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ELIP Program Components

This 4­-week curriculum in Ecological Literacy is designed to give participants a deeper understanding of natural systems and how to live, work, and design for regeneration within them. Participants will learn patterns, principles, and practices of regenerative design, and apply them to personal goals, the physical and ecological landscape, and social systems.

The program is led by experienced teachers in the fields of permaculture, regenerative agriculture, ecological engineering, water and soil science, wilderness awareness, and whole systems design, among others.


  • Regenerative Design: Principles, Skills, Frameworks
  • Reading the Landscape and Ecological Systems
  • Agroforestry and Forest Garden Design
  • Soils, Compost, and Land Regeneration
  • Nature Awareness and Naturalist Studies
  • Water Systems in the Landscape
  • Renewable Energy and Zero Waste Living
  • Social Systems Design: Personal Development & Leadership; Financial Permaculture & New Economic Paradigms; Engaging Across Difference & Diversity


Throughout the program, students will engage with a mix of facilitated classroom sessions, outdoor field experiences, design practice, and hands-­on learning opportunities. We will use the Omega campus and OCSL as our living classroom for observation, learning, and design. Course design practicum includes:

Three Design Projects

Personal Learning Design Process
Week 1 (and implemented throughout the program)

Participants will familiarize themselves with the design process while reflecting on their personal learning goals, styles, and strategies for the course.

2­-Week Permaculture Design Project
Weeks 2 & 3

Participants will engage deeply with the land­-based process of regenerative design. Working in teams, students will complete landscape site analysis and assessment for a specific area of the Omega campus, and develop design solutions to address the challenges and opportunities of that site.

Participants will present their landscape designs at the end of Week 3 for classmates, instructors and members of the wider Omega community.

Social & Economic Design Process
Week 4

Moving beyond the physical landscape, participants will apply the design framework to social and economic systems, while exploring possibilities for implementation within their own lives & communities.


In Week 4, participants will present their social/economic design projects in a supportive environment with classmates and instructors.


Compost & Foliar Sprays

We will explore differing methods of composting, compost tea, and foliar sprays during this course.

Hot composting is a fast, efficient, high­ temperature, composting technique, which can produce high quality compost in 18 days. It has the benefits of killing weed seeds and pathogens, and breaking down the material into very fine compost.

To complement the hot piles, we will also build a static, aerobic pile based on the biointensive method at a residential scale. Biointensive composting emphasizes the health and diversity of the microbes that break down and become a part of the compost. Thus, relatively cooler composting is practiced, with plant materials being preferred over animal materials. Soil is often combined in this process to inoculate the pile with microbes.

Mushroom Cultivation & Farming the Woods

We will learn the benefits of cultivated mushrooms and inoculate substrate with various methods and mushroom varieties. We will also have an opportunity to “shock” and harvest shiitake mushroom logs prepared by previous students.

Weekend Intensive in Micro­-Farming

The Grow Food Everywhere workshop on July 15­-17, led by Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib, is included in the 4­-week ELIP schedule at no extra cost.

Through discussion, contemplative practice, and plenty of hands-­on experience, we gain skills and techniques to establish beautiful gardens and grow abundant, delicious food as nature intended, with minimal labor and energy. We create raised beds, and learn season­ extension practices that prepare us to take the lessons learned immediately into our lives and communities.

Those new to gardening return home with enough knowledge and skill to grow their own food. Experienced gardeners learn new techniques to enrich their current gardens. We all gain ideas, methods, and inspiration to transform our gardening, communities, and lives.

Perennial Crop Horticulture & Food Forest Design

During the design process, Eric Toensmeier, one of the foremost perennial plant experts in our region, will join us as we learn the properties and propagation methods for some of the important plant varieties that he has established at his own site. 


To practice ecological design, we must also practice ecological awareness and build deep relationships with the places where we live, work, and design. The Ecological Literacy Immersion Program’s holistic learning approach includes a consistent process of observing and studying the natural world.

Through practicing routines of nature awareness, naturalist studies, and inquiry into the history and stories of a place, our landscape analysis and design work is grounded in an understanding of natural systems and in comfort and familiarity with wild nature. Students leave with tools and practices to deepen lasting relationships with the natural world and their local environment wherever they may go.


  • Reflect on what you’re learning with your classmates during free time
  • Join a pickup game of basketball, tennis, volleyball, or Ultimate Frisbee
  • Network with and get to know classmates and other Omega participants during meals in the Dining Hall or snacks in the Omega Café
  • Take a yoga, tai chi, meditation, or movement class with other staff and participants
  • Enjoy evening talks, films, performances, or other activities on the schedule of daily events at Omega
  • Share your talents with your classmates during the course and at the final talent share on the last evening
  • Bring a small gift that is meaningful to you such as a book, a card or something from nature for the gifting circle at the end of the program


An important part of the ELIP program is time spent in contemplation. Contemplative practices are practical and transformative and help develop concentration, empathy, creativity, communication, attention, and compassion. The calm centeredness generated by time in reflection is helpful when exploring larger concepts like meaning, purpose, and values—ideas we look at deeply in this program. You have the opportunity to take daily classes in yoga, tai chi, meditation, and movement. Journaling is encouraged throughout the course. There are also hiking trails and boats to take out on the lake if time in nature is how you get centered. Whichever practice you choose, it will help balance your full days of study and enhance your learning process.


Hudson Valley Seed Library
Ken Greene started the Seed Library in 2004 while working as a librarian at the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, New York. Having developed a strong interest in preserving heirloom seed varieties, he decided to add them to the library catalog so that patrons could "check them out," grow them in their home gardens, and then "return" saved seed at the end of the season. The program was a small but successful endeavor—one of the first of its kind in the country. After four years of running the program at the library, Ken and his partner Doug decided to turn the library into a mission­ driven, homestead­ based small business, which it still is today. Producing hundreds of pounds of seed each year, the staff explores new varieties for their catalog, as well as undertaking breeding projects in the traditional methods of plant breeders.

Visit to Dina Falconi's Homestead
We will explore an inspirational example of a functional site design with mostly no­-till permanent garden beds covered with year-­round mulch. Dina and her partner Tim steward over two hundred diverse species of annuals, perennial herbs, bushes, trees and vines, along with poultry. Dina also focuses on wild flora, which are welcome and encouraged in the gardens. Her gardening techniques work with nature to create lively, productive, beautiful gardens requiring less work. Another site goal has been to maintain the gardens without the use of any chemical inputs: pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, which has been successful throughout the gardens' lifetime. The homestead serves as an herbal teaching site and botanical apothecary.

Walkway Over the Hudson & Scenic Hudson Office Visit
Scenic Hudson is the region’s powerhouse land trust, bringing to bear expertise and capabilities in preservation, land use planning, advocacy and park management to connect people with the region’s most important natural asset—the Hudson River. Having celebrated its 50th anniversary, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. It has stood up to major utilities and industrial giants—and won great victories on behalf of the environment. The organization has created almost 60 parks and preserves along the mighty Hudson, preserving nature and numerous working farms, cleaning up contaminated industrial waterfronts, and partnering with other organizations to create magnificent parks including Walkway over the Hudson.