A Quick Reflection on the Internship at the PRI’s Zaytuna Farm

OMG! That is internet speak for Oh My Goodness! The first day at the internship was something no one could prepare me for: the open air, the cattle, the horses, chickens, food forests, pasture, correctly built structures that harmonize with the sun, swales, ponds, dams, and embarking on a journey and communal living with people from all over the world. “A far cry from my native North East Texas – and I am so grateful!” was what I thought while setting up my tent in the middle of this small shire in The Channon, NSW, Australia. I was to call this truly awesome place my home for the next 10 weeks.

January in NSW is the start of summer and the rainy season. In the past year the climate change had been so drastic that the farm had seen its driest season it since the PRI moved here 13 years ago, followed by the next overly climatic rainy season which boasted multiple days of 8 inches (200mm) of rain in a single night. When they say bring gum boots – don’t forget to pack them, and a towel or two!

Our first week was our orientation, which is very much needed as there are multiple systems operating dependently and independently of people at all times. Even with a PDC under your belt and knowledge of permaculture systems – our orientation into one of the most advanced permaculture farms on Earth granted us peace of mind and bearings to our new surrounding.

As time progressed, everything from sowing a seed, to fermenting food, to building a food forest on a swale can be learned. Jumping in at every opportunity possible is crucial. A few weeks into the internship and we had the privilege to view amazing earthworks, were educated on urban design, and were graced with knowledge of permaculture design business potential and implementation. Things were really moving along. We would also, at the dawn of every morning, wake up to our assigned farm tasks that would give us hands on learning experience. And throughout our daily routine we would have daily chores for not only the farm but for our own living situation. The meals Ish would cook would be delicious.

Keep in mind that we are not just learning about the practicality of permaculture and its time tested applications, but we also enjoyed sharing 20-30 people’s story into permaculture and sustainability. If you plan on doing the internship, they will be your neighbors, friends, and brothers and sisters for the time on the farm and and I can see myself being happy to meet up with any of them in the future. Thank you interns, wwoofers and staff for such great connections and experiences!

In the end, I will count on this as being one of the highlights of my life and can honestly say the connections, be it swales to ponds, friend to friend, or teacher to student, are the best I have ever experienced. I am grateful to Geoff and Nadia as they have been an inspiration to us all and I feel confident implementing what was learned at the PRI at our new school in Texas — named Working With Nature – Learning, Research, and Healing Center.

All the best to you if you plan on doing the internship yourself – you wont regret it!

Nicholas Burtner

Nicholas is a permaculture practitioner, advocate, consultant, teacher and speaker. After a greater calling in 2011, permaculture found Nicholas and since has filled him with an endless passion that has led him to many travels, learning, spreading, and practicing permaculture and natural living ever since. Apart from consulting and designing properties across a large arena of different climates and bio-regions, Nicholas has attended internships at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia under the leadership of Geoff and Nadia Lawton. He also obtained a permaculture design certification from Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison. Nicholas has also attended the Earthship Academy for natural and recycled building construction in Toas, NM under the guidance of Michael Reynolds. After very worthwhile learning, and on the ground experiences, Nicholas opened Working With Nature Permaculture Learning, Research, and Healing Center in late 2012 which is now School of Permaculture. The school has both an urban and a rural demonstration / educational site which offer hands on experience as well as class room learning. School of Permaculture’s website offers permaculture related tips, videos, and articles on a mostly daily basis.


  1. Hola:

    We are located in the Chilean temperate rain forest with a site next to a Nature Sanctuary of ancient forest (Araucaria.) we have a thinner type of bamboo called colihue (Chusquea coleou) and I have been thinking on building with colihue as a frame for mud-adobe mix.

    I am interested on any information about the structure in the picture where there a trellis fo some type of bamboo.

    Thank you

    Adolfo Aguirre
    from Pucon, Chile

  2. Good Stuff Nick… Looking forward to meeting up with ya soon… PRI alumni? Don’t forget to take some pictures of my food forest out there! I would love to see the progress now nearly two years on!

  3. Adolfo,

    I would not see why you would not be able to do this type of cobbing with your bamboo. It is similar to wattle and daub. If you have an email address I have some more photos I can share to show more detail.

    Looking forward to it as well. I do have the photos actually. Your food forest is looking good in it’s succession – Will send them soon.

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