Permaculture Internships ← Spiral Ridge Permaculture

Permaculture Internships

2019 – Permaculture Internships  

Digging SwalesWe are excited to offer a personalized hands on learning opportunity for those interested in profitable permaculture farming and off grid homesteading.

Are you ready for an applied project based learning on an off-grid homestead/profitable small farm? This is a practical on the ground training that will help you start a project, manage an operation, own a farm/homestead or be a designer.  Empower yourself to be the change you want to see in the world.  Re-skill, gain integrity, increase self-reliance, and learn the power of resiliency.  Learn how to think critically, ecologically and holistically.

You will experience what it is like to live by the ethics and principles of permaculture on a day to day basis.

Spiral Ridge is on it’s 10th year as a permaculture project, regenerating what was once clear cut land into a productive, ecological farm and demonstration site.  We started with just 6 acres, and over time acquired 3 adjacent parcels of land now totaling over 50 acres on a ridge.  We functioned mostly as a homestead/learning center, then in 2018 started a larger farming operation, called Pig & Leaf, serving our local community, chefs and florists with our products.

Activities are dependent on the season, but on any given day you may be involved with…                         

Permaculture Nursery ManagementForest Gardening

Organic Practices

Cut Flower Production

Edible Flower and Microgreens production

CSA management

Selling at Farmers Markets

Livestock Management 

Homestead Butchery



Natural BuildingMaking Compost

Earthworks and Water Systems

Fermentation & Food Prep

Fertility Farming/ Soil Building

Holistic Management

Agroforestry and Perennial Crops

Forest Gardening

Permaculture & Whole Systems Design

The Tea bag is ready

Appropriate Technology

Mapping and Site Assessment

Observation and Evaluation


Care and proper use of Tools

Holistic Decision Making

Entrepreneurship  & Running a Regenerative Business

Full Internship: March – November


10 Day Fall Permaculture Design Certification Course

6 Day Advanced Agro Ecosystems Series: 2 Day Earthworks Course,  2 day Off-Grid Mushroom Farming Workshop with Tradd Cotter and 2 day Agroforestry Workshop  –

Any other courses/workshops we add to our schedule

Internship Cost: This internship does not cost money, however you are expected to commit to the full 8 month period.  

Only 3 spots available


****Note:  If these dates do not work for you,  we might be willing to make a custom package for you based on availability.  We do accept short term work traders, but not for course tuition.  Fill out the application and explain availability and we will consider it on a case by case basis.***

We have been running internships on our homestead for the past seven years, before that Cliff ran a program at another training center for several years.

 We have created a program, that we wish had existed, when we were first starting out.  It is incredibly valuable  to be able to accelerate your learning and develop the skills necessary to jump into your own project.  We have studied & practiced permaculture for 18 years, working on farms and homesteads and attending professional development courses beyond the design course, to accumulate the knowledge and skills that we will be able to distill and share with you during your stay.

Key benefits of the Spiral Ridge Internship:


Courses – internship includes courses

On the ground practical training in design and acquisition of skills.

Off-Grid Homestead/Small Farm Scale & Re-Skilling Focus

Full access to our library of resources both physical and digital

Food! Basic natural/organic bulk staples and any in season food from the homestead (including veggies, eggs and some meat).  Most meals will be self-organized in a shared kitchen with the other interns/campers.  You will also have some shared meals with our family.  Meals during courses are fully catered.

Camping on a wooden platform or camp spot, on a ridge top in the western highland rim of beautiful Middle Tennessee.  Full season interns get a closed in rustic cabin or camper (possibly a shared space).

Access to Wi-Fi

Personal Attention (we only accept a few interns at a time to ensure plenty of time for discussions and questions)

Shadowing/working with a professional designer and long time permaculture practitioners.  For a more detailed look at Cliff and Jen’s training & experience go here.  For testimonials go here.

Practical design application in humid, temperate, southeastern climate.  Note: we have experience in temperate, dryland and tropical climates, but our most extensive experience is here in the south.

Permaculture Mentoring – receive continuing support following your internship.

Village Life and Abundant Nature- Recreating an agrarian village is the context of our internships.  We are a single family homestead but we have an active community and will have regularly scheduled gatherings, community fires and potluck dinners to add to the village life. Social ecology is an important aspect to recreating an agrarian village. Music (bring instruments), campfires and community projects are all part of the experience.  We are neighbors with The Farm Community, one of the largest and oldest intentional communities in the United States. They have many hiking trails, a beautiful swimming hole, nice roads for bicycling, regular social gatherings, a disc golf course, a small store, The Ecovillage Training Center and many other wonderful places for you to visit while you are here.  Spiral Ridge is located on a finger ridge in middle TN about 70 miles southwest of Nashville. More about Spiral Ridge here.  This is also Amish country and there are bulk stores, grass-fed dairy and meat farms and more for you to explore.



Requirements and Expectations:


  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Farm work can be physically demanding, you must be fairly fit.
  • Must enjoy rustic living.  You will be living in a tent, using compost toilet, showering outdoors (in privacy) and using a small rustic kitchenette.
  • Minimum 30/week work plus chores
  • Be able to take responsibility for homestead chores
  • Must like children and be comfortable around breastfeeding.  Our children are curious and like to ask questions, so patience and playfulness are a necessity.
  • Qualities we look for: playful work ethic, eager to learn, commitment, ability to accept feedback, self-motivated, work well with others, critical thinking, honesty, clear communicator, awareness, adaptability and compassion.

in the permaculture garden with PDC studentsApply Now:

Space is limited.  We are going to leave an open deadline for applications, but with only a few spots available per internship, we will try to fill them with qualified applicants as soon as possible.  So the sooner we receive the application, the better your chances of being accepted.

