Join us for a three-week adventure in the heart of Wisconsin’s Driftless region. Thoreau College is now accepting applicants for our Summer Walkabout. Explore Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, famous for its ancient topography of rolling hills, sandstone bluffs, and rich valleys, with a thriving community of organic, biodynamic, and permaculture farms. The Thoreau College Summer Walkabout is an opportunity for exploration, cultivation, and creation in the company of a small community of fellow travelers.  We are seeking a group of about 15 people aged 18 and older who are ready to take up the call to adventure, to walk and work the land, to learn from the people who live here, and to gather skills and inspiration for the future.  This program will take place on the ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk nation, whose culture and voices will be an important component of our studies and experiences.



July 18-23

During the first week of the program, participants will travel through the landscape of Vernon County for 5 days on foot and down a section of the Kickapoo River via canoe.  Through this intimate shared pilgrimage, students will experience the extraordinary biodiversity of this region first hand, and also learn about its rich human history and cultures, including the Ho-Chunk, the unique African-American settlement at Cheyenne Valley, the Amish community, Norwegian, German, and Bohemian farmers, the back-to-the-land movement, and more.


July 26-30

After a week of traveling together, participants will split up in Week 2 to live, work, and learn on one of several local farms in the form of 4-day residential micro-internships. Participating farms include dairy farms, rotational grazers, vineyards and orchards, organic produce growers, practitioners of biodynamics and permaculture, and more.  This is your chance to get your hands dirty and get a deeper understanding of agricultural practices, while building friendships with local farm families. Participants will be placed on farms in groups of 2 and then reconvene at the end of the week to share their experiences with the other groups.


August 3-6

During the third week, participants will take up residence in the town of Viroqua (Pop. 4,500), the county seat of Vernon County and the home base of Thoreau College.  The focus of this week will be an intensive workshop offered in collaboration with the Driftless Folk School entitled “Walkabout Permaculture” led by permaculture designers Dr. Charlie Brennan and Bridget O’Brien of the Garden Juju Collective and Paula Westmoreland and Lindsey Rebhan of Ecological Design, with help from several local instructors.  The 4-day workshop will provide an introduction to permaculture, which the instructors define as “the conscious design, redesign & practice of ecological living for all aspects of life – this includes movement towards regenerative cultures and healing of selves and places.”  Some of the topics addressed will include  food growing and foraging, self-care, housing, social permaculture, conservation, ecopsychology, wilding and more. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to participate in one of four afternoon electives on folk arts and crafts or more advanced permaculture design concepts.


We welcome applications from adults of all ages.  Please note that Weeks 1 and 2 will involve hiking, canoeing, and farm works, so applicants should consider their physical capacities.  Applicants can also choose to only participate in the Week 3 Walkabout Permaculture workshop.  To apply, please complete this form.  In addition to basic questions about contact information and your personal background, you will be asked to complete two short essays about your interest in this program.  Once you have submitted the application, you will be contacted by a member of our admissions team for an informal interview.  Spots in the program will be filled on a rolling basis until it is full, after which applicants will be put onto a waiting list.  Apply now to join the Walkabout!


Thoreau College is strongly committed to making our programs accessible to all admitted students with a sincere desire to participate. After you have been admitted to the program has been made, we will contact you for a short financial discussion about our financial structure and your ability to contribute. Together, we will then decide upon a reasonable financial pledge that works for everyone. Our goal is accessibility and we believe that financial limitations should not be a barrier to participation in cultural life.

As a basis for starting these conversations, here are some baseline numbers for considering what you may be able to contribute:

 Full 3 Week Program: $1200 (includes food, lodging, and camping gear, if needed)

Permaculture Workshop Only:  $500 (includes workshop materials 4 lunches)



  • Food for all meals will be provided for participants in the full program, including camp food during week one, shared meals with our farm hosts during week two, and meals from the Commons Café in Viroqua during week three.  Lunches will be provided for those participating in the Walkabout Permaculture workshops in week three only.
  • Participants will be camping at various sites along our journey during week one, staying with farm internship hosts during week 2, and staying in one of several Thoreau College residence houses during week 3 with other participants in the program.  Lodging is not included for participants in the Walkabout Permaculture workshops only.
  • The nearest airports to Viroqua are located in La Crosse and Madison. We will arrange transportation to and from those cities for anyone who needs it.  All local transportation will be provided as part of the program.
  • We have tents and other camping gear available to participants if needed.