Earn a Permaculture Design Certificate on one of New Zealand’s best permaculture farms.
Our programme is unique in the world of permaculture in that it combines best practice teaching and learning along with best practice regenerative land management.
The programme balances content, process and reflection, while nurturing systems thinking skills. It’s about developing a way of thinking that recognizes the connections between diverse elements on the farm and how they interact, along with the hands-on skills required to work effectively with cultivated ecologies.
3RD JANUARY, 2023 – 8 WEEKS WITH A WEEK OFF IN THE MIDDLE. $850 CLIMATE RESILIENCE PDC IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ECO-DESIGN FOR CLIMATE RESILIENCE – WORKING WITH NATURE INSTEAD OF AGAINST IT. THIS PDC FOCUSES ON ECOLOGICAL LAND MANAGEMENT, REGENERATIVE FARMING, WATER MANAGEMENT, ECO HOUSING, APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY, HUMAN-SCALE APPROACHES,AND TRANSPORT ALONG WITH THE FULL PDC CURRICULUM.
7TH MARCH, 2023 – 8 WEEKS WITH A WEEK OFF IN THE MIDDLE. $850 ABUNDANCE PDC AUTUMN IS A GREAT TIME TO BE ON THE FARM WITH HEAPS OF FRESH KAI FROM THE ORCHARD, GARDENS AND ANIMALS. THIS PDC FOCUSES ON GROWING, PROCESSING AND PRESERVING KAI ALONG WITH ANIMAL CARE, BUSH RESTORATION, AND SOME ECO-BUILDING PROJECTS.
We’re excited to be working with Horizons Regional Council and the Whanganui Learning Centre to develop a programme based around community climate resilience in the areas of whare, whenua, and whanau.
These events are free for residents of the Horizons region. Partial funding comes from Horizons Regional Council. Spaces limited. Register: email@example.com Stormwater without the Mansplaining 24th August, 5:30-7:30 pm Whanganui Learning Centre, 232 Wicksteed St. Masks Required. Do you have a damp home? Occasional flooding on your section? Pooling under your home? This programme explains the ins and outs of stormwater and the various factors effecting it, as well as how it impacts on individual households and how residents can address it affordably and effectively.
Managing Marginal Land in/for Winter August 28, 2-4 pm. Registration essential. We’ve spent the last 8 years managing our land for too much and too little water. It’s in great shape and we’re opening the farm gate for a tour.
Holistic Land Management– Tour October 16th, 9:30 – 12:30 am. Registration essential. Farm Tour of Paddocks and Hillsides, Non-Intensive Orchards, Stream Restoration, Bush Restoration, and Browse Block (Permaculture Zones 3-5). Includes water management, preventing slips, managing gorse, silvopasture, integrating poplar and willow, managing goats and kunekune pigs.
Climate Camp for Teens 29-30 October Postponed until March Kaitiaki Farm, Okoia, Whanganui Open to teens from the entire Horizons Region. Supporting and empowering teens in the face of increasing extreme weather events caused by human-induced climate change.
Family Climate Fair 13 November, 1-3 pm. Whanganui Intermediate School Hall Empowering families to support one another to embrace more sustainable and resilient lifestyles. Activities, information tables, kai, speakers, group discussions, bike repair, games, toy & clothing swap, creating a bulk buying network & more
Family meet-up: Kowhai Park Fun & Games December 10th, 12:00-3:00 A relaxed family-friendly alternative to the “silly season.” Bring an example of a low-waste lunch. Bike repair tools will be on site.
Family meet-up: Bike, Bus to the Beach January 7th, 11:00-3:00 Two-wheeled hikoi from the city bridge to Castlecliff Beach, or take the bus from Trafalgar Square. Then a big play day in the sand! (Bus leaves Trafalgar Square at 11:45 and leaves Castlecliff at 3:00.)
The Low-Carbon – High Efficiency – Affordable Home January 15th, 2:00-4:00. Registration essential. This workshop helps demystify the home-building process for climate resilience and affordability. Topics include passive solar design, super-insulation, high performance windows, and where to claw back cost savings. Keeping Cool During a Heat Wave January 18th, 5:30-7:00 Whanganui Learning Centre, 232 Wicksteed St. Too hot to sleep? We’ll share some ideas on how to keep your home as cool as possible without breaking the bank.
Family meet-up January 29th, TBD
Building Resilience on Your Land April TBD. Registration essential.
Healthy Homes for Healthcare & Social Workers April/May TBC Whanganui Regional Health Network This programme helps healthcare and social workers to empower families improve the health and comfort of their homes. Register with Angela Weekly at the Whanganui Regional Health Network.
Celebrating a decade as the region’s leader in sustainability and resilience programming.
