Permaculture and Ecological Design Program

Permaculture and Ecological Design are systematic approaches to human settlement that are rooted in the ethics of caring for the Earth and human communities. Farmers, gardeners, land managers, landscapers, home or land owners, builders, educators, or activists all benefit from this way of thinking, which is inspired by observing natural patterns.

Get a taste of what you might expect from the Permaculture Design Course held at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) by watching the video below. This course has been offered at OAEC since 1994 and is the longest continually-offered permaculture design course in California:


Brock Dolman has trained and certified over 500 students in 27 two-week “Permaculture Design” certification courses at OAEC over the past 15 years.  In recent years, Brock has been joined by Kendall Dunnigan, a community organizer and teacher with over fifteen years of hands-on experience teaching and facilitating the cultivation of ecological literacy and community environmental change. 

About the PDC at OAEC

The national magazine Permaculture Activist calls this “a certificate course presented by a winning team of California’s most experienced teachers…OAEC has some of the most diverse gardens in North America, plus comfortable facilities for visitors.” It is common to hear our graduating permaculture students state in their evaluations, “This course has changed my life.”

In OAEC’s Permaculture courses, students learn through group study and analysis, culminating in the presentation of a site design project. The 80-acre OAEC site is full of the results of hands-on design projects implemented by permaculture students, including numerous erosion-halting gabions, nearly a quarter-mile of infiltration swales, forest fuel-load thinning, natural building elements, sheet mulching, and food forests.

Permaculture Program Offerings

  • 3 Permaculture certification courses:
    • March two-week design intensive
    • July two-week design intensive
    • September two-week design intensive
  • Newly offered course:
    • "Designing Edible Food Forests"

OAEC staff also consult with farmers, ranchers and landowners around Northern California, helping them integrate ecological design principles and practices into their land management programs. Call Brock Dolman (ext. 106) for more information or email him at

OAEC Permaculture blog