Led by Starhawk, Charles Williams and friends.

Dates: January 5 – January 19, 2020: two-week intensive residential course

Location: Black Mountain Preserve and Golden Rabbit Ranch, Western Sonoma County, CA

Sliding scale: *Early Bird Pricing until September 19th*

$1800-2300, includes all instruction, lodging, meals, and materials

 Work trade and Diversity Scholarships are now available.









Welcome to our home in the hills of Cazadero California.

Please join us for our flagship Permaculture Training course, held in our home location of Western Sonoma County, at Black Mountain Retreat Center with hands-on projects up the road at Starhawk’s Golden Rabbit Ranch.

Becoming an Earth Healer

In our two-week Permaculture Design Course, we gather together to explore an internationally-recognized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) curriculum with a grounding in spirit and a focus on organizing and activism.

Are you ready to be an Earth Healer?

Learn how it is possible to design human systems that mimic natural systems, using a minimum of energy and resources and creating real abundance and social justice. We will cover principles and practices for how to read the landscape, how to heal soil and cleanse water, design integrated systems, harvest water, drought-proof land, build soil, sequester carbon, make compost, compost tea, and biochar, and how to bio-remediate toxins. Explore the solutions to climate change, and the strategies and organizing tools that can put them in place.

Earth Activist Training is unique in weaving social permaculture aspects throughout our course: learn how to organize our human communities and groups, how to resolve conflicts, make decisions, work together effectively, and sustain our spirits. Together we create a community contained by daily ceremony and interactive ritual throughout the course.

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

READ MORE about our director and founder, Starhawk, her co-teacher Charles Williams as well as others community leaders here:

Who is this training for?

We firmly believe that everyone can benefit from learning the tools and insights of permaculture to apply toward the broad goal of earth regeneration. Permaculture has solutions not just for landscapes and agricultural systems, but also for social design, public policy and survival strategies for these challenging times.

Our students include:

  • Young people looking for a career oriented around sustainability
  • People in mid-life looking for a new direction for existing or new work
  • Retirees wanting new fields to explore
  • Established professionals wanting to broaden and deepen their knowledge of sustainable alternatives
  • People involved with intentional communities, co-housing and eco-villages, or those who want to start or join one
  • Gardeners, farmers, ranchers, and land stewards of all kinds
  • Green business entrepreneurs who want to have a broader understanding of the possibilities
  • Teachers, environmental educators, and youth workers
  • Anyone involved in gardening, especially school gardens and community gardens
  • Architects and landscape designers
  • Artists, musicians, poets, writers and dancers, and anyone who collaborates creatively
  • Community organizers and activists from many movements, including environmental justice, food justice, global justice, anti-oppression, human rights workers, and others
  • Dreamers, visionaries, and more…

We welcome and enjoy participants of any age (though please email us to discuss attendance by those under age 16). There is no 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 info@earthactivisttraining.org if you have specific needs you’d like to discuss.

Topic and Projects Covered:

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, introductions to natural building concepts (including 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.

Hillside swale creation


Cob construction

We touch on all the topics below, some in more depth than others, given the limitations of a two-week course. The overarching theme 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. At the end of the course, we will spend time providing resources and direction for taking your permaculture studies further and deeper.

Permaculture ethics, history and principles


  • Observation
  • Reading the landscape
  • Site analysis
  • Zones and Sectors
  • Mapping
  • Design tools and processes
  • Collaborative design projects
  • 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

  Reserv your space today!

About our Northern California course location

Black Mountain Retreat Center is in the coastal hills area of northern California, in west Sonoma County. The site centers around a complex of dorms, dining room and kitchen, classroom and offices, and is surrounded by 485 acres of forest and coastal hills. Walking trails and unused dirt roads lead off in several adventurous directions, through ecosystems of redwood and fir, oak and madrone, and coastal prairie. You can see the ocean from high points on the property, while seasonal 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 Black Mountain 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 students for quiet meditation.

Black Mountain is primarily accessible by car. The nearest major city and transit hub is Santa Rosa, a 90-minute drive from the center. There is a small regional airport in Santa Rosa, and both Oakland and San Francisco airports are served by Airport Express, a shuttle bus which comes up to Santa Rosa. Rental car agencies are available at all airports. We can connect students flying in or taking the bus with others who are driving, and will help organize those carpools in the two week leading up to the course. We will send out a complete welcome packet with plenty of detailed information six weeks prior to the beginning of the course.

Read more about Black Mountain Retreat Center

Our standard housing is included with tuition: several comfortable dorms with beds, for which you can bring your own bedding or rent some from Black Mountain at extra fee. A small number of private single or double rooms are available for an additional fee. Please use your registration form to indicate your preference.

We are blessed to have the incredible cooking of Carin McKay and her Culinary Magic team supporting our Northern California PDC course. Our standard is local, organic, globally-inspired vegetarian-friendly meals, served three times a day, plus afternoon and evening snacks. Carin has traveled widely learning culinary traditions from friends and loved ones around the world, and she shares her experiences with 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, while vegan variations are available at every meal. Options such as no-dairy, gluten-free, and avoidance of common allergens 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 indicate on your registration if you have any concerns about the food or to make special arrangements, and our Coordinator will work with you.

Almanac for Winter 2020
January is the rainy season in this part of the world. Exciting storms might sweep in for a few days, there may be foggy or drizzly days, and sometimes we experience lovely weather, with crystalline clear, sunny days. Winter here is relatively mild (daytime temps usually around 50F-60F, night time 35F-40F) though the dampness can be chilly for some. It’s the time of year when the hills turn bright green and creeks run fast. We advise all January students to dress warmly and bring rain gear, as we will spend ample time outdoors! Your welcome packet will include a detailed packing list.

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

Registration and Payment

Permaculture Design Course | Winter 2020

January 5th – 19th, 2020

Black Mountain Preserve, Cazadero, CA United States | + Google Map

If you are ready to begin your Earth Activist Training, please fill out our Online Registration. Then continue below to hold your space with a deposit or payment in full.

Or jump to our Work Trade and Diversity Scholarship Page to begin the application process. All information submitted will be treated with respect and complete privacy. 

A $500.00 deposit is due with registration in order to secure your space. We accept payment by check, money order, or credit/debit/Paypal.

Checks and money orders should be made payable to Earth Activist Training and mailed to:

Earth Activist Training

c/o Starhawk
PO Box 2823
Berkely CA 94702

If you have registered and are ready to pay online, please select your payment option below:


Cost: $1800-$2300 sliding scale