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Meet Nicholas Burtner of School of Permaculture in Far North Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicholas Burtner.

Nicholas, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have been a small business owner since the late 1990’s. But somewhere around the mid 2000’s I was not only burned out, but just not internally happy or satisfied with only doing something so shallow as just making money. There had to be more meaning than just showing up every day to push imaginary dollar signs around. I knew there was something more. I just didn’t know what.

For reasons I can’t/won’t go into here, but in 2010 I needed to leave the country. I ended up spending quite a bit of time in developing countries. When I had come back to the states, my world view had changed. Then through a random encounter at a dog park I was introduced to the word permaculture. Permaculture is a design system that works with nature. It’s like sustainable living on steroids! It truly is world changing stuff. Really, look it up yourself.

It took me while before I searched the internet as to what permaculture actually was, but while in Nicaragua I did finally look it up and then I had one of those life defining moments. It was a download, and ah ha moment. God’s finger went straight through my head and touched my heart. I had a vision of a school, where we would teach people permaculture. It was exhilarating. It was invigorating, it was awesome. Was it possible?

Being a small business owner offers lots of freedom. Freedom to work from your laptop anywhere in the world in some cases. However, even though I was not bound to a desk or answering to “the man”, if I wasn’t manning the laptop, bills were not getting paid. What happened next was shocking. Around the same time I had that download from Jesus, I had a few conversations with a gentleman here in Dallas, and he told me afterwards that he thought that God was wanting him to run my business.

I couldn’t believe it. We worked out a mutually beneficial deal and it freed me up to travel the world and go from not even knowing what permaculture is, to learning from the originators of the permaculture movement, to having a school – just like the vision I had been shown, right here in Plano, Texas.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Globetrotting sounds romantic doesn’t it? And in a sense it is. That is, of course, if you put sleeping in a tent in a sub-tropical rain forest and constructing houses out of trash in the desert for months at a time up there with candle light dinners.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing. Through physical exhaustion and sometimes even emotional heart ache, the lessons learned and relationships forged through this adventure have been life changing and yield great results. Permaculture is truly something that can shift/kick start the planet, and the people who reside within it, into an upward spiral of regeneration. Both healing the planet and people!

School of Permaculture – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
School of Permaculture was birthed as a mission to love and help people as many people as we can. We have three main focuses:

The first is our education. We teach permaculture both in the classroom in an outdoor environment where you can get hands on experience from anything from ecosystemic gardening to earthmoving to hydrate landscape to animal husbandry and community building.

The second is our AID programs. A few years ago we launched a GoFundMe campaign and raised enough funds to teach 50 Haitians on the island of La Gonave the 12 day permaculture design course. Our mission in our AID work is to reduce and eliminate the need for funding by setting up and teaching the locals real sustainable food, water, energy, and shelter systems where the need to earn is lessened because they are creating many if not all of their own resources. The AID programs also offer aid to orphanages wanting to do the same type of work for their children. Can you imagine a place where orphans can go and learn how to be more self-reliant? The meek shall inherit the earth.

Our third faction is consulting. We have a team of folks, both with the School of Permaculture and separately, that help a wide variety of people wanting to design and use permaculture within their landscapes. If people own land of any size (1/8 acre to 5000 acres), our team can help.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I think any educator feels amazing when after their student’s graduate they go and start using what they learn to transform their lives. We have had a number of students who are really amazing in this way. For example, I can think of three couples right off the top of my head who got fed up with the illusionary rat race of our debt based economy, and then went on to sell everything they own that wasn’t a priority. Next, along with working hard and saving money, they purchased land and started designing and building their own homes with the principles they learned from our courses. These homes, need little to no outside electricity to heat and cool themselves – that is amazing! They also grow much of their own food, and capture and clean their own drinking water, all while not working overly hard. These guys are my heroes! They are really doing it! They are making a positive impact in their own lives, to their community, and the environment. It is seriously awe inspiring!


  • In person courses range from $40 – $900
  • Online courses start at $99
  • Consulting and design ranges from $650 – $5000+

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kristi Burtner

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