Brown Bag – Green Home 27th July, 12-1. FREE Whanganui Learning Centre, 232 Wicksteed St. BYO lunch and learn about the best options for home retrofit and renovation. Funding provided by ACE Aotearoa
Pruning Fruit Trees 27th July, 1-2. FREE Whanganui Learning Centre, 232 Wicksteed St. Outdoor workshop pruning pip fruit and stone fruit. Funding provided by ACE Aotearoa
Hands-On with Poplar Poles& Tree Lucerne(Tagasaste)
August 14th, 2-4: pm. Funded by Horizons’ Pūtea Hapori Urapare Āhuarangi – Community Climate Response Fund
Poplars and tagasaste are the fastest and cheapest ways to get sizeable trees established on your land. Both are fast-growing, drought resistant and inexpensive to buy. Both respond well to pruning and make great stock fodder. This hands-on workshop includes planting poplar poles and propagating tree lucerne from seed.
The Low-Carbon – High Efficiency – Affordable Home
September 18th, 2-4: pm. Funded by Horizons’ Pūtea Hapori Urapare Āhuarangi – Community Climate Response Fund
This workshop helps demystify the home-building process for climate resilience and affordability. Topics include passive solar design, super-insulation, high performance windows, and where to claw back cost savings.
Kaitiaki Farm Weekend
Saturday afternoon 2 – 5 pm: Farm Tour of Gardens, Intensive Orchards, & Farm Buildings (Permaculture Zones 1-2). Includes integrating farm foul into fruit & veg production and what are the best tools to use for low-input/high performance systems.
Sunday morning 9:30 – 12:30: Farm Tour of Paddocks and Hillsides, Non-Intensive Orchards, Stream Restoration, Bush Restoration, and Browse Block (Permaculture Zones 3-5). Includes water management, preventing slips, managing gorse, integrating poplar and willow, managing goats and kunekune pigs.
Sunday afternoon 1:30 – 4:30: Eco Design/Build for Sleep Outs, Tiny Homes, Minor Dwellings. Includes passive solar design, ‘super-wall’, retrofit double-glazing, building code changes, wastewater compliance, compost toilets.
Choose any combination: $50 each or $130 for all. (Couples $240)
Meals and accommodation also available – please enquire.
Climate Camp for Teens 29-30 October TBC Funded by Horizons’ Pūtea Hapori Urapare Āhuarangi – Community Climate Response Fund
Family Climate Fair 12 November TBC Funded by Horizons’ Pūtea Hapori Urapare Āhuarangi – Community Climate Response Fund
Permaculture Design Certificate
January, 2023, Dates TBD
Love Your Land Day February 16th, 10-4: pm. BYO Lunch. Funded by Horizons’ Pūtea Hapori Urapare Āhuarangi – Community Climate Response Fund Kaitiaki Farm is a thriving regenerative farm on the outskirts of Whanganui. The day will be split between a farm tour and presentations by Horizons officers along with specialists in other aspects of land management.
Immerse yourself in eco-design for climate resilience on a thriving permaculture farm outside of Whanganui. We take a systems approach to managing the farm holistically to maximise carbon sequestration and minimise carbon emissions.
This PDC focuses on ecological land management, regenerative agriculture, water management, eco-housing – both building and retrofit, appropriate technology, human-scale approaches and transport along with the full PDC curriculum.
5th January 2022 – 8 WEEKS WITH A WEEK OFF IN THE MIDDLE. ($700)
From a recent intern: “I’ve just completed my 2 month PDC at the Eco School and have had an absolutely sensational time. If you want to learn how to become a permaculture home-steader FOR REAL, skip the two weeks of PowerPoint presentations offered elsewhere, and come get fully immersed in the lifestyle. Dani and Nelson have got the art of sustainable living down pat, and both are an absolute gold-mine of knowledge to be tapped. I left knowing how to do everything from preparing and planting garden beds; to raising livestock; milking and cheese-making; harvesting and preserving; butchering, baking (no candle-stick making…); DIY and carpentry. Essentially, we covered in incredible depth the art and science of ecology and land regeneration, as well as all the principles of design and analysis vital to making permaculture work properly. It was like being back at uni, except this time I was learning something useful (and deeply fascinating).” – Harry
Turning liabilities into assets is a full-time job on our farm. The 2015 floods and land slips focused our attention and efforts on stabilising hillsides and stream banks for the last half decade at the expense of having a big vegetable garden and…surfing.
But that storm event also shaped our thinking about the holistic management of the farm and what plants and animals would best suit our conditions, and also work in coordination with each other for synergistic effects. The main goal has been to develop a climate resilient farm that withstands extremes of both wet and dry. This summer we’ve been tested.
