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

I don't think that teaching Pc for money is unethical.  But, one of the reasons that I
feel courses are so high in cost is that for me, I would have to travel quite a
distance for a course.  As far as I know, the closest courses are in Nova Scotia,
Maryland and Tennessee (except for exceptionally rare courses offered a bit closer).
Not only is the money a factor, but the time is very difficult for me as well.  It's
hard to be gone for a week or more and leave DH with all the home responsibilities (ie
sheep, chickens, housework, etc.).  We are not yet in a position to have a good
animal-sitter that we can trust will keep things running fine while we're both gone for
that length, either.  So, for me, the added cost of time and travel (travel alone
between $300-$500, plus course fees) made the correspondence route much more appealing
as I can learn at my own pace and taylor the program to my own specific needs.  I would
think that these are concerns for many folks who would otherwise be interested in the

Has anyone started an interest group in their area for PC?  I'm wondering how one would
go over in this area.  I spoke with a bookseller in town one day who said that the
Mollison book "Intro to PC" sells quite well.  It's a very small bookstore in a small
town, so that should say something.  I've also thought about the possibility of
offering mini-workshops through the local adult ed program.  Has anyone tried this
route of disseminating info?


Toby Hemenway wrote:

> I've been enjoying the many thoughtful comments on this thread. The one
> strand I'm in disagreement with is the notion that charging money for Pc
> teaching or consulting is unethical. So, as someone who has taught
> permaculture, I'd like to address this question. What I'm asking for here
> is for us to question and assess our assumptions.
>   Part of the problem is that we alternative types equate money with
> something evil. Most of us need a certain amount of money to survive. I'll
> take that as a given, and sidestep the whole huge issue of the ethics of
> money. So the question is, why are we willing to pay a doctor or mechanic,
> yet balk when someone wants to charge for teaching permaculture? Is it
> because most of us on this listserv are trained in permaculture, and resent
> someone from our community charging for knowledge that we could gain with a
> little effort? This doesn't seem logical; I can grow my own food, but I
> willingly pay a farmer to buy what I don't grow myself.
>  I want to dismiss the idea that teachers earn a high hourly wage. You may
> say, hey, 10  students for a day at $35 is $350, that's a lot. No, it
> isn't. To prepare one of my two-hour workshops took reading 4 textbooks,
> countless hours on the internet and out observing, and in teaching it 6
> times, 4  were for free.  I've earned $80 for the workshop, or about $1.50
> an hour. If I teach it 15 more times I'll earn the US minimum wage. That's
> typical.
>   Others resent Pc teachers charging for info that is available in books
> and elsewhere. Teachers are reaching people with a particular learning
> style. Some people learn by reading, others by solo trial and error. That's
> great! But some-the audience for courses-learn best by being with someone
> with experience. (I might add that you can gain wisdom from a good teacher
> that a book or internet will never teach you. Knowledge isn't wisdom)
>    Or it may be that there is a glut of teachers and designers trying to
> reach too small an audience: a hothouse effect. The glut, I think, is
> because most of us in Pc (in the US, at least) are from middle- and
> upper-middle class backgrounds and thus want intellectual work. For most of
> us, farming, though a noble profession, isn't a real option. That leaves
> design, teaching, land development, and planning. Development takes money,
> and planning means dealing with bureaucracy. Ergo, we teach and design.
>   Are teachers and designers trying to, as has been suggested, restrict the
> flow of information and thus charge for it? My own experience is that
> teachers love to share knowledge: that's why we do it. All the Pc teachers
> and designers I know spend far more time working for free than for pay. But
> we are trying to make a living that combines our love of Pc with our love
> of teaching. I can't agree with the person who found fault with designers
> who offer free "generic" Pc advice, but beyond that, want to charge for a
> site visit. Once you're past the generic point, a site visit is essential,
> or you risk improper advice. Would you trust a doctor who never saw a
> patient? Again, that viewpoint assumes that it's unethical to charge for
> permaculture design work. Why is Pc design different from, say, carpentry
> or teaching English? How much work should someone do with no compensation?
>   Perhaps the problem is because much of Pc knowledge is intuitive and
> homespun, almost obvious in a sense, and comes largely from observation.
> Anyone can do it. So we may resent paying someone for telling us something
> that, in hindsight, seems obvious.The problem here is the incestuous nature
> of Pc. Teachers and designers have got to expand to an audience that hasn't
> taken a Pc course, and we're not doing that.
>    Maybe as Holmgren suggests, we don't need professional permaculturists,
> just architects, teachers, farmers, etc. with a Pc perspective. But in this
> very young field, the niches are still in flux, and I believe that for the
> time being, there's a real value-even one worth money-in promoting
> permaculture by teaching and design.
> Toby
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