Growing the Family Tree


Growing the Family Tree




Family Tree Permaculture Design courses & Workshops

Family Tree Permaculture Design courses & Workshops

Social and Ecological Permaculture Design Certification Course - 2017

2 week Intensive in Castle Bruce, Dominica


"The classic permaculture model sounds like this: permaculture practiced on the land leads to an abundance of material resources which can nourish and cultivate community.
Social permaculture implies a second narrative possibility that sounds like this: permaculture practiced in the community leads to an abundance of material resources which can nourish and cultivate the land." 

Once again, a dedicated team of local and international Permaculture teachers, designers and consultants is converging on the beautiful Nature Island of Dominica for a 2 week (72 hour) Intensive Permaculture Design Certification course.  

This is a residential course.  We will be waking up every day to the sound of birds in a tropical paradise.  Surrounded by lush rainforest, enjoying natural pools, rivers and drinking fresh spring water, we are giving ourselves the ideal setting to learn and grasp the phenomena of this planet.  

In this off-grid environment, instructors and participants can share lunch under organic fruit trees or take a dip in a waterfall while discussing systems design. In the evenings, after a long day of intensive learning, one might choose to star-gaze, listening to the night sounds of the jungle, reflecting on the profound connections Nature demonstrates.



What is this course about?

What is this course about?

This is the opportunity for the people of Dominica as well as international students to come participate in a 2 week, 72 hour Intensive Permaculture Design Certification Course.  Set in the beautiful South East Caribbean tropics, this course is based on the classic Permaculture curriculum as inspired by the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.

The course will take place from December 11th through December 22nd, led by Permaculture instructors and designers Mike Wird, Papillon Ribier and Robin Eden White, with a series of presentations by local community organizers, farmers, botanists, builders, and more.

This certification course will expose participants to a wide variety of subjects in the form of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on workshops.  We will be studying in some of Dominica’s most beautiful gardens as well as in devastated and urbanized areas.  Residing on the design site at Eden Heights, looking through the lens of Permaculture, you will develop a deeper understanding of social and ecological patterns, principles and appropriate strategies.  And most importantly, the quality of the relationships between them.   

The backdrop of this PDC is the current need for a healthy infrastructure that must eventually meet the needs and wants of the people of the beautiful Nature island of Dominica. 


Why Dominica?

Why Dominica?

Dominica is a tropical sanctuary, where communities live close to Nature and have a profound respect for their environment.  The island presents us with many issues linked to our changing climate and extreme weather events.  These need to be addressed for the safety and quality of life of many of our tropical islands.  It is a place known for the purity of its waters and the richness of its flora, where indigenous and colonial realities are contrasted.  

What an ideal setting to reflect on the Ethics and Principles of Permaculture.  

It is crucial for places such as Dominica to maintain and further develop self-reliance and peace in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming socio-economic transitions in our World today.  This is why Jeff “Papillon” Ribier, of Kalinago descent (the indigenous people of the Caribbean), has felt a call to return to the islands and offer to act as a facilitator.  

Inviting international and local educators and professionals to share their relevant skills and knowledge, Papillon’s intention is to celebrate Dominica’s resiliency and continue to cultivate it. With the tools in the hands of the people one can picture recovering a dignified quality of Life for the majority.  Committing to such a destiny, he and his organization - the ButterSide- have developed a program called The Family Tree.


What will you experience?

What will you experience?

You will learn and share knowledge, skills and dreams while experiencing life on the Nature Island.

Eating delicious nutritious food, prepared daily from local organic produce by the Beyond Vitality and Eden Heights’ kitchens, observing Nature’s design and growing from the knowledge of indigenous cultures, you will be able to apply all your senses to the art of regenerative design and lifestyle.  

Farmers, city planners, artists, parents, engineers, rural and urban residents and beyond, all have a role to play and a thought to share in this process, and we are looking forward to what will come of this Intensive Social and Ecological Permaculture Design Course.

Here are some of the goals we have set:

  1. to demonstrate regenerative living and environmental stewardship in these times of local and Worldwide transition.

  2. to share skills and knowledge of how to fit Human culture back into Nature’s design.

  3. to address the need to adapt our communities and infrastructure to a changing unpredictable climate.

  4. to face the issue of neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism and support the relevance of indigenous ethics and practices, to avoid going deeper into the imbalance our society has created over the centuries of Human “civilization”.

  5. to reinforce systems thinking, creating the conditions for self-empowering members of society to find and/or maintain a functioning position in their community, while understanding their environment/network as a whole.

  6. to enable participants to enter the international Permaculture community as practitioners, whether as a designer, consultant, educator, builder, farmer or in any other field of Human activity.

