Rising Earth

Transformative Permaculture Immersion


Rising Earth

Transformative Permaculture Immersion



Whole-Systems Living for Social and Ecological Healing

A 10-week residential program at The Eco-Institute for change-makers between the ages of 18 and 28

2019 Dates: September 8-November 17

The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain
Chapel Hill, North Carolina


What Is It About?

What Is It About?

The Rising Earth program was designed to help you develop a vision for contributing your gifts to the healing of our world. Through a holistic curriculum, integrated workshops, and farm-side living at The Eco-Institute, you will leverage a permaculture perspective to foster resilient systems of abundance on the farm, in your community, and in your inner life.


You Will

  • Deepen your understanding of ecosystems, economy, and sustainable living

  • Gain a Permaculture Foundations Certificate while caring for our educational permaculture farm

  • Collaborate with a group of inspired allies in planning activism trips on a regional and national scale

  • Learn homesteading skills from farmers, fermenters, ecologists, natural builders, and more

  • Join conversations with leading thinkers in alternative economics and climate justice

  • Step into a deeper sense of purpose and direction with who you are and what your life is for

  • Come into closer relationship with your body, mind, heart, and spirit

  • Explore the beautiful lands of the Piedmont region, the dynamic community of Chapel Hill, and the academic district of North Carolina’s Research Triangle



Why Transformative Permaculture Immersion?

Why Transformative Permaculture Immersion?

This program calls us to look clearly at that which holds us back from our greatest potential.
— Flora K., Spring 2016



We are living in a time of great change, climate disruption, social inequality and unrest, and ecological degradation. Visionary cultural transformation is needed to restore balance and to create a thriving, just society that supports the planet as well as the people. Confronting change must happen at every level, and understanding the relationships between ourselves and the world around us provides ample opportunity to collaborate for what our friend Charles Eisenstein calls “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”



Permaculture is a holistic approach for human and environmental design based on principles found in nature. It goes beyond sustainable living into the creation of regenerative systems that have a net positive impact. By adopting and applying ecological principles such as minimizing waste, embracing diversity, and creatively responding to change, we can learn to be responsible producers rather than dependent consumers, and gain tools to build a planet in which all members thrive.



A deep dive into a whole new way of living will change the way you think about the path of your life. Surrounded by diverse and inspired community in an Earth Sanctuary and Learning Center, you will be supported and held accountable on your path to connect with a deep sense of purpose and connection.

Are you ready to step into your full potential?

A beautiful and necessary thing that you are doing!
— Joanna Macy, Eco-Philosopher and Environmental Activist


Who is the Rising Earth Immersion for?

Who is the Rising Earth Immersion for?


this program is for you if

  • You want to learn more about environmental sustainability, social and ecological justice, and community living

  • You are curious about living simply and close to the Earth

  • You are excited to be part of a diverse community of individuals from a variety of life stages

  • You question your current path and are searching for an experience that will connect you more deeply with your authentic place in the world

  • You are concerned about the future of our planet’s communities and ecosystems

  • You are committed to planetary healing by engaging in not only environmental action but also social, cultural, and spiritual transformation

  • You are a socially engaging, charismatic, and an open-hearted individual

  • You are excited about being a part of a diverse, engaging, and intergenerational community

  • You are wondering how living simply can enhance your well-being

  • You are between the ages of 18-28


This is a program for anyone who appreciates being interrupted mid-sentence, to be shown a beautiful sky, or magnificent clouds, or a gecko climbing up the wall, and for anyone who loves the feeling of your hands in the soil, and anyone who feels inspired to fight for a greener,
more canny, more loving world.
— Jamila V., Spring ‘16



Investment: $10,000

*Includes all programmed activities, double occupancy yome accommodation, delicious and organic meals.

Rising Earth at The Eco-Institute Chapel Hill NC Permaculture Immersion


The Eco-Institute recognizes diversity, solidarity, and allyship as critically important pieces of healing the human-Earth relationship. To read more about our commitment to inclusion, click the button bellow.


We have had the opportunity of providing significant scholarships in the past to make this program accessible for people in many financial circumstances.  Click the button below to download information about our scholarship program.


Ready to apply?

Want more information about the Immersion?

The Rising Earth Immersion program at The Eco-Institute qualifies for 20 hours of Criteria II or for 10 hours of Continuing Education credits for the NC Environmental Education Certification.


