Earth Activist Training | Winter 2017

Earth Activist Training | Winter 2017

January 7 – January 21, 2017 | $1700 – $2200
Black Mountain Preserve, Cazadero, CA

*Online registration closed, please email for info on remaining places*
Learn how to heal soil and cleanse water, how to design human systems that mimic natural systems, using a minimum of energy and resources and creating real abundance and social justice. Learn how to read the landscape, design integrated systems, harvest water, drought-proof your land, build soil, sequester carbon, make compost and compost tea, biochar, and bioremediate toxins. Explore the solutions to climate change, and the strategies and organizing tools that can put them in place. EAT also focuses on the social permaculture: how do we organize ourselves, resolve conflicts, make decisions, work together effectively, and sustain our spirits.

Participatory, hands-on teaching with lots of practical projects, games, songs, and laughs along with an intensive curriculum in regenerative ecological design that earns a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC).

Earth Activist Training | Cazadero, CA is a 2-week intensive residential PDC course.
Cost: $1700 – $2200 US sliding scale. Includes lodging and fabulous meals. Work trade available, apply early.
Instructors: Starhawk and Charles Williams with assistant-teacher Pandora Thomas.

Earth Activist Training combines an internationally-recognized permaculture design certificate course with a grounding in spirit and a focus on organizing and activism.

We teach interactively, not just through classroom presentation but through games, songs, ceremony, guided visualizations, design practice, field trips, and lots of practical, hands-on projects.

Hands-on projects vary with weather and needs but may include mapping, water harvesting structures, graywater or roof catchment, compost, compost teas, sheet mulch, plant propagation, planting trees and shrubs, seed-starting, natural building—cob, straw-clay or plastering—and a collaborative design project. Our projects can be tailored to students of varied levels of physical ability and diverse ages and previous experience.

Who is the training for?

We firmly believe that everyone can benefit from learning the tools and insights of permaculture for earth regeneration. It’s not just about gardening: It’s about social design, public policy and survival strategies for these challenging times.

That said, our students include:

  • Young people looking for a career in sustainability.
  • People in mid-life looking for a new direction.
  • Retirees wanting new fields to explore.
  • Established professionals wanting to broaden and deepen their knowledge of sustainable alternatives.
  • People who are starting, or members of, or interested in joining intentional communities, cohousing and eco-villages.
  • Gardeners, farmers and ranchers.
  • Green business entrepreneurs.
  • Teachers, environmental educators, and youth workers.
  • Workers in school gardens and community gardens.
  • Architects and landscape designers.
  • Artists, musicians, poets, writers and dancers.
  • Community organizers.
  • Activists from many movements, including environmental justice, food justice, global justice, anti-oppression, Transition Towns, Occupy, human rights workers, and others.
  • Dreamers and visionaries.
  • And more…

You can be any age, you don’t need to have previous experience with permaculture or horticulture, and we can accommodate a broad range of physical abilities or limitations. Please contact us at if you have specific needs you’d like to discuss.

Topic list:
We touch on all the topics below—some in more depth than others, obviously, in a two-week course. But the overarching thing we teach in the course is not any specific subject, but rather how they all fit together into systems that can meet our human needs while regenerating the environment around us.

Permaculture ethics, history and principles


  • Observation
  • Reading the landscape
  • Site analysis
  • Zones and Sectors
  • Mapping
  • Design tools and processes
  • Design project
  • Broadacre permaculture
  • Urban permaculture
  • Permaculture for gatherings, mobilizations and disaster situations


  • Creating healthy water cycles in living systems
  • Water harvesting
  • Swales, ponds and earthworks
  • Keyline systems
  • Erosion control
  • Rain catchment for roofs
  • Greywater and blackwater systems


  • Soil structure
  • Soil biology
  • Soil building
  • Compost
  • Sheet mulch
  • Compost teas and ferments
  • Mushrooms
  • Bioremediation and mycoremediation
  • Biochar


  • Plant needs
  • Plant guilds and polycultures
  • Cover crops
  • Agroforestry
  • Food forests
  • Plant propagation
  • Tree care: pruning and planting, choosing varieties
  • Sustainable forestry


  • Animals in our systems
  • Raising and feeding “microherds”—healthy soil microbial communities
  • Beneficial insects
  • Bees
  • Worms
  • Humane treatment of animals
  • Poultry
  • Livestock for the homestead
  • Holistic management grazing systems
  • The role of predators
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Alternatives for vegans


