Join our diverse team of permaculture instructors Scott Gallant, Chris Shanks, Rachel Jackson, Laura Killingbeck and others for this annual life-changing 2-week experience. The course covers the core Permaculture Design curriculum and emphasizes creating diverse multi-functional human landscapes based on ecological patterns. Utilizing Rancho Mastatal as a living classroom, the class will mix lectures and hands-on work, exploring design solutions for both temperate and tropical regions. Putting Permaculture into practice, the course concludes with students working in teams to create their own permaculture site design. This course is applicable to anyone with an interest in designing resilient and regenerative futures as well as professionals in the fields of architecture, planning, ecology, education, farming and community development. The whole-systems design thinking outlined in the course will give participants the tools to re-design and improve their surroundings.



The course will start around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24. Students are encouraged to arrive on April 23. Lodging the night of April 23 is included in the cost of the class.


The course will end at around 5 p.m. on May 7. Most students will depart on the morning of May 8. Lodging the night of May 7 is included in the cost of the class.   

Topics covered include:

  • History of Permaculture
  • Principles and Ethics of Permaculture Design
  • Design Methodologies and Site Analysis & Assessment
  • Pattern Languages in Culture and the Landscape
  • Reading the Landscape and Pattern Recogintion
  • Simple Mapping and Surveying Techniques
  • Client Interviews and Goal Setting
  • Map Reading
  • Master Planning and Design Presentations
  • Climate and Microclimate Design
  • Water: Cycles, Catchment, Ecology, Conservation, Treatment
  • Greywater and Blackwater Systems
  • Earthworks, Pond Construction, & Water Storage
  • Soils: Biology, Ecology, Fertility Strategies
  • Biochar, Biofertilizers, Mulching, Biomass Production, Microorganisms Cultivation, Compost Making
  • Introduction to Keyline Design and Holistic Management
  • Gardening from the Tropics to the Temperate Regions
  • Orchards Management and Agroforestry
  • Plant Propagation, Grafting, Nursery Management
  • Silvopastural and Aquaculture Systems
  • Fermentation, Post Harvest Handling, and Harvest Strategies
  • Shelter and Siting
  • Natural Building Techniques
  • Urban and Suburban Permaculture Applications and Case Studies
  • Energy and Appropriate Technology: Photovoltaics, Biodigestor Design, Alternative Cooking Models
  • Regenerative Economic Models
  • Social Structures, Decision Making, and Community Organizing
  • Professional Designer Project Case Studies


The course will be taught in English and simultaneously translated into Spanish. Este curso será traducido simultáneamente al español . Se requiere un mínimo de dos hispano hablantes para ofrecer servicios de traducción.


Scott Gallant

Scott Gallant is an agroforester and food system designer with nearly a decade of experience working in Central America. He is the co-founder of Porvenir Design, a landscape design firm specializing in productive landscapes. He graduated from Wabash College in 2008 with a degree in Economics. As the farm manager at Rancho Mastatal he works with an amazing team to cultivate 15 acres of an emerging tropical agroforest.

Passionate about regenerative agriculture, holistic thinking, ethnobotany, community development, and re-skilling, he still makes time to hike and bike, read exhaustively, and work on his basketball jump shot and frisbee throw. He and his partner Laura have traveled extensively in Latin America, leading to a love of the culture, food, and language, which they speak. Scott writes for the Permaculture Research Institute and has been featured on the Permaculture Voices podcast.

You can find him on instagram here.

Chris Shanks

Chris has been practicing Permaculture design for over 16 years. His ‘journeyman’ years were spent apprenticing and working on farms from Spain to Central America to the west coast of the United States. Chris designed, built and planted his primary project over 13 years ago, Project Bona Fide located on Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua. Chris has worked and consulted in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the USA, Thailand, the Bahamas, Hawai’i and the USVI.

Chris has taught nearly 30 full Permaculture Design Courses, runs his own consulting firm called Living Systems Solutions is a businessman and strong proponent of interweaving Permaculture design into development and entrepreneurship. His work in horticulture, seed saving, ‘living seed banks’ and education have brought awareness as well as concrete solutions to thousands.

Rachel Jackson
Rachel holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design from the Conway School in Conway, Massachusetts. She has been practicing permaculture in the tropics since 2009, working in both the rainforests of Costa Rica and the dry forests of Nicaragua. She is passionate about creating harmonious, healthy relationships between humans and the landscape. From urban renewal projects in New England to food forests in Latin America, Rachel has used her skills to create integrated, whole-system designs in difficult locations. She has also worked as a garden-based youth educator, art handler, photographer and carpenter and harbors a life-goal of trying as many varieties of tropical fruits as possible.

