Thanks for stopping by to look at what we think is one of the best ways to learn about permaculture, homesteading and trees: our 8 week intensive permaculture design course where you’ll be living permaculture 5 days a week over 4 weeks, visiting the best practitioners on Salt Spring Island, BC and the area while learning hands-on skills 80% of the time. Then you’ll spend an additional 3 1/2 weeks in East Africa establishing the next Practical Permaculture Institute to educate, train and work with Africans.

Is this your permaculture paradise?

Why take the course? Here’s what Michael Nickels, the man who’s been stewarding the land for the last 30 years had to say about what drives his work:

“I’ve spent my life observing nature and understand the incredible regenerative forces of nature and the abundance that the earth provides. Over the years I have mentored over 600 students and interns in permaculture and eco-forestry. Many people have walked through the farm gates of Seven Ravens Eco-Forest and Permaculture Academy, and what did they have to say about it afterwards? ‘Our time of learning here was so important.’ That’s real feedback. I have children and I want/need to make the world a better place for them. I do this with my wife Heidi to provide people the skills, theories and lessons we need to enrich ourselves. We lead a rich and fulfilling life…we love to share our learning with others. We do this because we must.” – Michael Nickels
Heidi Nickels with Cleo
Evidently, Michael is a passionate farmer. He’s been working with the land and trees for the last 30 years, not just in Canada but abroad in Kenya, China and Mexico. His multi-species eco-forest is a testament to his skill in working the land and he’s not alone in this work. His wife Heidi (pictured with daughter Cleo), a talented home designer (she just completed their hemp-crete home), gardener and home scale herbalist cuts to the core of why Seven Ravens Permaculture Academy exists.

“The world feels overwhelming to many people right now. We show others, another way to walk on the planet, to provide a healthier and better life for themselves. What we know for sure, is the world is ever changing. By adapting and being open to learning we can see the path to a deeper more meaningful way. We operate the school to bring richness of community and learning into our lives and into the lives of the people who come here for extended programs. Everyone learns from everyone here.” – Heidi Nickels
Both Michael and Heidi are passionate about working with nature to provide a healthy life for people and the environment. At Seven Ravens, you will learn about how the natural world works and most importantly how to work with it. This is a 6 week introduction to the topics, skills, and interactions that can create an incredible life starting right after the course.But the course isn’t for everyone.There are certain types of people who thrive in this education.

This course is likely a GOOD fit for you if you:

  • are looking for something “else”
  • want to get away from the business of the city world
  • relate to this past student’s sentiment “I’m done with trucking; I’ve got to open my eyes to new things”
  • want to do something with the Earth and your life that’s meaningful
  • have an appreciation for and see the beauty in farm work
  • have had a taste of permaculture through an article, video or conversation and are hungry for more
  • haven’t enjoyed typical classroom academics and are looking for a different way to learn
  • love the idea of a longer, immersive course where you can get your hands dirty with like-minded people 5 days a week
  • excited about working in and facing the challenges of implementing a permaculture project in East Africa (Fall course only)

After years of hosting interns, students and wwoofers, we’ve also observed why some people don’t do well in this type of permaculture education. Some people just aren’t a good fit for this program.

This course may NOT be a good fit if you:

  • are looking for distraction from your life (the course isn’t something to do, it’s a design approach to improve every aspect of your life)
  • are lost without a direction (we help motivated people to learn, grow and apply permaculture)
  • are attempting to fill time, get out of the house, want a change but don’t know what (we are focused in our approach to education and not just a ‘thing to do’)
  • are coming to the course because your Mom, Dad, girlfriend, boyfriend, or Great Aunt Mildred told you to come
  • have no drive, dedication or motivation for working with the land (if you don’t like farm work this course isn’t for you)
  • are only interested in the intellectual theories versus the practical, hand callusing skills (we offer both!)
  • have so much going on you’re not clear that you could be present for the course (we recommend you have the time to focus and be fully present while you’re on site)

There you have it. Observations of why students thrive and can take a dive in this course. Another big reason why students have raved about this course is how much exposure they have to the best practitioners the area has to offer on permaculture, homesteading and regenerative design. Here’s just a taste of the farms and practitioners you’ll have the opportunity to visit, work with and review during the course:

