Permaculture, Sustainability & Activism Semester in the USA

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About

Dear Current and Aspiring Climate and Social Justice Activists:

Are you seeking a totally unique educational experience that links society, the environment, the economy, and your development as an individual?

The Rising Earth Immersion (REI) is a holistic and cutting-edge environmental leadership program at The Eco-Institute for change-makers ages 18-28 who are carving out a life-path in service of eco-social justice.

While living in dynamic community on an organic farm and Earth sanctuary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, learn the art of permaculture, and how to leverage its transformative power for ecological restoration, social contribution, and your own metamorphosis. Live simply while tending the land, growing and preparing fresh food in community, learning homesteading, activism, collaborative leadership, yoga and mindfulness skills, gaining a Permaculture Foundations Certificate, and more!

Highlights
  • Grow your own organic food while caring for an educational farm (milking goats, anyone?)
  • Learn homesteading skills from farmers, fermenters, herbalists, natural builders, and more
  • Participate in workshops with leading thinkers in alternative economics and climate justice
  • Conspire with a group of diverse allies in planning trips and collaborative activism projects
  • Explore the beautiful lands of the Piedmont region, the dynamic community of Chapel Hill, and the academic district of North Carolina's Research Triangle

SPRING 2020 POSTPONED TO SUMMER / THE SHOW GOES ON!

Our 5-week SPRING INTENSIVE has been postponed to late summer 2020, with a new application deadline of May 15th. We plan for our FALL IMMERSION to go on as planned. For your peace of mind, we've added a Flexible Refund Policy so you can plan for the future at no risk. If you're ready to step into a world of peace, justice, and contribution, click over to our website for more!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.92 Rating
based on 12 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
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  • Housing 9
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 9.8
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 12
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Ellie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experiential Transformation

Everything about this program is powerful and transformative. It offers growth in beautiful and untraditional ways. I am deeply grateful for the insistence on seeing each person and system holistically. This way of framing life has been revolutionary for me, and so vital to creating a new world. I particularly appreciated the focus on self-care as community care. We were taught and encouraged to listen to our needs and take care of the whole by taking care of the self. I have been burned out over and over again in my life, and was wondering if it was something I was doing wrong. It turns out, there was something wrong with what the systems I have been in. They have required too much of me, without acknowledging my needs. When I was finally in a space where I could honor my body's needs from moment to moment, and honor other individuals' needs from moment to moment, I was able to be more present, honest and engaged.

I really loved the community environment, the communion with nature, and the engagement in activism. Everything we did was integrated. The learning opportunities were not solely reliant on traditional learning methods, but rather brought in physical and experiential learning as well. The concepts we discussed were introduced into our bodies and the lessons have stayed with me. I am changed because of the tender, ferocious and gracious container of learning and challenging.

I wholeheartedly recommend this program to anyone questioning the systems in society, seeing growth, looking for community, hoping for a brighter future, or who feel a dedication to the Earth.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Prepare to take a deep dive into who you are.
Prepare to build relationships with others in a way that you never have before.
Prepare to learn how to trust yourself and the community you are with.
Prepare to fall in love with the land, and honor the earth.
Prepare to both be challenged, and find rest.
Prepare to trust the process.
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Josie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Transformative Program

Greetings! My name is Josie Strick, and I’m a recent graduate of the Rising Earth Immersion program. I’m so excited to see that you’re interested in being a part of this beautiful community and learning experience. I remember when I was also a prospective participant last Spring. I felt something in my gut and heart that led me to taking the leap and applying, which I’m sure you’re experiencing; too. My advice for you is to follow that feeling because it will lead you to an immensely transformative experience. It’s okay and normal to feel anxious or unsure, and that’s why I’d like to share with you a little about my experience in the Rising Earth Immersion program.

Before attending this program, I felt lost as a recent college graduate navigating the world of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being surrounded by environmental and social catastrophes, I struggled to find ways to process the injustices that were occurring in a meaningful way. I knew in my gut that I wanted to figure out what my role was in working toward justice and healing. This calling led me to this program, even though I wasn’t 100% sure in what ways it would transform my life, spirituality, and purpose. However, after only a few weeks at the Eco-Institute, I felt a shift happening inside me. Living and growing with a community isn’t easy. We had to work through our individual and collective struggles in order to grow together, and in order to grow an unconditional love for each other. I genuinely had never felt a love so deep for a group of humans before, even though we all came from different places, backgrounds, identities, and more.

The connection that we grew with each other, and to the land we were on, led me to the most important realization of my life: that we are all interconnected, and that Earth is alive. I was re-awakened to this truth, and learned to see the sacredness in everyday life. I learned that sacredness can show up in so many different ways such as waking up and going to sleep every day in a forest with my yome mate, planting seeds and tending the garden together, taking long drives with my cohort, sleeping under the stars together in the garden and gazebo, learning and unlearning together, and being challenged as a community. All of this ultimately made us stronger and more connected. I discovered the power of collective hope, faith, and love within this program, which have allowed me to understand my role and purpose within the fight for social and environmental justice and healing. I now understand that we can only get through that fight and succeed through the power and love of community.

