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[permaculture] Re: Does Permaculture have to be so expensive???
Hi Marsha and others...
Here in Sydney (Australia), we offer a permaculture design course priced at AUD$500 for eighteen days (that's around
120 hours), part time, on weekend days. This format has proven successful for the many students who cannot take the
two weeks off for the residential courses and we find that as the course progresses a team spirit develops. Many
students remain in touch well after courses finish.
The duration of the course is longer than the usual 72 hours because we find we cannot produce an educationally sound
course in less time. Our course includes two full days in the development of people skills, thanks to Maria Maguire
from Unfolding Futures who offer her professional training services cheaply, out of committment to permaculture, when
otherwise they would cost a great deal more to acquire. We include this because we have found over the years that it
is people skills which aremainly lacking from permaculture practice.
The cost of the course is the minimal we can charge. It does not pay us properly for our time and for the huge amount
of time spent developing resources and the course... preparation time.
The cost of courses sure is an issue. What is missing from the discussion, generally, is an undersdtanding of the
economics of running a PDC, such as an appreciation of the cost of overheads such as rental of teaching premises,
insurance and so on. These are substantive charges which add to the cost of courses. We have had no complaints about
the cost of our courses - some students regard the cost as cheap!
It's ironic, really. People are prepared to pay AUD$2000 plus for a course on Feng Shui and are willing to pay high
fees for other courses, however when it comes to PDCs, people balk at the usual cost of residnetial courses of around
AUD$800. It is permaculture people who frequently undervalue the service of teachers.
The fact is that many permaculture teachers are forced to undervalue their teaching due to the perception that courses
are expensive. Here, I'm talking about Australia - I don't know the economics of courses in the US that Marsha refers
to. This undervaluing detracts from the possibility that permaculture can be built into people's livelihoods and this
is, in my opinion, a severe limitation for permaculture and one likely to keep it as a marginalised, part-time
activity, wherther teacher or student.
I guess that what the negative comments about some course costs indicate is that the market for courses is at least
partly in the very low income band (as contrary evidence, we actually get a fair number of professional people to our
courses) and that the perception is that permaculture is not worth spending any more money on.
It is also probably the perception that teaching permaculture is an easy option for student graduates of PDCs that
helps keep the teaching of permaculture a marginal economic activity. Enthused by their experience in PDCs, students
sometimes rush into teaching and the results aren't always educationally useful.
Then there's the sheer number of courses in some areas. In northern NSW, for instance, there are so many people
offering courses that even long-established teachers are forced to cancel courses because of too few students to make
ends meet financially. This is truly unfirtunate because it denies potential students access to the experience of
these teachers and keeps class numbers low, further forcing permaculture teaching into the economically marginal zone.
The result is that some teachers have diversified into specialist courses, a good thing in itself because it widens
the permaculture experience, or they drop teaching and go off into other activities capable of earning them a living.
Please don't get the idea that I am claiming that potential students should pay very high prices for courses. I just
want to show that market forces - supply and demand - and the perception of the inherent worth of something like
permaculture - is a determinant on course fees and income earned by teachers, just as it is in other areas of the
economy. Maybe permaculture has an image problem in this regard. The problem for permaculture's future is that it is
likely to remain a marginal activity for teachers and is likely to remain perceived that was in society.
PACIFIC EDGE PERMACULTURE
Russ Grayson and Fiona Campbell
PO Box 446, Kogarah NSW 2217 AUSTRALIA
Phone/ fax 02-9588 6931 (IDD-61+2+9588 6931)
PERMACULTURE/ COMMUNITY BASED ESD: permaculture education + Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network (NSW
contact) + organic gardening training + EarthWorks training (community waste minimisation training) + overseas
development assistance project management services.
MEDIA: journalism/ photojournalism (global development; environment and society; social change; sustainable community
development) + publication design + desktop publishing services.
> Marsha Hanzi wrote:
> > Dear Friends of Permaculture-- I have seen course announcements here of some really marvellous courses,
> > beautiful places and people-- makes one want to do ALL of them... But they all cost near US$1,000 or even much
> > more. That is such an incredible amount of money ... Is that a normal price for courses in the States? Does
> > one have to be elite to do Permaculture? Is money so much easier there than here ? I can imagine the US$1,000
> > for a course would be heavy for any middle-class family budget, or am I totally out of it? Is it so expensive
> > to put on a course in the States? It makes me kind of sad... Somehow it seems in conflict with the spirit of
> > Permaculture, somehow it seems that if we did Permaculture well, we wouldn't have to charge so much for a
> > course...(I am not criticizing nor moralizing. Am sincerely wondering what factors are involved here.I assume
> > that if this price is charged, there was a necessity for it.
> > Marsha
> > http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/1060
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