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Choosing a permaculture career path?  RSS feed

 
Rob Meyer
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Hey everyone,

So I'm currently a student at a pretty prominent agricultural school in NJ. Let's just say there's a tomato variety named after it, and it's also where the cherry tomato was invented. I've chosen to double major in landscape architecture and agroecology, but I'm still a bit hazy as to how this will translate into a permaculture career, although I do have the broad strokes. What I envision is eventually managing a farmstead where I produce nursery plants for local purchasers, provide a permaculture demonstration site where classes and workshops can be held, and maybe provide farmers market products, such as veggies, nuts and berries, honey, etc, while simultaneously doing landscape designs for clients. Obviously I'd have to shift from focusing on one or the other depending on the season, what needs the most attention, etc, and I'd need a great deal of help to make such a project viable, but what are your thoughts on this business plan overall? Should I just focus on one or the other? On the one hand, I'm worried that I may not have the outgoing personality to be an effective landscape designer, and on the other, I'm worried that I might be in so much debt by the time I get out of school that I won't be able to find funding to start a farm. So while the path I'm going down feels as right as it ever has, it still feels like there's some questions on whether it will be possible in the end and if I'm biting off more than I can chew. I want to be a farmer, to help make our food production system more sustainable, but I also want to show people that they can become mini-farmers as well, and help them design their properties to be bountiful oases in the generally barren desert of modern suburban/urban landscapes. I have experience with landscape installation and maintenance from summer jobs, and also with organic gardening in my own yard, but I don't know if these minimal experiences will really scale up, or if I should just settle for being a landscape laborer, and eventually designer in the end, and just settling for my backyard as my farmstead, as tiny as it is. Although, from my experience with landscaping, having a nursery to keep plants is a must, and producing my own plants would be a great savings overall, so I feel like having a farmstead of some sort is inevitable, but then again, there's the questions of viability and keeping up with management.

So any thoughts on my grand visions of a multifunctional permaculture career path would be much obliged. Thoughts on viability, how to decide what exactly to focus on, getting experience in a permaculture desert (although that's fortunately changing thanks to Wayne Weisman, Andrew Faust, Duke Farms, and Rutgers Initiative for Permaculture Education), managing finances/debt, alternative suggestions, etc, would be great.

- Rob
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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I love it! You might enjoy reading "On Good Land" by Michael Ableman, who ended up doing something similar to what you envision on a suburban farm in California. I find the book extremely inspiring. I don't think Ableman designed for clients, though, he made his off-farm income from writing and speaking.

The book: http://www.amazon.com/Good-Land-Autobiography-Urban-Farm/dp/0811819213

The farm: http://www.fairviewgardens.org/
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Rutgers invented the cherry tomato? WOW, that means they were here before Columbus, because he took some home to Spain on one of his earlier voyages.
 
Rob Meyer
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Wow, you're totally right. One of my professors fed us some straight up lies than, hah. Good to know that you can't always trust what you hear in a classroom.
 
Lori Crouch
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Location: Amarillo, TX.
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Landscape Architecture is a pretty cut-throat field to get your start in. I did a lot of reading on it when I was choosing a major as well and decided that it looked a lot like law when you're trying to land your first job. Quite frankly, no matter how you look at it, unless you are paying for your education as you go, you will have to plan on working in a firm or for someone for a few years to pay back student loans. Then plan on several more years to save money to purchase your land. When thinking outside the box for a business plan and land usage, you may not be able to get a loan. You should plan the time it may take to pay for your land in cash as part of your long-term vision.

I wish I would have found permaculture before I got 30K into my education. Now, half way through, I have no choice but to finish. It will take me about 7-10 years to pay off my student loans and save money for property. Were I not to have done the university education; I could have taken a job from someone with land while networking for business and land opportunities. It's something to think about, especially if you are young and don't already have the debt, bills, and ties that will bog you down to a particular area and job.

Now for career choices. If you are looking at staying in or near a city for your nursery business and other plans, then I would suggest putting city zoning/planning with your landscape architecture degree. Depending on how far you are into your schooling and what the school is like, some schools do not offer landscape architecture before graduate school. Also, many of the classes for the two degrees overlap. The next thing to consider are the biology/ecology classes which would be electives. You can get the basics for ecology, horticulture, botany and such in your landscape classes, then mix in some sciences.

