Course Pricing

This in-depth course is a bargain when compared to in-person seminar registration, travel and lodging. And you can study wherever you are when it is most convenient for you.

Change Your Farming Practices

Through this course you will gain new insight into radically transitioning your farm away from the commodity-crop treadmill.

  • Integrated Polyculture

    Learn how to revision your farm into a diversified, resilient polyculture with tree crops, livestock, fruits and vegetables, and more.

  • Permaculture

    Understand the core principles of permaculture design; you will be better able to choose crops and methods of diversification most suited to your farm, your climate, and your interests and abilities.

  • Permaculture Meets Agroforestry . . .

    Learn how to apply the principles of permaculture and the techniques of agroforestry to a specific property to design an integrated system producing food, fuel, fiber, medicines and wildlife habitat.

You will learn . . .

Specific tools and techniques which will be discussed include:

  • Windbreaks

  • Alley cropping

  • Silvopasture

  • Polyculture and permaculture

  • Multi-story forest cropping

  • Erosion best management practices

  • Integrated specialty crops

Practical Permaculture and Agroforestry for Farmers

Foundation Knowledge in Restoration Agriculture

With the vagaries of commodity crop prices year-to-year, and the extremes in weather and rainfall that seem more normal than exceptions, it's becoming evident that farmers need more than ever to seek farming systems which offer resiliency. Diversification of farming methods and species offers this and more. In this mind-expanding workshop you can learn some of the tools available to move your farming operation toward a more stable, resilient ecosystem. And the fringe benefit can be in quality of life as it becomes easier to manage and economically as it becomes more consistently profitable.

Monoculture farming works against nature, takes more energy and inputs, and produces concentrated and often toxic wastes. Over time, resources are depleted and yields decline.

Polyculture farming systems are integrated, diverse systems which are more resilient and mimic nature. So-called wastes become resources. Ecosystems are restored and balanced. Once established, very little effort is needed to maintain the systems.

Permaculture is an approach to designing perennial agricultural systems that mimic the complex interrelationships found in nature. Many of the concepts were practiced by native people and early civilizations before agriculture discovered and became addicted to cheap fossil fuels. 

Agroforestry is a way for landowners to improve the stewardship of their land for better income potential, wildlife habitat, and environmental quality. Agroforestry combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems and takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs and/or livestock.

A different way . . .

Wisconsin farmer Mark Shepard is a certified permaculture designer, agroforester and ecological farming consultant. He has demonstrated on his own 100-acre family farm that the principles of permaculture — long embraced by eco-minded urban gardeners — are needed in farming more now than ever. In this intensive self-paced course you will learn how to imitate nature and create a landscape that builds the health of the ecosystem over time.

Join Mark Shepard as he shares the knowledge he's gained over a lifetime of study and through the implementation of these systems on his own family's farm. Not just a theory class, you'll hear real-world advice and tips on these innovative farming systems. Whether you "go all the way," as Mark is doing, or simply introduce some new crops and diversity into your traditional farm or small acreage this workshop is certain to provide the roadmap you'll need.

Course curriculum

  • 2


  • 3

    The Brutal Realities Mandating Restoration Agriculture

    • "Progress" vs. Reality

    • The Education of a Restoration Agriculturalist

    • Nature Heals!

    • Our Crisis in Agriculture

    • The Obscenity of Industrial Chemical Agriculture

    • Challenges Facing Agriculture

    • What Are We to Do?

    • Admitting Problems, Creatively Seeking Solutions

    • Self-Review: Realities Mandating Restoration Agriculture

  • 4

    Farming in Nature's Image

  • 5

    Steps Toward Restoration Agriculture

  • 6

    Example Biome: Oak Savanna Analysis and Plant Options

    • New Forest Farm, Wisconsin

    • Oak Savanna Biome

    • Oaks, Beech, Chestnuts

    • Apples

    • Hazelnuts

    • Rubus and Ribes

    • Grapes

    • Cherries, Plums and Peaches

    • Fungi

    • The Oak-Hickory Variation on the Oak Savanna

    • Self-Review: Oak Savanna Biome

  • 7

    Know Your Biome

  • 8

    Livestock and Restoration Agriculture

    • Animals and Agriculture

    • Nature Abhors a Vacuum

    • Restoration Agriculture and Livestock

    • DISCUSSION: The Vegetarian/Vegan Diet and Animals in Farming Systems

    • Integrating Animals into a Restoration Agriculture System

    • Don't Overlook Trees as Forage

    • Stocking Rates and "Overgrazing"

    • Cattle

    • Pigs

    • Turkeys

    • Sheep

    • Chickens

    • Goats

    • Potential Livestock Problems

    • The Economics of Livestock, and Summary

    • Self-Review: Livestock

  • 9

    Bees as Livestock

    • Bees as Livestock

    • Bees in the Western Hemisphere

    • Our Era of "Modern" Beekeeping

    • BEES IN-DEPTH: L.L. Langstroth, the Father of American Beekeeping

    • And Then Come the Problems . . .

