The Food Forest

Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) with David Holmgren


Dates: April 21-25, May 6-8 & 21-22, 2022

View PDF about this and other courses

Please register your interest if you would like to know when we open this course for bookings.

Why study permaculture?

Join us for internationally-recognised permaculture training that will help you design sustainable, abundant homes, businesses, professions and communities.

Whilst population growth and consumption levels are pushing our Planet towards a catastrophic environmental tipping point, permaculture design offers a way that we, as individuals and communities, can take control of our future and live sustainably.

It is a design system which draws upon the great truths of traditional knowledge, modern scientific understandings and the ethics of a peaceful and democratic society. Developed in Australia in the late 70’s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, it is now taught in over 150 countries. Over a million people have graduated from Design Courses and are using this tool to build resilience and diversity into their lives, their local communities & in the workplace.

David Suzuki dubs permaculture 'Australia's greatest intellectual export'.

Permaculture can be employed by anyone, whatever profession or skill, on any scale: from individual, household, urban or rural, to balconies, backyards & neighbourhoods, to farms, factories, businesses, schools and cities anywhere on the planet and in any climate. It offers a sustainable landscape, dignified human-scale living and self-reliant children who have the confidence to design a sustainable future for themselves.

Permaculture is based on three ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of Community and Acceptance of personal responsibility for consumption and population. Many practical design principles, technologies and strategies have evolved to make permaculture one of the most accessible and dynamic solutions to the issues we face in the 21st Century.

Permaculture Design Certificate

This 10 day intensive design course, taught at The Food Forest will present you with an opportunity to consider your life in a new light and give you increased confidence and many skills needed to design a sustainable and meaningful place for your future. David Holmgren will present during the first teaching block to lay the foundation. To best deal with COVID challenges, this year David’s participation will be interactive via Zoom, rather than travelling across from Victoria. The curriculum is unchanged and the experienced team of SA tutors will present on-site.

You will work face-to-face with a group of motivated fellow students with diverse skills and backgrounds and learn through lectures, practical activities, small group work, case studies, film, field trips and games. In addition to our teaching team, you will have access to a wide range of printed and digital resources.

The extended format of the course is designed to cause minimum disruption to other parts of your life. It will allow you to absorb and practise skills from one learning block before moving on to the next.

Please note that the first teaching block of 5 days starts on Thursday April 22nd and includes the Anzac Day public holiday on Monday April 26th. Over the 3 teaching blocks, there are 3 days in total which are weekdays; these may need some planning to have off. The program starts each day at 8.30am and we finish 5.15pm, apart from Saturday May 22nd when we have a shared dinner and final night party. Whilst this format may seem less than ideal if you are from a distant location, many participants use it as an opportunity to visit friends, permaculture projects or WWOOF between teaching blocks (COVID-willing).

In The Food Forest PDC you will work on a major design project of your choice. Many of the excellent designs have been implemented around the world. ‘Homework’ will be required outside the course hours & between teaching blocks.

Whilst many people study permaculture as a design system for their personal and/or professional lives, successful completion of the course will qualify you for a Permaculture Design Certificate which makes you eligible to practice or teach permaculture commercially. The course may also be recognised as relevant prior learning towards the completion of requirements for the nationally accredited VET Certificate IV in Permaculture.


The course at The Food Forest will cover such topics as:

  • Permaculture ethics, principles & design of sustainable systems
  • Reading landscape, land capability assessment, site mapping
  • Personal, family and community strategies 
  • Passive solar design for houses and structures
  • Sustainable energy sources, ‘waste’ and recycling
  • Appropriate human settlements, architecture and planning
  • Linking of design elements for maximum efficiency
  • Soil management/ Soil health: improvements and maintenance
  • Urban and rural farming and gardening
  • Orchard and food forest design and practice
  • Alternative economic models & legal structures
  • Catchments, water management (urban & rural) and aquaculture
  • Revegetation, agroforestry, bush food and wildlife
  • Value-adding and direct marketing of food
  • Application of Permaculture Design in all professions & trades
  • Design for extreme events

Whilst many examples will be drawn from warm temperate environments (as experienced in South Australia), care will be taken to make the teaching relevant to other climatic areas.

We stress that the PDC is a design course and there is insufficient time to cover the fine detail of managing elements such as how to care for chickens or grow mushrooms. We, and others, do offer workshops on such skills.


Principal Tutors

David Holmgren, co-originator of the concept of permaculture, will be presenting via Zoom during the first part of the course, providing a unique opportunity to revisit your values and techniques or start your permaculture career at the cutting edge. In 2003 David published “Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability”, a book which was the first significant development on the permaculture concept since Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture Designers’ Manual” (1988). David continues to refine permaculture in his writings and research. His new book, ‘RetroSuburbia’ was launched in 2018 and is a key reference for practical urban design. Late 2020 he and Beck Lowe launched “Our Street” based on “Aussie St in Retrosurbia” aimed at kids.