The reason for the city zoning and planning would be to use your permaculture knowledge, plant stock from your own business, and landscape architecture license to win contracts to put vacant city land to use. You can also design parks that actually feed the public or design building exteriors that contain edible landscapes which water themselves.

Just some food for thought.
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Rutgers probably domesticated the cherry tomato. I understand that the wild ones weren't very good tasting.
 
Leonard Barrett
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Location: Portland, OR
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Landscape Architecture is a pretty cut-throat field to get your start in. I did a lot of reading on it when I was choosing a major as well and decided that it looked a lot like law when you're trying to land your first job. Quite frankly, no matter how you look at it, unless you are paying for your education as you go, you will have to plan on working in a firm or for someone for a few years to pay back student loans.


Just a quick counterpoint here: I would disagree about the cut-throatness of the field. I'm not an LA, but do about 90% of what one does, and firmly believe that there is a TON more room in the professional services realm of permaculture. Way more demand than is currently being met. One of the big issues in the field is that most of the folks putting themselves out there as "permaculture designers" have very little experience (they're fairly fresh out of a PDC, don't have a good handle on design process or communicating design ideas, poor technical knowledge etc.) If you've got a good head on your shoulders, good people skills, AND a landscape architecture degree under your belt, you'll probably be able build your own practice fairly quickly. Even just being able to produce designs that LOOK professional gets you a long way in the permaculture world, because the average quality of work being done is fairly low, IMHO.

When you do your internship, find a firm that's doing the types of projects you want (sounds like broadacre?), get out in the field as much as possible, etc. etc.

I would agree to some extent around some of the I would agree with some of Lori's cost/benefit thoughts. My sense is that if you don't want to be a full-time designer...school may be overkill. If your primary interest is this managing a farmstead thing...you probably don't want to have that much debt...and probably don't need an LA degree/license. If you're managing a prominent demonstration site, and there are lots of folks coming through, that'll probably bring in enough design work in-and-of-itself.

Would be happy to give you some other thoughts if you want to contact me thru contact page on website below...

Cheers, and good luck!
 
P Thickens
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
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That sounds like of like Christopher Shein's career.

Christopher Shein has been a Permaculture designer and gardener in the East Bay since 1993, starting many gardens for schools, homeless centers, backyards, and community gardens. He’s been teaching at Merritt’s LH Dept. (look for Permaculture Design, LH 02 for 7 years. He’s now self-employed with Wildheart Gardens (see www.wildheartgardens.com) with some current projects in Oakland including a homeless senior edible and native garden and a Native American women’s drug recovery edible and native garden. A question I am often asked is, what is Ecological Gardening and why should I care? Our planet is in ecological crisis with global warming and resources running out. What are you going to do when the era of cheap oil is over? Can your garden withstand next year’s big drought? What if there was an earthquake and there was no food from the grocery store? See some positive, eco-friendly gardening you can do to help your family, friends and community.



http://www.wildheartgardens.com/
 
Rob Meyer
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Leonard Barrett wrote:If your primary interest is this managing a farmstead thing...you probably don't want to have that much debt...and probably don't need an LA degree/license. If you're managing a prominent demonstration site, and there are lots of folks coming through, that'll probably bring in enough design work in-and-of-itself.


See, this is where my major doubts (pun intended) come in. First of all, my primary interest is in producing local food for my region, as much of it as possible. I'm From a logical perspective, and as a result of my discovery of permaculture, I decided landscape architecture would be the way to go for this, by transforming as many urban and suburban yards into food producing oases as possible. However, and second of all, perhaps my skill sets are more oriented towards an introverted focus on my own urban farmstead, as I've always, even since I was a very young child, been known to be "that quiet kid". I do eventually speak out when I get to know people, but getting to know people is the hard part for me, which I would imagine to be a critical component of landing jobs in the Landscape Architecture field. Another thing that I've been considering is my preference for the hands on vs. the theoretical on paper aspects of projects. I love getting my hands dirty. Landscape Architecture doesn't seem to be a hands on down and dirty kind of occupation, and more of an on paper planning occupation, which is of course important, but if it's something I don't enjoy more than anything else, why am I plunging into it as a career? So given my introversion, aka inherent lack of people skills, preference for the hands on, and desire to produce local organic food for my region, perhaps I'd be better off building an urban/peri-urban farm, stop putting myself into debt (I'm already 20k+ from a previous excursion into a music education degree...towards the end of it I realized that I was not cut out to be a public school teacher and wanted to do something more concrete...like permaculture can you tell I'm super indecisive??), and start getting some hands on experience woofing, interning at farms, etc. From my previous 4 years of collegiate education which was never completed, I likely have enough credits to get some sort of a liberal arts degree in a very short amount of time, and maybe while I'm here at rutgers, I can tag on the minor in agroecology like I am planning on doing anyway.

