SouthWoods Center for Ecological Design


Homestead Design Illustration

Join us for a week of  ecological homestead design


Join us on-line or in class for an intense, life and career changimg event. Designs for food production can be many acres or a simple backyard food forest. Each homestead has its own design solution to deliver the needed food, fibers, medicines, and increased harvest each year. Each homestead design is site and client specific. We do that!

We will go through our design process, and integrate an ecological vision and references into the homestead design.  We will create a base map and assess the existing ecology. From this, we can develop the systems needed to enhance the current ecology and raise the capability of the land to sustain new and large plant systems for a resilient ecological design.   Register here.


Daniel Halsey

Daniel Halsey is a certified permaculture and professional agro-ecosystems designer. Daniel has a Bachelor of Science degree in Temperate Climate Polyculture Design and a Masters of Professional Studies in Horticulture from the University of Minnesota. He is hired nationally and internationally to design private homesteads, intentional communities, and broad-acre transition. He teaches in Haiti, Lebanon (Beirut), Costa Rica, Canada, across the United States, and 2015 will also be teaching in Scotland, England, Alaska, and Australia. Dan is also managing director of PRI/USA.

Dan and Ginny live on a twenty-five acre wetland savannah called SouthWoods in Prior Lake, Minnesota. SouthWoods incorporates permaculture principals in all aspects of living.

SouthWoods Forest Gardens 2005 - Present
Halsey Creative Services, Inc. 1984 – Present
Natural Capital, Plant Database (Partner) 2011 – Present
Permaculture Research Institute, Australia  2012 -Present

Board of Directors –             Gardening Matters (Non-Profit) President 2013
                                    Permaculture Research Institute, USA

Broad Acre Design:
Padda Organic Farm, IL
Brown Dog Farm, WI
Zoe Farms, Canton, OH
Bended Oak Farm, Youngstown, OH
Gulf Road Community, Cleveland, TX
Kinstone Academy of Applied Permaculture, Wisconsin
Peachey Farm, Montezuma, IN
Strause Farm, Rio, Wisconsin
Keawanui Fish Farm, Molokai, HI (In development)
Blue Heron Nest Farm, IA
Willowfields Farm, Charlottesville, WV
South Eden, Thomasville, GA
Finca Quijote, Costa Rica (In development)
Dream of Wild Health Farm, Hugo, MN
High Plains Homestead, Plains, TX
Harmony Springs, Redding, CA
Arboreden Community, Costa Rica

Homestead Design:
Gabriel Residence, Michigan
Welch Gardens, Welch , Minnesota
Spring Lake Shores, Spring Lake, MN
SouthWoods Forest Gardens, Prior Lake, MN

Urban Garden Farm Design:
Woodhill Urban Farm, Burnsville, MN
Little Earth Urban Farm, Minneapolis, MN
Summit Hill Community Garden, St. Paul, MN
Bancroft Community Forest Garden, Minneapolis, MN
West View Junior High Community Garden
Wolk Park Community Gardens and Orchard, Burnsville, MN
School of Environmental Studies, Apple Valley, MN
Tahlequah Community Garden, Oklahoma

Teaching Experience:
American University in Beirut, Lebanon, 2014
Chicago Permaculture Group, 2014
Pittsburgh Permaculture, 2014
Minnesota Organic Farm Conference 2014
University of Minnesota, Polyculture Design, Summer 2013
Kinstone Academy of Applied Permaculture, Summer 2013
Victory Garden Initiative PDC, Milwaukee WI Summer 2012
Mindful Generations, PDC Hinche and Gonaives Haiti, 2012-2013
SouthWoods Advanced PDC with Wayne Weiseman, Summer 2012
Edible Landscapes, Hort 5014, TA, University of Minnesota, Spring 2012
Urban Farmer Program, Instructor – Mentor, PRI Cold Climate, Minneapolis, MN 2011-2013
Nature’s Nest PDC , Primary Instructor, Delano MN  2012
Crazy Rooster Farm PDC, Design Process and Polycultures, Mondovi, WI 2011
University of Wisconsin, PDC presenter, Design Process and Polycultures, River Falls, WI 2011 - 2012
Permaculture in Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design  50 hr.2009 - 2011
Homestead and Landscape Design Workshop, 50 hr. Quarterly 2009 - 2013
Digital and Internet Resources for Permaculture Design, PRI/CC  3 hr. 2009 - 2013
Brown College, Mendota Heights 2006 - 2011
Adjunct Instructor: Project Management, Photography, Business and Marketing, Design
Permaculture Research Institute, Presenter, Certification in Permaculture Design
Permaculture Introduction and Workshop, Presenter
Teacher’s Guild Coordinator, Presentation Supervisor

