By Kris Holstrom

Permaculture Rocks!

“It was definitely a life-changing experience for me!”

“Intense and challenging, but so worthwhile.”

“I’ll never see things the same way again.”

Those are just a few of the comments from students during the two-week intensive Permaculture Design Course (PDC) recently completed at SWIRL’s (Southwest Institute for Resilience) Tomten Farm Project near Placerville. Part of the University Centers of the San Miguel’s Summer College series, the PDC found 13 students studying systems and connections in everything from growing plants in guilds and tribes to renewable energy to harvesting water off roofs and in the landscape. Teachers included Biodynamic grower Pat Frazier from Peace & Plenty Farm near Hotchkiss; Wind Clearwater of The Oasis, also near Hotchkiss; Daniel Aragon from SWIRL; Kris Holstrom from Tomten Farm, SWIRL and TNCC; and Robyn Wilson, Executive Director of UCSM.

In two weeks a lot of ground was covered, literally and physically. Favorite activities included making keyline swales to move water and eating Goji berries and Nanking cherries straight off the bushes at The Oasis, using biodynamic sprays to enhance ripening and subsequent gorging on raspberries at Peace & Plenty Farm, and brain bending design slams throughout the course. At Tomten? It might have been the left over oatmeal facials at the end of a long hot day or maybe the community building ‘web of life’ and seed ball activities.

We visited friends during the transition from Hotchkiss to Hastings Mesa, stopping at Russell Evans' Institute of Awesomeness in Montrose, Buckhorn Gardens in Colona, Shining Mountain Herbs and the Community Garden in Ridgway. Did I mention the course was intense?

This summer is the second year of the PDC through UCSM and the teaching group is planning next year already. The team is primed and the subject couldn’t be more timely. How do we live with the Permaculture ethics: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share? How do we incorporate the 12 design principles (13 since we added FUN) in our lives whether we’re growing food for a living or working in an office?

Look for more on Permaculture in the region as we continue our conversations and design slams with recent and former course graduates. Got a piece of property begging for something restorative and productive? Want to learn more? Contact Kris or Daniel at

Students work in groups on a design slam at The Oasis

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