Hmm.....any thoughts on this revelation? Am I jumping the gun, or should I go for it and just finish up with school asap, no matter what the major, and get out there in the field already? I'm 25, and if I keep on with the path I'm going, I'll be 30, 40, maybe even 60k in debt and 28 by the time I finish. Maybe I could be debt free and buying a farm by that time if I change course now...
 
Lori Crouch
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
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I know exactly where you are coming from. If you have the ability to quit school and pay back your loans, you'll most likely be ahead of the game. If you want the degree look at combing your credit into a general studies degree or some such thing with what you have and perhaps one or two more classes if you are near the 140 or whatever Rutgers requires for a bachelors. You could work a retail management job that pays 35k+ yearly with any degree. The extra money could go into savings for your own property or into a growing side business with permaculture.

A good place to get an idea of what a future career in any field may look like is the bureau of labor statistics. In their breakdown it will tell you that Landscape Architecture is mostly planning, drawing, and office time with the occasional visit to the work site. Now there are some who do not fit into this norm; a small business owner that does not contract out all the manual labor or such. I am very much like you. I do not want to go out and beat down doors for contracts, wear a suit, and woo clients. I would much rather design AND build each aspect as I love getting my hands dirty.

If it is important to you to finish your degree, see about working the credits into a general degree. Then, go out and do what you love. You can always go back later if you decide you want another degree, or take some community college courses to round out the degree you do have. Permaculture doesn't require that you spend 50k on an education, so I wouldn't go any further down that road. It's better to have a good life without the stress of a large debt and a job that you don't really want just to pay your way out of educational slavery.

 
Rob Meyer
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So looking at the BLS description of landscape architecture, I'm more torn than ever. I would love to design parks, school properties, highway land, etc. That would be a huge impact. It seems like I would get some time on site to view the overall site conditions and see the plan being implemented, and I do enjoy drawing and planning things out in my head, even if I enjoy other things more. It's tough. I don't want to be in debt a huge amount of debt, but the BLS says that the job outlook for landscape architecture is extremely good. Also, if speaking abilities is the only thing holding me back, maybe I should just make a concerted effort to better my skills in that area, if anyone has any tips on improving public speaking, aside from taking a public speaking class which didn't help at all...
 
                                
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Location: Eastern Colorado, USA
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Hm.

Well... if I were you, I'd drop out and just start going and doing stuff.

Everything you're doing, and everything you want to do... can be learned for free with a little help from your friends, Google and Wikipedia.

But I don't know what level of arrogance you possess. I gather it's less than 5 out of 10, or you wouldn't be asking random internet strangers what to do with your life.

As far as managing school debt... heh. Run. Never change your address with the Post Office. Student loans and herpes, both acquired in college, are with you for life.

I dunno, man. I hesitate to give advice. My advice is good only, apparently, for people like me, of which there are 3.

If you're gonna work in a commercial greenhouse environment, I'd suggest learning Spanish.

Otherwise, save a few grand, buy a place in South Dakota, and give the finger to civilization.
 
Kevin Wilson
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Location: Powell River, BC
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Rob Meyer wrote:if anyone has any tips on improving public speaking, aside from taking a public speaking class which didn't help at all...


Toastmasters. Almost everywhere has at least one club: if there's more than one near you, visit them to see which one you click with culturally. Although there is a formal structure that all clubs use, the social culture can be quite different. Most clubs are very welcoming of new and nervous guests and members and will allow you to move at your own pace while encouraging and mentoring you to move forward.

Toastmasters will teach you public speaking but you can also learn a lot more: evaluating ("finding value in") others speeches is a super-useful skill to learn: gracefully accepting (and learning from) evaluation of your own speeches ditto. I found the formal leadership training to be a bit dinky but some people swear by it. The other unadvertised benefit is that you meet a slew of interesting people from a huge variety of backgrounds, and can make contacts in all kinds of areas you wouldn't otherwise have access to.

I did TM for 4 years before founding a local Transition initiative in our small town, and the contacts I made through TM have been gateways to local business, City council, activists of all stripes, sports groups, music groups, and on and on.

