ABOUT ATITLAN ORGANICS

A permaculture education hub that offers training and certifications, both online, and in-person, at their two interactive learning landscapes.

Why We Do What We Do?

Atitlan Organics is built on the belief that humans are good for the planet and that humans have a unique ecological function that, when performed, enhances and diversifies the ecosystems they interact with. We despise the dominant message that sounds from the halls of elite environmentalist institutions that humans are bad for the planet. This message is not only absurd, but demonstrates a total and utter disregard (and even contempt) for the positive power of the creative human spirit.

People feel lost. Overwhelmed. That is due to this negative messaging promoted all around us. Before we can actually achieve the regenerative and sustainable futures that we dream of, we have to first believe that humans can be good for the planet. These designs cannot grow from an intention of wanting to minimize the human on the planet. That leads to dystopian smart cities and miserable existence for humans, while denying the land its longing of reunion with ecologically aware human beings.

Any thriving permaculture site is proof that humans can enhance landscapes. Make them better than they were before we got there. Does this sound hubristic? “How can humans make nature better?” This idea that nature is perfect and human is flawed and thus can only taint nature is suspect. Humans are part of nature? Does the salmon or the wolf stop and wonder if the landscape would be better without them? No. They merely go about their days, performing their ecologically unique functions within the environment. And every species has unique ecological functions that improve and enrich the ecosystem, otherwise they would not exist. To think that humans are somehow different is just nonsense.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is about the study of appropriate ecological behavior of the human and the discovery of our unique ecological functions. The roles we play that inevitably lead to the enrichment and increased diversity of the systems we interact with and depend on.

That is what Atitlan Organics is devoted to. Spreading the message that humans are good for the planet and that we have a set of unique ecological functions that we must fulfill in order to be in harmony with ourselves and with nature.

Our History

Atitlan Organics was founded in 2009, and in the first 10 years, grew to a profitable permaculture farm and also an in person learning ecosystem for permaculture design certification and practice. We have certified over one thousand people in Permacutlure Design and have taught in different languages in multiple countries. 

Atitlan Organics also has a suite of online courses that help people put permaculture into practice right in their backyards. Many short programs exist to bring your knowledge level up in specific areas, and there is also a full 8 week hybrid Permaculture Design Certification that culminates in participants generating and finalizing a full Permaculture Design on their own site, with loads of expert and peer reviews along the way.

Meet Our Team

Click on image to learn more about a team member.

Founder

Atitlan Organics Farm Manager

Duck Willow Farm Manager

Permaculture Facilitator and Natural Builder

Our Collaborators

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Shad Qudsi

Shad Qudsi has over 13 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 3 years experience in permaculture design consulting. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in Applied Math and Psychology, Shad and his wife, Colleen, moved to Central America with only vague goals of farming at some point in the near future. In January of 2010, Shad and his wife bought and moved onto a very small farm located in the traditional Mayan village of Tzununa, which on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. The farm developed into Atitlan Organics and now mainly focuses on greens and chickens, a large edible and useful plant nursery, a food forest, and training and education.  Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a loving grace.

Nicolas Hernandez Chiyal

Born and raised in the town of Tzununa, which lies right below Atitlan Organics, Nicholas and Shad have worked since Day 1, helping to craft the this amazing landscape. Nichloas is a supreme ninja farmer with skills beyond explanation. Visitors are endlessly impressed with his resourcefulness, ingenuity, and sheer motivation. Nicholas now owns and operates Las Ensaladas de Atitlan Organics, a business that sells organic produce to over 50 restaurants, hotels, and stores around lake Atitlan.

Don Fransisco Simon

Don Fransisco knows the lands and waters of Tzununa deeper than most anyone alive. His intuitive handling of plants makes the whole system glow, and he is an avid duck enthusiast, maintaining the breeding flocks at Duck Willow, along with his own homestead flock. Aside from that, he oversees the establishment of the perennial agroforestry and aquaculture systems on Duck Willow Farms.

Ashley McDonnell

Ashley’s work focuses on resurrecting our relationship to the natural world through the development of earth based skills that deepen our connection to place while increasing our sense of sovereignty and resilience. Devoted to the arts of permaculture, natural building, herbalism and birth work as her mediums, Ashley explores with humility the diverse modalities that support us in living in right relationship with the world around us. She views permaculture as a practice that not only creates healthy ecological communities but one that helps to reweave the very fabric of who we are as people. Her work is an offering to the future.

Sarah Wu

Sarah is a clinical herbalist of 20 years, studying and practicing planetary eclectic, regenerative herbalism with a foundation in Wise Woman Reclaiming philosophies. Influenced by global traditions, Sarah focuses on local food-based healing and ethnobotanical traditions. She leads trainings and workshops in herbal medicine, Permaculture Design Courses, Therapeutic Deep Ecology, Social Permaculture, field-to-the-plate holistic nutrition, herbal first aid and Tarot. She is a passionate mentor and educator, who believes in the teacher’s role in unlocking the innate wisdom of the student. Sarah is the co-founder of the Village Witches project, and is a Co-Founder and Co-producer of Envision Festival.