The PDC course includes 72 hours of classroom time and/or hands-on activities in the following areas and more...:

  • Food forests and agroforestry

  • Indigenous culture & agriculture

  • Soil ecology

  • Natural building & Earthworks

  • Waste management & grey water systems

  • Bioremediation

  • Renewable energy systems

  • Design for disaster

  • Watershed management

  • Economy and Equity

  • Group work on a conceptual design project

  • appropriate technology

  • Permaculture principles and ethics

  • Observation, reading the landscape

  • Patterns in Nature, in society and in design

  • Water harvesting   

  • Carbon Sequestration and Biochar
  • Animal husbandry

  • Mapping, zone and sector analysis

  • Climate and micro-climate strategies

  • Urban permaculture

  • Land access

  • Community organizing

  • Seed saving


What is the Family Tree Project?

What is the Family Tree Project?

FamilyTreeLogo ghost.jpg

The Family Tree is a project grown from the hybrid seed of curiosity and necessity.  Rooted in the sharing of culture and knowledge, we want to see Nature-loving communities stand united and conscious of their connection to the cycles of Life.  

This program is a collaboration between the ButterSide and Regenerative Lifestyles (a Colorado-based organization) with Eden Heights, and Dominican organizations:  a number of local farmers, craftspeople and community members.

Suggesting the design and implementation be a bottom-top-bottom process, the Family Tree cares to inspire people and communities to carry on and/or reclaim stewardship and care for their environment.  We are inviting you to be a part of this endeavor.  



Instructors & guest speakers

Instructors & guest speakers

Mike Wird (Regenerative Lifestyles)

Mike Wird is an advanced Permaculture designer/consultant/teacher, artist educator, and natural builder, who shares his dedication to social and environmental justice through cultural arts and regenerative social and ecological design practices.

Mike is Co-Founder of Regenerative Lifestyles LLC, ( ) a social and ecological design and education firm offering services and opportunities in alignment with integrated living systems. Mike is also a co-founder of The Rockies Edge Permaculture Design Course ( ) and currently a part of the Rockies Edge teaching team in Boulder, CO.

Mike Wird has been actively cultivating community for over a decade as a cultural arts ambassador, raising awareness about social, and ecological issues and their solutions in our environments.

In 2011, Mike received his diploma in Earthship Biotecture, and was certified in Permaculture Design, studying under Adam Brock, Toby Hemenway, Larry Santoyo, Penny Livingston, Michael Becker, Jason Gerhart, Jerome Ostentowski, and others. He received his advanced permaculture design certificate and teacher training studies with Sandy Cruz, Becky Elder, Peter Bane, Pandora Thomas, Eric Toensmier and Brad Lancaster.

In 2012, Mike graduated from the Greater Good Academy, a triple bottom line business school focusing on socially and ecologically responsible business practices equitably holding people, planet and profit in mind. In 2014, the City of Denver along with Green For All, a non-profit organization, based out of Oakland, California dedicated to creating a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty, awarded Mike for his work within the Hiphop arts and Permaculture communities.



Papillon is a father, an artist, a producer, a healer, and a certified Permaculture designer and consultant, passionate about Nature’s patterns, bio-mimicry and systems thinking.  

Born and raised in Paris, Jeff Ribier started his creative career as an actor and musician and was renamed Papillon (french for “butterfly”), possibly due to the way he flutters around among a diversity of interests and instruments.  This new name “gave him wings” and encouraged him on his quest for artistic and cultural diversity.  Today, he is fully dedicated to his role in the cross-pollination between the philosophies of Humans and Nature’s kingdom.  

In 2005, Papillon founded the ButterSide (, an LLC that he developed, as he says, “to use and amuse as many senses as we can, in order to reach the brain”.  This organization has three self-explanatory areas of activity:  ButterSide Up Recordings & Entertainment (B.S.U.R.E.), Art For Education (B.S.A.F.E.) and Actions, Nature & Environment (B.S.A.N.E.).  The Family Tree is one of the projects designed to tap into all of these groups.

After living in Europe and West Africa, where he was and remains involved in Arts and culture, and environmental problem-solving, Papillon moved to the U.S. in 2008.  There, he got involved in natural building and regenerative practices. He studied natural building in Colorado and received his Permaculture Design certificate at Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, in California, studying under Brock Dolman, Kendall Dunnigan, Toby Hemenway, Darren Doherty and a remarkable team of instructors.  

He has since been designing, participating and co-teaching in projects and courses in the Detroit area, around the topics of water management, urban farming and food justice, while planning a return to his ancestral islands of the Caribbean.


Sian Jones (Eden Heights)

Sian and 4 year-old Mario have been developing eco-guesthouse and organic gardens, Eden Heights, for a few years.  Living a simple off-grid life in the tranquility of nature, enjoying fresh mineralised spring water straight from the source and becoming more self-sufficient has been a dream for many years.  We are grateful for the opportunity to share our sanctuary with others and experience new connections, insights and good vibes.

