Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado

  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Site: Historic urban college campus.
  • Status: Initiated Winter 2011, completed Spring 2016.
  • Scope: Campus greenhouse, food forests, and vegetable gardens in tandem with curriculum design and delivery of undergraduate and graduate courses.

Naropa University is a higher education institution in the 100-year floodplain of Boulder Creek at the heart of historic Boulder, Colorado. The deep, gravelly soils are a likeness to the profound degree programs established by gritty trailblazers in the alternative education world. Deeply countercultural in nature, students flock to Naropa from around the world for its environmental degrees, eastern spirituality studies, and creative writing programs established by the likes of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. Real Earth Design founder, Jason Gerhardt, engaged with the university for nearly 6 years to develop a Permaculture program and campus design that grew rapidly in popularity.

The campus design consists of a subtropical food forest inside a geodesic dome greenhouse, a 6,000 square foot water harvesting food forest on the front lawn of campus, fruit tree guilds and edible landscaping throughout campus, and perennial and annual vegetable gardens in multiple locations. Jason brought his acclaimed curriculum design and educational skills to courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, using those courses to plan and implement the campus design. The campus plantings have grown in maturity along with the Permaculture Program. Now students can minor in Permaculture Design and engage with on-the-ground demonstrations throughout the year.