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the cost of permaculture design courses.

Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
Is it just me, or are ther other people frustrated with trying to find some continuing education on permaculture, only to find that someone (many someones actually) offering a "permaculture design course" certificate, on their version of permaculture (with or without extensive hands on experience), wanting several thousands of dollars for each person to attend and participate. I am not a narcissist by nature but it feels like there are a lot of people whose primary interest in permaculture is to make money off a lot of well intetioned seekers with a fair amount of disposable income. This leaves those of us living the minimalist (AKA small carbon footprint etc) lifestyle at a loss as to how to acquire knowledge at a fair price.
Just for the record, anyone interested in coming to my little permaculture operation can stay/camp at no charge and I will freely and with great enthusiasm, share all I know. (yes that was for free) I don't however have a little piece of paper that says I have completed (and paid for) a "PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE" I have only my own experiences over the last thirty or so years.
Sorry for the rant but I would seriously love to communicate with other permies who are primarily interested in sharing and exchanging knowledge (not primarily interested in picking my pocket).


Wilde on Turtle Island
Walk Gently on our Mother Earth
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Personally, I think there is so much free or low-cost (book, DVD) knowledge available, it may not be necessary to take an in-person course unless you want a teaching certificate. The only course I could even slightly manage to take is http://permaculturevisions.com/index.html#courses and I will only take it if I decide I want to get certified to teach. But I need to prove to myself I can practice first, so it will probably be 3-5 years before I take it, if it's still offered by then....Meanwhile I'll be learning by reading and doing.


Idle dreamer

Kota Dubois


Joined: Oct 13, 2011
Posts: 171
    
    3
Laura, I couldn't agree more with Tyler's comment more. As someone who's spent 30 years going to school, I can say that learning has more to do with the attitude of the student than the skills of the teacher. I've been practicing permaculture for over twenty years without even knowing there was a name for it. South shore lake Huron? Georgian bay, Sarnia or Michigan? Anyway I was raised in S. Ontario so I'm not lost down that way. I'm a clear thinker and might have analytical skilled to offer you if you have specific problems. I've always given freely of my knowledge, which most people reject out of hand since they've been brainwashed into believing that you get what you PAY for. Bon Courage.


We cannot change the waves of expansion and contraction, as their scale is beyond human control, but we can learn to surf. Nicole Foss @ The Automatic Earth
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
Thanks for the encouragement. Like both of you I have been doing this for years and only recently found out what it is called. It is very gratifying to see alot of the choices I made were the same logical ones the the 'experts' made. finding a name for a lot of the stuff was good. also i have read Zep, Toby and Dave and Eric's tomes. Sometimes I kick myself 'cause I shoulda wrote one too(Just kidding) More than an certificate I seek the oportunity to brainstorm on some of the quirks of this place. We've only been on this property six years so we're still alot in the observation stage of some things. and we'are between Sarnia and London, Near Forest and Arkona. Come visit us in the spring or summer and I'll happily show you what we're up to.
What you said about people disregarding what we say because we don't charge for it is in line with why they discredit me because I don't have a degree etc. All i have is clean lungs and dirty fingernails, and I'm OK with that.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 795
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Hello All,

I'd be interested to know if there are any PDCs being offered in or close to Southern Ontario taught by people for whom Paul Wheaton would vouch. If I knew that what I was being taught was compatible with Holzer permaculture, or enough so that Paul would identify with it, then I would feel better about paying any amount for it. If it is rehashing stuff I've already studied, otherwise of no use to me, or greenwashing so someone can take my money, what does it matter whether I'm being overcharged $200 or $2000?
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
While i agree there is a lot of excellent information available. I think that a well structured course could still help to solidify the reams of information in the books and DVDs, I also agree that if the instructer is recommended by some of the more experienced and recognised members, it could be worth the money.
Unfortunately i have spent money on "courses" and "workshops" where I was contributing considerably more than I was learning. not that I mind contributing but the experience of the instructor seems to be minimal and knowledge is book knowledge. i can get that from a book. An experienced instructor could answer very specific question from experience or at least extrapolation from experience. and a well structured course would start with basic book knowledge and then build on it with hands on and or actual examples.
I think there is going to be one here this summer taught by someone from BC but I know little else. the credetials (if true) sound good.

http://www.facebook.com/Kootenay.Permaculture.Instiute
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Chris, if you find that person in Ontario, please let me know.

I hear you Laura Jean. Some of the prices for PDC"s I've seen seem pretty inflated. I'm putting together an intro to permaculture course and holding it at my farm but am consciously keeping the fee low. I'm probably going to charge a sliding scale of $45-$65, but I need to do some figuring on how much time I'll be putting into this before I settle on it. I am considering some kind of a work exchange as an option. The next cheapest intro course in ontario that I could find was $55 but do you think $45 is too high? If you know of one thats cheaper let me know. I don't want to undercut the other courses in the area but I also want to keep the cost fair. I also offer for people to come learn for free. I know that I have a looong way to go but I feel that I have a lot to offer as an instructor of an intro course.

