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Duration (approx) 500 hours
Qualification Proficiency Award

Get back to nature - be self sufficent!

Learn to grow your own foods and live in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way.

Not everyone can live "off the grid" and be totally self sustainable, but if you are interested in becoming more self-sufficient in a small or large way, then this 500 hour course could be the answer for you.

  • Learn about "living off the land".
  • Learn how to create your own storage.
  • Understand recycling, re-using materials, and much more.









Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the PROFICIENCY AWARD IN SELF SUFFICIENCY VSS110
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 1 of the following 7 modules.

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Have you always dreamed of living a simpler, healthier life?

A good life - living off the land.
Self sufficiency is the idea of sustainable living, where the person consumes only that which they produce. Examples of self sufficiency can include simple living, smallholding, the back to the land movement, “off the grid” living and so on. It is also linked to permaculture, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and so on.

This course is suitable for anyone who would like to learn more about this simpler form of living. We hear much about sustainability today and the growth in the world's population. Sustainability is important. This course will enable you to live your life in a more self-sufficient way or give you the skills to enable you to help others to understand more about self-sufficiency.





A 500 hour course enabling you to develop your skills in self sufficiency.

  • Learn to live a self sufficient and sustainable life.
  • Learn about healthy living and taking care of your environment.
  • You study by distance learning, when, and where, you want to.
  • The course comprises three 100 hour modules, plus a 200 hour industry project/work experience.

(Please note that if you pass the Permaculture Systems course, you will also be awarded the Permaculture Design Certificate)

  • What you earn through working or trading (money, services or goods).
  • What you create (growing, building gathering).
  • What you buy.

A key part of being more self sufficient is to manage your food better. Preserving, storing and using food more efficiently can greatly reduce waste and reduce your cost of living. People need to be more frugal. Many have shunned fast food and expensive artificial ingredients in favour of home grown produce, farmers markets, and home cooking. Along with the nation's obsession with all things culinary, having a cold food store at home has once again risen in popularity.

Larders of Old
Larders were common in our homes before the widespread use of mechanical refrigeration. They then fell out of favour and all but disappeared by the late 1980s. Most people who grew up before this time will have some recollections of larders, but what were they really like?

Larders were typically a cool, ventilated room adjacent to the kitchen about the size of a very small bedroom. Most were rigged out with floor to ceiling shelving on at least one wall. More shelving would be scattered throughout with a bench top somewhere to be found. This may have been a cold slab of slate stone or granite but often was simply a wooden surface. A cupboard or two would complete the scene. There would be a single doorway and usually just one small inwardly opening window covered with a mesh screen on the outside to keep insects out if it was opened.

Before the widespread adoption of refrigerators most households were unable to store perishable goods. Some may have owned a meat safe but these were largely the privileged few. Instead, perishables were bought as and when needed with regular trips to the butcher, greengrocer or fishmonger. Everything else found its way into the larder.

What can be Stored
Larders were used to keep anything from jars of pickles and jam, to tins of condensed milk and containers full of dried pulses. They were also used to store vegetables like potatoes and other root crops, cabbages and sprouts - things with a relatively long shelf life. Fruit including apples, oranges and bananas could also be kept in them. Dairy products like cheese and eggs would remain cool and cured meats such as the odd flitch of bacon may have been hung in them. Sometimes they were used to store partly prepared foods such as yoghurts whilst they fermented, or cheeses whilst they matured.

Larders were often a place of wonder, especially to children who were rarely allowed inside. To them they were seen to be brimming with goods - and treats if they were lucky. The larder was a wonderful resource. An ingredient could always be found in the larder to complete a dish or to conjure a meal for an unexpected visitor. It's perhaps not surprising that these blasts from the past are becoming so sought after, especially now that many people are looking for somewhere to preserve the excess food they are growing at home. Whereas once they were converted into utility rooms or used to extend the kitchen now many people are reinstating them as larders or looking for properties with a larder.  

Types of Larder
These days many newer houses just don't have the space for a designated larder room. Living spaces are much more compact, a trend which is unlikely to end anytime soon. But there are many ways you can have a larder. For instance, manufacturers of free-standing larders have seen a boom in trade. These are something like a shallow wardrobe with double doors which open out to reveal an array of shelves within. They may not be as cool inside as a traditional larder but they are a great way to de-clutter the kitchen and store non-perishables.     

Others may be built in as part of the kitchen cabinetry in new kitchen designs. Although they are usually ventilated they are exposed to the heat of the kitchen and the heating of the house, so they are not as cool as the larder of the past. But a larder doesn't have to be in the kitchen. Any small cool space could house one. You could build one under the stairs or if you're fortunate enough to have a cellar it's an ideal choice.  

Where to Place It
Some suitable places for a larder include:

  • A ventilated cellar.
  • A cool basement.
  • A cupboard under the stairs.
  • A cupboard you can insulate and vent (fitted or free-standing).
  • A room off your kitchen.
  • An unused small room with an outside north facing wall.

The important elements for any larder are insulation, ventilation and darkness.  Make sure that the larder is sealed off with a well-fitted door and the inside is insulated with the right materials. For walk-in larders this includes the roof space.

You will need to install vents to keep the larder cool. A single vent is not enough as it won’t pull the air through the larder to cool it. Instead, there should be two vents. One placed high up on a wall and one low down nearer the floor. As air warms inside the larder it rises and passes out the top vent. Cold air from outside is sucked in to replace it. Place the vents on an external wall. A north-facing wall that does not receive sun is best. If the larder is on a south facing wall you would be better installing vents on a north facing wall and connecting them to the larder using ducting placed under the floor and in the ceiling.

