes a design practicum, where students create an integrated design based on their new knowledge and skills. While there are some common standards for these PDCs, each course carries with it a range of content and outcomes arising from geography, culture, and teacher experience.

Rafter Sass Ferguson, Steve Gabriel, Michael Burns and Karryn Olson-Ramanujan

Since the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s (FLPCI) first course in 2005, we’ve held two standards to guide our instruction. First, we require high-quality, professional teaching methods so students will leave the course feeling inspired to learn more, compelled to act, and confident in their ability to do so. Secondly, information for our practice of permaculture must be research and experience based.

After thousands of hours of teaching permaculture to these standards the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s permaculture curriculum is both research-based and rooted in time-tested teaching methods. The course instructors are active in university academic settings (Steve at Cornell University, Karryn at Ithaca College, and Rafter at the University of Illinois) plus Michael, a high school teacher. This combination of research and hands-in experience mixed with a passion for teaching has supported thousands of people on their learning journeys. Each also has recent or current experience on farms, homesteads, community gardens and forests, and a mix of other sustainably-designed projects.

Steve teaching pattern analysis.

FLPCI co-founder and instructor Steve Gabriel has been developing his permaculture experience and evidence-based teaching for the past ten years. Steve is currently an extension educator at Cornell University, where he mainly works with landowners and farmers on agroforestry (mixing of farm crops and trees.) Most of his research and education efforts center around forest mushroom cultivation, where several advances in research have demonstrated that shiitake mushrooms are a viable and economic crop in the Eastern US. Along with a team of professors, researchers, and extension educators, he spends much of his time sharing the basics of cultivation and marketing. This comes after many years of growing mushrooms himself, first as a backyard hobby crop, and now as a major part of the farm enterprise at Wellspring Forest Farm, which he maintains with finance Liz in Mecklenburg, NY.

Steve has been teaching shiitake mushroom production throughout the northeast based on research and his own experience as a small farmer.

Shortly after arriving at Cornell in 2009, Steve partnered with longtime friend and colleague, Professor Ken Mudge along with Professor Jane Mt. Pleasant, who researches indigenous agricultural practices. Together, the three developed a PDC for Cornell students which has been taught for the past two years on the ivy league campus. The course has inspired a new class of students who are starting permaculture clubs, planting gardens, and working on the student organic farm. This past spring the Permaculture course was approved as a permanent listing in the Cornell course book. This upcoming fall, Steve and Ken’s new book will be published: Farming the Woods An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests.

While making these connections professionally, Steve has recognized that the permaculture movement and academia have a lot to learn from each other. While permaculture courses offer a positive vision for the future, many of the practices and strategies taught are not always based on evidence. This need not be the case. Permaculture offers a framework to stitch together fields of study that are often examined separately in academia; soil science, forestry, natural resource management, agriculture. Indeed each of these areas are a deep body of knowledge, yet without the functional, successful application of this research into the hands of working permaculture practitioners, the knowledge may collect dust.

Daily work on his small farm informs Steve's approach to teaching and research.

Likewise, years of experience and struggle with the “real world” of production can guide researchers to ask and answer crucial questions that may be overlooked within the confines of university life. These queries may not be framed in a precise category or traditional academic subject and can challenge researchers to think outside their discipline.

Permaculture offers a view into the integrated nature of ecological systems and the academic setting is a perfect place for permaculture practitioners to help make the connections which are not often apparent to people trained for years in a single subject area. Steve’s work on his own farm typifies the creative potential between researchers and permaculture designers. His time spent doing farm chores and projects means his genuine efforts to produce sustainable yields insights for himself and other researchers.


Hear Steve talk about growing mushrooms on The Permaculture Podcast.
Click here.



Since Steve Gabriel began teaching permaculture, his curriculum has grown and improved with each course. Based in experience and research, he helps creates graduates who are more likely to leave knowing what works and can feel confident that they are sharing truth, not hearsay or poorly conceived theory. Steve Gabriel’s pedagogy offers not only the latest in ecological ideas, but also the practical skills needed to keep learning and practicing permaculture.


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FLPCI Alum endorses permaculture for local culture & economy (video)

Alumni Profiles: Mark Roland

Mark Roland has been a community activist in Beacon, NY for years. He has advocated for smart growth, local businesses, and bicycle-friendly streets through a local organization “Beacon Deserves Better.” He regularly engages with the town’s planning process when this Hudson Valley town’s character and small businesses are threatened. Mark’s photographs of Beacon and the Hudson Valley are well known.

Mark Roland's photographs often reflect his interest in local geography, economics and history.

Last summer, Mark received a partial scholarship to attend our Permaculture Design Certificate course. Afterwards, he used his tuition savings and his new permaculture analysis skills to further his community work by starting a local news and culture blog for his community: Wigwam: A Home Economy Journal. On the website, part of Wigwam’s description of its mission and content is:

The much ballyhooed industrial, globalized economy is experiencing a few difficulties. As it contracts, it makes sense to expand our home economies. We use ‘home’ to mean a household, a city or town, and the Hudson Valley region. Wigwam will tell the stories of how this home economy expansion is happening, and give you ideas and inspiration, so that you can make it happen, too. In addition to home-ec related content, Wigwam offers regular coverage of issues that affect place making, such as city planning, zoning laws, transportation, new businesses, and new development. We also look at the people and organizations taking steps to nurture home economies.

In the video below, Mark Roland introduces his online publication and describes the influence the permaculture course had in his efforts to regenerate his local economy. It also offers a few brief moments of his humor that the staff and students at the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute enjoyed last summer…


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