Pine Ridge reservation food forests

It’s almost May, there is two feet of snow in the swales we dug in 2011 at Pine Ridge, and we might get there this year just in time to hit yet another snow storm.  But we have plenty of blankets and layers; we have shovels and other tools; we’re bringing up some hard to get plants in a trailer; we’re going to plant 500 trees there this year. Plus get a beehive going, create some rainwater catchment, fill a pond, and anything else we have the resources and manpower to complete.

Food forests at Pine Ridge reservation are full of metaphor. The Lakota have experienced a long history of  sabotage of their food supply.  Pine Ridge has recently declared itself sovereign.  There is a place in that for the seven generation food and water security that can be created by a food forest.  Food forests can create calm amidst storm; they are resilient for generations.

There is a spirit to Pine Ridge that keeps us coming back for more. It’s hard to describe. People have tried. You have to read between the lines to see it, without going there yourself and experiencing it.

As we are getting ready for our yearly trip, we started thinking about some of the highlights of last year’s journey in May of 2012.

About how the badlands looked with the sun setting on them when we were driving from Rapid City to Thunder Valley with a car stuffed so full of plants it felt like a jungle in there.

How the wind blew so hard one day you could stand at a 45 degree angle and not fall down and how we still dug trench and laid irrigation, leaning sideways. It was kind of fun. You could yell and the wind would take your voice somewhere into the next field, but the person next to you couldn’t hear you too well.

How the wind blew kept blowing so hard it shredded not one, but two of my tents! Both of them! And then someone just gave me a tent out of the blue. Which was low profile, thankfully (I know this secret well, having spent a month with my high profile tent wall resting on my face whenever the wind blew, the first year I stayed there – it miraculously did not shred or break). I had loaned my low profile to someone else so was using one of those high profile family sized jobs that someone loaned me – which does not work at Pine Ridge – do not bring!  LOL. Do not bring!

How the high school group that was there helping us dig trench in the sleet (yes, it sleeted and froze after the frost date of May 15, and after we planted tomatoes for Kimilelee that all died 🙁 got smart and used their cars and vans as wind breaks for their tents. They made a guild, while we, on the other hand, were scattered about like random, forlorn fruit trees with no skirt or blanket, or like stranger cats at opposite ends of the yard with their backs turned on each other in a snow storm.  (Pine Ridge kind of has a way of making you want to enjoy all that wide open prairie space, so we pitch our tents all over the field and embrace the weather)

How most of the volunteers who said they would come, didn’t show up, and we ended up with between three and six (at various times) super intrepid tree-hole-digging souls who we will love forever and ever. 😀

How I walked the field where we planted hundreds of honey locusts the year before, that didn’t get any water because the water tank broke, and they were still alive – I saw their buds just starting to come out and jumped and danced around them for joy.

How we helped set up the garden at the jail and planted  a bunch of golden currants for a border and I’m thinking, I gotta come back when these are in season and taste at least just one because I’ve never had one. How intrigued I am by the berries that grow in colder climates that I’ve never tried!

How we stopped at a grocery store on the reservation and they had three shelves of white bread, and the only fresh food was one orange and one apple. And the closest place to buy fresh or organic food is 100 miles away in Rapid City.

How much the kids loved watering the plants.

How big the sky is, how many stars you can see, and how the 80 mile 360 degree clear view of the lands from Slim Butte looks.

How Bryan from Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative always comes up with these brilliant engineering ideas for things he has never dealt with before, but he just “sees” it, and how he then turns around and comes up with a brilliant idea for some issue in the community – such a well rounded genius.

How so many people helped us – how Dave Jacke sent us some awesome food forest plants, how Oikos and Bountiful Gardens donated some beautiful trees and bushes, how people who don’t know us from Adam believed in us and made it happen (and we could not have done nearly as much as we did without all of that).

How children were gently helped and encouraged to be a part of everything and how the kids had some serious skill sets at pretty young ages.

How Nick and Scott took people who came to visit Thunder Valley out back to the food forest to eat leaves off the linden tree, just to see their expression. J

How they were so helpful – how they got somebody out to dig a pond on really short notice, and how they made it happen to move and plant four 170 pound trees and how enthusiastic and engaged in creating resilience on the reservation.  And how big the scope and breadth of their dream is.

How hard working and dedicated Shannon from Earth Tipi is, how much she has gotten done and she is still going.

How we would look up from digging and planting trees and there would be a horse at full gallop with a bareback rider, streaming by in the ditch. Or we were driving home one day and there was a Lakota in full headdress, riding down the highway bareback on a horse.

