The Food Forest

Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)


Dates: April 25-29, May 11-13 & 26-27

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  • Earlybird discount (save $150 pp) until COB Monday 16th April, 2018
  • Group discount (save $50 pp) - book 2 or more people in one transaction
  • Registration includes meals, notes, entry fees on field trips and your accommodation option
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This course is now underway. Please email us to register your interest in future courses.

Why study permaculture?

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

Permaculture 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. The approach was first developed in Australia in the late 70’s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and is now taught in over 100 countries. Since then hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from Design Courses and are using this tool to build resilience and diversity into their lives at home & in the office.

Permaculture can be employed by anyone, whatever profession or skill, on any scale, from balconies and backyards 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.

It is based on three ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of Community and Acceptance of personal responsibility for consumption and population. Many 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.

About this course 

April 25-29, May 11-13 & 26-27: 10 days spread out over three teaching blocks

This 10 day intensive design course 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.

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

The extended format of the course is for busy people, 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. However the residential aspect is important, as it helps you become fully immersed in learning about sustainable living.

The first teaching block of 5 days starts Wednesday April 25th, which is Anzac Day and a Public holiday. Sessions are scheduled on most evenings, but we finish at 5pm on the last day of each block. There are 3 days in total which are ‘weekday working days’; these may need some planning to have off.

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.

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 and Graduate Certificate in Permaculture.


The course at The Food Forest will focus on the southern Australian environment and the ways we can enrich rural and metropolitan landscapes. It will cover such topics as:
  • Permaculture ethics, principles & design of sustainable systems
  • Reading the landscape - land capability assessment
  • Passive solar design for houses and structures
  • Sustainable energy, ‘waste’ and recycling
  • Appropriate human settlements
  • Personal, family and community strategies
  • Soil management/ Soil health: improvements and maintenance
  • Urban, garden, and farm planning
  • Orchard and food forest design
  • 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 professions & trades
  • Design processes and practices

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 during the first part of the course, providing a unique opportunity to update 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: A Designers’ Manual” which was published in 1988. David continues to refine permaculture in his writings and research.

His new book, ‘RetroSuburbia’ is earmarked to hit the book shelves this year. 

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, 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 Bill Mollison and David 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 an amazing series of beautiful and environmentally responsible structures. He has taught hundreds of others how simple it is to use strawbales 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 Natural Resource Centre. Though first a farmer, he has been involved in town planning and has made numerous educational films.


Guest Tutors and Field Visits

A wide range of guest tutors, selected for skills in their particular field and their commitment to sustainable living and permaculture will also teach in the course. Tours will visit outstanding examples of permaculture, in & near Adelaide.


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 Brookman. From its buzzing biodiversity come over 150 varieties of organically grown fruit and nuts, wheat and vegetables, honey and carob beans, as well as free range eggs, 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 and 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. The Food Forest also has an extensive short courses program which complement 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.

Valuable information about the hydrogeology of the Adelaide Plain will come from the farm’s scheme to draw floodwater from the Gawler River to recharge the Q4 aquifer to offset declining water levels and quality.


The heritage-listed, pioneer homestead and much of the history of the farm has 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 attracted much public interest.

A movie made about the river repair is at

Sustainable building technology

The old stone barn has been transformed into a Learning Centre for the presentation of courses and workshops. Nearby is the Department of Health 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 & structural-grade bamboo 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 Coolroom, all of which are constructed with straw bales. 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. 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.

Awards & ABC TV

  • 2016 Permaculture Elders Award, Australian Permaculture Convergence Perth: Contribution to Permaculture
  • 2013 Winner, Barossa Regional Food Awards
  • Finalist SA Food Industry Award: PIRSA Regional Award
  • 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
  • Category finalist National Banksia Environmental Awards in Business Environmental Responsibility and 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 Landline: The Food Forest featured on ‘Landline’ on April 6th 2008. To view this informative 10 minute segment visit:
  • 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 straw bale building techniques to controlling codling moth in your apple trees and restoring your watercourse.

See the films at



The accommodation is in a share, bunk-style facility at The Food Forest. Alternatively you can bring your own van or tent, or possibly book a private cabin not too far from The Food Forest... or commute from home.


Meals are included in the registration and include vegetarian, vegan and omnivorous options. Delicious, healthy, local and in season is important to us! A lot of the food served at the course will be harvested from The Food Forest, including as many varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs. We have also preserved produce from the different seasons. We don’t produce everything; milk, cheese, bread, grains, pulses, meat will be sourced locally, in many cases direct from the producers. We do our best to cater for different needs but 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:


  • 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 (

Web based:


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


Download the brochure for prices.

The Next PDC

Our next PDC will be run in autumn 2019.

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.