    • Breeding Honeybees

    • Dividing Hives as the Tool for Adaptation

    • Self-Review: Bees

  • 10

    Water and Your Farm

    • Considering Water

    • Contour Farming

    • Other "USDA" Water Management Methods

    • Closing Thoughts on Traditional Water Management

    • Self-Review: Water and Your Farm

  • 11

    Earth Shaping and Advanced Water Management

    • An Introduction to Keylines and Masterlines

    • The Concepts of Water Management On-Farm

    • Keyline Benefits Along the Ridge

    • Keypoint Ponds

    • Ridge Ponds

    • Pocket Ponds

    • Drive-Through Ponds xx

    • Drive-Through Ponds

    • Large Water Events

    • Keylines Drive Farm, Paddock Layout

    • CASE REPORT: Keyline Water Management at New Forest Farm

    • The Subsoiler . . . Creating Topsoil

    • Seeing the Impact of Earthworks on Drainage

    • Closing Thoughts on Earth Shaping

    • Self-Review: Earth Shaping and Water Management

  • 12

    The Transitional Strategy

    • Introduction

    • Meet "Agroforestry"

    • Agroforestry Techniques: Windbreaks

    • Agroforestry Techniques: Riparian Buffers

    • Agroforestry Techniques: Alley Cropping

    • Video Tour: Managing a Tree Lot 10 Years After Planting

    • Practical Advice: Planting Trees

    • Agroforestry Techniques: Silvopasture

    • Video Tour: Silvopasture Conversion through Removal

    • Agroforestry Techniques: Forest Farming

    • Crop Rotations in Agroforestry

    • Closing Thoughts

    • Self-Review: Transitional Strategies

  • 13

    Managing a Healthy Farm Ecosystem

    • Introduction: A Healthy Ecosystem

    • Start with the Soil

    • Finding Balance

    • Soil: Physical and Mechanical Properties

    • Soil: Chemical/Mineral Properties

    • Soil: Biological Activity

    • Pests and Disease in Nature

    • Pests and Disease, a Different Point of View

    • Side Note: Cultural Practices and the Tale of Two Plants

    • Closing Thoughts

    • Self-Review: Healthy Ecosystems

  • 14

    Plant Breeding

    • A Bit of Background First . . .

    • The Truth About On-Farm Breeding

    • SIDE NOTE: Luther Burbank

    • S.T.U.N. . . . Your Secret Weapon

    • Developing "Stunning" Varieties

    • My Perspective

    • The Restoration Agriculture Approach

    • Self-Review: Plant Breeding

  • 15


    • Farm Economics, the Bad News

    • Farm Economics, the Good News

    • Nature Is the Ultimate Low-Cost Producer

    • Look at "Total Site Yield"

    • Joining Together

    • Diversity and Abundance

    • Real Estate Profits

    • Agroforestry Profits

    • It's About Food and Quality of Life!

    • Self-Review: Economics and Profits

  • 16

    Closing Thoughts: Creating a Permanent Agriculture

    • A Call for New Pioneers

    • SURVEY: One Last Request . . .

    • What to Do Next . . .?

  • 17

    Course Bonus Material

    • Interview: Mark Shepard

    • Interview: Bill Mollison, Co-founder of Permaculture

    • Gary Zimmer's 6 Tenets of Biological Farming

    • Book Excerpt: Dung Beetles

    • Book Excerpt: "Turkeys" from Beyond the Chicken

    • Book Excerpt: "Principles of Keyline Design" from Water for Any Farm

    • Resources

  • 18

    Course FAQs/Troubleshooting

    • Technical Troubleshooting

Your Instructor

Senior Instructor

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard is a permaculture designer, agroforester and ecological farming consultant and is the author Restoration Agriculture and Water for Any Farm. He and his family have transformed a typical 100-acre row-crop dairy farm into a permaculture-based perennial-agricultural ecosystem using oak savannah, successional-brushland and Eastern woodlands as the ecological models. The result is one of the first and finest farm-scale models of permaculture in the United States. Their farm features chestnut, hazelnut and fruit trees, a variety of other fruits and vegetables, and chickens, ducks, pigs and other animals. He has lectured worldwide and consults with growers around the world including teaching permaculture techniques in sub-Saharan Africa. Upper Midwest organic farmers will recognize him as the banjo player in the band Synister Dane.

Change Your Farm, Your Life

This in-depth, substantive certificate course will deeply inform you in the principles and practice of a new way of farming. Still not sure the course is for you? Select lessons are free to take part in — click through the chapters and lessons above. Then register below for instant access.

Get Eco-Ag U Updates

Add your email to the mailing list to get the latest updates about our online classes.