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Reinventing myself in Permaculture: A call for guidance  RSS feed

 
S. Jones
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Hello,

This is my first post (although I've been lurking for a month or so). I'm in my late 20's and currently serving active duty in the military. I have roughly 2 more years on my contract and I don't plan on reenlisting. Furthermore, my current job doesn't transition that well into the private sector.
Within the past 3 months I've developed a keen interest in the concepts, nuances and potential of all things Permaculture. I feel like I’ve finally found something that really interests me and fits in nicely with my values and worldview.
My dilemma is this:

I’m going to need to reinvent myself once out of the military and I would love for it to be something related to Permaculture (rather than a bland MBA type path). I already possess a BA and will still have my GI Bill to go back to school with. UNFORTUNATELY, PDC’s and most Permaculture type educational opportunities are not eligible under the GI Bill.

Does anyone have any ideas for me-- Programs in mainstream schools perhaps closely linked with Permaculture principles?
Any and all help is greatly appreciated as I begin to plan for this new (exciting) phase in my life!
Thank you
 
Tyler Ludens
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Don't completely rule out the possibility that some permaculture training might be covered by the GI Bill. Here's a course offered by Oregon State University: http://www.beaverstatepermaculture.com/events/osu-online-permaculture-course If I were you I'd give them a call and see if they know if it's covered. They might be able to advise you of in-person courses that are covered.

Here's another university with permaculture curriculum: http://www.csustan.edu/AGStudies/Permaculture_conc.htm

Another: http://www.indiana.edu/~llc/academics/permaculture.shtml

Yet more: http://www.umasspermaculture.com/

http://www.bastyr.edu/academics/areas-study/certificate-holistic-landscape-design

 
S. Jones
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Don't completely rule out the possibility that some permaculture training might be covered by the GI Bill. Here's a course offered by Oregon State University: http://www.beaverstatepermaculture.com/events/osu-online-permaculture-course If I were you I'd give them a call and see if they know if it's covered. They might be able to advise you of in-person courses that are covered.

Here's another university with permaculture curriculum: http://www.csustan.edu/AGStudies/Permaculture_conc.htm

Another: http://www.indiana.edu/~llc/academics/permaculture.shtml

Yet more: http://www.umasspermaculture.com/

http://www.bastyr.edu/academics/areas-study/certificate-holistic-landscape-design



These are great links. Thank you very much!
 
Jordan Lowery
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You can always study soil, micro biology, geography, hydrology, ecosystems, Botany, all of these and more have major influence to things we do in permaculture. Just don't forget to keep the permaculture mindset as often people and scientists take these useful subjects and move in the wrong direction with them. Sometimes Towards benefiting pockets vs the ecosystem and people in general. With the right mindset those topics and more will make for an EXCELLENT base for anyone starting out in permaculture.
 
Tyler Ludens
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A profession such as Landscape Architecture could really benefit from a permaculture basis.
 
Alex Ames
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Tyler Ludens wrote:A profession such as Landscape Architecture could really benefit from a permaculture basis.


The whole area of landscaping with edible plants seems undeveloped. There are a great many attractive
edible plants that can go right into flower beds without anybody thinking they are out of place.
 
Tyler Ludens
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100% agree, Alex!

 
S. Jones
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Alex Ames wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:A profession such as Landscape Architecture could really benefit from a permaculture basis.


The whole area of landscaping with edible plants seems undeveloped. There are a great many attractive
edible plants that can go right into flower beds without anybody thinking they are out of place.


Good idea. I'll definitely start taking a look into Landscape Arch. programs.

Keep the great ideas coming!
 
Brenda Groth
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first and foremost ..thank you for your service

I'm thrilled that you plan to do this when you get out..and I hope that you will have great success.

there are a few companies that are making it a priority to HIRE veterans..so you should have some research in those areas before you get out..there are great jobs in the police and fire departments for service people and a lot of other "companies" are promising to prioritize hiring service people.

think of jobs that you could do ANYWHERE..so that you could do them and still say homestead a property..working out of your home would be another option while you are getting settled into a homestead.

planning now is a great option..there are still tons and tons of repos for cheap..my son owns a home next door to us but is working 1 1/2 hour drive away..and he is going to be having to find a place to live closer as gas is around $800 a month..so we have been looking (in Michigan) at repos..etc..and I found several in the $17,000 to $39,000 range that he might be able to purchase..some in the $26, to $29K range have land that could be put into permaculture..so there are bargains out there..he is only a few miles working from a major city in Michigan (Grand Rapids area)..and so that is a lot of places that have land and homes and even outbuildings for a great price..with a very short drive to work...less than 10 miles..so there are places available at good prices.

