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ELIP Program Components

**Save the Date! The next Ecological Literacy Immersion Program will be held July 3–29, 2016. Information below is from the 2015 program, now passed. Updated course information coming soon.** 

This 4-week curriculum in Ecological Literacy is designed to give participants a deeper understanding of natural systems, and how to live and work within them. Participants will learn permaculture design, and practice designing for personal goals, the physical landscape and for social systems.

Open to seasoned students, those with work experience in these areas, or those who are just beginning to learn about these topics, the program is led by experienced teachers in the fields of regenerative design, permaculture, biodynamic agriculture, soil and water sciences, natural systems, ecological engineering, and habitat study, among others.


  • Regenerative Design
  • Natural Systems
  • Soil/Compost
  • Flora & Fauna
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Social Context: Leadership, Economy, Social Structures & Networks


Hudson Valley Seed Library
Ken Green 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. 

Hawthorne Valley Farm is part of the nonprofit Hawthorne Valley Association. Since 1972, it has produced high quality, Biodynamic and organic foods and provided farm-based learning experiences for children and adults. The 400-acre Biodynamic farm includes dairy cows, steer, pigs, chicken, sheep, horses, vegetables, a creamery, organic bakery, and sauerkraut cellar. Steffen Schneider will talk about a new form of agriculture—Agriculture 3.0—that requires a radically enlarged context of sound farming principles, new economic forms and parameters, and renewed recognition of the role of agriculture and agriculturists in our culture and society. WATCH VIDEO: Hawthorne Valley Farm: Planting Seeds for Living Organisms
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.


Throughout the program, students will find a mix of classroom and hands on learning opportunities. In addition to specific projects, many of the teachers will use the campus as their classroom as they take students out to observe what they are learning. Designated projects include:

Three Design Projects

Personal Learning Design Process
Week 1 (and implemented throughout the program)
Participants will have a chance to familiarize themselves with the design process while reflecting on their own learning goals for the course.   

2-Week Permaculture Design Project
Weeks 2 & 3
Participants will have an opportunity to engage deeply with the design process as they practice the process traditionally taught in Permaculture Design Courses (PDCs). 

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.

Participants will present their landscape designs at the end of Week 3 within a “dress rehearsal” environment. In Week 4, participants may choose any one of their 3 design projects to present as their final presentation

Compost Pile Preparation

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.

Perennial Plant Propagation & 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. 

Hands-On Mushroom Workshop

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


  • 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 a sweatlodge ceremony led by longtime Omega faculty Carl Big Heart to build an environment of trust rooted in mutual vulnerability and a commitment to living in sacred balance
  • 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.


The Grow Food Everywhere workshop on July 11-13, led by Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib, is now open to ELIP participants at a discounted rate. The total cost for this weekend program is $100 for those registered in the 4-Week Ecological Literacy Immersion Program. This course is highly recommended for those who are looking for further hands on experience.