I now return you to your regular permaculture content
 
Rob Meyer
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Wow, great, there's a toastmasters club on campus. I'll check em out, thanks!!

The Dirt Surgeon wrote:Otherwise, save a few grand, buy a place in South Dakota, and give the finger to civilization.


I'm not sure I want to "give the finger to civilization". I kind of want to save it. An alternate plan I may explore is looking at scholarship/grant funding. If I could find something like that, I could also work part time and maybe save while I'm gaining my degree. That would be the ideal situation. If I can't, I don't want to go into more debt than is necessary. I'll play it by ear, as always, but I appreciate everyone's advice, it's been very useful!!
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Do lots of informational interviews in your various fields, and ask your questions of people that are in them. An education is just another product... a tool if well chosen. I chose an MS over a MLA, and got out without debt. If I were going into undergrad, I'd consider doing 2 years at a community college to keep cost down. I've never hired someone based on where they got their undergrad degree, and as a grad student TA, I learned quickly what a factory undergrad systems can be.
 
Jeremy Gansler
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I think I can help you out because I have a lot of experience struggling with similar issues. I'm only 20 but I'm getting out of school now. If you're interested in a career that does not require a degree I would recommend you leave now. Once you begin to do real work you'll be judged by the quality of your work, not by your degree, and you're lucky enough to be interested in a field where you don't need a degree to access legitimate jobs.
As for the shyness, I would say you want a career that aligns with your personality. If the work feels natural you'll succeed. That being said, there's always room for self improvement and if you believe you can break your introversion you should. It's a pretty easy thing to train. Try to initiate conversations and challenge yourself to speak up even when you feel uncomfortable. If that seems too difficult, do something else.
 
John Gratrick
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As for overcoming the speaking in public thing, get a part time job working retail. I really didn't want to advise this since I've done it almost 10 years now and know it isn't the best thing going but it does force you to get out and strike up a conversation with complete strangers. I used to be like you, the quiet kid, and now you can't get me to shut up. You get more comfortable at it as time goes on, and can make decent connections through employees and get valuable training through work programs that don't cost you a thing.
 
Rob Meyer
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So it's a year and a half since I posted this, and man has a lot changed. That semester at Rutgers turned out to be both my first and last. I didn't even make it to the end of the semester. I'm not sure what happened exactly, I guess the only explanation is lack of focus, but I ended up dropping all of my classes due to my inability to keep up. After that eye opening failure, I decided to pursue the real world experience route, and decided to start interning on an organic farm. Well, that was also a real wake up call as well, and I realized that if I wanted to eventually own land, I would need a great deal of money, and I also realized just how far out the management techniques I'm interested in really are. I also realized some of the practicalities of some of the techniques I'm interested in (that is to say, some of them just aren't practical on a certain scale, and some of them are only practical if you're willing to accept a certain amount of manual labor over the use of machines). Overall I'd say it was a good experience, but it definitely opened my eyes to some of the realities of farming. One of those realities was how hard it is to make money! In that vein, I decided to end the internship this september, primarily due to rapidly piling up student loan payments, which were becoming more and more delinquent due to my extremely meager income I was making. We got housing and food, but the actual monetary pay was simply not enough. I am now living back at my parent's house, working a full time lawn maintenance job (the antithesis of what I would like to be doing), making decent money now, slowing paying off my debt and strategizing on my next moves.

During my stay at the farm, I had a lot of free time to think about my overall impact on the planet and society, and how I could leverage my interests and skills into a truly profound impact. Farming and landscape design is definitely a great technique to help the environment in some very specific ways, but I was starting to get the feeling that I was pigeon holing myself. As a result, I decided to abandon landscape design/farming. Instead, I've become very interested in the field of biomimicry, and have chosen biosystems engineering as a career that will enable me to design and implement biomimetic technologies - solar panels that work like plants, waste treatment plants that work like marshes, using the chemistry of coral reefs to sequester point source carbon emissions, etc. To get a better picture of what I'm talking about, watch the originator of the idea (or rather it's greatest modern proponent) Janine Benyus explain it:

http://youtu.be/FBUpnG1G4yQ

And here's a video on biosystems engineering so you can understand how the two ideas intersect:

