The Holistic Lens of Permaculture

By: Leah Van Winkle

Leah Van Winkle will be one of four facilitators for the upcoming Permaculture Action Course at Seven Springs Holistic Retreat Center in Maryville, TN. Join her and the rest of the Permaculture Action Team April 1st - 7th for a comprehensive educational experience in ecological design science, community organizing, and the many facets of permaculture, teaching hands-on techniques and social tools that participants can use to catalyze long-term transformative impact on the land and in their communities.


Permaculture is a word that has taken on countless definitions and usages. Primarily founded as a land-based design system, permaculture honors and learns from native, indigenous wisdom to create a holistic lens with which to view the land, designing systems that create harmonious relationship between all elements, human and otherwise.

As a design system, permaculture has 3 ethics and 12 guiding principles, as well as a whole process for generating homestead design plans. More and more, this basic framework is being applied within broader contexts - as a tool for social, community based regenerative design.

We of the Permaculture Action Network facilitating this course are permaculturalists, but each have our own unique niche within the full scope. We are united in our drive to inspire positive shift in the paradigms we see around us, to design for regenerative movement. We have teamed up with amazing, activated touring artists like Rising Appalachia and Beats Antique, bringing awareness and direct action to over 100 urban farms, indigenous cultural centers, community food forests and the like, all over the nation. Through this work, we have activated over 10,000 people to this movement for change.

These Permaculture Action Days fuse principles of resistance, direct action and community organizing with land-based, hands in the dirt permaculture to bring hundreds at a time together to experience what it means to really feel connected.

There are many ways to drop into that state of connection, to total presence and awareness of where you are in time and space. To deeply acknowledge your role in the systems you are a part of. Through intentional design, we each have the capacity to choose what we are connected to.


When we live life through habit and automation, in our modern culture we inevitably end up deeply enmeshed in systems of extraction and consumerism. For example, the food we have access to, or choose to buy, has a huge effect on a broader scale. Outside of whatever affect our food choices may be having on our own bodies, each time we choose food that has been shipped across the nation, that has been grown with chemicals, that has contributed to the diminishment of the soil, we are choosing to be part of that entire system.

Instead, how can we use the holistic lens of permaculture to design systems for each of us to exist in, that creates as much harmony through the ripples of that system as possible?

I think the best starting point is simply to realize that you are already part of a system, that each of us can find our niche that contributes to our vision of the world, and can each contribute in our own unique way to the broader system we choose.

Are you interested in better understanding your role in the systems you are already a part of? In gaining insight and tools for designing your lifestyle systems with intention?

Join us at Seven Springs Holistic Retreat Center to explore these questions - how to be an agent for change in shaping your holistic vision.


Some things we’ll cover:

– Permaculture design processes and principles

– Rainwater harvesting and earthworks

– Permaculture landscape design and food forestry

– Natural building and appropriate technology

– Social transformation and community organizing methods

– Practical tools and techniques for regenerating ecology

Look for more blog posts in the coming months to meet each of the facilitators on the team, to learn more about what each of us will be offering within the course!

See our permaculture action course offering and receive early bird pricing of $100 off before March 1st!

About Leah:


Leah makes her home in the Appalachian foothills of central Kentucky, where she grows food, teaches yoga, offers Thai Bodywork, plays, and explores! Rooted in land-based permaculture design, her passion is to expand this holistic lens to facilitate nurturing social relationships in her community. Health is Leah’s main focus, stemming from a belief that human health is interdependent on health of the land and harmony within the ecosystem we occupy. An avid student, she is always seeking more opportunities to expand her knowledge, having already trained with Starhawk and Pandora Thomas in Social Permaculture, Looby McNamara in Cultural Emergence Strategies,  Doug Crouch of TreeYo Permaculture, Susana Lein of Salamander Springs and Cliff Davis of Spiral Ridge. Her favorite things to grow are blueberries, holy basil, and mustard greens.