Sian (pronounced 'shaan'), left behind a 9-5 desk-job as an environmental researcher in the UK over 5 years ago, and for the past 4 years, has been tending organic small-holdings in Dominica.  The challenges of heavy annual rainfall in the centre of the island, deep within mountainous rainforest, compelled her to seek a warmer, drier life on the east coast.  Being able to spend so much time outdoors with the soles of your feet grounded and the generously life-giving sun beating on your skin, whilst nourishing bigger, better garden yields is a most welcome and pleasant change.  Sian likes to solve problems, find ways to increase efficiency and has an unwavering eagerness to learn new things to apply to Life.  With respect and passion for the natural environment and health, she treads lightly on the Earth, endeavouring to do no harm to the beings that peacefully reside here and be filled with connection to oneness.  Sian has recently discovered and been experimenting with hugelkultur and is keen to absorb knowledge and skills in this exciting and rare opportunity to collaborate within a permaculture design course in the tropics!  


Christopher/Pupa  (Organic farmer in Sylvinia, near Pont Casse)  

A very good friend of the Family Tree, Christopher has one of the most eye-catching, diverse and productive gardens to be seen in Dominica, and almost exclusively uses traditional methods.  He is very knowledgeable on local species and is overflowing with passion for his work.  He farms no less than 3 areas of land in the southern half of the island.


Host Site

Host Site

Eden Heights

Eden Heights is an off-grid eco-guesthouse and organic gardens, situated on the east coast of Dominica.  Our main guesthouse is an authentic Carib Hut, made entirely from local materials, including vetiver grass for the roof and bamboo for the walls.  We aim to create an authentic local experience, that gives guests a taste of the island's rich cultural heritage.  We serve only local food, mostly grown on site, and engage our guests with garden tours and traditional activities, such as processing cocoa or making calabash bowls.

Our location boasts a spectacular view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and St David’s bay and islets, and is surrounded on three sides by lush rainforest hillsides and the outskirts of the Central Forest Reserve.  We are nestled in the ridges of Morne Fraser, just above the village of Castle Bruce, at roughly 150 metres above sea level.  The land slopes on a south-east orientation, at an almost 100% incline at the top, leveling off in the middle and sloping again at the tip.  We take our water from a spring that emerges from the rocks in the mountain above us.  

This 2.78 acres of land has been organic for over 7 years.  As a triangular plot, it is bordered by a small river to the north, a dry ravine to the south and national park to the west, which is home to the beautiful Jacko Parrot and is protected by the Government's Forestry Division.  

Much of the property has not been cultivated in many years, though a wide range of bearing trees exist; mango, coconut, orange, guava, soursop, avocado, lemon, apricot, rose apple, cocoa, calabash, almond, Suriname cherry, cirise, guava cherry and bananas.  We have planted grapefruit, plantains, cashew trees, pommecite, tamarind, papaya, moringa, miracle fruit, pineapple and additional cocoa.  Our vegetable beds are located at the top of the land in terraces contoured across a steep slope, in close proximity to our house, where breakfast is served to the guests of the Eden Heights guesthouses.  Herbs, flowers and vetiver grass are planted alongside and within these areas to compliment the beds, attract beneficial insects to the space and provide material for thatch-roofing and compost.  The vetiver, along with young citrus, soursop and ylang ylang trees, also help to keep the slope secure and prevent landslides.

Suitable working boots and long pants are recommended.  It can get very muddy and slippery on the slopes following heavy rain, and long grass is known to irritate skin.  Eden Heights is home to a young female cow, 1 playful dog, 2 loving cats and 1 very cute 2 year old boy, who is well on his way to becoming an expert in the garden!




Off-site tours will be organized during the course, demonstrating situations relevant to the PDC. Here are some of the places we will be visiting:

Manicou River Resort, Roots Organic Farm, Kalinago territory, urban farm development, national reserve

(these tours are included in the price of the PDC, other tours are available on off-days)




Family tree PDC Intensive

(December 11th to 22nd 2017)

US$1,250 (early-bird rate ends on October 15th, 2017)

US$1,500 (regular registration rate)

Scholarships are available for local participants upon inquiry.

For International participants needing funding, click HERE.

There is a limited number of spots for this course, don't wait too long.  

Final sign-up deadline is November 1st, 2017 (no refunds are available beyond this date).

If you miss the deadline or wished there were a possibility for a payment plan, don't give up!  We'll work it out.

 Contact us to see what can be arranged.  If you are choosing a payment plan, a non-refundable $300 deposit is required upon registration. Your registration will be handled with care and we will hold a place for you.

Accommodation is organized on a first registered/first served basis.

Click the image to sign-up for this course.

More details are available and will be sent to all who inquire.  Feel free to contact us at the address below.
Upon registration, you will receive an extensive welcome letter with all the information you will need to prepare for a fulfilling and unforgettable experience.  See you there.