Having suitable ventilation also helps to avoid draughts running through the house when the larder door is opened. They stop cool air being pulled into the house. Vents also help to regulate the humidity in the air. High levels of humidity will make your produce deteriorate more quickly. It's worth considering installing an extractor fan in the higher vent to help with air exchange. Make sure there is no access for insects to gain entry through the vents.

If opting for a larder under the stairs, most staircases have a space underneath which could offer the perfect place to install a larder. Once again, you do need the ability to ventilate the area, either through the floor or through an outside wall. Also, if the cupboard has to have a low door you may not wish to get on your hands and knees every time you want to retrieve something from your larder.   

New Buildings
If you're building a new house, it could be an ideal opportunity to include a bespoke larder. If the larder is not going to be on an outside wall you will need your builder to install underground ducting to external vents. Ducting will need to be insulated to prevent condensation. Also, the wall and ceiling lining should not absorb moisture. Therefore, normal plasterboard won’t do but plasterboard with a moisture barrier is perfect for the job.

If the larder is in a bungalow, you should also insulate ceiling with normal housing insulation such as rolls of mineral wool and insulation boards. External double brick or stone walls will remain nice and cool. Internal walls may need some extra insulation. If possible also line the door with a moisture barrier such as polystyrene over which you can add a thin layer of moisture resistant MDF. You can paint over it to improve its appearance.

For existing buildings a possibility is to build a small room on an outside wall of the kitchen to use as a larder. Ideally, this suits a wall that doesn’t face south.

Helpful Hints

  • If possible position the larder on the north-facing side of the house as this is the coolest area.
  • A larder should be ventilated – this keeps it cool and controls the humidity.
  • A larder should be reasonably dark when the door is shut.
  • It should be easy to access and items should also be easily seen to prevent things being hidden in the dark recesses (narrow shelves help to prevent this).
  • It should exclude vermin, flies and insects.
  • It should have easy-to-clean surfaces, and be kept clean.
  • A stone floor or ceramic tiles helps with cleaning, and is also a lot cooler than timber.
  • A marble or slate stone preparation bench is a bonus (it helps to keep things cool).
  • Oak is also useful for shelving as it too stays cooler for longer than less dense woods.
  • Vents and external windows must be covered with insect mesh.

Other Things to Consider

  • Lighting - the larder needs to be well lit when used. Modern LED lighting that switches on when you open the door is the perfect solution.
  • Electricity – a wall socket inside the larder may be useful if you also wish to use electronic kitchen gadgets inside.
  • Water – some larger larders may have a sink and water connected. Avoid hot water though because it will increase the heat and humidity.
  • Shelving – there are many options these days including lazy Susan type rotating shelves for corners, pull out shelving on wheels, or just plain timber shelves. Make sure that they are not too deep otherwise you tend to lose things at the back of the shelves. Spice racks on the backs of cupboard doors and U-shaped shelving can maximise the available room.  

How the Proficiency Award In Self-Sufficiency is Assessed
The Proficiency Award In Self-Sufficiency requires 500 hours of study.  It is made up of three 100 hour modules and a workplace project.

To pass the course –

  1. Pass all assignments on the three 100 hour modules. There will be an assignment at the end of each lesson to submit to your tutor for marking and feedback.
  2. Pass three examinations – one on each module. These are usually taken at the end of the module and can be arranged at a time and location to suit you.
  3. Complete a Workplace Project.  The project should last around 200 hours.  There are four options available to you to satisfy this requirement.  Don’t worry if you are not sure at this stage, your tutor will be there to help you every step of the way. This includes evidence of work experience or other studies or workshops, a research project or completion of Workshop I.


  • Quality courses - written by experienced professionals.
  • Benefit from expert tution, with high quality support.
  • Start at any time, and study where you want to - fit your studies around your own lifestyle.

If you would like to learn about living a simpler life? Be self sufficient and environmentally friendly, then this course is the one for you.

It could also increase your options at work or with a new business, advising and helping others to develop their own self-sufficiency. The possibilities are endless. Help yourself, the environment and others to live in a self-sufficient way.

If this has been a dream of yours for a while, why not make this dream a reality and get started on this course today?


Choosing the right course and options is important - for guidance on the Proficiency Award In Self-Sufficiency Qualification, use our FREE COUNSELLING SERVICE to get in touch with one of our Permaculture and Self-Sufficiency Tutors.




Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.

Check out our eBooks

Food PreservingA great supplement for students of nutrition, self sufficiency or even horticulture, the Food Preserving ebook is a great introduction into all things preserving.
Organic GardeningFor decades farmers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce saleable crops. In the ornamental, vegetable and fruit gardens reliance on chemical controls has also been the mainstay for many gardeners.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsThe Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs ebook is ideal for students, professionals and home gardening enthusiasts alike. Fruit, Vegetable and Herbs provides an overview in techniques to produce food in the garden. Topics covered within this course include 1/ Food from the garden, 2/ Deciding what to grow, 3/ Successful growing, 4/ Fruits, 4-1/ Deciduous fruit trees, 4-2/ Citrus fruits, 4-3/ Tropical fruits, 4-4/ Berries, 4-5/ Nuts, 4-6/ Vine crops, 4-7/ Using produce, 5/ Vegetables, 6/ Mushrooms, 7/ Special growing techniques