Cornell Online Permaculture course starts October 2018


Study permaculture online through Cornell University’s distance learning program.

Create a design portfolio based on your own project and complete all three of the courses from home to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate.


Instruction and facilitation is led by Michael Burns of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute who has been teaching and practicing permaculture since 2005 at Cayuta Sun Farm.

Sign up for the first course Permaculture: Fundamentals of Ecological Design opens in August, 2018. Sign up to be notified when registration begins and learn more at:

The first 6.5 week long course and provides an opportunity for you to build your knowledge about permaculture and ecological design.

Participants will explore the content through videos, readings, and activities and complete portions of a design for a site of their choosing.

While the course is online, the format is designed for consistent interaction between instructors and students through forums and review of assignments. Readings and presentations will be directly applied through hands-on activities students will engage with at home.

There are two additional permaculture design courses: 

Permaculture Design: Ecosystem Mimicry: Begins January, 2019

Permaculture Design: Design Practicum:Begins April, 2019 

*Prerequisite: Fundamentals of Ecological Design or Ecosystem Mimicry

Completion of a single class gives students a certificate of completion from the Cornell Dept. of Horticulture and Continuing Education units. Completion of all three courses gives students the portfolio necessary to apply for an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate though the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute.

Space is limited to 15 participants.  Fee is $675 for the first course paid via credit card at sign up. See registration link at:<>


Permaculture Apprenticeship

Learn & Practice

Forest Farming


Permaculture Design

with Michael Burns of Cayuta Sun Farm and Steve Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm.


This apprenticeship is ideal for Permaculture Design Certificate graduates and others interested in forest farming, small farm design, mushroom cultivation, pastured animal and perennial agriculture.

Cayuta Sun Farm is seeking individuals for a part-time program (20 hours per week) of farm projects, design, and study from May through September. Apprentices receive instruction through a permaculture design practicum and attend local forest farming workshops. Apprentices are provided with all their food and live at the farm.

Located between Ithaca and Watkins Glen, NY, Cayuta Sun Farm is a small woodland farm and permaculture education site. Currently, log-grown shiitake mushrooms, grass-pastured poultry and forest-pastured pork are grown for market. The farm occasionally hosts visitors, tours, and permaculture-related educational events, including those organized by the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute.


Apprentice Projects

Each apprentice may work in any one of the following roles: 1) shiitake mushroom production 2) farm marketing  3) livestock management. 4) daily animal chores and 5) ongoing permaculture assessment of Cayuta Sun Farm .

Shiitake: Learn the entire process of producing high quality, log-grown mushrooms, including how to inoculate logs, manage forced-fruiting, grade mushroom quality, harvest and package for market, and to schedule the production of over 1000 logs across a growing season.

Marketing: If you can write well, take great photographs, and communicate effectively in public you may be asked to learn about developing and delivering content for small farm promotions and to represent our farm and its brand at farmers markets.

Livestock: If you are comfortable, observant and sensitive around animals, you may want to learn about the patterns and process of raising animals on pasture and under the canopy of trees to produce superior poultry and pork. Everybody participates on the daily chores to maintain their food, water, health and safety.

Permaculture Assessment: Practice mapping and analyzing landscapes using permaculture principles. Instructional sessions look at the farm’s systems by creating ecoloical assessments of the landscape, animal and human elements.

No experience is required, just a willingness to learn and work collaboratively with the farmers and your fellow apprentices.



Apprentives who wish to take the Growing a Woodland Farm & Homestead and Fungi Foraging and Cultivation courses at Wellspring Forest Farm will have their tuition reimbursed upon completion of each workshop. Your enrollment in the courses also entitles you view webinar recordings and learning materials of the Wellspring Forest Farm online course “Foundations of Forest Stewardship” beginning April 2nd, 2018.

No special tools or materials are required. No previous experience is necessary, although graduates of reputable permaculture courses will find an ideal opportunity to practice permaculture design skills and to build their design portfolio. Only an interest in sustainable, regenerative design is necessary to benefit from the practicum.


You are expected to devote 20 hours per week to the apprenticeship, that includes mastering your specialty, design and assessment practice, and helping out with daily chores. Past apprentices have immersed themselves into full-time farm life, gaining valuable skills and insights. Others have maintained part-time jobs off the farm. Many—as they network among the local scene and gain practical experience—find opportunities for paid work later in the summer and fall. We seek persons who can begin in May and continuing through mid-September.

Our weekly farm meetings will set priorities alongside chore and project schedules. The meetings are also an opportunity to ensure that food, infrastructure, education and other apprenticeship needs are being met.


Other expectations and obligations include:

  • the ability to study and work alone and with others on projects and chores
  • a commitment to learning the big picture and details of your specialty
  • careful record-keeping
  • attendance at farm meetings
  • participation in design mapping and assessment skills related to the farm’s ongoing design
  • assisting occassional visitors to the farm, including during the Finger Lakes Permaculture Tour weekend in August.

Farm owners Michael Burns and Kelly Dietz offer:

  • Food: a CSA share of vegetables, produce and meats grown on ours and nearby  farms, plus all other basic food staples and needs
  • Kitchen: located in the apprentice camp with cooking stove, cold water sink, off-grid electric, and seating
  • Camping in our beautiful pine woods with an outdoor hot shower and composting toilets
  • Direct instruction in permaculture assessment and design
  • Reimbursement of tuition after completing the Growing a Woodland Farm & Homestead and Fungi Foraging and Cultivation” courses.