Fill out the application form here. (No application fee!) AND send us an email letting us know you filled it out.

After we receive the application, we will set up a phone interview.



“My internship was a crash course in homesteading, permaculture, animal husbandry, agroforestry, forest gardening, annual and perennial crops, bio-intensive farming, greenhouse gardening, and so much more. Even 4 months after my internship, I am still putting the pieces together and am remembering things I learned at Spiral Ridge. I can confidently say that I would not be who I am today without my experience at Spiral Ridge with Cliff and Jen. They challenged my values, beliefs, comfort zone, critical thinking ability, creativity, and helped me develop intellectually and spiritually. This internship also filled in some of the missing pieces left out of my Sustainable Agriculture College Curriculum. It also allowed me to analyze, understand, and utilize my formal education more so than I might  have been able to before.” – Sam Humphrey

“I came to the internship with some experience using the ecological design process.  I felt excitement about seeing how you all use the process…and you didn’t let me down.
What struck me most about your use of the process: it’s not that complicated! I enjoyed the daily discussions
with Cliff, designing and re-designing as we stood there next to the pigs or under a tree. Cliff helped
demystify the process for me; he helped me see that you need to use the process daily and it becomes less
intimidating every time you use it.  I knew that good design requires good observation skills and
facilitates an educational process. Cliff spoke to me daily about his observations: what he observed, how he
observed, where he observed, how he made interpretations and what feedback loops told him about those
interpretations. He often asked what I saw, heard, smelled, felt and envisioned.

Spiral Ridge gave me the needed philosophical, ethical, structural and operational knowledge for running a
regenerative business.
No other place in the South offers the collection of skills you do: intensive rotational grazing, holistic management, natural building, annual and perennial food production, water management and earthworks, Keyline design and plowing, nursery management, wood land management, bamboo management, propagation, fermentation, butchery, marketing, plant medicine, design, teaching, on and on.

I arrived at Spiral Ridge knowing this year would transform me, although I didn’t know exactly how. I figured I would leave with some great skills, and I have. But I understand now that you helped direct me through a larger, more profound personal growth process.” – Jason Hurd

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring a pet? No.  We have plenty of animals around and prefer not to have more!

Can I bring my kids? No. The living is very rustic and we prefer you to be focused on the courses and internship.

Can I come with my partner/spouse?  This is a possibility, if both of you are accepted.

Do you have an alcohol/drug policy?  No heavy drug use/psychedelics please.  Alcohol is permitted if you are of age.  We work early in the morning and you have a responsibility to show up and be ready and fully capable for the day, so please reserve “recreational” activities for when the work day is done.

Do I need a car/bike?  We are very rural.  We cannot drive you around.  We suggest having both a car and a bike, but if you come without a car, you will have to take responsibility for getting your needs met.

What is the weather like?  Wet and warm in spring, hot and very humid in summer, pleasant and cool, but wet in fall.  Come prepared for working in any weather.  Boots and rain gear are a must.

Do you have lots of pests?   Yes, ticks, chiggers, no-see-um’s and mosquitoes.  Not to mention snakes, spiders and poison ivy.  Preparedness and awareness are key.

Will I need money? You will need spending money.  We provide basic bulk foods (grains, beans, salt, oil, etc.) and produce from the land, as well as some meat and eggs.  If it is early in the season or between seasonal harvests, the gardens may not be full.  You will need money for any other food items you want to supplement what we supply as well as anything else you hope to purchase while here.  The Farm has a swimming hole, but you have to pay a fee to the lifeguards to use it.

What is the refund/cancellation policy?  For the internship – if you do not stay the entire time, you cannot take the fall courses.

Can I pick up side work?  If you can find the time (other interns have in the past), then it is up to you.  We do expect you to continue to fulfill your commitments to us.

Are there shorter internships?  We will consider on a case to case basis.  Please contact us.  Also see wwoofing below.

What is the difference between internship and wwoofing?  Wwoofing (willing workers on organic farms) is a work trade arrangement.  This are usually just a few days up to a week or two.  You get two meals/day in exchange for 4-5 hours of work.  Some learning will take place, but we will not be one-to-one mentoring you in design.  You will not receive any courses.  The work is dependent on the season and may be repetitive.  If we are planting that week, you will be planting, if we are building a fence, you will build a fence.  Internships are more serious, cover many more skills, take a commitment of time and money and are for people wanting to explore design as a career or are wanting to start faming/homesteading.  They are a condensed learning opportunity.  Wwoofing if more of an exploration, experience, exposure to something new, way to travel around cheaply and see how people farm/homestead.

What if one of the courses is cancelled?  We will run the course for the interns.

Who will I be working with?  Cliff Davis and Jennifer Albanese are a husband and wife team that have 38 years combined experience studying and practicing permaculture and other regenerative and agricultural systems.  They have mentored hundreds of students from around the world and in many different climates.  10 years ago they bought a logged and eroded piece of land and committed to applying the principles and techniques they had learned to heal the land and create resiliency and self-reliance for themselves and their family. For more about Cliff & Jennifer and the homestead click here.  Cliff has been extensively trained both in design and practical skills.  Take a look at his full resume to see his qualifications.  You will also be working with Todd and Sadie.  Todd and Sadie are past students of ours, and experienced market farmers, that are joining us in 2019 to explore profit share farming.  They will be helping to manage the annual market gardens and expand their skills in perennial agroforestry and animal systems.

Apply Today