I would say, figure out what areas you are interested in and begin a search on craigslist for that area..also any schools you might be interested in attending etc.

There are lots of places near colleges in Michigan..if you are heading this direction and I am sure other states have similar conditions at this time...blessings on your future.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Jordan Lowery wrote:You can always study soil, micro biology, geography, hydrology, ecosystems, Botany, all of these and more have major influence to things we do in permaculture. Just don't forget to keep the permaculture mindset as often people and scientists take these useful subjects and move in the wrong direction with them. Sometimes Towards benefiting pockets vs the ecosystem and people in general. With the right mindset those topics and more will make for an EXCELLENT base for anyone starting out in permaculture.


As a biologist with a former PhD in microbiology (and having also into ecology, botanics, etc), I must say I slightly disagree with going for those subjects. After many years I found conventional science to be boring and too much close-minded for my taste, and actually so far from what I see as the permaculture mindset, that I felt it is better to not bring it to the academic world. If you feel you should, then be brave and go ahead. But I found permaculture works much better at a grassroots level. Bill Mollisson actually felt something similar to this, as did also Fukuoka. Even Steiner from the biodynamics was also at odds with the academic world.

I was sick tired of the academic world and I tried different areas; it did not fullfill my expectations and hence I followed my own path. The academic world seems only to be good to use scientific method to investigate a narrow area of knowledge, that fits into consensual scientific status quo, that aims at publication, writting thesis and patenting. Sorry for my critical view; I have many friends from my science background, but I felt it had nothing to do with the paradigmas that permaculturists aim towards. You are very right in saying "scientists take these useful subjects and move in the wrong direction with them".

Probably better to try landscape architecture...
 
Ben Stallings
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Another university with a sustainable living department that includes a PDC is Maharishi University of Management: http://sustainableliving.mum.edu/

You do have to learn Transcendental Meditation to study there (part of your first semester), but that could be a plus if you have any PTSD after your military service.

I have not studied at MUM, but I did audit a few classes in the department and got my PDC from the same folks through a separate institution in town. Their brand new facilities are excellent and their prices are very competitive, and the town of Fairfield is a unique and marvelous place.
 
Pat Black
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North Carolina State University might be worth a look. You can take Introduction to Permaculture for credit with them. They also research organic greenhouse production. Talk to Will Hooker there. He teaches permaculture and his home is all permacultured out.
 
Leila Rich
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Welcome to permies Spencer
For me, permaculture bubbles along behind and around pretty much everything I do, rather than being an official career, vocation, etc.
I do a fair amount of teaching-type things: growing, cooking and composting basically makes up the majority of my 'curriculum', with a minor in 'resource sourcing' (aka, scoring free stuff)
My rather roundabout point is, from my perspective, permaculture can be integrated into a huge variety of careers, although actually making a living from being a permaculture 'X' might be a diferent story...

 
Nate Bocker
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Spencer,
I wanted to touch base with you, since I'm in the same boat. Have you looked at pairing the permaculture design with a related degree program? I'm going through AMU for my BS in environmental science, focusing on sustainable development. Where are you looking at relocating to, when you ETS? You are more than welcome to PM me, if you want to. I have been looking for other vets doing similar things...

-Nate
 
S. Jones
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Thank you all again for the great suggestions and warm welcome to the forum!

It appears I have my homework cut out for me in regards to researching and checking out all of the great ideas you all have brought forth.

Right now, it appears that I have 3 'broad' options:

-Landscape Architecture/Design oriented route

-B.S. route in Soil/Plant Studies, micro biology, geography, hydrology, ecology, forestry, agronomy, or Ag (With a Permaculture focus/slant inherent in the curriculum- the possibilities are limitless here)

- MBA route: My reasoning for including the MBA route is: as some people have mentioned, having a solid grasp on the ins and outs of business could set me up for running a successful Permaculture business in the future. Has anyone heard any PRO's/CON's to these semi-new "Green MBA" programs that have a sustainability component imbedded within their business curricula?
 