Laura Killingbeck
Laura Killingbeck has been working with the Ranch since 2009. She has bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Rhode Island, and has taken extensive continuing education courses on sustainable development and agriculture. In 2014 she also completed a Fermentation Residency with renowned fermentation author Sandor Katz. Laura is the Ranch’s Director of Food Systems and Fermentation, and has a hand in the production of thousands of gallons of fermented vegetables, soda, herbal beer, yogurt, and vinegar each year. She oversees the development and management of food education programs at the Ranch, and works to create replicable systems for utilizing whole foods from local foodsheds on both a community and home scale. When she’s not at the Ranch, Laura works as a Food Systems Consultant for Round the Bend Farm Center for Restorative Community in Massachusetts. Laura has traveled widely in Latin America, often accompanied by her partner Scott and her live microbial cultures. She is a current Wilderness First Responder, an avid jungle bug watcher, a closet fiction writer, and a pretty scrappy Frisbee player.

Living Conditions.


  • shared rooms
  • private room

Omnivore Food

  • over 80% locally sourced
  • communally cooked meals
  • restaurant on site


  • slow: emails only

Ongoing classes

  • permaculture
    multiple times a day

Getting here.

Rancho Mastatal (not Villas Mastatal!) is about 2 ½ hours by car from Costa Rica's capital, San José, and approximately 1 hour by car from the Central Pacific Coast. You can easily come from or continue on to San José, Jacó, Quepos, Dominical or other destinations along the Pacific Coast. Please confirm your arrival with us before heading out to the Ranch.

The approximate GPS coordinates of Rancho Mastatal are latitude +9.67331, longitude -84.37373. If you decide to use a GPS, Waze or Google Maps to assist with your arrival, please be aware that it's possible that you may be directed by your device to use some extremely rough roads that we would not recommend driving on. Only use your GPS, Waze or Google Maps in conjunction with the below directions.

With enough advance notice, you can arrange a private shuttle to the Ranch from the airport, San José, or just about anywhere else in and around the Central Valley of Costa Rica with our friend Fernando Arias. The cost for a private shuttle from the Juan Santamaría International Airport is approximately $150, though prices can and do change. Night trips are $5 more expensive. If your flight arrives at night or late, Fernando and his wonderful family will put you up in their house in Puriscal for the night and feed you breakfast before bringing you out to the Ranch the following day. If you exercise this option, we suggest leaving them a little tip for their generosity. Fernando and his family are some of the kindest people we have ever met in Costa Rica. Please contact Fernando directly to confirm current shuttle prices and other details.

011 (506) 2416-7961
011 (506) 8633-2967
Email: gomastatal@gmail.com

If you decide to arrange a shuttle, contact Fernando with as much advance notice as possible and if coming to Mastatal directly from the airport please provide him with your name and flight information. Upon your arrival Fernando will be waiting for you, sign in hand, as you exit the airport. Once he has confirmed your shuttle, you are responsible for the cost even if you experience a change in your arrival time/date unless of course you/we are able to notify him in time. In the case of changes or problems call Fernando immediately. You can also try reaching us at the Ranch at 2200-0920. If calling from the States, dial 011 (506) before the listed phone number.

Fernando can also shuttle you from the Central Pacific Coast to the Ranch

Take the highway out of the capital going towards Ciudad Colón and Puriscal (sometimes referred to as Santiago). We recommend you drive during the day. To get to the highway from downtown San José, take Paseo Colón west, until you hit Sabana Park, then take a left, and follow the signs to Escazú/Ciudad Colón. If you are coming from Alajuela or the airport, you will have to head towards San José before picking up the highway to Ciudad Colón. A local map will be very helpful. On the way to Ciudad Colón, you will pass the town of Santa Ana. The highway can get a little confusing just before getting to Ciudad Colón. Make sure that you follow the correct signs. DO NOT HEAD TOWARDS CALDERA. In Ciudad Colón follow the one-way streets and signs towards Puriscal. You will then climb up and out of the Central Valley, and pass through the Quítirrisi Indian Reserve. From Ciudad Colón, it's about 40 minutes to Puriscal. Once in Puriscal, follow signs to Parrita/Quepos. Once outside of Puriscal, continue on the main road through the towns of Santa Marta, La Palma, Salitrales, and other small communities. The paved road ends about 15 kilometers outside of Puriscal. About 1 hour and 15 minutes after leaving Puriscal and soon after passing by the entrance to the administrative offices of La Cangreja National Park, you will arrive to an intersection. A small run-down bus stop and a few signs, one announcing "Mastatal", mark the junction. Make this left hand turn, and continue for 6 kilometers until you arrive to the town of Mastatal. There is one intersection along this road. Stay left and continue down the road. As you enter Mastatal, we are the house on the left of the main intersection with the red roof. There is a black gate that marks the entrance to the Ranch. We do not have a sign. Make sure not to confuse us with Villas Mastatal, another project in our community with a similar name.

