If you’ve only just heard of permaculture or you’ve put off doing a course until now the first thing most people do is go to the internet and search.
There are so many courses and teachers. So many schools and learning centres! We all know the Internet is like a Hollywood set. It looks good on the net but when you see the real thing its not the same…DAMN! Before you choose your PDC do your research.
The first level of permaculture training is the one-day workshop or the weekend permaculture experience. This is a good intro but that’s all it is. If it excites you then the next step its the PDC.
If you are keen to learn permaculture and build a food producing garden, redesign your home and garden or even build a self-sufficient farm then the 2-week PDC or Permaculture Design Certificate is the one to go for. That course, taught well, will give you all the basics of permaculture design and it’s the best way to start, but be careful!
The styles and qualities of each course must be considered before you sign up. Check out the teacher. Do they have a reputation? Can you talk to some of their students? Find out if your teacher does actual permaculture projects or are they simply a teacher. The teacher that also does projects would be the better one to learn from because they are actively using permaculture in the field and their lessons will be based on practical experience.
Make sure the venue is a real permaculture farm or site, not just a hall somebody rented. If it’s a real farm then you’ll learn a lot more than looking at pictures of real farms in a hall somewhere.
Hands-on training is a most important factor in teaching people permaculture in a way they will understand and be able to take the skills home. Ensure that a great deal of the course is done in the field, building real systems. You could waste your 2-week PDC sitting the whole time in a classroom! Those 2-week classroom PDC students always look like zombies by the end of the 14 days, the ones I’ve seen (somebody else’s course, not mine!). When those poor students finally get home, they have a head full of information but they don’t know what to do. Info is not wisdom.
A real permaculture school or training centre should be feeding the students from the abundant food growing on the farm, right? I would expect an organic feast at each meal if I were going to a real permaculture farm. The quality of food is as important as the training I’ve found. And so it should be, abundant healthy organic tasty food is what permaculture produces! Maybe they have a wood fired pizza oven? Organic pizza would lure me to a permaculture school for sure!
Are you thinking of doing an on-line course? Are you crazy? Would you trust your brain surgeon to operate on your brain if you found out he had done his training online? Would you take a Kung Fu course from a trainer who got his black belt online? Online gives you virtual permaculture, which is far from digging into the earth with your own hands with a bunch of other learners. Could anybody take you seriously if you told him or her you learned permaculture online? I wouldn’t.
How much should I pay? There are some new teachers out there offering PDC’s for virtually nothing. You get what you pay for most of the time. I recon its around $1000 USD for most decent PDC’s. Any less and I’m worried the trainer is inexperienced or there is going to be some nasty shortcuts on the training.
You can pay much more than $1000 and sometimes it has a lot to do with the types of accommodation involved (it may also be an overinflated trainers ego! ).
Apart from PDC’s there is apprenticeships or internships. They vary in prices. Firstly make sure the trainer is somebody you respect and want to learn from. Find a film on YouTube and watch them talk. Are they knowledgeable, interesting, or are they going to bore you to tears? Are they passionate and committed to teaching permaculture or are they just in it for ego or money? You decide.
Accommodation can be an issue with apprenticeships. Do you get a bed? Do you get a room or a shared room? What are my options? I’d ask. A tepee might look good on the Internet but in real life it could be full of mold or be steaming hot during the day. Most Apprenticeships run for 10 weeks plus, so check out how you are going to be lodged. Prices vary around the world. Doing an apprenticeship in a developing country will cost you less and may teach you more. Developing countries tend to have few machines but they do a lot more with their hands and brains to overcome the lack of machinery. This type of work teaches you a much broader range of skills and sharpens your initiative. You also get an experience in a foreign country and make a wider range of friends than you’d find in your own country.
What about accreditation? Do I get a recognised credential? This is an interesting question. Who accredits permaculture? People will know you are qualified in permaculture by the projects you do. In my 26 years in permaculture nobody has yet to ask me for a certificate or diploma. People engage me for their projects because of the results Ive achieved on previous projects. “Demonstration is authority” is one of my principles. Did Pavoritti need a certificate to show he was qualified to sing? Did Bruce Lee need a certificate to kick somebody butt? There is no central permaculture authority. The only authority is what you do with your skills. The organisations and businesses you see on the net are all self appointed. Permaculture was deliberately designed to be decentralised to avoid stagnation and corruption.
Once you start learning permaculture, it’s hard to stop. In fact you will be a student for the rest of your life. I have been a student for 16 years and a teacher for 20 years. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. In a world full of problems, you will start to see the solutions. This is an amazing planet we live on and nature has so much to teach us. Permaculture shows us how to learn and design with nature as our teacher. Permaculture training…BRING IT ON!