How, when we’re planting the butternut trees, we’re thinking – these trees will be here ten generations from now, still bearing food. We’re thinking of how the soil will be built over time, the temperatures modified, the wind calmed in the leaves. And how that center of calm  abundance can spread outward once it is established.

How beautiful the apple tree buds looked when they started coming out. And how alive all the plants looked, and what a nice mix of plants we were able to get: serviceberries, nanking cherries, goldenberries, butternuts, cold tolerant pecans, hazels, three kinds of apple, pear, plum, apricot, goji berry, gooseberry, raspberries, buffalo berry, Siberian pea shrub, lilac, linden, pine, cottonwood, honey locust.

How one day when we were exhausted and still had lots of stuff to plant, and wondering how we got ourselves into this. We get out of the car, and a bald eagle circles above us three times, pretty low so we could see all the colors and feathers and his expression, and then soars off to the east. And we wondered in a different way then, and got to work.

Urban Permaculture Design Certificate Course 2013 – Tampa Bay

The course will be taught during 6 weekends over 6 months:
July 13-14,
Aug 10-11,
Sep 21-22,
Oct 19-20,
Nov 16-17,
and Dec 14-15.
Learn to design your life to be regenerative and abundant at the beautiful Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater FL.
Instructed by Koreen Brennan, designer and teacher.

Welcome to our 2013 Urban Permaculture Design Course!

Urban PDC 2013 - Tampa Bay

We are offering a six month in-depth permaculture design course with career pathways, tools for sustainable living, hands on, apprenticeship potential, field trips, course materials and more. There is still time to get involved!

What is Permaculture Design?

Permaculture is conscious design of sustainable human systems of any size or complexity, from the backyard to watershed and beyond.  In permaculture, we work with nature, rather than against her, to increase abundance and long-term survival potential for humans and for other life forms. Permaculture is the art and design of conscious living for the greater good.

In this course you will learn:

  • Sustainable design techniques
  • Organic gardening
  • Grow more food with less work by working with nature
  • Edible landscape design
  • Soil building
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Greywater and rainwater catchment
  • Bioswale building
  • Food forests
  • Agroforestry and ecoagriculture
  • Aquaculture
  • Composting and vermicomposting
  • Alternative pest management
  • Urban, suburban and rural sustainable living strategies
  • Natural Building
  • Retrofitting the urban environment – your home, your community
  • Best forms of sustainable energy
  • Appropriate technology
  • Successful careers in permaculture
  • Sustainable economics
  • Intentional communities
  • Community building
  • Regional/Local Community Revitalization
  • and more

Over 100 hours of instruction to receive an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate. This course exceeds the requirements laid out by Bill Mollison for a 72 hour permaculture design certificate course.

Further, we offer optional field trips and/or project based activities on alternative weekends, in addition to the hands on, community building, teamwork, fieldwork, and other instruction during the course. The extra weekend schedules will be posted soon so you can mark your calendars. There will also be hands on apprenticeship design opportunities available while the course is ongoing. Career counseling and business building opportunities are also available. We want you to be successful using regenerative design.
Because the vast majority of people live in urban or suburban environments currently, our focus is on urban and suburban solutions. We are excited about the potential of all forms of permaculture in an urban environment. We are also versed in permaculture techniques for acreage and offer a well rounded course with an emphasis on urban solutions.
One of the things that many of our graduates say they love about the course is the connections they make; we believe that is an important part of a live Permaculture Design Course and so we work to create opportunities for creating beneficial connections, not just with course students but with the broader community as part of the course structure.

Course dates:

  • July 13-14, 2013
  • Aug 10-11, 2013
  • Sep 21-22, 2013
  • Oct 19-20, 2013
  • Nov 16-17, 2013
  • Dec 14-15, 2013

Note: If you missed our July session, we have another class on July 28, plus on line materials, that will allow you to join this course on August 10th.

Course Location:

Moccasin Lake Nature Preserve
2750 Park Trail Lane
Clearwater, FL 33755

Who Takes This Permaculture Design Course?

  • Artists
  • Do it yourselfers
  • Educators – homeschool, teachers, professors
  • Gardeners
  • Green architects/builders
  • Green consultants
  • Homesteaders
  • Landscapers
  • Natural health practitioners
  • Non-profit/community organizers
  • People who care about the earth and each other
  • People who love healthy food
  • Permaculturists
  • Policy makers
  • Professionals (of many types)
  • Recent college graduates
  • Students
  • Urban and rural farmers
  • Vegans and people interested in, raw food, slow food, and/or local food
  • Yoga practitioners

Course Prices

  • $1100 – Full Price
  • Payment plan available
To register, type in the appropriate dollar amount and click the PayPal button “Buy Now” on the right hand side of this web page under Purchase Courses.