http://youtu.be/FZiS_z7SA9Y

Of course I'm sure you can see the problem I might have with this new interest - engineering is a field that absolutely requires at least a bachelor's degree, which is something that, as you've read, I've had some trouble with. To further compound matters, I've never really been great at math, which is something that engineering has a big focus on. None the less, I've decided to not let either of these roadblocks deter me from pursuing my passions. I'm working on my math skills using the khan academy (great place for anyone who is a lifelong learner, both to learn new things and refresh on the old, not just math, but everything from philosophy to science), and looking into starting to take some math classes at the local community college. The good thing about that is that I'm hoping to be able to pay for it out of pocket as I go, which will greatly cut down on the costs in the long term. After that, I guess I'll be applying to a four year university that offers a degree in my area of interest, either agricultural and biological engineering, environmental engineering or biochemical engineering. I'll see how it plays out, and if it works out, great, if not, I always have my original plans to fall back on. We'll see how it goes.

So I guess I'm just posting this as a testament to those who might feel lost in life, don't really know where they're going, or are struggling in their current careers and considering a change. You're not alone!! In any case, if anyone has any thoughts on my saga, any blind spots in my reasoning or pursuits that you might notice, or words of encouragement, any input anyone has would be much appreciated.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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I just stumbled upon this old thread--- http://www.permies.com/t/11410/permaculture/Reassessing-reuse-part --- and gave it a second look, and thought to myself " I wonder if that Rob guy is still with us". So, I searched your name and it turns out that you posted today, after a 16 month absence. What are the chances ?

It looks like you've been busy. Have you spoken to many career counselors who might help you to set attainable goals that lie within your natural aptitude ? There are things that we would like and there are things that we have a good chance of succeeding with. I would truly like to be dictator of the Americas, but my chances are so slim, that it's not something I lose much sleep over.
 
Rob Meyer
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I actually went to a career counselor when I was at rutgers. I had a hard time trying to explain to her exactly what it was I want to do, and that perhaps I don't need a degree to do it. She was pretty insistent on the need for a degree, but I disagreed. Now that my interests have shifted, I feel that a degree is absolutely necessary if I am to succeed.

But yea, I would love to meet with a career counselor again, it would likely help me figure out if I'm on the right track or not. Thanks for the tip!
 
Dave Hunt
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Location: NJ
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Rob,
Interesting twists and turns that life gives us...your story sounds somewhat familiar to me minus the student loan part. I went to a semester of college on scholarship only to realize I didn't want to be there. Ended up getting a full time job and going to community college at night after getting my associates degree I then transferred to Rutgers. I eventually graduated Rutgers 6 years later while still working a 60 hour a week job going part time at night. There's something to be said for debt free living/school. Over that LONG time in school I often thought of things I would rather study but realized that if I kept changing my major and going part time it would take me 10 years to get my degree. I guess my advice would be you don't always need to have a degree in the field you think you want to end up in. I have a history degree and I work in sales. After looking at my credits it was the quickest degree I could get. Any future job I apply for isn't going to care what my degree is in they are going to be looking at my work experience. If I were you I would save the $100,000 of college tuition/4 years and try to get an entry level job in the field you want to go into (just like you did with the farming job). It might not pay well at first but if after a while you still have a strong desire to make it your career you will know from doing it and just thinking about it. If your working in the field and succeeding you employer might pay for some of your schooling if you go part time while you continue to work for them. And even if your not making a ton of money you will be making some money doing what you enjoy and not building massive amounts of student loans. Like I said those are my two cents from someone who has changed career/life paths a few times. Good luck with whatever you decide, as my grandma used to say, let your heart guide you but make sure your head has a say too.
Dave
 
Rob Meyer
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Dave, that's some great advice there, and an interesting story as well, one that I will definitely be considering as I move forward. If there is one thing that I've resolved, it's that I will absolutely NOT be going into more debt. If I can't pay for it myself or with scholarships, I just won't go, plain and simple.

One thing that I would question regarding what you said is how one would go about getting a position in the field of engineering without a degree? From my research into it thus far, I don't see any way that it could be possible. All engineering positions require at least a BS in engineering, in some cases a masters. Especially with a field as complex as biosystems engineering, I don't think it would really be possible.