You can see in the image above how dry the hillsides are, although patches of gorse remain darker. You can just make out our white goats grazing a paddock with longer grass that we’ve just opened to them this week. But our main source of nutrition for them over the last month has been poplars on the hillsides and willows along the stream.
The kune kune pigs even nibbled away at the tender tips of the poplars.
They left the branches throughly stripped.
The willow below are the first ones we put in after the flood that took cubic metres of soil with it. We rammed them into the banks with the expectation that we would actively manage them as a chop and drop fodder system for the goats during late summer and early autumn so that they would not get overgrown.
And the results! It’s been so rewarding to watch our fat and healthy goats munching away happily in the middle of a drought.
In the previous two posts I wrote about the work we’ve put into restoring our riparian corridor and into stabilising our slopes. This final post is about work we’ve carried out on the plateau at the height of land to drought-proof and flood-proof our property simultaneously.
It’ll be impossible to explain everything we’re doing and why in a series of blog posts, but hopefully readers will get an idea of the intention behind our work: primarily slowing the flow of water during peak periods, storing water safely for later use; redirecting water away from vulnerable areas; planting trees that will hold the soil; planting drought-tolerant stock fodder; decompressing soils to improve their function; designing in seasonal change to our systems.
One way we slow flowing water high on our property is with a series of swales and a small pond. Most of the swales are in and around our market gardens.
The image below is when we just started putting in beds from the top after building the swale at the bottom.
This photo was taken a long time ago but shows the water very clearly in the mid-slope swale.
This larger swale is at the bottom of the market gardens and is large enough to store significant amounts of water. In winter we have the option of using a submersible pump to direct water in a variety of directions depending on the forthcoming weather and other factors we may consider.
Again, this is a very old photo taken while we were digging the series of three basins connected by ditches on contour behind the earthen berm.
Like all of the swales, we also dug the pond by hand with our interns.
It currently holds 25,000 litres but each summer we dig it a little deeper. We’ve planted willow rods around it for goat fodder as needed.
The clay soil that we dug out was shifted by wheelbarrow to stabilise a bank under some pines that were cut years ago. This is directly above a track which is vital to farm management. We buried the drain pipe and backfilled up to the base of the pine stumps.
A lot of this work was prompted by the 2015 Whanganui flooding (shown above), which left us with slips including one above this track and directly underneath our home.
We always try to direct water away from buildings. I wrote about this French drain recently.
This former stable is at the height of land. When we arrived there was no guttering or spouting on the building and all the water was directed against the east side.
I put up the gutters about three years ago and now we have three options for directing the water: in winter we can run it straight into the huge storm drain along the road…
…in spring we can direct it into 15,000 litres worth of tanks inside the stable; and in summer we can pipe it out into the “mud pit” along the ridge but a good distance from the stables. This trickle feeds the paddock and orchard from the top in both directions.
As an old horse property, the soils were compressed and sour when we arrived. We’ve spent a lot of time improving soil function, including liming and putting in the no till garden beds one by one.
We’ve nearly reached the 2,000 milestone for native trees, shrubs and grasses, so I’ve turned my attention to planting more tagasaste about the place for superior drought tolerant stock fodder and shelter.
All of these strategies work in conjunction in four dimensions. In total, it’s a great example of designing from patterns to detail, and is the primary lesson of our PDC Internship programme. Our interns may not go on to manage farms, but everyone of them will go on to live in a world of increasing extreme weather events.
In the first post I wrote about stabilising the stream banks and feeding out pollarded willows to the goats. I also mentioned the casuarina and cabbage trees planted in the riparian corridor. Here is an image of them.
Much of this work designing for climate change came after the 2015 Whanganui floods. Here is a picture of the neighbours place the day after.
This is the neighbour on the other side. Lots of dead sheep.
But truth be told we had started our work before the June flood. As a matter of fact, just two days before the storm hit the Whanganui region I was finishing up a French drain around our home with the help of my daughter.
Because it was mid-June we were also preparing our garlic for planting later that night.
At least someone enjoyed the weather.
Our calf, Heidi, weathered the storm down in the valley. Note the culvert that I am clearing in the image below and keep it in mind when viewing the image that follows.
The willow in the foreground gives you the relative location of the culvert, which you can’t even see due to the extensive plantings along the stream following fencing off the riparian corridor.
But this post should really be about the hillsides, where slips occur, and how to reduce the risks of future slipping. We have planted over 100 3-metre poplar poles that come from the regional government. They should be soaked for a week before planting 700 mm deep in mid-winter.
We locate them mostly in the valleys where water is concentrated during storms.
After three winters of planting, we are now up to the upper slopes. On the side of the farm with the goats we use tree guards and on the side with the kune kune pigs we do not use them.