To find out more about David and permaculture, see



Annemarie Brookman is co-owner of The Food Forest and runs its organic market garden and busy office. She organises The Food Forest’s stall at the Adelaide Farmers Market and coordinates volunteers and staff at the property. She has observed societies, crafts and cuisines in many countries. Her passion for local, wholesome, delicious and visually beautiful food and her skills as a designer are expressed in a direct and practical manner. She is expert in the integration of poultry and vegetable production and is a keen observer & photographer of insect ecosystems. Time management, small scale marketing, engaging children in gardening, mentoring to empower people to get involved with the future of their food and sustainable home-building are included in her talents. She is qualified in permaculture design & training, art and craft.


Graham Brookman has experienced land use all over the world and his search for ecologically sustainable farming systems led him to the permaculture model devised by Mollison and Holmgren. Graham has put the model to the test and teaches his findings in an energetic, interactive and practical style. Discovering how to build with strawbales has given Graham free rein with the construction of a series of beautiful and environmentally responsible structures. He has taught hundreds of others how simple it is to use straw bales in building anything from a garden bench to a house.

He is a qualified horticulturalist, teacher and permaculture designer and was founding chairman of the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market and the Gawler Environment Centre. Though first a farmer and horticulturalist, he has been involved in town planning and has made numerous educational films. He is passionate about water and sunshine and their capture and efficient use and has created a new breed of mini sheep for use in orchards, vineyards and farms.

Guest Tutors and Field Visits

A wide range of guest tutors, selected for skills and qualifications in their particular field and their commitment to sustainable living and permaculture, will also teach in the course. Extensive notes are provided. Tours will visit a wide variety of outstanding examples of permaculture and the people who are making it work, in and near Adelaide.


This course will be safely managed in accordance with the current government guidelines and The Food Forest COVID-safe management plan. Given the quickly changing nature of border restrictions, 2021 may be a year that better suits local South Australians attending this PDC, than interstate participants.


The Food Forest is a remarkable 20 hectare, certified organic permaculture farm and learning centre that is the result of the passion and vision of owners Graham & Annemarie. From its buzzing biodiversity come over 150 varieties of organically grown fruit and nuts, cereal and vegetables, honey and carob beans, as well as free range eggs, livestock, nursery plants and timber. Most of The Food Forest’s produce is sold at the Adelaide Farmers Market. We’ll be harvesting and eating some of the products during the PDC!

Broadband Wi-Fi access is available in the teaching area.

Teaching and research

The farm conducts research into organic growing and climate change adaptation and hosts collections of tree crop varieties representing a unique genetic resource, willingly shared with others wishing to establish sustainable plantings. Valuable information about the hydrogeology of the Adelaide Plain has come from the farm’s scheme to draw floodwater from the Gawler River and recharge the aquifer underlying the locality, to offset declining water levels and quality. The Food Forest has drawn upon inventive technologies for water harvesting and underground water storage in India, to capture and transform stormwater into a valuable input.

The Food Forest also has an extensive short courses program which complements the PDC. The property operates as one big teaching area and course participants will be involved in a hands-on permaculture project such as revegetation or garden construction.


The heritage-listed, pioneer homestead and much of the history of the farm have been retained. When the Brookmans bought the property in 1986, it was not much more than a bare barley paddock; only a few towering River Red Gums remained along the Gawler River from the time when the Kaurna Aboriginal people camped in their shade and gathered food from the land. The riparian understorey had become a mass of boxthorn, prickly pear and sour sob and the soil was degraded from years of continuous cropping. The indigenous riparian ecosystem has now largely been restored, and the revegetation systems developed have been adopted by other groups.

A movie made about the river repair is at

Sustainable building technology

An old stone barn has been transformed into a Learning Centre for the presentation of courses and workshops. Nearby is the government-approved ‘loo with a view’, a Clivus Multrum composting toilet & reedbed system which transforms human by-products into reeds for mulching, rich compost for fertiliser and saves many thousands of litres of water every year.

Environmentally responsible building technologies are also demonstrated in ‘The Studio’, Cellar-door, an Eco-gazebo, the tiny ‘Cosy Cottage’ and a cool room, all of which are constructed with strawbales.

The Cob Oven shows the ancient craft of building with special mud mixtures.

The extension to the heritage-listed homestead is an exemplar of passive solar design using a fusion of straw bale, stone and well-insulated corrugated iron.

You are able to view a segment about the extension, that was part of the National Sustainable House Day in Sept 2020 which was a virtual event due to COVID:

Rainwater is collected for use in the house; grey and black water is treated by a reedbed system and used in orchard irrigation. Solar panels heat the water and photovoltaic cells provide the house with almost 7kW of green electricity; surplus power is fed into the grid. A 26kW PV system sits on the food processing shed to supply electricity for food storage & processing and water pumping.