Laura Palmieri

Laura ‘Lala’ Palmieri is a clinical herbalist, a biologist, plant and fungi lover and grower. She offers health consultations to balance body, mind and soul working with medicinal herbs and mushrooms. Her approach to health integrates the knowledge of many ancient traditions and teachers, fusing spirituality with nature, and science with alchemy through the transformation of the elements.

Lala has spent her years in dialogue with Nature, which has fueled her passion to integrate scientific knowledge and the connection with all beings to help humanity. She integrates her practice with cooking, gardening, and exploring ecosystems. She teaches and facilitates herbal clinics and programs in permaculture, herbalism, botany, fermentation, and medicinal mushroom cultivation, with a regenerative earth care approach and techniques that are accessible to most. She and Sarah co-created the Envision and Cosmic Converge Herbal First Aid Clinics, other relief Clinics in Guatemala for the volcano eruption. You will find Lala crafting remedies for her diverse communities in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where she is actively creating a world with integrated healthcare.

David 'Brock' Barker

Brock Barker was raised as an outdoorsman in the marshes and forests of south Louisiana, where he developed a passion for all things plants. After studying horticulture at university, Brock has worked in nurseries, landscaping outfits, and in the facilitation of a horticultural therapy program, and more. His primary ‘work’ for the last 12 years has been developing a 10 acre homestead which serves as personal garden of Eden and educational space for volunteers and workshops. Brock’s proficiency in areas such as mushroom cultivation/ foraging, fermentation, and botany, combined with his infectious enthusiasm make him an integral part of our team.

Neal Hegarty

Neal is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years. Neal was the Volunteer Manager at Atitlan Organics for 2 years before co-founding his own Permaculture-based enterprise, Abundant Edge Farm, in Tzununa. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and energy into each Intro to Permaculture Course and Permaculture Design Certification Course and we’re happy to continue to collaborate with him!

Jeremy Dexter Fellows

Jeremy has focused ten years of study, mentorship and implementation of permaculture design systems back home in Massachusetts. With many years of experience in botany and horticulture, he is fascinated by the world of plants. After working many years in Guatemala, Jeremy has dedicated his focus to land and water management systems that lend to ecological acceleration and social integration through food production. Jeremy now runs granja tzikin, works as a designer and consultant with Regenera and teaches in the Atitlan Organics teachers guild.

If you are interested in arranging a visit or tour, volunteering, or ordering products from the farm, please fill out this simple form and check your inbox for more details

Rony Lec

Rony is one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture and Mayan ancestral knowledge. Rony has spent the last 20 years teaching and implementing permaculture throughout Central, South and North America focusing on promoting food sovereignty and preserving biodiversity for the survival of Indigenous communities.

Through his extensive work with Indigenous communities on traditional ecological knowledge, seed saving, native plants, local/global food movements, livelihood security, and the interaction between communities and the environment, he has made a key contribution to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the world. Rony is a co-founder of IMAP.

Zach Loeks

Hailing from Ottawa, Canada where he and his partner run the 50-acre Kula Permaculture Farm, Zach brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. He works as an educator, designer, consultant and farmer, with an emphasis on integrating diversity, conserving soil and maximizing farm ecosystem services while maintaining high productivity.

Last year Zach published The Permaculture Market Garden, which explores ways that permaculture can be scaled up be a profitable whole-systems enterprise. Zach is a leading figure in permaculture, who brings a new and exciting vision of how it can be integrated into the wider community and marketplace.

Holly Mech

Holly fell in love with yoga because of the sense of connection she felt every time she came to her mat. She began teaching yoga in Chicago in 2011. Her desire to deepen her teaching and personal practice led her to continue her yoga education in California, Bali, Australia and Guatemala. Holly now travels around the world teaching yoga and facilitating yoga teacher trainings. She enjoys helping new teachers sequence yoga classes and incorporate philosophy into their teachings. Her classes are creative and dynamic with an emphasis on making yoga accessible to everyone.

Holly studied English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and frequently draws inspiration for her classes from literature and poetry. When she’s not on the yoga mat she enjoys exploring nature, singing, dancing and working with textiles.

Julia Forest

Julia is an international yoga teacher, birth doula, women’s health advocate, and closet artist who is passionate about health, environmentalism and empowered birth. She is co-creator of the Sacred Birth Yoga & Doula Training, is founding director of Awakened Spirit Yoga and co-founder of the Wellkind Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on community empowerment and wellbeing through the lens of permaculture. She also created the Sacred Earth Yoga Training, the first yoga teacher training program that combines yoga, mindfulness, permaculture and leadership to transform lives and communities.

Coming Soon

Intuitive Plant Propagation

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Your Curriculum

Your curriculum for the Permaculture Design Certificate includes 20 short courses consumed over a period of 7 weeks, with a final design project to be finalised in the 8th week.

Week 1: The Spirit of Permaculture

Week 2: Design Methodologies

Week 3: Water and Earthworks

Week 4: Soil and Compost

Week 5: Plant Power

Week 6: Animals

Week 7: Permaculture Niches

Week 8: Final Design Project

The Final Design Project Course Module becomes available after completing all of the Content for Week 1 and Week 2. The module serves as a guide for your final design project. We suggest that you work on this throughout the course. The 8th call is reserved for students to present their final design projects. Upon completion of the Final Design Project and all of the Course Content, a Permaculture Design Certificate is awarded.