I've thought of just going to complete a degree based on the credits that I have, which for me would probably be a music degree or some kind of general liberal arts degree. The reason I've never done that is because I don't see the use in getting something I won't actually use in real life. I don't plan on becoming a music teacher or performer (and even if I did, I would probably do it as a private teacher and freelance performer, both of which I could easily do based purely on talent) or whatever someone does with a liberal arts degree. What I do hope to become eventually is a biofuels/biomaterial process designer using carbon sequestering and environmentally remediating sources of biomass (perennial nut trees, seaweed grown in the ocean, algae attached to wastewater treatment plants, etc), or in simpler terms, a renewable energy/energy efficiency expert. If you can think of a way of breaking into that field without getting a degree, I'm all ears, but otherwise, it would seem to me that engineering is the best way to go to get there. Even in terms of more easily accessible jobs, like solar installation, that usually requires some level of experience or knowledge about electricity, neither of which I have yet.

In terms of return on investment, I've run the numbers, if I go part time, it should take about 4 years (fortunately I've totally satisfied the geneds for basically any degree thanks to my previous schooling) and about $17,000 to get the degree ($121/credit at community college, $325/credit going p/t to rutgers and that's a high estimate overall, accounting for travel, books, and any other possible expenses), which as I said, I will be paying for as I go rather than going into debt. I think that is an investment that will pay itself back in spades in quite a short amount of time, especially if I go into the new and highly developing field that I'm interested in. In addition, I don't think I could quantify the value of getting involved in such incredibly interesting and innovative projects as the Rutgers Energy Institute (http://rei.rutgers.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=6), or the many student organizations that are doing great and interesting things to help make our world a better place, like for example Rutgers Initiative for Permaculture Education (RIPE)(https://ruripe.wordpress.com/) or the individual student projects like cleaning up and restoring a polluted creek/hiking trail on campus. Rather than trying to start my own biosystems design company from the ground up, using my own savings, I think it would probably be better, both in terms of access to resources/community and my own personal understanding of the science and technology behind it, to get involved in an institution that has both of those things there for the taking, if only I invest a bit of time and money. At least that's how I see it anyway.
 
Dave Hunt
Posts: 69
Location: NJ
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Hi Rob,
Good idea on not going into more debt for your remaining schooling. My wife has about $24,000 in student loans and we are trying to pay it off as quick as we can but it's just another expense every month! Unfortunately I don't know how you could get into that field without a degree. Maybe once you start taking classes try to get lined up with an internship/part time job with a company doing it or professor who is doing research in the field. Could get your foot in the door while you are doing your studies. The nice thing about NJ is that community colleges will transfer most general ed credits if you continue on to a state school like RU, ends up saving guys like me and you a lot of money. I know Rutgers has a lot of innovative projects/campus groups to get involved in. I spent a few days down at Johnson Park pulling trash out of the river during some of my days there. Good luck with it, keep us posted on your progress!
Dave
 
Jodi DeLaney
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Rob,
I read this whole thread and felt like I was reading your personal journal...lol. It is great! You may consider writing in the field you intend to persue for sure! I don't know alot about Permaculture yet and feel your apprehension and indesisiveness...right there with ya. There is a Permaculture Course down here in FL...Clearwater to be exact and it is a great course and you have a design certificate when completed. I am set to start taking it next Feb in 2014. It is one weekend a month. It is VERY reasonably prices and they will even do partial payment and volunteering too as form of payment. Also, you mentioned getting into a field connected to environmentally remediating sources....well I have a good friend that I know that owns a business called Aquatic Plants of Florida and you maybe interested in some of the projects that they are working on....here is their website. http://apofl.com/about-us/ . Hope this info helps....I don't know how you feel about relocation,,,but it is sunny and warm here! Jodi
 
Rob Meyer
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Hey Jodi,

Yea, it kind of has been my personal journal over the past few years, except the ideas aren't just rattling around in my head without answers....everyone's helping me answer them!! Haha.

Thanks so much for the connects down in FL. I was actually considering relocating to florida, since UF has a really great ag and bio engineering program, one of the best I've seen thus far. Combine that with the nice weather, the interesting plants, and I'd definitely be willing to give it a try, hah.

That company looks really great, I'll definitely add them to my contacts list if I do end up moving down there and am looking for a job. Thanks!!
 