Awards & ABC TV

  • 2016 Permaculture Elders Award for Contribution to Permaculture
  • 2013 Winner, Barossa Regional Food Awards
  • Finalist Premier’s Natural Resources Management Award: Service to NRM
  • 2012 Honourable mention in The (En)Rich list: Post Growth Institute
  • 2011 Adelaide Showground Farmers Market: Chef’s Inspiration Award
  • 2009 Australia Day Corporate Citizen Award, Town of Gawler
  • 2007 Winner SA Premier’s Food Awards: Environmental Sustainability
  • 2006 Finalist National Banksia Environmental Awards, Education category
  • 2005 Winner Nature Foundation SA, Good Business Environment Award for Environmental Responsibility & Leadership
  • 2004 Winner Premier’s Food Awards Leadership in Sustainable Industry
  • Finalist Year of the Built Environment, Exemplars Program 
  • 2003 Winner Organic Federation of Australia National Award Best Organic Producer. Runner up for the Best Organic Education Project.
  • 2005, 2001 State finalist National Landcare Awards
  • ABC Gardening Australia: Episode 10: A farming special on June 2, 2012. See the 7 minute, permaculture focussed segment on:

YouTube - Food Forest TV Channel

The Food Forest has made 30 micro movies with experienced cinematographer/video editor Sam Collins, to create 'how to' videos, ranging from practical strawbale building techniques to controlling codling moth in your apple trees and restoring your watercourse.

See the films at



This year we are not able to offer any accommodation at The Food Forest so students need to organise their own. There is a range of accommodation options available in and near Gawler to suit your needs. The closest is at our neighbours, 'Riverdell' who offer a variety of accommodation options including camping and well-appointed homes with prices as low as $15 per night for an unpowered campsite, all within 5 min walking distance of The Food Forest. Limited spaces available. For bookings, contact Justin Martin from Riverdell Spiritual Centre on 0481 851 329 or via

Of course if you don’t live far away, you may commute from home or a friend's place.


Lunch, morning & afternoon tea each day and a special dinner on Sat May 22nd are included in the registration and include vegetarian, vegan and omnivorous options. Delicious, healthy, local and seasonal is important to us! A lot of the food served at the course will be harvested from The Food Forest, including many varieties of fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs. We have also preserved produce from the different seasons. We don’t produce everything; milk, cheese, bread and some grains, pulses & meat will be sourced locally, in many cases direct from the producers.

We do our best to cater for different needs but as we are cooking for a substantial number of people, please note that for very specialised dietary requirements you may need to bring some of your own supplies.

Come Prepared

We strongly recommend reading some of the following texts. Many of these texts are available though David Holmgren’s online store or visit your local library:


  • David Holmgren’s new Book (2018)RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future
  • Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren. His website:, has an abstract of his book as a free download. Look for ‘Essence of Permaculture’. Easy to read and not too long.
  • Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison & Reny Slay - Tagari (
  • The Holistic Life by Ian Lillington, Axiom Australia, (publ 2007)
  • Permaculture Designers Manual, Bill Mollison - Tagari (This is the standard reference book for designers but it is not a ‘light’ read) (
  • The Permaculture Handbook, Peter Bane, 2012, New Society Publishers, Canada
  • Permaculture Design, A step-by-step guide, Aranya, Permanent Publications, 2012
  • People & Permaculture, Looby Macnamara, Permanent Publications, 2012 (
  • Permaculture Pioneers, stories from the new frontier, edited by Kerry Dawborn & Caroline Smith, publ:
  • Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway, 2009 2nd ed, Chelsea Green
  • The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience, Toby Hemenway, 2015, Chelsea Green
  • Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Balconies, Rooftops & Beyond, Judith Anger, Immo Fiebrig, Permanent Publications, 2013 
  • Tropical Permaculture Guidebook - McKenzie and Lemos (
  • PIP magazine: Australia’s permaculture magazine. Full of great articles – wonderful to subscribe to!



There are many other Permaculture book titles, DVDs and there is a lot to google about Permaculture. Have fun!


The costs are listed in the downloadable pdf brochure. It lists early bird discounts & standard prices.

If you need to establish a payment plan to pay the course fee by installments over the period leading up to the PDC, please contact us. We are happy to facilitate this, but we ask you to set up this plan prior to the course, so that the full fee is paid by the time the PDC commences.

After Care

Stay in touch with us by email, Facebook or our free quarterly Food Forest Newsletter by subscribing on our website.

The Next PDC

Our next PDC after this one is planned for autumn 2022.

For Details

Annemarie Brookman at The Food Forest:

Postal: PO Box 859, Gawler SA 5118, Australia

P: +61 (0)8 8522 6450


Location: 80 Clifford Rd, Hillier, SA 5116. 20 min walk from Tambelin Railway station on the Gawler line.