UPISF is one of only a few places in Northern California where one can participate in a permaculture certificate training.  This region is blessed with world class training centers including the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas and Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma County as well as UPISF in the heart of San Francisco and around the Bay Area.  We design our training to meet the needs of people that live in dense urban settlements that want to learn more about permaculture with emphasis on applying permaculture design to cities.  While the theme of our training is urban in nature, the design skills learned are applicable anywhere in the world.

The People

We see our service at UPISF to craft inspiring, empowering and connective permaculture learning experiences where we can all experience  a fundamental shift (or reaffirmation) in how we perceive and interact with the world by emphasizing permaculture design ethics and principles and how to apply them to both our own lives and how to apply them in our landscapes and places.

Wait - What is Permaculture Again?

We find that most of the more than 500 people that have participated in UPISF permaculture training classes, when they first arrive at the training, are interested in “permaculture” and have heard something of the term, but are not quite exactly clear on what it is and what it is not.  Many think of it as a way of growing food or a gardening philosophy.  Others are aware it is more than that, but not sure if it is something that you do or just a collection of ideas.

One of our goals is to share the breadth of possible applications of permaculture design principles, ethics and methods to many aspects of our lives, our homes, our communities, our vocations and our landscapes.  Participants are often surprised to learn in a permaculture training that we explore everything from rocket stoves to compost toilets, from community currencies to home hospice design, from polycultural freshwater aquaculture to passive solar retrofits for urban buildings, from using mulch to protect and foster the soil food web to community supported agriculture models, from perennial nitrogen fixers to holistic management of rangelands, from potato columns to greywater systems, from bioswales to collective decision-making and so much more.  An incredible scope of techniques and strategies for sustainable  living in partnership with all life on earth connected by design methodology, principles and patterns of nature and ethical boundaries for action.  It seems safe to say that  we use permaculture design for much more that gardening!

Then What is Urban Permaculture?

Over 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban centers and the number is growing. Adopting strategies to meet our needs in a sane and ethical way is critical. In this course, we will learn how to design those strategies.

We start with the standardized Permaculture curriculum and add onto it insights and strategies for applying Permaculture to the urban setting. This lengthens the course to a degree, we do not omit any of the standard materials.

Our Approach

We attempt to craft a safe and interesting container where we can collaboratively share and learn about how to meet our human needs while enhancing conditions conducive to all life.  We place emphasis on our classes being learning experiences where we try to enthusiastically share possibilities – images and stories of examples of living, growing solutions to the seemingly intractable problems in our world (climate change, species extinction, etc.) and encourage participants to formulate their own questions and thinking that we can collectively explore through group discussion and small group design exercises.  In this way each of our classes is different based on the  specific interests, passions and questions of the participants.

The Experience

Weekday evening classes tend to be a combination of presented images, full group discussion, small group design exercises, small group discussion and sometimes small demonstration.  Weekday evening sessions are held in a comfortable classroom-like setting.  Participants bring snacks and beverage.  We have hot water and tea available.

Weekend days are a mixed balance of observation on field trips, morning presentation of images (sometimes short ~ 5min film clips), small group exercises, full group discussion and hands-on work (e.g., natural building work, sometimes planting trees or other vegetation, assessing and flagging contour, mapping, composting biomass, etc.).  Lunch is provided by the group for the group in a shared, potluck style where a few people bring food for everyone in rotation so we both feed each other and no one needs bring food every time.  Half of the Saturday sessions are field trips, mostly within San Francisco, and at least one field trip outside the city to a broad acre agricultural setting.  Some hands-on specific days will be on Sundays at specific sites within the city.