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.
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.
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.
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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 ‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.