Leadership Community

Leadership Community

The program is led by a devoted and diverse team of cultural change-makers,
who each bring their gifts to a collaborative working environment.


Alison Sever
Director; Core Facilitator

I arrived at The Eco-Institute from a series of wanderings. In my fortune I have been afforded the space to wonder wildly about questions like: What does it mean to live a good life? What makes a person happy, or successful? What is the value of discomfort, of art, of flying thousands of miles to plant trees or to listen to languages that soon won’t be spoken? What can be lost in the name of progress? I wandered my answers while living in the homes of gracious people around the world, and later, while facilitating culturally-immersive experiences for young seekers who were wondering questions of their own. Though I’ve found deep joy in the privilege of these adventures overseas, right now I’m encountering connection and vitality from the experience of living in community, and of tending to the stories that this land, itself, is wondering.

Alison has years of experience leading, designing, and directing gap year and other immersive, experiential education opportunities all over the world. She is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and a certified Reiki practitioner.

Jimi Eisenstein
Core Facilitator

It's not easy to introduce myself in a paragraph because I don't really specialize in anything. I am often engaged in local land projects, community building, improv theatre, creating educational animated videos, political activism, taking classes, teaching classes, and attending local skillshares. Despite the non-specificity of my life's work, there is a single common thread connecting everything I do: I am motivated by a vision of a more beautiful world. When the world's illness is everywhere, the healing can happen in countless ways.

Jimi received his PFC at The Eco-Institute, and is currently working towards his PDC. He participated in the young adult program at The Eco-Institute in 2016, and has served as a core facilitator program three times since.

Megan Toben
Spiritual Ecology Teacher; Permaculture Teacher

I have been so blessed to live and raise my two children at The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain for the past 17 years. My years of learning from and with this land and my Permaculture Design Certification from the legendary Will Hooker at NC State University are infinitely more useful than my Bachelors of Science in Biology from Elon University. I love the way Permaculture reminds humanity to learn from the wisdom of Nature, and believe these kinds of shifts at the root of cultural worldview are critical as humanity remembers our rightful place in the Earth Community.

Meg is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain. She has 24 years of experience as an environmental educator, and was honored with the Piedmont Environmental Leadership Award in 2015.

Simon Spire
INploration Course Instructor

The focus of my work is accompanying people on their initiatory journeys through life while also exploring cultural evolution and transformation. This brought me to The Eco-Institute in 2015, where I’ve since been thrilled to lead an inner development arc as part of the Rising Earth Immersion. Originally from New Zealand, I embarked on what turned out to be an initiatory journey of my own as a musician and songwriter in LA and New York beginning in 2005. Underlying this artistic quest was a deep and ongoing encounter with self-inquiry, contemplative wisdom traditions, and the transformative nature of following one’s own mysterious, soulful path. This eventually birthed a joyous new chapter of supporting people in their deepening, awakening, and walking their most authentic path in life through Emergent Inquiry. I also have a lifelong interest in exploring how we can create more life-supporting economic dynamics, which somehow fits into the picture! 


Simon has a BA in Economics and Finance and an MA in Clinical Psychology. He is a certified Focusing trainer and has studied immersively with The Animas Valley Institute, the Purpose Guides Institute, and is currently working towards a PhD in Psychology and Philosophy. AND he’s got a Permaculture Design Certificate, to boot!


Cristina Rojas Bozovich
Permaculture Teacher

I am a Peruvian entrepreneur specialized in retail management and business ethics. I am an outgoing DIY-lover, who loves exploring her surroundings, growing sprouts at home, doing pottery, and creating recipes from scratch. After completing two permaculture courses (PFC and PDC) at The Eco-Institute, I decided to have a career change to focus on environmental protection. I am now the CEO of Permacrafters, an online environmental school. I lead the web-design, marketing, and crafting projects there. The classes I co-design include zero waste body care, green cleaning, low-waste menstruation, herbal remedies, sprouting, secondhand living, activism, and so much more!

Cristina received her PFC and her PDC with Will Hooker at The Eco-Institute, has a BA in Business Administration and a post-graduate degree in retail management.

Topher Stephens
core Facilitator

I have spent the past several years exploring the ways that me and my fellow cis white settlers on Turtle Island can move towards reconciliation and alliance with oppressed and marginalized peoples, and the ways that the broader human community can collectively restore our belonging with the more-than-human world. I am inspired and fortified by the community of leaders, stewards, and activists at The Eco-Institute and see the Rising Earth Immersion as a wholehearted creative expression of love for the world. I am deeply honored to be of service to this transformative project.


