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Soil Food Web School

 
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Today in my youtube feed I got two new videos announcing a collaboration between the restoration eco camps people and Dr. Elaine Ingham to create a series of courses to become a soil expert.



It looks absolutely amazing. And maybe more than I'm actually interested in doing, though I'm really tempted. The only problem for me is the cost, while there is an early bird bundle on various courses for $3800, which I'm sure if fair as you actually become a certified soil analyst, but as I earn in Mexican Pesos that's more than three months wages and I don't really have a need for certification.

But  I thought I'd share it with permies people--in case you haven't seen it. And I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on the course.
 
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Sometimes I wonder at the pricing of education.
I dont think it should be free, but if it was lower priced, would more people access it?
At what stage would the cost of production be amply covered with a different price structure?

Then the knowledge would be used all over and more people may do the training.
 
Melissa Ferrin
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John,
That's an excellent question--and more and more relevant in online training. Obviously, there are production costs, that need to be covered. but this is really pitched as a "global" program. I know there are many places with a weaker economy than Mexico. And I was really excited to learn about this educational opportunity, but once I saw the price, I immediately thought--well, I'll have to research the information from open access materials, and academic journals that my employer shares access to, rather than joining this course.
 
pollinator
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I see two reasons for the high prices of education.
First, it makes a revenue for the people doing the teaching. If you know you are going to teach only 30 people, why not to start with the 30 people that can pay the most? If there are vacant student chairs, they will price it down, or stop teaching if it becomes too low.
Second, it reduces the number of experts, so the graduate students can offer their expertise at higher prices, allowing them to make a life.

But, as OP said, there's no need for certifications if you are going to do this in your own property. Also, the food school web gives lots of free webinars where you can learn the basics, and I think it's enough for most applications. If you are a busy farmer, however, you might not want to spend your free time learning about all that stuff, and might prefer to pay someone else to do the counseling.

I've watched several of their webinars. Their methodology is quite simple.
- Use a composting recipe according to the desired crops. More woody crops require more woody materials in the compost pile.
- Make a really good compost, controlling heat (60 to 70 ºC), mixing (turning the borders to the core of the pile), humidity (~50%), ingredients (local and diverse materials, free of toxics, chopped),  ... that is biologically active and aerobic. It should smell like forest and be brownish. Optionally, feed worms with the finished compost for better results, using worm castings instead of compost.
- Apply compost extracts or compost teas on the fields. Tea is easier, but gives smaller quantities.
- Use a microscope for checking the life in your soil and the quality of the compost, since you don't want to apply a compost that is of less quality than what's already in your soil.

I'd say you can skip the microscope part if you are just gardening, since it's much easier to track results.
 
Melissa Ferrin
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Thanks for the response, Abraham.
I've also seen several of their online webinars, I guess that's why the course advertisement came up in my feed.
What we do is really more like farming than gardening. We have three corn fields--sorry they are irregular shape so I don't know the measurements. We grow beans and squash with the corn. We have fruit trees and cactus fruit plantings too. But it is a hobby as both my husband and I earn money---in education.

It would be cool to learn to use the microscope and maybe something we could do with the secondary school kids in the village...
Our soils in the village are degraded, I'd say from mildly to severely so.

I work in a public institution of higher education so the cost of education is something I've thought a lot about. Personally, I think education should be considered a public good. I know there are a lot of members on this site who will disagree with me, but I think a country should have a highish (between 10-20%) flat tax rate and it should distribute public goods with that money. In addition to paved roads, and fire departments, I think arts, education, and academic research, should be supported by that tax money, because those things make our lives better, and can also washback into other areas that are more traditionally seen as public goods, like health and safety.  I would never agree that reducing the number of experts could in any way shape or form be a benefit for society.

It seems that part of the goal of the soil food web school is "saving the earth from human-caused destruction" and they take a real global approach in their materials. But I would say, even as someone living in Mexico--I'm probably economically above at least 50% of the world if not more, so if I find the cost excludes me--that are a ton of people out there who would benefit from this knowledge for whom it's totally unattainable.
 
Abraham Palma
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Oh, about guilds, I'm not defending them, it's just one reason for this behaviour. If the knowledge was available for everyone, experts would need to work harder to make a life, as much as any other job. Guilds are mostly for their members behalf, not for society.

Education always involves a cost, may it be paid by the student or the state. It makes sense to have some public education when said education is benefitial to society, otherwise it's a burden to public budgets. That said, it's very posible that a public school of permaculture is profitable for society if we all become more resilient, maybe we should ask for it, but since we are still a minority I don't have high hopes.
 
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