Speaking Engagements:

North American Permaculture Convergence, Polyculture Design
Kenyan Agricultural Delegation, Sustainable Immigrant Farming Practices
Hennepin County Master Gardeners’ Annual Luncheon, Nature’s Harvest and Beauty
Mandala Community Gardening and Management, Women Environmental Institute
Permaculture, Rural Living Expo, University of Minnesota Extension, Jordan, MN
Permaculture and Site Assessment, Women Environmental Institute, Organic Farm School
Permaculture, Metro Blooms, Minneapolis Committee on Urban Environment
Water Catchment Design, Sustainable Farming Association, Gale Woods Farm, MN
Biomimicry and Permaculture Design, Bioneers Conference, Mpls, MN
Biomimicry, Business Process Management Conference, Orlando Florida
Permaculture Principles, The Bioneers Regional Conference, University of Minnesota
Permaculture and Biomimicry, Bioneers Regional Conference
Peak Oil Transition and the Future Sustainable Community, Corcoran Sustainability Fair
Sustainability and Permaculture, Corcoran Sustainability Fair, Mpls ,Mn
Permaculture and Gardening, Ramsey County Gardening Club
Beyond Sustainability: An Introduction to Permaculture, Mpls. Quakers

Master Gardeners Annual Luncheon, Natures Beauty and Natural Harvests, Bloomington, MN
SouthWoods Forest Gardens Tours, Frequent Tours and Classes for novice and public attendees
Professional Development:
University of Minnesota, MPS Horticulture
Hazelnut Woody Agriculture, Badgersett Research Corporation
Gardening Like the Forest: Fundamentals of Perennial Polyculture Design, Dave Jacke
University of Minnesota, Temperate Climate Polyculture Design, BS
Permaculture Research Institute, Australia, Certification in Permaculture Design
Teaching Permaculture Creatively, Dave Jacke, Sandstone, Minnesota

Contributor, Chelsea Green Anthology, 30 years of publishing, 2015
Co- Author, Integrated Forest Gardening, Chelsea Green, 2014  
Catch and Store Principles, Permaculture Magazine, UK, Fall 2009
Polyculture Design, Friends School Editorial, 2009
Co – Author, Graphic Design and Sustainability, Wiley Press Release 2009         
Permaculture in Package Design, Package Design Magazine, Dec, 2008
Co – Author, Packaging Sustainability, Wiley Press Release 2008         
Past trips included:
American University, Beirut 
Beirut, Lebanon
USEK University, Kaslik, Lebanon
Earth Reforestation Project
Chicago, Illinois
Pittsburgh Permaculture
Pittsburgh, PA
Permaculture, BC,
Victoria, BC, Canada

Short Term, On-Site Co- Instructor, Event Manager, and Design Apprentice.

SouthWoods is looking for an experienced and educated individuals with high energy. The positions entail managing the existing workshop operations and assisting in developing additional site courses and resources. The selected individual will also be instrumental in implementing a PRI Master Plan, assisting in permaculture workshops, site assessments, design, and implementation. Some travel requiring a passport may be involved. Topoical and expert specialties a plus.

This is a residential arrangement with the event resource manager living on-site with private entrance, room and bath. A portion of the taxable compensation is traded for lodging and utilities.

Weekly hours of work will range from 30+ depending on seasonal circumstances. This position is part administrative and part course development with opportunities for additional wages at higher rates with experience. Development and expansion of the SouthWoods intership program a priority. Compensation and work-trade commensurate with experience. Minimum six month commitment.

Proficiency in all Microsoft Office programs required witjh graphic and web design experience a plus. Permaculture design certification expected prior to or within eight months of employment. Proficiency in horticultural principles, biology, or environmental science. The individual must be well read and have the breadth and depth of knowledge to begin working immediatley with progressively less supervision.

Other Shared Duties and Responsibilities:

Assist and initiate management practices in all aspects of the landscape.
Keep records and journal of all activities.
Care for the household, facilities, buildings, appliances, machinery, outbuildings, living quarters, classroom, and property in general.
Cook, clean, and apply sustainable practices in daily operations of the household in all aspects of personal life.
Support and develop nutrient cycling systems, build natural capital, and increase energy conservation.