Ben Stallings
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Spencer Jones wrote:
- MBA route: My reasoning for including the MBA route is: as some people have mentioned, having a solid grasp on the ins and outs of business could set me up for running a successful Permaculture business in the future. Has anyone heard any PRO's/CON's to these semi-new "Green MBA" programs that have a sustainability component imbedded within their business curricula?


Well, a green MBA would definitely be more applicable than a traditional MBA, but my experience has been that very few small businesspeople have MBAs and very few MBAs go into small business. It's my impression that traditional MBA programs prepare people to be cogs in a big machine, and while we certainly need more cogs who can steer the machine in a more productive direction, that doesn't sound like the path you have in mind for yourself. If you want to start a small business, a much quicker and less expensive route is to seek out your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC); they will teach you everything you need to know for free. You may need to hire a lawyer and an accountant before you're up and running, but it's orders of magnitude less expensive than getting an MBA. So my advice would be to spend your GI Bill on something else.
 
Kerry Dyer
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Hi, I would highly suggest looking into The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA...... state/public 4 year undergrad school with some grad programs, excellent school, very different....
 
Isaac Hill
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A Masters in Sustainable Systems could be a path for you.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> ins and out of business...

My very strong impression is that an MBA doesn't teach that except, as Ben said, with you as a cog waving your resume. If you want to learn real hands-on business look for an "entrepreneur's school". The two semesters I took at the San Francisco Renaissance Center taught me more in depth about real business than all else had even hinted at. I don't know the best way to find business courses for the startup and small businessman in other locales; I just kinda fell into the SFRC. But "Incubator" centers found in several medium and large cities now are designed for startup businesses and thus some of the people in these centers may know where good practical courses can be found.

IAC. If my experience is any guide a good small business course is worth far more than years of economics and math would ever be to a person who actually intended to hang out their own shingle.


Rufus
 
laura sharpe
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My thoughts only

I love science but i really cant stand the biological thingies (physics and math for me) and yet i like to grow stuff and of course i am heavily into things like soils...go figure so my thoughts are heavily colored by these considerations.

When you come home, going back to school is a nice place to land to let your head get back to here. I have not been in the services but i have suffered from ptsd so i am aware of how it can take time for the mind to heal. There is nothing wrong with a second bs or ba. There is really intrinsically nothing wrong with business either, oh i know some people think making money is a sin but it isnt and there is sooo much to learn about it and one can apply it any place you like, including permaculture.

There is also agribusiness combining your agricultural interests with making a bit of scratch. Keep in mind, it is easier to convince people to change their evil ways (in this case with the land) when you can show them it is in their best interest too....it took a dust bowl to prove Johnny Appleseed wasnt off his rocker and the farmers needed to change the way they plowed the land....not all changes require such a hard hit, sometimes it just takes some knowledge. In the end, if you would like to make a living at permaculture you will have to deal with making money as well.

With a bit of luck, you can afford a small piece of land. Can't really make a living on small piece of land very quickly but you can start getting your hands dirty. Go to school, Plant some fruit trees, maybe grow some livestock of some sort...of course i am thinking chickens but there is so many other things, i considered pheasants (this may not be good idea they need attention even in finals week). If you cant afford to buy land, renting in the boondocks is cheap and with the proper landlord, they wont give a toss if you do these things, might even like it. Do not overburden yourself with the land yet, go to school and wait for things to gel in your mind about where you would like to take this interest. In the mean time, you will have land to play with.
 
laura sharpe
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so sorry i felt i had to post again after rereading the total nonsense about mbas

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/bestcolleges/2007/mbas/

best schools for small business...

MBA is like a masters in any place, there is more than one discipline. This is a totally viable option which WILL teach you about small business if this is where you would like to go. Speak to people who have MBAs if you like, i know I have.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Laura,

Understand that I'm painting with a broad brush, but we are talking in general about possibilities, directions and such so I think it can be appropriate.

