My Review on Larry Santoyo and the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles.

The need for me to learn how to manage a large piece of land and grow food became apparent during our first small pilot home for orphans between 2009 and 2016. Our biggest cost was food and our limitation was a lack of space and open land because we were operating out of a city home. Learn more here

I had already taken Sustainable Agriculture 101 at Wild Willow Farm in San Diego in 2017. This was partly hands on farming training. However, after following several Permaculture Practitioners’ videos online, I was sure I needed to expand my understanding from farming to all the ways we could be smart to work with nature to make a property and community work.

My time with the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles all started in 2018 after my husband moved our family to Los Angeles.

However, I was in for a surprise on the depth of thought that my new instructor Larry Santoyo would bring to the table.

Santoyo, center.

As one of the original young men who studied, and taught with, one of Permaculture’s main founders, Bill Mollison, Larry Santoyo is a treasure of knowledge who changed the way I saw the world by giving me new eyes to see natural systems.

Truthfully, he already brazenly esteemed himself as a brilliant young man before he met Mollison, but realizing that he was no longer the most knowledgeable person in the room, he passionately applied himself to what he was learning and went on to master it and iterate on it. Santoyo has been teaching for 28+ years, part of that time with Mollison himself.

One of the best things is that you will never fall asleep in his class. My fellow classmates and I were always waiting to hear the surprising and brilliant ways in which he solved natural problems. I would like to describe his thinking as an astonishing four layers deep.

Plus, to keep us awake, he graciously peppered his speech with…. well let’s call it, colorful language in a non complaining matter-of-fact tone. Hahaha

One of the most notable things about his P.D.C. (Permaculture Design Course) was that he wasn’t just going to sit there and tell you how great swales are and how it’s a marvelous permaculture idea like you hear on permaculture videos Youtube. No, no, no, no……

Illustration from the book “Gaia’s Garden” which we got free with the course.

This man will tell you to examine the reality of the land you have, and the grade of your land for you to determine if a swale even has any business on your property considering the conditions.
After all, Permaculture is not simply confined to natural gardening, as Larry says, “it is a set of decision making protocols that can be used in every area of life.”

Another thing that stood out about his P.D.C. is that what people used to cram into 6 weeks of a fulltime P.D.C. on a farm somewhere, Larry has spread out over 6 months.

This was really important because classmates break up into teams to solve problems on a particular real world issue. He said that when they used to have the class crammed into 6 weeks, students’ presentations were really bad because it had to be thrown together so quickly and half of it done before the students had a chance to learn much.

Instead, Larry’s classes at the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles were on two weekend days, once a month for six months. And believe me those six months were over sooner than I wanted them to be. The content was so good, and the other students were all outside of the box people like me.

This course really has helped me, and I believe will help me in achieving my goals as a person who is putting together a community of people to care sustainably for orphans in Asia.

One of the best things about this class was the fellowship we shared with our classmates at the beer garden after class on Saturday nights. And this was our opportunity to have more time to talk and dream with Larry Santoyo and ask questions specific to our interests and needs. Some of my favorite topics were natural building and composting toilets!

Now I have two composition books chock-full of a treasury of notes from class that I can always refer to and re-sharpen my mind on.

Here’s a bit of the class syllabus:

Ethics of Permaculture Designers:

  • Care for the Earth; to repair and conserve.
  • To seek peace, and guard human rights everywhere.
  • To invest all capital, intelengence, goodwill, and labor to these ends.

Mollisonian Principles:

  • Work with nature.
  • The problem is the solution.
  • Make the least change for the greatest possible effect.
  • The yield of the system is theoretically unlimited.
  • Everything gardens…
  • Indicators of Sustainability:
  • Natural Succession.
  • Diversity of Functional Relationships.
  • Recycling Flow Through Energy (source to sink)
  • Multi Functions for Single Elements.
  • Multi Elements for Single Functions.
  • Stacking in Space and Time.
  • Biological Resources.
  • Relative Location.

My recommendation is, take this course while you still can. Larry is old.

By: Christina Hans

Christina Hans is a student of nature and has studied sustainable agriculture at Wild Willow Farm, San Diego and at the Permaculture Academy, Los Angeles.

She is founder of Future And A Hope Ministries Inc. a charity founded to rescue street children in Asia and care for them sustainably.

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