But I am told that it takes seven years for the roots of poplars to grow broad enough to hold the hillsides against slips, which raises the question: what to do during the intermediate years to prevent slips from taking out the poplars? Our answer has been targeted drainage.
There are certain areas where we can capture concentrated surface runoff on the hillsides and leapfrog it over the most vulnerable slopes. This is not ideal, but may be a reality in a world of increasing extreme weather events.
In summer we take the pipes down and store them under trees out of direct sunlight. This preserves the plastic pipes and retains water high on the landscape during the dry season. It is an expensive measure but part of what I call Triage Permaculture. Seasonally installing and dis-installing the pipes is part of what I call four-dimensional design management.
Sadly, we’ve also had a neighbour dumping water onto our land illegally, which has caused an additional slip.
Because they will not take responsibility for their own water as prescribed under The Building Act, I have had to put in a drain and a sump (made from a flower pot) and more plastic pipe to redirect the water away from the vulnerable area.
We’ve also put in a surface drain to draw stormwater away from the top of the slip, which is dangerously close to a fence and a major farm track.
This has all been a massive effort requiring tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours labour. But at the end of the day, if I want my children to inherit a resilient farm there really is no other option.
Above all else, we design our farm for climate change. Primarily this means drought-proofing and flood-proofing simultaneously. While we employ many strategies along these lines, here is one that is very straight-forward.
In June, 2015 Whanganui experienced an extreme rain event that caused slips and erosion on our farm. In one area approximately 30 cubic metres of stream bank disappeared overnight.
When we went to inspect it the next day we were awed by the destructive power of the water.
The flood was so powerful is sheered fencing wire through pure tension.
From that day – just 10 months into our ownership of the farm – our thinking about how to manage the 13 acre property took a drastic change. We fenced over 400 metres of stream, planted over 2,000 trees, and put in another 500 metres of fencing to exclude stock from sensitive areas.
Along the stream we planted a host of native species including grasses and cabbage trees known for their fibrous root systems that hold soil in place. We also planted over 100 Australian casuarina, also known as sheoak and river oak.
As an emergency measure we drove willow poles into the stream bank in the worst effected areas. We intended to use the willow and sheoak as stock fodder – easily pollarding it and dropping branches over the fence for eager goats.
Over the last two years the willows have grown up to the point where this week we were able to cut branches for the goats for the first time. Although we’re not in a drought at the moment this is the type of emergency stock feeding we’ve designed for in case of long periods with no rain.
At the end of the day, by fencing the stream and planting its riparian corridor with the proper species we are able to flood-proof and drought-proof this section of our farm simultaneously. In a future of increased extreme weather events it seems like the only viable option.
It does not matter what the weather is like 99.9 percent of the time. The other bit can destroy roads, homes, lives and cities. Extreme weather events have been on the rise for over three decades and seem to be picking up in force and frequency in the last five years. The news provides a steady stream of such catastrophes. Climate scientists often call this, “an increased incidence of extreme weather events.”
Two months ago we had a strong wind event that brought down lots of branches on our farm.
It only takes a few hours of high winds to do the damage.
In April we had two rain events that caused a large slip – mostly due to a neighbour illegally dumping water onto our land.
A major challenge for permaculturists is to design for extreme weather events. It will be the greatest challenge of our time. We are developing a resilient farm that can best resist both droughts and floods by turning liabilities into assets and buffering shocks.
Our garlic is high and dry – by design. All of our growing beds are raised rows perpendicular to slope with drainage on the ends.
Meanwhile, this is how the Whanganui District Council responds – bulldozing wind- and wave-driven sand back into the Tasman Sea. Fighting climate change with diesel fuel! Good luck with that.
Sustainability is not enough. We need regenerative approaches to taking on the challenges facing humanity and all life on earth. As with all of the permaculture principles, regenerative design thinking can be applied to every aspect of modern human existence. Bringing land back to health is just one example.
On Kaitiaki Farm we have been bringing a worn-out horse property back to health for the last three years. For the most part the results have been incredible so far. This area was mostly bare soil with a light covering of thistles three years ago. Now it has a complete blanket of grass and not a thistle in sight.
On the slope just below it we’ve planted manuka and poplars.
Below that we planted tagasaste.
And further down there are now olives and then avocados.
And finally – at the bottom of the valley – we’ve fenced the stream and planted 1,500 native trees, shrubs and grasses.
Elsewhere on the farm we’re also seeing great recovery. The slope below suffered a major slip during the floods of 2015. We have worked hard to protect and restore the hillside since then.
All of this planting means lots of propagation. Here are 4 trays of tagasaste grown from seed.
Additionally we buy in and have donated hundreds of native plants.
On this farm we’re taking the long view. Investing in erosion control, soil health, and water management now will pay dividends in the future. I call this “triage permaculture.” Vegetable gardens can come later.