It's been a quite a while, but when I was in school for a degree ("good" eastern school) they taught theory. A LOT of theory with lots of numbers attached for weight. That's not (small) business. Small business is wanting to do or make something yourself (in the sense that _you_ are the boss or partner from the start) and for 99 of 100 people that involves scratching up financing (not receiving a budget) and doing most of the planning and a large part of the work yourself. In my limited experience no degree school prepares you for this - once past a BA they point you at large (and larger) companies. This may be partly because most students want immediate big money (and now many desperately need it to pay their educational loans) and partly because degree schools have a very close relation with large companies because in general large companies (and their chairman and employees) is where you find large money and _that_ the schools need.

Small business is not usually a money maker to start with, not even mentioning the dismal survival rate. In their yearly fund drives schools can't really advertise and promote their graduates doing meaningful and fulfilling "poverty stricken" struggle with a high percentage of failure .

Advanced education at a host of "better" schools is not to be sneered at. I met many great and frighteningly impressive people when I was in school and actually learned some things too. But traditional postgrad is not aimed at small business and doesn't include much course material directed that way. In the last 15 years large business began promoting a type of "trade school" MBA aimed at very specific skills they want but again this is not designed to make businessmen but to make better employees for the industry. There are some really useful skills to be learned in business school that can be applied in many parts of a life. But:

The skills needed to develop a business don't require degrees. They are a mishmash of emotional support, self discipline, promotional and people skills with a bit of accounting the technical smarts thrown in. What's missing and "to be learned" is often quite different for each person and usually involves some serious peer support, coaching, mentoring the the like. That kind of stuff is not what's sold at MBA schools. High school grads can be as good at it as PhD's.

Hence my feeling that an MBA may well not provide a good ROI for somebody who already knows they want to make a small business in a particular technical field (permaculture) not directly related to accounting, personnel management, financial instruments or statistical
economics. A degree in permaculture, on the other hand, hits closer to the mark, but even that is not a real core requirement.

Rufus
 
laura sharpe
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there is several things to consider here the first is there has been major changes over years in the mba programs, top most to me is that many people who simply want to make a lot of money do go for the mba but the knowledge i understand is invaluable.

It is usually not true these days that people just hang out a shingle and start to sell things. In fact most small business owners will say they learned many things trial and error, this can be very costly. Even if your study the things for larger business, they still apply to smaller ones.

You know i would like to have a hazelnut/truffle orchard (the truffles grow on the tree roots). I buy land and i buy a few hundred trees, this is not rated a business yet by the IRS is it? I didnt make money. What is the best way to deduct the cost of setting up my operation. Maybe I hire an accountant, maybe i make errors which cost me. Ok now i have to take care of the trees, I do most of the work myself but I need to hire some temporary help, how do i do this? Does the person i hire qualify for unemployment benefits? Do i have to pay social security for them?

A few years later, my crops are ready for harvest. (This btw is the hardest part for me to imagine), how do i sell my crops, to whom should i market, what is the best way to ship them, what does everyone else do for shipping. What should i insure the trees for?

This is a simple farm but with long term crops, each area you can go into has its own problems. A MBA degree, any of them even those skewed to big business, could answer all those questions. Keep you from making major mistakes in your first years of business. They can allow you to do finance, accounting, marketing, sales, and administration all by yourself, this will save a ton of money particularly by avoiding major errors.

I wish i knew more and I can speak more about this but the truth is i do not know and i wish i did. My father had an MBA along with a chemical engineering BS, I do not idolize this man but i can tell you that not only did he ultimately choose to open his own successful business . When I needed to know about any of these things, I could ask him.

Now I have no horse in this race, the original poster must ultimately decide what path he would like to follow. I wish him luck and peace and happiness. I simply think that steering him away from one path he mentioned (twice) as one he thinks about, is the wrong thing to do. MBAs are very valuable not just to big business but to your own ultimate peace of mind. They give you the confidence to take chances and forge your own path. I wish I had the MBAs knowledge but this has never been a path I wanted to take.
 
Tyler Ludens
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As a small business owner, I do not think an MBA is necessary for having a business. I think experience in the field of endeavor is probably more useful. I worked for several years as an employee in businesses in my field, and then started my own business, which my husband later joined and what has been our primary income for over 15 years. In my case even a university degree was not necessary (I didn't know it at the time I got it). Talent and experience were the only criteria.

