Shiitake Speakeasy!

A gathering in the woods for those who love gourmet mushrooms and agroforestry…

  • Tuesdays: July 11 and 18th, & August 8 and 15th
  • 6 to 11 p.m. 

Enjoy a summer tradition at our forest farm: we inoculate logs with shiitake spawn while barbecuing victuals, swaying to beats, and enjoying good company. Bring your own brew, snacks and friends to share.  

RSVPs help us plan better. Send yours to

Permaculture Apprenticeship Under the Canopy of Trees

Forest Farming 
& Permaculture Design Practicum


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 weekly instruction through a permaculture design practicum based on continuing assessment and analysis of the farm’s systems. 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 will be chosen to fit any one of the following roles: 1) shiitake mushroom production 2) farm marketing or 3) livestock management. Additional activities include daily farm chores and the ongoing permaculture assessment of Cayuta Sun Farm .

Shiitake: Our shiitake mushroom apprentice will learn the entire process of producing high quality, log-grown mushrooms. You will learn 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. POSITION FILLED

Marketing: If you can write well, take great photographs, and communicate effectively in public you may be selected 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 management patterns and process of raising animals on pasture and under the canopy of trees to produce superior poultry and pork. POSITION FILLED

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


Design and Assessment Practicum

Apprentices will also study outside their specialty in practicum sessions that are scheduled most weeks. These instructional sessions look at the farm systems by creating assessments of the landscape, farm goals, and existing challenges through the framework of permaculture. Learn and practice reviewing, mapping and analyzing the landscape using permaculture principles to continue the ongoing design of our small farm.

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, learning along with others apprentices’ projects, design and assessment practice and instruction, 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. Some—as they network 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 weekly farm meeting
  • attendance at design practicum instruction
  • learning the specific 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 the farm, plus all other basic food staples and needs
  • Kitchen and living space: a kitchen located in the campground yurt with cooking stove, cold water sink, off-grid electric, comfortable seating area, and library
  • Camping in our beautiful pine woods with an outdoor hot shower and composting toilets
  • Direct instruction in permaculture assessment and design each week


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 at times. Please apply for a shorter program or for short-term volunteer visits 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 16 – March 2, 2017

Enrollment is now open for “Permaculture Design: Ecosystem Mimicry.” 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:

Cornell Online Permaculture course starts October 24.


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.

Two spaces are still open in the first course: Permaculture: Fundamentals of Ecological Design offered October 24 to December 8, 2016.

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 MimicryJanuary 16 to March 2, 2017

Permaculture Design: Design Practicum:* March 13 to April 6, 2017 *Prerequisite: Fundamentals of Ecological Design or Ecosystem Mimicry

Completion of a single class gives students a certificate of completion from the 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. Registration opens about six weeks before each course begins. Fee is $675 paid via credit card at sign up. See registration link at:<>


Cayuta Sun Farm Celebrates the Finger Lakes Permaculture Tour Weekend with Camping, BBQ, & Farm Tours.


Visitors, volunteers, and
Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute alumni are welcomed.


Cayuta Sun Farm is proud to be a sponsor of the Permaculture Tour Weekend’s activities and we’re looking forward to hosting visitors. Our site has promoted permaculture for over a decade through community education events, including the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s courses.

Spend the weekend on a small forest farm.

We would like to support this celebration of our permaculture community by opening up our woods to campers visiting from out of town. A limited number of rustic camping sites will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. A simple low-pressure water supply, hot shower, and composting toilets will be available. You will need to supply your own tent. Coffee and tea will be available in the morning.


The nightly fee will be $20 per person or $50 per carload of visitors. Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute alumni and those willing to volunteer at least four hours during weekend’s events may stay for free. All campers are encouraged to register using the form at the bottom of this post as soon as possible to ensure a campsite.

Enjoy a homegrown lunch.

Cayuta Sun Farm is proud of our pastured poultry and pork and would like you to taste why. Upon arriving for the Saturday tour, make an order for our pork sausage sandwich. Enjoy your freshly grilled Italian style sausage at a picnic table in the cool shade of our shiitake mushroom yard. We begin grilling at 11 a.m. Cold non-alcoholic drinks will also be sold.


Meet the farmer.

A guided tour will be conducted in a continuous loop from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Join in at anytime. Led by Michael Burns, the presentation will highlight the development of a permaculture-inspired farmstead that has in recent years become a small woodland farm. Highlights include the octagonal classroom built of black locust logs with a reciprocal rafter roof, shiitake mushroom production, chickens and pigs raised on grass and under the canopy of trees, plus off-grid energy systems.


A decade’s worth of permaculture students, teachers, and practitioners have passed through Cayuta Sun Farm working, learning, and connecting with others. We feel lucky to be part of it all, are proud of our local permaculture scene, and look forward to sharing the promise of permaculture and ecological design with all our guests this August 26th through the 28th.

Register to camp:


flpcitranslogo1Learn more about the Finger Lakes Permaculture Tour Weekend at

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.