I feel that I'll be able to offer a fair amount of 'real world' examples to show people, and the opportunity for hands on learning (earth-sheltered passive heated greenhouse, cold frames, several styles of no-till cultivation including hugelkultur, polycultures that incorporate wild plants, young food forests, incorporating animals in farming, microclimates, and we're hoping to start keeping bees in a langstroffe and warré top bar hive. I've also got a field trip set up to a guy living nearby, fully off grid and pretty self sufficiently. I'm also probably going to offer the opportunity for people to stay an extra day to pick my brain and/or do more hands on work of their choice.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 795
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Travis, please let me know when you will be offering your course, as I would definitely be interested. If I may be so bold as to suggest, I for one would find it much easier to commit to a series of weekend workshops, but I do also recognise the value and general benefit of having a retreat-like atmosphere and solid chunk of time away from everything else in which to acclimatise to, absorb and digest the material. I'm probably dreaming here, but what would make sense to me would be for you to use something like a WOFATI barn project as the focus for your Permie Primer Course, something that could easily shelter large numbers of students in a pinch, and whatever type of outhouse project would suit your particular situation. That would make it much easier to host PDCs. I can only speak for myself, but I would contribute to a fund to bring Paul Wheaton to do a PDC in Ontario if he'd be willing (not to sound like a profiteer, but I would want it set up so that contributors would see their contributions returned, with interest corresponding to the success of the project as incentive), but I suspect that we'd need to do something like a weekend lecture series suited to large numbers (Paul has said repeatedly that he sets his target at reaching a thousand people a day), with a core of permies doing a two-week PDC and staying on site and providing video and photo material for the weekend lectures. Even if he weren't interested personally, I would think Paul would know who to go to. I think, though, that he could accumulate enough material for podcasts and video to fuel his site for years just doing a PDC once in a while.
Sorry, I ramble. I hope any of it was useful.

-CK
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
To Travis;
I don't think that ($55) is at all out of line for an introductory course. I recently attended a fairly good introductory course and it was $80 pp. Speaking from my own experience though, I had to hagle to get a discount for my husband, who is just as keen as I am on Permaculture, to attend. It is this scenario that frustrates me when assessing PDC's because we both want to attend. As for costs I think if I were going to do this myself, I would offer the workshop as a stand alone, then an additional cost for accomodations (other than rough camping), meals supplied, etc. so that the cost could be controlled by the individuals and also a nominal fee for the partner spouse because any handouts etc would not need to be duplicated. basically the second person is only taking up a chair in the lectures. Also at the workshop i was able to offer service in exchange for the discount (helping with meals, registration etc.) Structuring the workshop in this way, would reflect that you were genuinely interested in promoting a wholistic approach to the permaculture ideal, i.e. sharing surplus,which, in my opinion also means liberally sharing knowledge, in contrast to trying to develope an elitist (finacially reflective) clicke; or just making a lot of money. Lindsay is a bit of a hike for us but if the timing was right, we would love to participate and contribute to at least a weekend workshop.

To Chris:
Do you already have a property large enough to develope into this? It would be awsome to be able to invite Paul for something like this, My initial concern is this. Anywhere near Toronto, the cost of real estate is prohibitive. The central location would be ideal, but the price of land would make such a venture too expensive for most of us. I'd be leaning more toward Travis' location. Our place is only 13 acres and still young (only 5 years here) but what you have described is exactly where we are headed eventually. We are inserting the eco-tourism model into our overall plans.
Maybe we can set up some kind of rotating workshops all over the province. like one weekend each month at a different place.
Anyone game?
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Chris, thanks for your suggestions. To address some of your points:

-I'll let you know when the course dates and details are set

-Intro courses that I know of are typically 1-2 days

-We have an ex school portable on the property that we'll most likely be using for indoor class time, which is suitable for about 30-40 students. Since this will be my first course, I'm realistically expecting 10-15 attendees

-I like the idea of the WOFATI structure but we don't have the money for a barn structure with the permits and engineers plans/stamp. Even if we did the permit office here are as oldschool as you can get, and I doubt they'd go for such a thing.

-I also like your idea of getting people to commit to contributing to bringing in Paul Wheaton or someone in that vein but I'm not sure I'm up to that level of organization just yet. I want to get an intro course or two under my belt before adding in a lot of extras. There'll be enough to organize and plan as is.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Laura Jean:

Thanks for the idea about the discount for couples/groups. I'd thought of offering this. The work exchange option will probably be included too.