You will take two buses — one from San José to Puriscal and the other from Puriscal to Mastatal. If you are coming direct from the airport, you will have to take either a bus or cab to get to San José before continuing on to Puriscal. Once in San José, take one of the frequent buses (every 30-60 minutes) from the Comtrasuli (phones in San José, 2258-3873 or 2256-0105, phone in Puriscal 2416-8036) bus terminal located on Avenida 1 between Calle 16 and Calle 18 in downtown San José. The buses are mostly modern. Take an express bus if possible. The trip from San José to Puriscal takes about 1 hour. Get off at the last stop in Puriscal, the Comtrasuli bus terminal. The bus to Mastatal leaves from in front of a "carnicería" and near the Doña Toña restaurant across from the Super Mora supermarket parking lot, one and a half blocks from the Comtrasuli bus terminal towards the center of town, at 3 p.m. except on Sundays when the bus does not run (either to or from Mastatal). There are 2 Super Mora grocery stores in town. Please make sure that you are near the larger one. You will want to arrive at least 20 minutes before the bus departs to assure a seat. There is sometimes a sign on the bus that reads "Zapatón" though you should ask the driver where he is going to be sure. The trip to Mastatal takes about 2 hours. Make sure that the driver knows that you are going to Mastatal, or he might charge you the maximum price, as the bus continues on to other stops after passing through Mastatal. The bus will drop you off almost directly in front of our house (red roof and black gate). Make sure not to confuse us with Villas Mastatal, another project in our community with a similar name.

There are two possible routes from Parrita (located ~30 kms west of Quepos, and 40 kms east of Jacó along the Central Pacific Coast) to Mastatal. The first route, shorter but rougher, takes you through the towns of La Vasconia, La Fila de Aguacate and San Miguel. During the rainy season a 4x4 vehicle is recommended and even in the dry season a high clearance vehicle can be helpful. About 2 kms west of Parrita, turn north on a road that starts in the midst of the African Oil Palms near where the palm transport trucks congregate. Look for a green sign that points towards "Playon".This road comes up quickly, so keep a close eye for it. Follow the road, through the palms, and then through the towns of Playón Sur, Playón San Isidro and La Vasconia. After passing through La Vasconia, you will come to a 'fork' in the road in front of the La Vasconia church (you have to look closely to recognize that it's a church). Stay left at the fork (there may be a small sign pointing towards San Miguel), and continue up the hill, sometimes steeply. You will pass through some very small villages and will come to the town of San Miguel 35 minutes after leaving La Vasconia. Mastatal is about 4 kms past San Miguel. Our house has a red roof and black gate, and is at the only intersection in Mastatal, the road to the right taking you to the Zapatón Indian Reserve, and the road going straight to Puriscal.

The other route from the Central Pacific Coast is longer but less demanding on your vehicle and can be traveled year-round in a two-wheel drive car. This road takes you through the towns of Vista del Mar, La Gloria and Guarumal. The road begins about 5 kms west of Parrita, and is marked by a sign pointing to Puriscal. After a few kilometers on this road, you will come to a 'fork'. Stay straight (do not go left). If you are not sure, stop and ask somebody. Continue straight passing through small villages. If you need to do any shopping, La Gloria is the last town of any significant size. After passing through La Gloria, continue straight for about 30 minutes until you come to an intersection. There are a number of signs here, which you will see the back of, and a small bus stop. One of the signs announces Mastatal. Take this right hand turn, and continue for 6 km to the town of Mastatal. There is one intersection along this road. Stay left and continue down the road. We are on your left as you enter town. The house has a red roof and the gate is black We do not have a sign. Make sure not to confuse us with Villas Mastatal, another project in our community with a similar name. .

First you must get to Quepos or Parrita. From Quepos, take one of two buses each day that go to San José via Puriscal. These buses leave from the Quepos bus station at 4:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (check with the bus station for possible changes in times) and pass through Parrita at approximately 5:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. There are other buses that go from Quepos to San José, but not via Puriscal, so you will have to be sure that you are on a bus that goes via Puriscal. Once you are sure that you are on the right bus, tell the bus driver that you are going to El Cruce de Santa Rosa. From Quepos, the bus heads northwest and passes through the town of Parrita, and then turns north headed for Puriscal. After about 1 hour and 15 minutes from this turnoff, you will come to the small town of Guarumal. There is a restaurant there named La Union. The morning bus out of Quepos arrives to La Union around 6:30 a.m. and the afternoon bus around 3:15 p.m. After leaving/passing through Guarumal, get ready to disembark from the bus. You want to get off at El Cruce de Santa Rosa, about 1.5 km after Guarumal. There is a simple bus stop and a number of signs that mark the intersection. From here, you will either have to walk the 6 km to Mastatal, hitchhike, or wait for the bus to Mastatal that passes by at approximately 4:35 p.m. (expect on Sundays when there is no bus to Mastatal) The latter is not a good option for travelers taking the early bus out of Quepos. Traffic on the road from El Cruce to Mastatal can be sparse. Our house is on the left as you enter into the town of Mastatal. Make sure not to confuse us with Villas Mastatal, another project in our community with a similar name.  


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