Does Permaculture have to be so expensive???

Kelley amaranth at uninets.net
Tue May 11 16:14:06 EDT 1999


Toby,
I'm not sure if you're referring to my post re: "Aussies" and "cheap" courses or not,
but if you are, these are not on location, these are correspondence courses and with
that comes the typical responsibility of self-teaching that comes with a correspondence
course, especially since the course was designed for dry Australian outback and I'm
trying to adapt the info to a wetter, cooler climate.  The student does the largest
percentage of the teaching and learning.

Kelley

Toby Hemenway wrote:

> 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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