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Permaculture Food Forests

Permaculture food forests are intentionally cultivated forest gardens that contain native and cultivated plants and provide yields for humans and ecological functions.

Essentially, it's a low maintenance forest that's edible, medicinal and that enhances your local environment!

What are the Benefits of a Food Forest?

A food forest is a sustainable and natural way to produce healthy and organic food.

By learning how to tend your specific soil and develop plant communities you'll be able to improve your yield and provide nourishing and healthy food for you and your family.

About the Permaculture Food Forests Courses

This program is offered in two parts. The first section of this course focuses on the context of permaculture food forests. You will learn about the multiple considerations for creating a food forest in your specific climate. Videos, articles and exercises will help you discover plants for your food forest and learn how to build relationships between them to increase productivity.

The second section of this course is an instructor led Permaculture Food Forest Practicum. The assignments in this course will guide you step by step through the design of a food forest on the site of your choice. Worksheets and a template for your design will help you research the necessary information for a successful food forest in your region.

You can choose to take only the first section of the course or join us for both sections with the practicum offered in the Fall of 2020.

Permaculture Food Forests Self Study

In this course, you will learn about the permaculture food forest concept and how it can be applied to create an intentional food forest in your bioregion. This food forest will offer yields and ecological services throughout the year.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the food forest concept and how it can be useful in your community.
  • Describe climatic considerations, historical plants and cultivation strategies for your area.
  • Understand various plant relationships that can contribute to high diversity and resilience in your food forest.
  • Make strategic decisions about which species to include in your design to meet your needs and steward your local environment.
  • Consider yields and maintenance needs throughout the year.

Each week, you will be creating a journal of relevant plant species that could be useful for a food forest design. If you choose to go further in this subject, we offer a Permaculture Food Forest Design Practicum in Fall that will guide you through a design process on a site of your choice where you can include these plants in an appropriate design for your site conditions.

Self Study Overview

Week 1 provides an overview of the food forest concept by looking at native food forests around the world. We look at the considerations of climate, goal development and the structure of food forests. An interactive map will guide you through historical food plants indigenous to your area.

Week 2 focuses on the roles that plants play in an ecological system. You will learn how to identify niches to determine what plants could be best for your location. This week includes information on how to steward the soil in your climate zone for the cultivation of perennial food systems.

Week 3 highlights ecological functions of plants. This will be used to guide you in creating guilds or beneficial relationships between your plants in your food forest. Ecological functions describe unique ways that plants benefit environments.

Week 4 is about building relationships by considering wildlife and pollinators in your food forest. You will learn how to create and identify habitat. This week will include information on a permaculture approach for discouraging pests and diseases.

Week 5 guides you on the management needs and potential yields from your food forest. We will look at how food forests change throughout the year.

This course will be supplemented with the Natural Capital Database, an international database of useful plants to help you find species that suit your unique needs and climate. Throughout the course, we will offer case studies on various types of food forests.

Learning Formats

Designed by Oregon State University, this expert-led course features the following learning formats:

  • Video lectures
  • Multimedia resources
  • Readings
  • Exercises

Permaculture Food Forest Practicum

This course follows the Permaculture Food Forests Self Paced Study to help you take your knowledge of Food Forests further by developing a design for a food forest on a site of your choice.  

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

Assess a landscape for a Food Forest

Consider soil and water resources to support your food forest

Suggest plant relationships for your design

Outline yields that can be harvested over time from your food forest

Throughout each week of this course, you will be working with an instructor who will guide you in your design process. You will incorporate the information that you gathered about potential plants in your food forest during the Permaculture Food Forests Self Paced Study in your final design. 

Practicum Overview

Week 1 focuses on gathering the information to provide the foundational understanding for your design.  You will outline the goals for your design and develop the base map for your design site.  

Week 2 builds on the foundation from week 1.  You will identify the off-site influence that impact your design site, and develop overlays to aid in your site analysis process.

Week 3 highlights the soil and water resources of your design site.  You will discover the current benefits and challenges of your soil type and determine how to develop a design response. A water overlay will be created to highlight efficient methods for hydrating your new food forest. 

Week 4 focuses on building relationships between plants for interconnection and resiliency in your design.  You will develop a list of plants that you would like in your design and create guild communities. 

Week 5 is the cumulative week of the class. You will finalize your design concept and prepare a portfolio that includes your final design, management plan throughout the year, yields that are generated over time, and phase planning for your design installation.  

This course will be supplemented with the Natural Capital Database, an international database of useful plants to help you find species that suit your unique needs and climate. Throughout the course, we will offer case studies on various types of food forests. 


Learning Formats

Design by Oregon State University, this expert-led course features the following learning formats:

  • Interactive guidance from an instructor
  • Video lectures
  • Multimedia resources
  • Readings 
  • Exercises


Self paced: On demand. Access any time.
Practicum: Feb. 8 - March 14, 2021
price (2)
Self paced:$195
Practicum: $295

Additional Permaculture Trainings

Advanced Permaculture Design for Climate Resilience

Feb. 8 - Mar. 14, 2021

Permaculture: Rainwater Harvesting Online Course

June 3 - July 14, 2019


Marisha Auerbach

Marisha Auerbach is an internationally recognized permaculture educator, designer and speaker based in Portland, OR. She has been practicing, studying and teaching permaculture for over twenty years in the Pacific Northwest. Marisha has worked in diverse environments from the humid temperate climate to the tropical rainforest in Belize to the arid landscapes of Colorado and Montana. Her international experience includes work in Belize, Haiti, Nicaragua and Vietnam.

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.