Being a part of the Rising Earth Immersion program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If it has come into your life or caught your attention, I think you should follow that instinct and go for it!

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Psalms
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

REI Participant

This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity of joining a community with a mission of cultivating social and ecological healing through attending the Summer Rising Earth Immersion Program at the Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain. I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful and developmental experiences of my life thus far. The permaculture foundations of this program were woven brilliantly through an immersive curriculum around sustainably living, garden care, community living, arts and activism, decolonization work and radical self-care, providing a uniquely wholistic learning experience.
It felt especially significant for me to attend this program during such a difficult but critical time for a Black person in this nation (the U.S.), and to practice taking up space, resting, being cared for and uplifted as a marginalized identity, and living in community with folks who are dedicated to doing anti-racist work and becoming better allies. Additionally, I found the land connection aspect of the program to be one of my greatest sources of healing. Not only did I feel a sense of connection to my ancestors through the acknowledgement of their spirit and labor within the soil, but even just the act of paying attention to nature grounded me. Tending to nature became tending to myself, and I ended up learning so much from nature about how to best interact with change through it’s perfect example of adaptability, interdependence, decentralized power, resilience and transformation.

What was your funniest moment?
There are honestly too many to choose from haha. You have lots of funny moments when you're living with 12 other people for 5 weeks. But I would say one of my personal funniest moments would have to be staying in my yome for the first night. If you don't know what a yome is- its basically like a fancy tent- and as a city girl with anxiety who has never been, nor had an interest in camping, I was very unenthusiastic about staying in this tent-like thing in woods. Nevertheless, that first night around 9 pm, I gathered my electric lantern and walked the 200 feet between the renovated barn/community area to my little yome, hoping for my "yomemate" to come soon after and help put my nerves at ease. About 30 minutes into trying to settle in, a loud owl started hooting right outside of my door, causing me to shoot on my light to see a spider on the ceiling and and some little fly type things being drawn to the light from my electric lantern. After about 5 minutes of trying to calm myself through the hooting and bug presence, I thought to myself "wow, I'm really going to die in here on my first night." At that point I had a decision to make. I could either stay in the yome, anxiously awaiting my demise, or take my chances traveling through the woods at night until I made it back to the safe, air-conditioned community space. I decided on the later, even though I could tell my light was growing dimmer- meaning the battery was running low. As soon as I stepped outside I could barely see past my light and immediately regretted my decision, but I had no time for regret... I had to LIVE. So, I started running, allowing the guidance of my ancestors to lead me through the 100 feet of woods and helping me fight off the spider webs that tried to suffocate me. Finally, I made it back to the barn, sweating and breathing heavily, to find my yomemate chatting and drinking hot tea with another member of our cohort. "You almost let me die out there" I thought to myself. But when they asked me what was wrong I simply said "WHERE WERE YOU GIRL I ALMOST DIED OUT THERE I JUST RAN LIKE A RUNAWAY SLAVE THROUGH THOSE WOODS IM NOT GOING BACK UNTIL YOU GO BACK." Hahaha I was so dramatic. Thankfully, I started getting more comfortable sleeping in my yome as the weeks went by. But all my cohort friends would tell me they still knew when it was me going back to my yome at night because I was always running lol.
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Lillian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Experience of My Life

I'll share one experience I had with one of the many workshops we did.

A woman from Fibershed came out to teach us about making sustainable textiles and natural dyes. One of the things l learned is that you can use the tanins leached from ground acorns as a fixative for the dye. This mixture is a byproduct that you naturally get when making acorn flour, so once we were making natural dye, we realized we might as well make acorn flour, and then to make acorn flour, all of a sudden we were foraging in the woods for acorns and while we were there, we thought we may as well forage for mushrooms and other foods too. So once we stepped into these natural processes, all of a sudden I found myself emerged in this beautiful circle of life and sustenance that lends itself to a whole other way of living! And then when I was foraging in the woods and finding all of these materials being freely given like a gift, it made me feel in a deeper sense that the earth is my home and understand how generous it is in sustaining me and giving me everything I need for free. And then I found myself in an abundance mindset, rather than a scarcity mindset that I'd been conditioned into all my life, and it really made me realize what a gift my own life is.

This was just one afternoon on the farm but it is a microcosm of what can happen when you start to live in community and in relationship with the land under the guidance of the knowledge, curious, and beautiful leaders of this program.

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Jay
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Heart Filling Community

If your seeking a loving, caring supportive community this is the place to be. Filled with spiritually wealthy, talented individuals, I have never felt so accepted and encouraged to be my true self. This aspect, coupled with somatic self care, inploration to the inner psyche, and rebuilding human-nature relationships was an incredibly transformative process. Digging deep into what the soul really wants, finding out who I truly want to be. This immersive experience won't change who you are, it will only allow you to become more of yourself.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Thinking I was the only one "broken", or not content with the current social/political/environmental but now I joke that this is the island of misfits. We all feel a deep yearning for change, for a "New Story" and that is the exact reason that brought us here together in this very moment. That commonality is what built such a strong relationship with others participants.
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Lucas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Never Grown Quite Like This

The Rising Earth Immersion program was an excellent choice for me as my first gap year experience post-undergraduate graduation. Like many of my peers, I came out of school still carrying a ton of questions about how to navigate my life path and contribute effectively to social and ecological wholesomeness. This 10-week residency helped dissolve many of my anxieties and clear up my intuitions by opening me up to the transformative powers of intentional community and its dynamic, emergent processes of growth and learning.

