Living on the Land

Living on the Land:

Regenerative Agriculture, Biodynamics, and the Art of Homesteading  

Viroqua, Wisconsin – April 2-19, 2024

Living on the Land is an immersive three-week exploration of how to grow food and care for the land in a holistic and sustainable way. This unique learning experience will bring together the wisdom of nature, the expertise of experienced farmers and gardeners, visits to unique local farms, and the hands-on skills you need to thrive in harmony with the land. Join us as we explore the captivating realm of biodynamics, regenerative design, and homesteading practices.

Program Elements:

  • 6-session course on regenerative design taught by Peter Allen of Mastodon Valley Farm.  The course includes an opportunity to develop your own homestead design under the guidance of an farmer with deep experience with livestock, pasture management, and permaculture design principles.
  • 6-session introductory course on the principles of biodynamic agriculture led by local practitioners.  Arising in the early 20th century out of the work of Austrian philosopher and spiritual thinker Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics seeks to integrate cosmic, earthly, and human energies into farms that function as organic wholes.  These sessions will include an introduction to the history and key concepts of biodynamics, including an overview of the planting calendar and hands-on experiences with biodyamic preps and compost.
  • Visits to local farms and homesteads
  • Hands-on experiences with composting, seed starting and gardening, vineyard and orchard care, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and more!
  • Participation in community life on the Thoreau College campus with an intimate group of peers and fellow seekers.  This will include shared meals, community singing and celebration, deep discussions about books and ideas, and excursions and cultural events in the local area.

This program will be focused on the practical details of planning and managing a small homestead or farm using holistic and regenerative principles.  It is ideal for people who have their own piece of land or for those hope to have one soon!  Adults of all ages are invited to apply.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the program is filled.  Apply now!
Mastodon Valley

Mastodon Valley Farm – Viola, Wisconsin


Regenerative Design in the Driftless

For the core course offering of this program, experienced ecologist and rotational grazier Peter Allen will lead the class as we learn the basics of regenerative land design, focusing on our native ecosystems here in the Driftless, with the goal of learning how to guide the development of healthy, diverse, functional, and productive ecosystems that provide essential goods and services to our community. We will learn how to rapidly build topsoil, sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity, and recharge aquifers, all while producing abundant nutrient-dense foods, high-quality fibers, and building materials. The course includes lectures and hand-on activities at on-farm field trips. Once we’ve learned the fundamentals of soil, water, ecology, and the human context, we will have the opportunity to put theory into practice by helping you develop your own regenerative design.

This course is being offered in collaboration with the Driftless Folk School, and Thoreau College participants will be joined by DFS participants of all ages for this portion of the program.

Instructor: Peter Allen

Peter is an ecologist-turned-farmer that owns and operates Mastodon Valley Farm, a 220-acre regenerative farm in Southwestern Wisconsin where he has planted thousands of fruit and nut trees, and grazes cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry across their fertile valleys, steep hillsides, and restored native tallgrass prairie pastures, producing nutrient-dense meats which his farm sells in their meat CSA. He also built a traditional timber-framed house with the logs he hauled and milled on the farm where he and his wife Maureen have a busy homestead homeschooling their kids, gardening, milking a cow, and producing and preserving everything they need to thrive through the long Wisconsin winters. Peter combines his background with over a decade researching and teaching ecology, restoration, and complexity science in the University, together with a decade of running a regenerative farm to provide unique and effective consulting and educational opportunities, helping people design, build, and manage diverse, ecologically functional, and economically profitable agroecosystems. (Instagram: @mastodonvalleyfarm)

Peter Allen

Thoreau Faculty, Fellows, and Scholar-in-Residence

The Thoreau Faculty, Fellows, and Scholar-in-Residence are a dynamic intergenerational team that weather all seasons and all programs at Thoreau College. This team will support the Living on the Land program by preparing healthy meals for the benefit and enjoyment of all, serving as hosts for guest instructors and students, helping with transportation, participating in select courses, and more.  

Thoreau College Lamb

Program Details


We are seeking up to 8 participants in this program, which will begin on Tuesday, April 2nd and end on Friday, April 19th

Participants from out of town should plan to arrive in Viroqua, Wisconsin no later than Monday, April 1.


Step 1: Application Form

Completing this form will tell us about your background and interest in our program, as well as how we can support you while you are here.  We will also ask for the contact information for one personal reference who can speak to how you might do in a program like this.

Step 2: Interview & References

If it seems like you might be a good fit for the program, you will be invited to participate in an interview with members of our Admissions Circle, which includes faculty and alumni of earlier programs. Interviews can take place in person or via Zoom as circumstances allow. Applicants who are able to visit us in Viroqua are encouraged to do so! During this phase we will also contact personal reference you submitted.

Step 3: Admission Decision and Further Coordination

Upon acceptance of offer, communications and arrangements will be made to coordinate travel and arrival, what to bring, what to expect about the town of Viroqua and where you will be staying, etc. We will also set up a conversation to discuss financial arrangements, including pledge level and payment plan.

The priority application deadline for this program is March 1st, 2024. If the program is not filled at this point, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the program is filled.


Housing for non-local participants is available at the Thoreau College Campus, which includes both private and shared rooms.  The Campus is located on a semi-rural 6 acre site within walking distance of most locations in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  Lunches will be provided and eaten together on Mondays-Fridays during the course.  Participants will be responsible for other meals, for which they will have access to full kitchen facilities.


Thoreau College is committed to making our programs financially accessible to as many qualified participants as possible.  Your financial pledge will cover program fees, books and tools, field trip transportation, campus housing, and 14 weekday lunches during the course.  

As a guide for thinking about what a reasonable contribution might be for you, please consider this three-tiered sliding scale:

Supporter Tier:  $850
If you move through the world with financial ease and the means to fulfill many of your wants as well as your needs – you are able to eat out when you want, abundantly meet your needs through employment or can comfortably not work, have access to family wealth, own property, etc. – consider paying at this level, which will help us ensure the long term sustainability of our programs while keeping our offerings accessible to those with access to fewer resources.

Sustainer Tier: $750
If you are able to meet your needs with relative ease while budgeting your educational and entertainment spending – for instance, you are able to take classes and eat out occasionally as long as you are mindful – consider paying at this level, which will help sustain the work of the college at a modest level.

Supported Tier: $650
If you struggle to fund your basic needs and have limited access to resources in your family and community, or if you would not be able to access this program without a discounted payment option, consider paying at this level. We value your presence and contributions to our community and do not want any economic circumstances to be a barrier to attendance!

Thoreau College is an equal opportunity employer and complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination. Thoreau College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.

“No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.”