For this first course, I'm probably going to make it a case of bring-your-own-food, and we will provide the facilities to prepare meals. Again, it comes down to the organizational factors. I want to keep this first time simple. Maybe we'd make it a pot-luck style thing where we bring raw ingredients, combine them and make group meals together. Of course there'd be produce from the farm included.

As for accomodations, our municipality doesn't allow people tent overnight. It's ridiculous but they've already come knocking on our door about it. We don't really have any other space for legal accomodations so we'd require people to find motels and the like. I'm thinking though, of at least asking some nearby organic farmers (who haven't been hassled by the municipality) if they would allow tenters.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 795
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
To Laura,

I am unfortunately land poor. I'm probably going to stay that way, in the literal sense anyway; to hop on the real estate ladder by buying a piece of land would be, for me, with no experience surviving off the land, let alone making money off it, a losing proposition. I need to flip a few houses over 5 to 10 years before I can realistically expect to be able to buy the kind of land I'm looking for and do what I want to do with it. I don't think we can guarantee anyone's qualifications to teach what we want to learn if there's no institutional standard backing it up, so we kind of have to go by who we trust where it comes to permaculture. I'm wondering, though, if it wouldn't be easier to find a college-level course from an accredited institution considering the prices of some PDCs mentioned earlier.

To Travis,

I did get a little carried away there. I suppose I have to add the words "unorganised township" to my list of property search parameters. Have you had problems with the permit office?
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
We've had municipal by-law officers visit us and prohibit us from allowing volunteers from staying in our camping trailer or even our school portable. We haven't had problems with the permit office yet, as we aren't at the stage to start building anything major. With our earth-sheltered greenhouse, we built it under 108 square feet so that a permit is not required. We're building a raised verhang extension on the back wall to have a winter chicken house, so the actual area will be bigger than 108 square feet, just not the footprint. Our municipal building inspector for this area is aparently pretty oldschool so I'm kinda worried about our future building plans which include a constructed wetland water treatment system, and an earthship house among other things.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 795
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Travis,

Does the idea of tires offgassing not bother you, in the sun during construction if not into the building envelope itself? This is likely a topic for the green building forum, but I think that, hypothetically speaking, if you were to build out of compressed earth blocks, following a recognised conventional masonry method, you might have an easier time with the permit office, especially if you can take your blocks and test them using all the conventional tests for commercially available masonry units, and rate off the scale on each one. If you haven't already chosen a favourite green building forum, go pick one that suits your fancy and let me know which one, we can get more people weighing in on this specific subject, either earthships with tires (the conventional design) versus compressed earth block/rammed earth, or green building to satisfy code. Any of us unsatisfied with code will have to deal with this stuff sooner or later.

-CK
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Is there hard evidence out there about the offgassing tires? I've only ever heard speculation. I'm not contesting what you're saying, just looking for proof. It's something I've thought about for sure. I'm wondering about earth bags instead of tires, and yes, I've considered many other building designs and types. It'll be at least 5 years before we can even begin to get a new building of any large size in motion, mostly due to lack of money and time.

Until then we're looking for people to partner with, who would build 'cottages' in environmentally friendly ways. If we put em under 108 square feet there's no permit needed and the municipality can't touch us as far as I know. We'd house interns in them and/or rent them out to vacationers and permaculture course students etc. This way, we could trial some building types.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 795
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
To be honest, Travis, the only exposure to tires en masse was at a wreckers. They were standing off to one side in stacks, and I happened to walk through an invisible cloud of offgassing. I was told when I commented about it that people occasionally pass out on still days from it. I'm sure that once they are all integrated into the structure, with no sunlight causing them to degrade, then any offgassing will be handled by your house's normal air circulation, as long as you're not living in one of those ziploc bag structures.

As to earthbags, I tend to shy away from building methods that strike me as silly, which I consider to be anything you build whose function can never be load-bearing. To me its like choosing a method of farming whose functions cannot stack. The earthbags might fill quickly and adapt to a tamper better than tires, but tires at least have going for them the fact that they're essentially massive masonry units in steel-banded rubber forms. The only thing I would consider superior would be a hydraulic press with hopper and several forms designed to press earth into a building system, complete with roofing or dome tiles; simple as a set of building blocks, useable after proper assembly into a structure as permanent forms for rammed earth projects, and bombproof, properly designed and assembled. I'm trying right now to get an answer from Paul Wheaton on the subject of whether the WOFATI design is supposed to return to the earth eventually with all the structure formed of lumber, or if one could design a purpose-made system to at once form a rammed earth foundation, a domed ceiling (maybe gothic vaults, I think that's what they're called, the ones you see in gothic churches supported by pillars and making all sorts of pointed arches), and pillars and arches to transfer the weight of a green roof to the foundation.