Interviews will be conducted until the position is filled.

See for other information.

Interested individuals may send a cover letter with attached resume & 3 references to

Daniel Halsey

SouthWoods Forest Gardens
Spring Lake Township, Minnesota


Imprinted Beauty

Aesthetic: a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. (ref:Merriam-Webster)

Since the advanced permaculture design process, or any design process, is influenced by the designer’s personal values, we need to assess our aesthetic defaults. We need to critically examine and reevaluate why we act the way we do and how decisions and choices are made. We see more with our eyes through the aesthetic filter of our culture than through our innate organic vision. We appreciate great beauty in the natural world that we do not incorporate in our controlled living space because we have learned a separation between that world and our personal space defines us as “superior or civilized”.  How we perceive beauty, which is the learned cultural aesthetic, conflicts and causes stress in the permaculture design process. In serious ecological design, I believe, we need to redirect our vision to the functional aesthetic of natural systems. In the design process we must follow all the steps in the scale of permanence and apply our design process in a manner that redefines our personal aesthetic to a more natural expectation. Using a structure of decision-making, from large-scale patterns to details as they are justified does this. Following an organic design process allows us to discover the design solutions rather than impose them[i].

In order to do ecological design in a sustainable manner we follow a functional aesthetic as nature does. What we perceive as beauty in nature is the functional anesthetic that is the result of billions of choices as solutions to efficiency and fitness of living organisms. These patterns that repeat in our vision show us the most efficient use of space, resources, transportation of resources, and resilience.   Organism fitness is directly related to its ability to thrive in its niche. Each cell, each genetic mutation either increases or decreases the fitness of the affected organism. The simplicity of design for the most efficient use of space, resources, and structural resilience, must also be sufficient to allow the system to survive changes in a niche, be they as in our world, climactic, geological, meteorological, or through competition with other systems.

When we as Permaculture designers begin to read the land, we want to make sure that we are being imprinted by the land so that our design is not imprinted (forced) on the land. That is why the assessment process, in site-assessment, cannot be motivated by extraction of resources. We are only looking for available resources that we may enhance, restore, and integrate in a design that will increase the fitness of the land and its ability to buffer extreme events, which may deplete its resources. Within the boundaries of the property for which we are making a master plan, we are the new genetic code. We are like a virus in its most positive sense. We as ecological designers can supply a  “new genetic code” bringing increased resilience to a property. We can help the land restore itself to natural fertility. We can assist the land in developing deeper and richer organic material on its horizon. As stated in many permaculture articles, we accelerate succession. We must see ourselves as a steward of the land, not its master. By increasing the ecological services available to the natural systems we create increased resources for ourselves. We are the primary livestock in this natural system, yet as the stewards of this land we know that if we were to vacate the property, the natural systems will be more resilient, deeper in organic materials, and at a higher state of natural restoration than if we had never appeared. There will be increased diversity of flora and fauna and increased levels of complexity in the ecology.

The biggest challenge we have in ecological design is refraining from imprinting our personal, cultural, and economic aesthetic on natural systems that already exist.  We ourselves are imprinted by our culture to create personal space that follows the cultural aesthetic of our origin. It is not hard to imagine the design of a house built by a consumerist suburban American. It is also not hard to imagine how that design would change based on the native origin of the designer. That subconscious design driver, which infiltrates are ecological design, is most likely contrary to natural ecological design. This is the predetermined aesthetic that is subtly incorporated in our concepts. As we walk an undisturbed property, we can see the natural aesthetic of ecological systems, mostly in what we would call Permaculture zone 5. The natural aesthetic or beauty is the functional design of natural systems. As we move down the zones to zone 4, zone 3, zone 2, and zone 1, we can see the cultural design choices appear and begin to negatively effect ecological services. The greatest challenge we have is trying to adapt the predetermined economic and cultural design drivers (defaults) to our goal of a natural design (intention) based on enhancing ecological services rather than our economic and lifestyle preferences.

In the SouthWoods Organic Design Process we observe, through a tour of the built environment, the differences between learned beauty, cultural defaults, and an appreciation for functional beauty, which appears when nature’s patterns are valued as the primary guide to beauty.

[i] Meaning, decisions are based on necessity rather then preference.  As will be shown in the course, plant species are not considered until all other design items have been defined. It is the last consideration in ecological design.


Abundance by personal choice, cultural change, and ecological solutions.