Topher has a BS in Biology and has completed teacher trainings in Awake in the Wild Mindfulness in Nature, and iBme mindfulness for youth, trauma-informed care for youth, and embodied and ancestral healing for racial justice.


Della Duncan
Guest Workshop: Right Livelihood and the New Economy

I am a Renegade Economist based in San Francisco looking forward to being a guest mentor on this year’s Rising Earth Immersion program. I dream of a world where people are able to meet their needs while contributing meaningfully to society and living in harmony with other people and the natural world. I actualize this goal by producing the Upstream Podcast telling stories about economic systems change, offering Right Livelihood coaching for individuals looking to align their values with their work, providing alternative economics consulting for organizations and governments, and tackling issues of social and economic equity through the London School of Economics Atlantic Fellows program. I balance this heady and theoretical work by dancing, participating in hands-on projects in my neighborhood, and leading embodied Work that Reconnects retreats to strengthen our resilience and courage to contribute to a more just, sustainable, and thriving world.

Della has an MA in Economics for Transition from Schumacher College, focusing on Restorative Justice and Social and Emotional Intelligence. She is a Work That Reconnects trainer and Gross National Happiness Master Trainer.

Taylor Westbrook
Food Traditions Teacher

I am a traveling foodie and cook and have dedicated my life to the interest of food, community, and relearning the art of cooking. As I have jumped deeper into this exploration I have only increased my interests of what food can mean for a person’s life. I'm grateful to say that this path will probably take a few life times to complete. A place where I was blessed to play with these ideas of food, connection, and community was my time at The Eco-Institute as a student in 2016. It’s an experience that I draw from often, especially now that I have the luxury to be rooted down once again at The Eco-Institute. This spring I’ve been diving into projects that will take months or years to fully develop. I'm looking forward to all of the summer bounty and how to transform plants into salty and briny goodness. My favorite piece that The Eco-Institute offers its students is to take lead on whatever your heart desires.


Taylor has a BS in Tourism and Communications, and is a graduate of Cook Street Culinary School. He completed a butcher certificate program through Rocky Mountain Meat Institute and has studied in residency with fermentation master Sandor Katz. He is also an alum of the young adult program at The Eco-Institute.


Nathan Tietbohl
Permaculture Teacher

I think if I were to have a mantra—and if you asked me I’d probably tell you I couldn’t pick one—it would be: “Well… Let’s think about it.” I am on a journey to understand and unpack the built environment and the interface between it and our social and cultural practices through research, seeking experts, observation and experimentation. I have worked with both Food Councils and General contractors over the past several years, completed a PDC with Will Hooker in 2018 and an Advanced Permaculture Design for Climate Resilience course through Oregon State University that same year as well. Most recently I am working with a Permaculture Design + Build firm as an installation supervisor installing resilient, native, edible landscapes and rain harvesting systems in the Southeast. I am a listener first, but earnest learner with a passion for sharing that knowledge; I have been a part of The Eco-Institute community since 2016.

Nate is an alum of the young adult program at The Eco-Institute and today, a permaculture professional with 2 years of experience in general carpentry, landscape installation, and as a foreman. He has degree in Environmental Studies and Mathematics from Elon University, and has completed several advance permaculture trainings that address climate and society.

Amy Wildwood
Transformative Leadership Instructor

Starting with an around-the-world cultural immersion program in 2003, my certainty of working in environmental conservation started to give way to a new fascination with people. What makes people tick? Why do some believe that you can hurt other people or the planet? What makes people well and happy? My career has done a slow but steady about-face ever since, and I have dedicated my life to learning about wellness, happiness, communication, relatedness, and capacity. (And more specifically, nervous systems, triggers, resiliency, safety, aliveness, and belonging.) I love people, and I love the people part of the equation of building a beautiful world. I am also a dancer and experience much of my personal connection to others and the world at large through movement, play, and silliness.


Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Transformative Leadership from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her post-graduate training has focused on modalities that support deep, personal healing and change, including Somatic Experiencing, Neuro-Linguistic Processing, Family Constellations, attuned touch, massage, Nonviolent Communication, among others.


The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain

The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain

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Rising Earth Immersion is a program of The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain, an educational nonprofit dedicated to healing the human-Earth relationship.

Our Location

8519 Pickards Meadow Rd. 
Chapel Hill, NC 27516