From preparing meals as a group, to practicing Nonviolent Communication techniques, to learning principles of the New Economy (regenerative, creative, just, and resonant with Buddhist ethics), to implementing the fundamentals of permaculture design in the garden, to having intimate circle discussions about gender/privilege/dreams/fears/what holds us back, there were so many opportunities to deepen my values, let go of my "agenda," and find a deep sense of meaning and well-being as a present-minded student and community member. I was really impressed with the level of care and ethics embodied by the program facilitators and instructors. I felt like I had an abundance of role models to look up to as I reflected on my transition into full adulthood and maturity. For the first (sustained) time in my life, I felt like I really belonged somewhere, and that many of the layers I usually put on to present an idealized version of myself to others could be shed. I knew I would be accepted and empathized with in my full emotional complexity, and it was such a heart-warming experience to show parts of myself I tend to hide.

The Eco-Institute itself is a gorgeous backdrop for an alternative semester / rite of passage. With a sizable, biodiverse, permaculture-infused garden that supplied many of our meal ingredients, scenic yurt lodging in the forest (highlights of which include coyote and owl calls in the night), a huge pond for swimming and dock-chilling, and a well-equipped, beautifully designed barn (with a modern kitchen, open-mic stage, living room, and yoga studio), it is a place of vibrant inspiration and rich sensory immersion.

I would recommend this program for any young adult curious about taking sustainability seriously, interested in how environmentalism can effectively merge with social justice, eager to find a real sense of community, and questioning what their deeper purpose may be in these times of great transition. As someone who has passed to the other side of it, I can say that I feel more stable in my identity, confident in my dreams, and appreciative of the gifts of this human life than ever before.

What would you improve about this program?
The main thing I can think of to critique of about the program is the room it has to engage more with regional and national activism. However, I know the leadership team is working hard to incorporate activist projects more centrally into the curriculum.
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Abbey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Finding Purpose in Amazing Community

From milking goats to cooking delicious meals straight from the garden to making medicinal tinctures to tending to blueberry plants, I felt so connected to the Earth and the beautiful land around me. I loved living in the "Yomes" a.k.a Yurt Homes which were spacious and comfy. Everyone involved in the program cared deeply for the others in our cohort and was passionate about many different topics: bird calling, herbalism, poetry, wood working, building food forests, and more. I learned so much from the instructors who led yoga, permaculture classes, new economy workshops, nonviolent communication instruction, and so much more. I went into the program completely burnt out from college and social and environmental activism. I am leaving with a sense of purpose and direction. I want to continue working in sustainable agriculture and holistic wellbeing. I want to help imagine a more beautiful world and fight to protect the extraordinary natural world. I feel deeply connected to the other people on my program and know they are here to support and work alongside me.

What was your funniest moment?
On one of the final nights we all dove into the freezing cold lake and huddled around the bonfire after until the middle of the night, singing songs and sharing stories.
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Nevin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

best decision I've ever made!

The love and support that is grown at the Eco-Institute (alongside all of the delicious fruits and veggies) has absolutely changed my life. It has taught me to grow as well, in countless integral and invaluable ways.
I graduated high school in the spring of 2019, and when I began this program I was unsure of what next steps I wanted to take in my life. I arrived hoping to find direction, and I am walking away with that and so much more. I have never in my life felt as grounded in my heart's deepest pulls or as sure of my path as I do in this moment. This program not only gives you the tools to look inward and find your truest self, but also gives you the support system to build the confidence it takes to follow your heart. I feel so incredibly lucky to have received this gift at eighteen, as many do not get to feel this freedom and deep knowing until much later in life. This program has been the best possible beginning to my journey into adulthood.
My time at the Eco-Institute also opened me up to a world of knowledge that I am so excited to continue exploring. Rising Earth Immersion really is the perfect title because everything from agriculture and permaculture, to communication, emotional literacy, and community living are taught in an immersive, hands-on way. We had our hands in the dirt out in the garden, we each played an equal roll in creating the norms for our community, we were all committed to honest, open communication, and much more. I can say without a doubt that everyone who comes here will learn something new about themselves, the world, or a new skill each and every day. And will learn in a way that is engaging, gratifying, and long-lasting.
I cannot say enough about the Rising Earth Immersion and its impact on my life. It has been the best experience of my life and I deeply recommend it to any person who feels pulled to find deeper connection with themselves, the Earth, and community. <3

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you feel at all drawn to what you have read on this page, I encourage you to take a look at the website. Trust that pull and apply! What you will find at the Eco-Institute is growth and love, and it will not fail to deepen the fullness of your soul.
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