Learning through Experience — Toru Trust

Our workshops and courses are now mostly facilitated through TORU EDUCATION TRUST.

The guidelines of this trust are as follows:

  • We promote teaching and learning “from experience to concept”.
  • We engage hands, heart and head in a balanced manner.
  • We embrace an open approach to permaculture ethics and principles.
  • We are teaching and learning from each other.

Toru Education provides experiential learning opportunities that nurture people, planet and spirit, and encourages the self organized creation of such opportunities.


Workshops & Courses

We also facilitate and tutor workshops and courses at our place and for other organisations and community groups.

This includes the following:

Residential Permaculture Course

We have facilitated and tutored two week (live-in) residential courses since 2013.  The next course is from 1 to 15 March 2019, facilitated by Toru Education Trust ( ), which will be held partly at our place and partly at Waihoanga Centre ( ) beside the Otaki River.

A summary of what the course covers is:

  • Introduction to permaculture principles and ethics
  • Guidelines and strategies for healthy and sustainable living.
  • Connection to nature and place.
  • Observation and recognising nature’s patterns and ecosystems.
  • Design methods and presentation.
  • Nourishing body, mind and spirit.
  • Introduction to biodynamics and astronomy
  • Introduction to Maori food politics & Hua Parakore: a kaupapa Maori approach to growing.
  • Food – Home gardening: from living soil to nourishing food.
  • Water – essence of life.
  • Building – Natural building & Appropriate technologies.
  • Cultural transformation and natural economics.
  • Creating resilient and healthy communities.
  • Design methods and presentation

The course is a recognised permaculture design certificate course by PiNZ, the New Zealand permaculture organisation.

We facilitate these course for all learning styles, as open creative learning. The course includes a variety of design exercises, practical activities, field trips, group and project work, as well as presentations and DVDs.

For information and registration please go to:

The cost per person is $1800. This includes accommodation, delicious meals throughout the programme, and the tuition fee which includes contributor honorarium, pdf manual, personal project mentorship and internationally recognised PDC certificate.

A $500 deposit confirms your place on the course. Full payment must be made before the course start date. Payment can be made to “Toru Education” Kiwibank account: 38-9018-0332936-00.

If finance prevents your participation, please contact Doris Zurr at the above website to discuss payment plans and scholarship options. Partial scholarships are granted, based on availability, to those who do not have the financial capacity to pay the full fee and who are committed to applying the kaupapa of the PDC to the benefit of more than just themselves. Scholarship application must be made by 1st of October outlining your motivation for attending.

Modular Permaculture Course

We developed a modular Permaculture Design Course, and have facilitated these modular courses undertaken on weekends, over 9 months to a year, since 2005.

In 2013 we tutored a modular course run through RECAP in Ashhurst.  Since then RECAP have organised further courses, and we have been involved as tutors in these courses.

The following is the modules of the 2016 course, of RECAP:

1) Permaculture Principles & Design:

Welcome and introductions; permaculture ethics & principles; general applications of permaculture; ecological principles and design; concepts of sustainability.

2) Landscape & Site Assessment:

Natural patterns and reading the landscape; techniques of observation; measuring and recording land form; sectors & aspect; gathering information of natural conditions and cultural features and requirements; design process (information collection, analysis, options, evaluation and drawing up).

3) Soils:

Nature of soils and soil structure; soil life and fertility; soil testing (visual assessments & plant indications); soil/plant/animal relationships (nutrient cycles, mixing of air & water); composting; re-vitalisation aids (seaweed, rock dusts, EM, biodynamics etc).

4) Food Gardens:

Garden layout & design (sun, shelter, access, companion planting, rotation, green manures); garden preparation (digging, mulching, humus build-up); garden types & relationships; plant health & diseases/pests/predators; weed management; seed saving.

5) Culture & Social structures:

Worldviews, assumptions & identity; personal, social & economic transformation; legal structures, ownership and privilege; function of money, banking & financial systems, alternative currencies; decision-making procedures, social roles and conflict management.

