The Permaculture Institute Story

Jason Gerhardt
With 27 years of permaculture education to date, the Permaculture Institute continues growing the field for the benefit of all.
Bill Mollison and Scott Pittman, Sebastopol, California Permaculture Course 1997

Deeply inspired by the genius of ecosystems and indigenous cultures all over the world, the permaculture concept was being developed in the early 1970’s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania and Australia. While David felt it important to practice and demonstrate in his life before teaching, Mollison wanted to carry permaculture to the world so it could be developed further and put to use everywhere. Each of these approaches were important for strengthening the budding concept and practice.

As Bill Mollison spread permaculture throughout the world by speaking, giving courses, and consulting, demand for education grew exponentially, in part due to the charismatic presence of Mollison himself. He started his Permaculture Institute in Tasmania to serve as the hub organization that represents permaculture worldwide, ran by him, Lisa Mollison, and several others. By the 1990’s, permaculture had grown so extensively that Mollison’s institute was no longer able to keep up with demand for information, courses, and certifications.

Scott Pittman and Bill Mollison on a teaching tour in Siberia

Permaculture Institute, Inc.

To meet the growing demand Mollison tapped Scott Pittman, one of his long-time students and co-teachers, and steward of the remains of the defunct Permaculture Drylands Institute. Scott and Bill decided on a structure of two institutes to hold permaculture worldwide, one each for the eastern and western hemispheres. As a result, Permaculture Institute, Inc., (PI) was formally incorporated in the USA as a 501(c)3 organization in July 1997 to represent permaculture for the western hemisphere with Bill Mollison, Scott Pittman, and Francis Huxley forming the original board.

Scott Pittman with students in Haiti

Then headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Scott Pittman and Arina Pittman dutifully ran PI for over two decades teaching hundreds of courses and workshops throughout the Americas, issuing thousands of Permaculture Design Course Certificates and nearly a hundred advanced practitioner Diplomas of Permaculture Design. They had support from many board members and volunteers along the way, with notable contributions from permaculture luminaries Larry Santoyo and Toby Hemenway. As Scott aged and the activity of PI needed energy, he began to look to some of his students to carry on the work alongside Arina and the board.


“PI stands on the contributions of many, but none more than Scott Pittman himself. After nearly 40 years of teaching, Scott saw the need for recontextualizing permaculture and developing new courses and curriculums that would benefit the outcomes of its practice.”


Jason Gerhardt and Scott Pittman teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Costa Rica

Jason Gerhardt was one of those students, and started teaching with Scott in 2012. Arina and Jason worked together on several initiatives and organized Permaculture Design Courses and Teacher Trainings for Scott to lead in the USA, Canada, and Costa Rica. In 2019, Arina decided to move into other realms of work and life, formally leaving PI to Scott’s trusted students. At that time Jason assumed the role of President of the board and began to build new networks to carry on the important work.

Another of Scott’s long-time students, Natalia Vega-Durga of Costa Rica is also very involved in carrying PI on, sharing the title of co-director with Jason today. In addition, Delvin Solkinson of Canada runs the Diploma Program, and board member Ros McCann, professor at Utah State University and one of Scott and Jason’s students, is an active thought partner and instructor.

Natalia Vega-Durga and Scott Pittman

Fresh Perspectives

PI stands on the contributions of many, but none more than Scott Pittman himself. After nearly 40 years of teaching, Scott saw the need for recontextualizing permaculture and developing new courses and curriculums that would benefit the outcomes of its practice. He spent years in conversation with Jason and Natalia about what those shifts and educational experiences might look like. It always included the wholeness of culture, not just the land, which inevitably concerned healing consciousness from the artificial separation of human culture and nature.

After many years of thought partnership, a global pandemic that changed society, as well as Scott Pittman’s passing from this world in 2022, the Permaculture Institute continues the legacy, conversation, and regeneration today. We don’t intend to represent permaculture in a top-down capacity or as an institute for an entire hemisphere. We only hope to stimulate you to join the rewarding journey of growing ecological culture and to take your permaculture practice further.

We invite you to participate in PI by freely learning in our publishing section, learning directly with us in our programs, or even considering a tax-deductible donation if it’s within your means.