For more information, payment plans, or work-study info, contact Cathy at 727-495-6145 or or email

We also accept time bank hours – for more info ask the Tampa Bay Time Bank

Limited seating: a non-refundable deposit ($200) will hold your seat for the full class.

Through the entire course, you will receive over 100 hours of instruction, however, for this course, 72 hours -in the course room – are required to qualify for a Permaculture Design Certificate. Any missed class will be available online for you to catch up in case you cannot attend one of the weekends.

Deposits and payments are non-refundable and will be applied toward future courses and/or services only.

Course Instructors:

Koreen Brennan – owner at Grow Permaculture – is the lead instructor for this course. Click here to see her bio.

Koreen will be assisted by the following guest experts and teachers:
  • Robert Kluson, Extension Service – soil scientist specializing in sustainable food production in Florida soils, will take us on a journey into the earth
  • Jungle Jay, archeologist, permaculture designer, adventurer, inventor and artist will take us on a hands on appropriate technology journey
  • Bryan Roberts, green builder and designer extraordinaire will share his amazing and creative solutions for retrofitting the urban environment
  • Marie Nelson, PhD, financial permaculture expert will share powerful economic tools of permaculture
Reminder: To register, type in the appropriate dollar amount and click the PayPal button “Buy Now” on the right hand side of this web page under “Purchase Courses”.


“This course changed my life forever. It changed the way I look at everything, and gave me tools to address problems I thought had no solutions. It reinvigorated my connection to, respect for and love of the natural world and increased my understanding of it tremendously. It made me feel powerful and able to change things rather than helpless or apathetic. It gave me hope again, a renewed purpose for life and so many tools that I never dreamed existed! It brought back magic to my life, lightness, and fun!”

“Realization: Permaculture is a thought process that can be applied to all systems.”

“This course is the most exciting one I’ve ever attended because it’s all about finding solutions and connecting people together.”

“I found this course to be very intense and comprehensive. At first it was a bit overwhelming but the key points were repeated over and over as the course progressed. About half way thru the pieces started to fit together. Then we got lots of real universe examples of existing permaculture famrs and installations. Discussion made me start to think about application and discern the successful from the less or non-successful.”

“The comprehensive dovetailing of skills, data and disciplines which then got used to create a design came together so beautifully – I know I can do this now.
It’s like a giant puzzle that you work and work till all the pieces fit . It changed my thinking and made me so much more aware. I believe that I am more responsible, aware and empowered from knowing what I now know.  And there’s hope for the future.
I also feel I have met my GROUP!  The friendships and contacts I’ve made on this course will be for a lifetime. “

“I’ve had my permaculture friends tell me this course changed their life. I never understood why, or what the fuss was about, until I did the course myself. It is a paradigm shift to a much nicer and better paradigm. Don’t hesitate to do this course!”

“I would highly recommend this course, taught by Koreen and her associates to anyone who has great concern for the future of this planet and the destructive path it is on.”

“Permaculture is the solution we have all been waiting for. As permaculturists, “We are the ones we have been waiting for” to save ourselves from ourselves. Koreen is incredibly knowledgeable and has experienced many areas of the world first hand.
If you have been feeling at a loss and discouraged this is your last chance to educate yourself as if the earth herself were revealing her deepest secrets on how you can help her.
This is what permaculture is.
Grow Permaculture far exceeded my expectations, even after years of experience working with organic gardening methods already.”

“I really enjoyed the whole PDC experience. I knew I would, but it was even better than I had thought. I loved the detailed theoretical classes in which I learned how to build soil, how to make it faster than it would happen naturally, how plants benefit each other. I also liked the hands on experiences a lot, it made many concepts so much clearer. I enjoyed the teacher’s methods, and the warmth of the teachers’ helpers. It was a learning experience in every single level not to mention a great opportunity to meet nice people and grow.  Thanks!!!”

Grow Permaculture is a professional permaculture design organization that does consulting, design work, and education for a variety of projects. We partner in a cooperative permaculture nursery, and with an arborist who specializes in saving trees. We create guilds with community, business and other human elements as well as with trees. We are active with the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Project in St. Petersburg, and also engaged in major volunteer projects such as permaculture systems at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, a children’s food forest in St Petersburg, community gardens, and were extensively involved in disaster permaculture efforts after the Haiti earthquake.  We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to co-create an intentional community and weave beneficial connection into the fabric of everything, regenerating human culture and the natural world in the process.