Allen Herod
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I didn't read all the replies to the original post but here's the $0.02 of a guy not much older than you (and I'll admit probably less wise)... and I won't go into the number of schools and dollars wasted on them after high school (much less... ok more, the fun I had haha). I never earned enough credits to be a sophomore, I did however complete a technical school by the skin of my teeth haha (they didn't like that I took advantage of "my allowable missed time" 1.5 days a week if i recall, to make money and get real life job experience. They wanted to suspend me and make me pay more money for skating the thin ice when I had two weeks left. I finished on time and they still gave me that paper I paid for and don't use tho.) ... First, I think a college education is way over rated. There are people out there that really think everyone should go to college... I think they are off their rocker or need to find one (does my trash man or the burger flipper at Mc-ee-D's really need a law degree or something?) . Second, I believe there is alot of mis-information passed along in secondary education (I learned lots of better ways to do things on the job than I did in a class). This is partially (probably mostly) due to the people teaching are teachers, teaching what they were taught out of a book and they don't have the real world experience to prove or disprove what they are saying (Nothing against techers, but, I mean the book says it, it must be true right?). It sounds like you probably have quite a few credits. You pursued a music teaching career, and an ag career correct? I never took it but in high school, some of my friends favorite classes and teacher were agriculture. If you have enough of the right credits you could complete a teaching degree in this. Teachers have outstanding benefits, decent real world pay (not getting rich but making a living) and alot of their summer off. AND WE NEED MORE GOOD TEACHERS! OK, so maybe that doesn't sound awesome... But it will gain you the credibility and money you are looking for now. I can assure you we've all had to work some un-awesome jobs (I won't even go into my resume) but it, hopefully, will lead us to success and enjoyment in life. When the goin gets tough, the tough get goin. Keep on keepin on and do what feels right not what someone tries to push on you Again, just my opinion (an uneducated person in many peoples eyes)
 
Allen Herod
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I would truly like to be dictator of the Americas, but my chances are so slim, that it's not something I lose much sleep over.


No No Dale, You just need to learn to be serious, funny and lie thru your teeth.... As the liquor store marquee on the way to my farm said during the last election, "Want to get elected into office? Tell a joke, all the other politicians are."
 
Md. Ashraful Haque
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I think your dream is perfect for you. You want to choose a multi-functional permaculture career path that will help you, it's my thinking.
For career choices. If you are looking at staying a city for your nursery business and other plans, then I would suggest putting city zoning with your landscape architecture degree. Depending on how far you are into your schooling and what the school is like, some schools do not offer landscape architecture before graduate school. Also, many of the classes for the two degrees overlap. The next thing to consider are the biology/ecology classes which would be electives. You can get the basics for ecology, horticulture, botany and such in your landscape classes, then mix in some sciences.
The city zoning or planning is based to give you a real use of permaculture knowledge. By the way wish you better luck for your dreaming career!
 
Rob Meyer
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Well folks, the plot thickens even further.

After one of my last posts, where I said that I basically want to be a "renewable energy/energy efficiency expert", that apparently got my cogs turning, and I did some research into other potential avenues into that career realm, and discovered this incredibly interesting program:

http://staff.bcc.edu/nasa3/index.asp?pg=1

Here's an excerpt that explains the program in full:

"The BCC Center for Sustainability and Alternative Energy, under a NASA grant, has developed curricula for energy efficiency and alternative/sustainable energy. These curricula support and expand Burlington County College’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) program offerings within green technologies. The new courses support Associate Degree Programs in:


Energy Management
Alternative Energy Technologies
Sustainable Energy Studies


An Associate Degree Program in Environmental Sustainability, as well as Career Certificate programs, is also planned. "

This program is within driving distance of where I live, is incredibly hands on, and is not so focused and heavy on the math and specifics of engineering that I will feel bogged down or confined in any way. I think that I were to complete this program, in and of itself, I would be well positioned to start the career I've been hoping to pursue.

In addition to this, I found several programs around the state (one ironically at a university I've previously attended, and as such I have a lot of gened credits there already) in which I could pursue a BS in Sustainability Science if I wanted to, being able to transfer in as a junior if I receive one of the associates mentioned above. So, if I feel that I need to further my education even more in order to get where I'm going, I have that option as well. Here's my current first choice if I were to go that option; they actually have a combined BS/MS program too if I wanted to really get into it and do some original research, which I could see myself wanting to do:

http://www.montclair.edu/csam/news/article.php?ArticleID=11629

It's been a hell of a slog, but I think I'm finally on the right track now. From starting out as a music education major, realizing I wanted to do something for the world and the environment, discovering permaculture, trying to get into it in the realm of Landscape Design, deciding to pursue Landscape Architecture/Agroecology, then shifting to a more technical field, and finally now to a more generally specialized field. I'm slowly starting to figure out that a big part of what has taken me so long to figure it all out is the fact that this whole "sustainability" thing is so incredibly new, and the field itself has only developed within the last decade or so. I mean, hell, did you know that "Sustainability Science" is now a recognized independent field by the National Academies of Science? Check it out:

http://sustainability.pnas.org/page/about

Anyway, thanks all for your suggestions and overall guidance. It's been an incredible help. Now I need to start thinking more strategically about staying out of debt. Short of some miracle, I will need to take my time, and only take a course load I'm able to pay for out of pocket. I'm also considering auditioning for the National Guard Band, which would enable me to have my student debt forgiven and have the remaining education paid for entirely. As much as I am not a fan of the armed forces, nationalism, etc, I'm a skilled musician (thanks to 4 years of higher music education, which is what led me into debt in the first place!!), so it's something I'm definitely contemplating, if only as a bridge strategy. The problem is the solution as they say.

As always, if anyone has any advice or input on my dynamic career path, please don't hesitate to chime in. Of particular relevance this time around is experience in the field of sustainability consulting, renewable energy, carbon accounting, life cycle analysis, and energy efficiency. Also, anyone who has experience playing for an army band, their experience there, how it was able to help them with school, etc, would be highly illuminating. Thanks.
 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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the only advice I can give, is to make sure people will actually want what you're selling. work out a market plan, how much can you charge for your services and how many jobs will it take to equal a minimum wage job's yearly income...

The consulting/design thing sounds nifty, but I would consider having that as something you CAN do for people if they wish it, not as a focus. Just having a degree in something wouldn't impress me enough to hire someone to help me setup any type of system, I would want to know that they have that system up and running fulltime on their own... Maybe the world is changing and that will be viable, but the path I took was to actually produce tangible things to sell, which has opened the door for me to help others setup systems such as irrigation. I'm the ONLY person in our entire area that is running irrigation, so through my own trials and errors I have become the local "expert" on irrigation. The same thing goes for repairing things, fabricating farm equipment, etc...

They say there are those that "do" and those that "teach", I call b.s. in that i wouldn't want to learn from someone who doesn't "do".

I wish you luck in your endeavors, but the advice I can give is to spend that money on land, then practice these systems in a real world environment where it is application instead of theory, they will ALWAYS be different. I'm not knocking a formal education, I completed far too many degree programs figuring out what I wanted to do, to finally settle on one, now I'm a farmer and none of those degrees mean jack. The background in physics helps when I'm designing things but other than that, I wish I had just started farming when I started my "final" degree... I'd be so much better off now having 10 more years of farming under my belt!

I guess with all the rambling removed, what I'm saying is don't spend all your money and energy pursuing something that isn't tangible, there are scores of jobless out there right now with very impressive pieces of paper.
 
Rob Meyer
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I definitely understand your concern, but I think you're misunderstanding what I want to do. I don't want to design and build and run renewable energy technology. I want to consult with businesses and municipalities and individuals who are interested in these technologies, informing them of the basics of the economics, pay back times, greenhouse gas reductions, etc. In addition to that, I would like to inform them of potential energy inefficiencies, in their buildings and overall daily functioning, and projects that they could implement that would reduce their carbon footprint overall, like installing green roofs, funding community gardens for employees and residents, replacing lawn with trees and shrubs, removing trays from dining halls, composting food scraps, etc. I don't want to be the person who implements all of that, but simply advises that they should do it and why, and then finds people who are experts in those fields and makes it happen.

I understand the concern over not doing anything tangible per say, but in businesses and governments and universities today, there is a real need for someone who is knowledgeable in the area of sustainability as a general practice, and who can look at the overall picture and say "here are things you can do to reduce your environmental footprint, and here's how much you'll save in the long term if you do them.", basically giving them a menu of change they can pick from. Once that assessment has been made, then a TON of tangible stuff happens, but just like a designer who needs to assess a site and understand and present the potential actions that one could take on that site, there is a need for someone who can assess the social, business and technological landscape of today and give some potential options for those who want to do things differently, but have have no idea where to start on their own.

Here's some more links on the profession to help you understand it more:

http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-1011.03

http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-engineering-careers/EnvEng_sustainabilityspecialist_c001.shtml#onthejob

Does that clarify it for you, or does it still seem like I would be pursuing something vague and unmarketable?
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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