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[permaculture] Re: Does Permaculture have to be so expensive???

The question of the expense of Permaculture design courses raises its head
very regularly. I've recently started teaching courses, and although I
understand that the US $700-1000 price tag makes them out of reach for many
alternative people, I know the economics well enough to know that they
can't easily be made much cheaper. Nobody makes money on these courses.
Compared to most residential courses, they are cheap: if you look at course
catalogs from say, Breitenbush or Esalen, they charge $350-500 just for a
weekend. In most of the PC courses I know of, the instructors get paid
$1200-2000 for one to two weeks of prep, two weeks of 14-hour days, and a
week or two to collapse and usually get sick. That's over a month of hard
work for that two grand, or $24,000 a year if they could keep it up, but no
one can (more than 3 courses a year is considered suicidal in most cases).
Some of the payment is in work-trades to accommodate those with little
money, so that's even less cash for the teachers.
    And I've seen the financial breakdowns from several venues that run the
courses: they break even, maybe lose or gain $1000 or so from the
$10-20,000 they take in on a typical course with 15-25 participants. That's
a low margin. After you buy food, hire a cook and support staff, build
latrines, showers, and shelters, pay rent on a space, and pay the
instructors, there isn't much left. That's why big courses have been
attempted, so that some seed money can go to start other projects. But I
assure you, the standard 15-person PDC doesn't make anybody rich.
  So I'm in sympathy with those who can't scrape up close to a thousand
dollars to take a course. It's a lot of money for us alternative types.
That's why most places offer work trades, or scholarships subsidized by
those who pay in full. But having walked both sides of the fence, I can
assure you that it's not viable for the instructors and venues to try to do
it for less unless the format were radically changed.

I'm very curious to hear how the Aussies and others do it so cheaply. Do
people bring their own food and pay nothing for the land they use, or
commute? How does it work?

Okay, no more questions that push my buttons now. I'm starting to feel
guilty about spending too much time on these listservs!

Toby Hemenway

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