January 21 – April 29, 2020

Course Description

Social Permaculture for Food Justice prepares students with methodologies from the fields of permaculture design and social justice to enact change in the food system. Students learn tools to help them critique food system inequities, articulate goals for social change, and analyze their own power, privilege, and competencies as makers of change. Finally, students are guided through a permaculture design process in which they create social design models to catalyze the changes they wish to see in the food system. Through out the course, there is an emphasis on maintaining personal sustainability as food justice activists and developing leadership skills.

INSTRUCTOR: Abrah Jordan Dresdale is certified in Permaculture Design and holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Landscape Design and Food Systems Planning from the Conway School. She lives in rural and culturally vibrant Western Massachusetts where she spent four years developing and coordinating the nationally recognized, interdisciplinary Farm and Food Systems degree program at Greenfield Community College. She teaches college courses on permaculture design, food systems, and Jewish agricultural traditions at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Greenfield Community College, and Brandeis University Summer High School Programs. Her edible landscape design business, Feeding Landscapes, has developed projects ranging from a Public Food Forest for the Town of Wendell, MA, to the design and implementation of “Edible Pathways” for Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India to providing technical support for the creation of a campus permaculture garden at Wesleyan University. Her current focus is on her consulting business, where she is developing a prototype Jail-to-Farm-to-College Pipeline at the Franklin County Jail and social permaculture curriculum for non-profit organizations such as Omega Institute and The Jewish Farm School. More at: www.abrahdresdale.com

If you have questions, please contact Abrah Dresdale at: feedinglandscapes@gmail.com

Learning Objectives

  • Articulate components of a food system
  • Understand permaculture ethics and principles
  • Demonstrate knowledge of permaculture design process
  • Identify food justice and food sovereignty issues
  • Apply the permaculture design process to eco-social food justice projects
  • Understand the relevance of diversity and difference in the context of the food system
  • Describe how power, privilege, and oppression operates
  • Articulate tools for undoing oppression
  • Outline strategies within solidarity economics
  • Engage with ecology of leadership practices



5%—Glossary of Permaculture & Food Justice Terms

20%—Class Participation & Weekly On-line Response Discussions

20%—Permaculture Analysis & Leadership Development Exercises

25%—Lifestyle Shift Design Project

30%—Food Justice Design Project



  • Week 1: Current Context for ‘A Call to Action’
  • Week 2: Introduction to Social Permaculture
  • Week 3: Mapping Our Individual Power and Collaborative Potential


  • Week 4: United to End Structural Racism in the Food System
  • Week 5: Food Worker Justice & Challenging a Corporate Controlled Food System
  • Week 6: Food Sovereignty Struggles—Facing our Grief and Celebrating our Victories


  • Week 7: Social Permaculture Design Process
  • Week 8: Social Permaculture Analysis Tools for Leveraging Systems Change
  • Week 9: Working Effectively in Groups: Communication Tools & Policy Advocacy


  • Week 10: Personal Sustainability and the Importance of Self-Care
  • Week 11: Regenerative Leadership Development in the Food System
  • Week 12: Reframing Our Work in a Wider Context of People and Time
  • Week 13: Skills for Catching and Committing to a Vision
  • Week 14: Becoming a Conduit for Implementing and Sustaining Social Change


Required Texts:

  1. Harvesting Justice: Transforming the Global Food Supply Chain by Tory Field and Beverly Bell (2013) (*Note: you will need to download a free copy of this book as a PDF from BlackBoard Learn)
  2. Regenerative Design for Change Makers: A Social Permaculture Guidebook by Abrah Dresdale (2018) (*Note: at this time this book can only be purchased at www.regeneratechange.com/guidebook)
  3. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012)

Suggested Texts:

  1. Permaculture and People: Caring and Designing for Ourselves, Each Other, and the Planet by Looby Macnamara (2012)
  2. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Marie Brown (2017)
  3. Change Here Now: Permaculture Solutions for Personal and Community Transformation by Adam Brock (2017)
  4. Regenerative Enterprise by Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua (2015)
  5. Regenerative Business by Carol Sanford (2017)

Academic Honesty

No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  • Cheating – intentional use or attempted use of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud and/or misrepresentation of one’s academic work
  • Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification and/or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise
  • Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting without citation, in whole or in part, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another, including but not limited to commercial vendors who sell or distribute such materials
  • Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, or allowing others to represent as their own one’s papers, reports, or academic works

Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the course instructor as soon as possible. Formal definitions of academic dishonesty, examples of various forms of dishonesty, and the procedures which faculty must follow to penalize dishonesty are contained in the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class fulfills requirements for all three of the online programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Sustainable Food and Farming: