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Permaculture Food Forests Online Course

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

What are the Benefits of a Food Forest?

  • Food Forests design focuses on plant communities that are edible, medicinal, and enhance the local environment
  • A food forest design is low maintenance and can be applied in all bioregions.
  • Food Forests are a sustainable way to produce nourishing, healthy, and organic food
  • Improve yields result from the thoughtful design of a food forest.

About the Permaculture Food Forests Courses

This program is offered in two sections. The first section of this course is self-paced and focuses on the context of permaculture food forests. You will learn about the 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 bioregion.

You can choose to take only the first self-paced section of the course or join us for both sections with the practicum offered in Fall, Winter or Spring.

Permaculture Food Forests Self-Paced 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 self-paced 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 bioregion.
  • 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 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-Paced Course Overview

Module 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.

Module 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.

Module 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.

Module 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.

Module 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.

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

Note: The Food Forest self-study program takes approximately 30 – 40 hours to complete. Please allow at least 5 weeks to complete it before beginning the practicum.

Permaculture Food Forest Practicum

You must complete the Food Forest Self-Paced option before taking the Practicum.

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

Upon completion of this practicum 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 course in your final design. 

Practicum Overview

Weeks 1 and 2 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.  

Weeks 3 and 4 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.

Weeks 5 and 6 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. 

Weeks 7 and 8 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. 

Weeks 9 and 10 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.  

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

Scholarship Information

A very limited number of scholarships are available. Preference is given to students who live in countries where the economy makes it very difficult to pay US prices, as well as those from disadvantaged communities.  Applications are due five weeks before the start of the next course.  You will receive notification at least three weeks before the start of the next course.

Self paced:
On demand. Access any time.
September 30 - December 15, 2024
price (2)
Self paced: $195
Practicum: $395 (+$60, registration fee)

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Based on my practical experience from what I learned and by looking at other successful Food Forests projects around the world, I hope my country Philippines will adopt such wonderful technology to regreen our landscape, bring back and provide habitat to wildlife and to help contribute to food security of our exploding population.

Julie Peralta

This course by far surpassed my expectations in terms of what I would learn - the level of interaction and personal feedback from the professor was amazing.

MaryEllen McEvoy

Now I have a lot better understanding of trees and plants and their systems. Love the video's; can't get enough of them!

Esther Boreel

This is a fantastic course, jam packed with useful information on creating a food forest in any climate. I have gone back through the material multiple times and keep learning more.

Jenn Bailey Guerrero


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.