An ideal candidate will have great communication skills, maturity, integrity, initiative, flexibility and decent physical strength. You should expect to be outside in all weather conditions including rain, cold and summer heat of 90-100 degrees.

Previous farming experience is valued but not required. A valid driver’s license helps. A car is not required but is recommended, as it will allow you greater access to the beautiful environment and vibrant cultural life found in the Finger Lakes and in nearby Ithaca and Watkins Glen.


College Credit

We can work with administrators and professors to document and supervise your work to earn credit from your institution. Students have earned credit while studying with us through Ithaca College, Cornell University, Paul Smith College, and Empire State College. Co-owners Michael Burns and Kelly Dietz are both professional educators with decades of experience teaching in high schools, universities and in community education.



This apprenticeship assumes your arrival in May and a committment into September. Shorter stays are possible. Please apply for a shorter volunteer visit through WWOOF-USA. Otherwise, please provide the information requested below and email it to <>. We will consider applicants until we have found qualified candidates.

  1. Name:
  2. Birthdate:
  3. Phone:
  4. Email:
  5. Postal address:
  6. Please attach your resume, if you have one.
  7. Please provide at least two references, preferably previous employers or teachers, who can vouch for the quality of your learning and communication skills, reliability, maturity and integrity. Include their names, where you worked for them and for how long, and a brief description of your responsibilities. Please list their phone numbers (and an email address if available).
  8. Are you available in mid-May through mid-September?
  9. Why are you interested in this position?
  10. What previous experiences are you bringing to this position?
  11. What practical skills do you hope to acquire?
  12. What are your personal goals related to agriculture?
  13. Do you have experience living on a farm?
  14. We raise animals for meat on the farm. What is your perspective on the role animals play on a small farm?
  15. You will have to set up a campsite for sleeping. Do you have camping experience and/or a tent?
  16. Do you have any allergies, food restrictions, or physical limitations that might affect your ability to live in a rural setting and do farm work?
  17. Please describe interesting qualities and experiences about yourself (hobbies, pastimes, travels, research, work, etc.)
  18. Please provide any additional information that you would like us to know.

Learn Permaculture Online and at Home with Cornell University

Cornell Permaculture

Michael Burns & Kelly Dietz created Cayuta Sun Farm to produce healthy food in an ecologicaly regenerative system. Permaculture is the central organizing framework of the farm. Learn permaculture with Michael and earn a Permaculture Design Certificate.

Permaculture Design:
Ecosystem Mimicry

January 2019

Cultivate your ecological literacy by looking at complex symbiotic relationships in both natural and constructed systems. Explore and apply systems thinking to your own garden, farm, or backyard.

This course is one of three in a series offered by Cornell University’s College of Life Sciences Extension and Outreach Program leading to a Permaculture Design Certificate issued by the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. (Read more about Permaculture Design: Fundamentals of Ecological Design and Permaculture Design: Design Practicum.)

This course is designed by Steve Gabriel of “Farming the Woods” and Wellspring Forest Farm with Michael Burns of Cayuta Sun Farm.  Both are cofounders of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. Michael Burns will be the course instructor.

Gabriel & Burns

Steve Gabriel and Michael Burns

Read more at:


Design Example

Learn permaculture while designing your own site.

To sign up visit:

Permaculture Practicum

Join a small-farm crew for this series of practicum classes on permaculture design skills and principles.

During nine afternoons and evenings this summer, teacher and farmer Michael Burns instructs farm apprentices and others in the basics of permaculture design. Presentations, activities and design work focus on specific goals and challenges of this 14-year old, off-grid farmstead as it transitions to a working forest farm.

Michael Burns has been teaching permaculture for over a decade and is a cofounder of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. He teaches permaculture at the high school and college level and with community-based organizations.

Join us when you can.
Sign up for as many classes as you wish or the whole season.
Come for just the evening instruction or join us in the field during the afternoon.
We meet Mondays:
June 13 & 27,
July 18 & 25,
August 1, 15, & 22, and
September 5 & 19.


Hands-on: 2 – 4:30 p.m.

Students are welcome to come early to give labor in exchange for tuition. Our activities will demonstrate the implementation of permaculture design on the farm’s landscape. Hands-on students are not required to pay the evening class fee.

Potluck Dinner: 5 – 6 p.m.

All are welcome to bring food to share. A grill is available. Enjoy pork sausage from our farm!

Instruction: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Learn a basic introduction to permaculture ethics, principles, design process and strategies. Mapping and activities will engage students in practical design for Cayuta Sun Farm, learning skills applicable to a wide variety of projects. Class fee: $20


June 13: What is permaculture?

June 27: The Design Process & Scale of Permanence

July 18: Reading the Landscape: Mapping

July 25: Reading the Landscape: Vegetation

August 1: Water & Landform

August 15: Reading the Landscape: Access & Circulation

August 22: Reading the Landscape: Zones & Sectors

September 5: Creative Design

September 19: Regenerative Design


Send an RSVP by filling out the form below with your name, phone, email address and which dates you plan to attend. You are welcomed and encouraged to sign on and share our Facebook Event for these classes. However, use this form to ensure your registration.