-CK
Fred Walter


Joined: May 31, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Near Beaver Valley, Ontario, Canada
Travis Philp wrote:I like the idea of the WOFATI structure but we don't have the money for a barn structure with the permits and engineers plans/stamp. Even if we did the permit office here are as oldschool as you can get, and I doubt they'd go for such a thing.


An engineer cost me about $1000 a couple of years ago for the suspended concrete slab (first floor), the basement walls and the basement floor in my 25x30 addition on my house.

If you design underground house (don't say WOFATI to the engineer or building department) using reinforced concrete instead of wood and plastic/pond liners, you can probably get an engineer to do the engineering and sign off on it, and if an engineer signs off on it, your local building department will likely approve it.

After the structure is in place, you can put sand on top of your underground house, slope it, and cover it with plastic so that you get the same effective water barrier that you'd get with a traditional WOFATI, while having the strength and permanance of concrete (and a building permit, and the ability to get insurance and permission to live in the structure).

Concrete and steel isn't that much more expensive than lumber/beams, if you have to buy the lumber/beams. The biggest cost in anything that I've built on my farm in the last 14 years has been the labour.
Fred Walter


Joined: May 31, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Near Beaver Valley, Ontario, Canada
Travis Philp wrote:We've had municipal by-law officers visit us and prohibit us from allowing volunteers from staying in our camping trailer or even our school portable.


They cannot stay in your camping trailer? How's about if they were camping in their own camping trailer? Or camping in a tent?

With our earth-sheltered greenhouse, we built it under 108 square feet so that a permit is not required.


Have you posted an update to your blog yet about this greenhouse, with photos/etc? I'd like to do something similar someday, and I'd like to see what someone else has done, and hear about their experiences with it. All I can find is the following, which you posted before you built it:
http://greenshireecofarms.com/2011/12/05/earth-sheltered-passive-solar-greenhouse/
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
They can't stay in ours or ttheir own trailer. It's pretty stupid.

No update on the greenhouse yet. The project is on hold until at least august, since we don't really need it until then.
            


Joined: Jun 27, 2010
Posts: 75
Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
Laura Jean Wilde wrote:Is it just me, or are ther other people frustrated with trying to find some continuing education on permaculture


Introduction to Permaculture - 31 FREE lectures via NC State distance learning


Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
Thank you, Mike I'll check it out.
lj
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
I don't seem to have permission to access the lectures. Am I missing something?
            


Joined: Jun 27, 2010
Posts: 75
Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
Laura Jean Wilde wrote:I don't seem to have permission to access the lectures. Am I missing something?


You may have to install Silverlight from Microsoft or Moonlight if your operating system is Ubuntu.
Max Tanner


Joined: Feb 26, 2011
Posts: 81
Location: Ontario North and South - right now, moving North Permanently soon. Timmins Cochrane areas
Will Hooker Lecture Series

http://mediasite.online.ncsu.edu/online/Catalog/pages/catalog.aspx?catalogId=f5a893e7-4b7c-4b79-80fd-52dcd1ced715

free, 31 lectures
Enjoy


http://wildernessreturn.wordpress.com/
my wilderness return story and adveture
Kevin Longeway


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Laura, my two cents on this is that with the right to teach a course earned after completing one yourself, there will be some who have no value to pass on and could charge outrageous prices. That is why the community backing the good teachers is very important. I paid $899 for my PDC course 2.5 years ago and must say it was worth it to me. I don't think it is a matter of people wanting to charge for what you would offer free. My teacher uses it as one of his income streams to support his projects and he gets better and better at teaching it. This sort of course is not necessarily meant for people such as yourself that have experience but more over for people who are starting at ground zero. I think giving such people a very structured learning environment helps them to pick up much that is a major shift in thinking and life skills. I have some gardening skills and farming background, so some of the course was review for me but some of the earthworks and rain harvesting was worth the price. There were free resources and some books I had tried to pick up on my own but was still missing some of the connector pieces. After taking the course it all clicked. My teacher uses some of our course money to take more specialized courses for himself to improve what he is sharing with us.

I think it is important for the community to share knowledge but I do think capable teachers deserve an income for spreading the good ideas so that the community grows more and more.
Lacy VanCam


Joined: Sep 23, 2011
Posts: 42
Hey Laura,
Just wanted to say your farm was incredible, I can't wait to come back in the spring and summer and fall too! The oranges were fabulous (they are almost gone already!). Thanks!
Lacy

And I agree with you about the cost, I would rather just read the books and try methods out, see what works for us. It has worked really well so far.
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 58
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
Hey that's awesome! we cant thank you enough for letting us take a little time out. We'll let you know as soon as things start popping in the spring. I think this year our priority is going to be getting the propagation bed up and running and put to good use.
 
 
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