6) Urban Living:

Healthy & sustainable living in cities; suburban retrofit & reducing your ecological footprint; apartment living first steps; engaging with local communities & councils; subdivision & development; layout and integration of urban areas/activities (community based and adapted to the landscape, transport and service corridors, integrated infrastructure, social services and community facilities).

7) Water & Water harvesting:

Nature and importance of water; watersheds & hydrological cycles; sources and sediments; purification & treatment (water quality, pollution & re-vitalisation); storage (naturally and in reservoirs); harvesting; uses, multiple use, re-use and conservation.

8) Tree Gardens & Small Animals:

Diversity of orchards, food forests, staple crops and small animals; climate and landscape and selecting trees/vines/berries/crops etc for site; layout for needs, guilds, diversity and in relation to facilities; planting & pruning; food forests and ecological principles; orchard management for productivity and plant health, and integration with small animals (bees, poultry, pigs); ecology of plants and animals; management and care of small animals.

9) Air & Climate:

Nature of the atmosphere (air, life and climate); types of climates, circulation patterns and changing climates; weather (rain, snow & ice, frost, droughts) & micro-climates; air quality, pollution & re-vitalisation; shelter & shade (design & species).

10) Nature’s Abundance & Dynamics:

Natural eco-systems, biomes and changes in climate and landscapes over time; role of forests and grasslands; large animal grazing and soil fertility; grazing management and animal care (water, stock movement, shelter, shade and health); structures (fencing, yards etc); forest types and habitats; services and re-generation; uses and management; coppicing and pruning, thinning; species and spacing; wild foods and herbal medicines. Dynamics of natural processes and large events; hazards (physical, biological/chemical, social and economic) and risk assessment; information about hazards, preparedness and responses.

11) Energy & Technology:

Nature and types of energy; sources of energy; energy analysis (efficiency, life-cycle energy); peak oil and energy descent; approach of science & technology and industrial production; appropriate technology and R principles – refuse, reduce, repair, re-use & recycle; energy and transport alternatives.

12) Shelter & the Built Environment:

Principles of building biology and ecology; orientation & layout for site and surroundings; building design (warmth & ambience, insulation, passive and active systems, storage & heat pumps, sound, light and electro-magnetism); building materials & construction (local earth, straw, timber, embodied energy, toxicity, finishings); services (on-site supply, micro-hydro, wind & solar energy, re-use & recycling, compost toilets, greywater systems etc).

Design Project workshop day at or after end of course.

Further information is available at the RECAP site RECAP

The Farmhouse Kitchen — Manakau, Horowhenua

Phillippa Martin 

Emily Williams 

The weekend workshop covers the making and using of:

  • Yoghurt, kefir, clabbered milk and soft cheese (feta and mozzarella types)
  • Sourdough bread and chia chips
  • Kombucha
  • Lacto fermented vegetables and drinks
  • Flavoured vinegars and alcohol
  • Chutney, relish, pickle and sauce
  • Fruit bottling – overflow and oven methods
  • Jam alternatives
  • Sprouting, soaking grains and nuts

There will be lots of tasting opportunities as we make these, and also try some other homemade products eg. pickled walnuts, pate, kale chips and juices.

Take home your own starters for yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and sourdough.

Take home samples of some of the products made.

We will discuss nutrient dense food and the importance of good food and water.  There is an emphasis on low sugar.

Cost covering tuition, ingredients (organic/local as much as possible), folder of recipes, starters and samples is: $290.  Maximum 12 participants, minimum numbers also apply.

No extra cost for lunches of garden salads, broths, breads etc. and teas.

Each day runs from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm

Please reply if you are interested, at Contact Us

Please reply if you would like more information about courses and workshops on permaculture, natural building, organic horticulture, and other aspects of healthy, just and resilient living — through Contact Us


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