  • Climate change and strategies for adaption and mitigation
  • Microclimates
  • Windbreaks
  • Drylands
  • Tropics
  • Wetlands
  • Cold climates


  • Alternative and renewable energy: evaluating and designing systems
  • Active and passive solar
  • Wind
  • Microhydro
  • Alternative fuels and biogas

Natural Building:

  • Insulation and thermal mass
  • Sustainable forest products
  • Cob, straw-bale, light-straw-clay
  • Plasters

Social permaculture:

  • Personal regeneration and self-care
  • Site design to support social aims
  • Urban redesign
  • Group dynamics
  • Communication tools
  • Governance structures for collaborative groups
  • Ecovillages and community design
  • Meeting processes
  • Meeting facilitation
  • Alternative economics

Organizing and activism:

  • Strategic organizing
  • Pro-active and prefigurative movements
  • Campaign planning and organizing
  • Power mapping
  • Organizing in diverse communities


  • Connecting to the spirit in nature
  • Creating ritual and ceremony
  • Grounding and centering
  • Sensing and shifting energy
  • Drumming, dancing, singing and meditation
  • Daily rituals
About the Place 
Black Mountain Preserve is in the Cazadero hills area of northern California, in west Sonoma County. The Preserve centers around a complex of dorms, dining/kitchen, classroom and offices, surrounded by 485-acres of forest and coastal hills. Expect a wide variety of natural beauty. Walking trails and unused dirt roads lead off in several adventurous directions, through ecosystems of redwood/fir, oak/madrone, and coastal prairie. You can see the ocean from high points on the property, while a couple of creeks run through in low spots.
We have held EAT sessions at Black Mountain since 2001; it is currently owned and operated by the Padmasambhava Peace Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist group. At one time BMP was a state camp for petty offenders, but renovations have made it a cozy and comfortable conference center, a real-life swords-into-ploughshares example. There is a Peace Garden and a Rain Garden designed by EAT students. Across from our classroom is a beautiful and authentic Buddhist altar room, which is open to EATers for quiet meditation.
Standard accommodations are dorms with cots; bring your own bedding or rent some from BMP at extra fee. BMP is easily accessible by car; we strongly encourage carpooling and will have a shuttle for people flying in or taking bus. “Transportation Details” are in the confirmation packet when you register, as is much more information about the facility.
singing in rain
Singing in the rain

Almanac for Winter 2017
January is the rainy season in this part of the world. Exciting storms might sweep in for a few days, but often the winter EATs experience lovely weather, with crystalline clear, sunny days. Winter here is relatively mild (daytime temps usually around 50F-60F, night time 35F-40F). It’s the time of year when the hills turn bright green, creeks run fast, and redwood trees stretch and laugh. We advise all January students to dress warmly and bring rain gear.

Just after EAT opens there will be a full moon on the second day, so we plan a full moon celebration for that evening. The moon will then wane during the rest of the session, which ends the day before the new moon.

Assistant teacher Pandora Thomas
Assistant teacher Pandora Thomas
catching rays
Even in January, there’s greenery and sunshine

EATers eat well. Our standard is gourmet, organic, vegetarian meals, served three times a day, plus afternoon munchies. Our favorite chef Carin McKay and her crew will be cooking for us. All food is fresh, plentiful, and substantial. Teas and coffee are available at all times.

Please use your registration form to request special meal choices. Meat is served several times a week for omnivores. Vegan variations are available at every meal. Options such as no-dairy and wheat-free are also possible if requested in advance. While we make every effort to accommodate food needs, those with highly specialized diets may need to bring some of their own food. Please check with the EAT coordinator if you have any concerns about the food, and to make special arrangements.

On a field trip to the Permaculture Skills Center
Field trip to Permaculture Skills Center


Sunrise over Cazadero hills, site of January EAT session
Sunrise over Cazadero hills

Earth Activist Training – Winter 2017

January 7 – January 21, 2017

Black Mountain Preserve, Cazadero, CA United States | + Google Map
Cost: $1700 – $2200 sliding scale, includes fabulous food and lodging.

Information about Work Trade and Diversity Scholarships: Work Trade and Scholarships page

Cost: $1700-$2200 sliding scale