  • seed saving enterprise (one of Canada’s favourites)- small and medium scale market gardeners
  • small and medium scale annual, perennial and tree nurseries
  • young farmers who were wwoofers only four short years ago and now own and operate their own farm
  • successful community land organization and living with multiple residents (you could call this living together well)- zero mile restaurant “farm to fork”- off grid farming and homesteading- large scale food production and commercial farming- natural buildings ranging from low cost DIY to large scale residential projects

During the program we will dive into topics while providing real and profitable models for food production and self reliance. We are the first to say that Seven Ravens doesn’t have every one of the system above on site… and how could we? It takes a community, the whole of the island, to create a thriving local economy driven on local products and services and every year we move closer to that ideal. We connect and visit all these site and practitioners to give students the most well rounded educational experience possible.

2012 Kenya Course Students - Cameron, Zack, Danial, Michael, Scott and Kevin
Seven Ravens Students
Touring and talking
Micahel Nickels and students at Seven Ravens Permaculture Academy
Kholera Primary School, Western Kenya
Let’s recap, above we listed the reasons why you may be a good fit or not a good fit for the course. As well as some of the living, real world examples we’ll visit and connect with during our time together. How about we introduce you to the teachers who not only teach permaculture and the many techniques, strategies and business opportunities found within but make their living with permaculture?

Michael Nickels

Seven Ravens Permaculture Academy and Eco-Forest – Salt Spring Island, BC

The lead instructor for this course is the principal operator and owner of Seven Ravens. Michael has been living and breathing permaculture ever since a friend, introduced him to the concept; “it looks like what you’re doing is permaculture.” Michael took his permaculture design certificate (PDC) with Jeff Nugent (who coincidentally took his first PDC with fellow class mate Geoff Lawton from Bill Mollison) some years ago. Since then he’s been working to create a resilient forestry model that includes multiple species and products from the forest. Michael has also been working abroad for 20 years, mainly in Africa, specifically Kenya, and Uganda. He runs Seven Ravens with multiple income streams from farm gate produce sales, custom furniture and breadboards, timber products including slabs and dimensional lumber, consulting, tree nursery sales and installation work. His passion is his work in the world…his work in the world is his passion for life.

Michael Nickels
What have students had to say about being taught by Michael?

“Michael brings the full application of the knowledge learned in class to the land. He is amazing to be beside in the field. I’ve never had such an impactful, experiential learning experience, as I have with him.”
Michael Janetta – Former student and later intern farm Hand

More Testimonials

Brandon Bauer

Brandon Bauer

Entelechi Farm and Nursery – Salt Spring Island, BC

After 8 years interning at the famous Bullock Brother’s Homestead on Orcas Island, learning and diving into the world of botany, propagation and food production, Brandon made his way to Salt Spring Island. Here he created Blue Raven Farm where over an 8 year period he refined and honed his practice. Humble, Brandon boasts, “I’m still learning everyday, and when I say something that you think is wrong let me know and I’ll learn more!” which could be why he’s a bit of a walking plant encyclopedia knowing the latin name, growing conditions and propagation method of nearly every plant he comes across. Common comments after Brandon’s lectures are: “Wow, how do I download your brain?”; “It’s incredible how much I learned in just a few hours about plant propagation.”; and one of our favourites after his lesson on reading weather indicators, “I’m looking at clouds in a whole new way… I never knew I could predict weather by just looking at clouds.” This was said while the student was looking up to the sky.

Javan K. Bernakevitch

Permaculture BC, All Points Land Design, Southern Vancouver Island Permablitz Network – Salt Sping Island, BC and across Canada

Within 5 years of taking his PDC, Javan already has a growing list of accomplishments with permaculture that includes working and teaching in Uganda, Kenya, the United States and Cuba. In addition he’s actively been learning from Geoff Lawton, Sepp Holzer, Mark Shepard, Mark Lakeman, Elaine Ingham, Peter McCoy, Richard Walker, Paul Stamets and a few other local super heroes of regenerative living. Honest about where we are in the world, he has an authentic teaching style that’s down to Earth and, while compassionate, embodies a no bullish*t attitude. He focuses on helping students explore their niches in permaculture while understanding their inherent function as an individual. A recent student had this to say about Javan, “What I loved about the days we had with Javan is he would introduce big concepts, boil them down, give us a taste and then relate our experience back to the bigger picture. Things made more sense after his [teaching] days.”

Javan K. Bernakevitch

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