Permaculture, Sustainability & Activism Semester in the USA

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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 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!

  • 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 a Collaborative Activism Project
  • Explore the beautiful lands of the Piedmont region, the dynamic community of Chapel Hill, and the academic district of North Carolina's Research Triangle

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Questions & Answers


9.88 Rating
based on 8 reviews
  • Housing 9.1
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.8
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 8
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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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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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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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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.
Yes, I recommend this program

A Glimpse Into a More Beautiful World

My experience here was really beautiful. Ten weeks living in community with 10+ other people with earth-oriented values brought me to rethink what it means to be human. Sleeping in yurts in the forest, cooking meals together, learning about how to practice earth regeneration in tangible ways, sharing deep parts of ourselves with one another, were all facets of a beautiful (and I believe possible) way of life.

The intra- and inter-personal growth has been immense, and I cultivated a sense of closeness with those around me that this loneliness-stricken culture longs for. This is in part due to the specific people who came, but it is also due to the kind of social environment the program's structure encouraged. We share things in circle. We learn and use healthy communication tools. We play silly games. We sometimes process grief together. The tools I've learned in this program I use in all my relationships to this day.

The practical skills aspect of the program is abundant as well, and contributes to the wholesome lifestyle here. We dabbled in a little of everything: foraging, fermentation, natural building, animal care, and lots more. The garden we help out in (and learn a LOT from) overflows with food, and provides for me a feeling of utmost fulfillment: being connected to the source of what goes in my body. We also learned the principles of permaculture, an approach and method to human collaboration with natural ecosystems. No longer do humans need to exploit the planet to thrive---quite the opposite. Healing natural ecosystems is actually the most conducive to human well-being. I once understood this as an abstract concept, but during this program I could feel it with the wholeness of my being.

This program feels both like a training ground and a blueprint for how we could run the world in a beautiful way.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you are a little afraid about this step into the unknown, I recommend leaning into that discomfort a little, making a decision that is at the edge of your courage. You might form connections here that are pivotal for your life path. There is no guarantee, but it is possible, and has happened before.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Program

"I've never felt so a part of a community in my entire life. I'm so grateful for all of you." I said, tears pouring down my face at one of my birthday celebrations at the Eco-Institute. Standing in a pre-feast circle with many of the people who have become closest to me.
With an intense desire to go deeper into organic agriculture & permaculture I came to the Eco-Institute in 2014 to participate in the Odyssey Fellowship Program, now the Rising Earth Immersion. After working as a farm hand on organic farms for two years prior, I was thirsty for a more formal education in agriculture, and that's exactly what the Eco-Institute was able to provide. I wanted to learn the skills necessary to sustain myself through holistic agriculture practices on a homestead of my own, and after my education at the Eco-Institute I feel confident that I can fulfill my homesteading dreams.
What I didn't expect was the education in emotional health and awareness. This gained awareness into my feelings has been the single greatest gift I've ever received in my life. I feel more connected to myself, to my romantic partners, to my family, and friends. I feel more complete and authentic and accepting of myself and others in my life. The agriculture piece is more quantitative, a hard, tangible skill. The emotional piece is all qualitative, a soft, intangible skill. I was shown that both are equally in important.
Few programs exist like this one in the world. On such a beautiful piece of land and beautiful community surrounding it. My tears flow every year on my birthday at the Eco-Institute for the overwhelming gratitude I have and will always have for the life changing experience I've had there.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Raw goat's milk and homemade goat's cheese was unfamiliar to me and so so delicious!
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Semester to let go and give in

The experiences that you will find during the Rising Earth Immersion are made from your own hands. It is this kind of educational experience that I feel young adults dream of and wish they had in higher education. The land at Pickards Meadow is meant for you to explore and go deep into the realms of your choosing. With the support of community members, teachers, and the land itself these all surround you and hold you as you go deep into your inner worlds. There is plenty of practical studies and again the community is there to help you and give you resources to access your gifts if you haven't already. Finding time to slow down is a piece that you have the ability to learn from in this immersion. The greatest gift though is what the group manifests in their time and each program is of its own and never looks like the one before it. To me that is where the beauty happens and the tough and real experience's of learning how to live in community. Its not always easy and pretty that is where you can practice and grow as a human.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't expect to be served an experience that is curated and served to you in a pretty way. This is not that kind of eco-adventure-tourism program, there is beauty and adventure but it is much deeper than that.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Influential and Empowering

What would I say about the EIPM's immersion program? what do you do?
Living on a farm, working the garden, preparing farm-to-table dinners, sharing in the harvest, swimming in the lake, meeting new friends... those are a few of the invaluable experiences that you will partake in.

Living and learning with a community of individuals who share a similar vision of the environment and humanity was very empowering and enriching for my soul as I was searching for my life's purpose. Megan and Tim Toben, their family, friends, community members and elders are a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and guidance who have been phenomenal teachers and role models for me. Their genuine love and mindfulness for everyone and the earth has given me the positive example of how to carry myself with poise and integrity.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Keep an open-mind. Have a willingness to learn new skills. Be ready to work the land.