 
Rufus Laggren
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> MBA degree... could answer these questions...

Disagree. The questions you posed, particularly the hiring and selling Q's, can only be answered at the time in the place. They require a basic knowledge of running a business (not what MBA teaches) and depend almost entirely on local conditions and then on _personal_ situations of particular individuals. We are, after all, talking _small_ business here, not trying to maximize return on thousands of employees and 10's of K-tons of product.

Your father sounds like a smart and ambitious fellow and he took one particular path. If he had felt the way you do, about starting a farm, back when he may well have chosen a different methods and tools to suit what he really wanted.

It is far FAR cheaper to find and hire expert professionals when you need them then it is to spend 2-3+ years of your life and (possibly many) thousands of $$ wading through mountains of text, most of it irrelevant although possibly interesting. You will need to hire pros, regardless of your own knowledge because your time (and even your knowledge) is limited regardless how many years you spend in school and you cannot do it all. If you want to be an investor, then maybe you get an MBA and hire real estate people to find land then hire farm managers to make a farm - hire Sepp. If you want to be a farmer, then you go be a farmer (possibly after going to farm school) and hire your legal talent as needed - just like and MBA has to. Even investors hire lawyers and real estate people with in depth local knowledge and connections. An MBA does not really save you much on these costs. You still have to find trustworthy competent people and that does not get easier with an MBA. It does get less chancy with experience and face to face people smarts, but you don't get that from MBA classes any better than other places.

When I said school can be worthwhile for many things I meant it. But do you want to work in an office or do your want to work on the farm and maybe mostly outside? An MBA may be empowering in some ways but doesn't look as good as "farm school" (sorry I'm sure they're out there but I don't have names) if you want to start and run a small farm and get into it while you're young and strong.


Rufus
 
laura sharpe
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He stated GI bill, this means school is a soft landing place...til they take that privilege away.
 
S. Jones
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Thank you everyone for the recent feedback and advice! I went away for the weekend, thinking this thread had been pretty much exhausted only to come back this morning to find a lively, continued discussion. Many thanks for this, as I appreciate the discussion over the merits and failings of an MBA program as well as alternate options for me to consider.

I suppose part of the underlying reason why I began this initial post was because I've found something that truly interests me in a theoretical and practical way. From what I've read about permaculture, the theory and practicality of it as an overarching whole-systems design process is intellectually stimulating and at the same time shows amazing, tangible results.

With all of that being said: I am in a relatively unique situation. My only real criteria (financially speaking) for doing a program is I don't want to go out of pocket (this still leaves a wide variety of options on the table, as the Post-9/11 GI Bill still offers great benefits). I already got a BA financed by non-dischargeable student loans. While I enjoyed my time in college as much as the next person and learned a lot, if I could do it all over again, I would have done things differently. I would have done everything in my power to avoid student loans because it really does create debt slaves out of an entire generation and (IMO) leads and pressures people into career fields that they aren't suited for and/or that perpetuates the failings of our current economic system (EX: Student A gets loaded up in debt, can't find a job, moves in with parents, then, since the job market is saturated with BA applicants, decides to go get an MBA ((more debt)) to "get ahead of the curve" only to be trapped and corralled into a large soul-crushing corporation so that their student loan notes can be paid off).

I'm trying to avoid the above example at all costs. With that being said, I also want to keep my options open and I'm not ready to completely write off an MBA as a waste of an endeavor. This post has veered off track a bit I'm afraid but I guess in a round about way I'm saying that I would probably NOT consider doing just any old MBA program. It would have to be one of these newfangled "Green MBA"- sustainability infused programs.

Or, it could be one of the other options that you all have suggested! Thank you all again...
 
laura sharpe
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one good thing about going back to schook is that your older student loan will not have to be paid nor accrue interest during the time you train yourself and start your future. I did have in mind that you will not be chasing enough money to eat during school...soft place to land...I didnt know about the old student loans. I have that experience as well and it is a mill stone.

Food for thought, back in the late 70s the tuition at University of Illinois was $250 a semester fulltime. In the early 80's, thanks Reagen, the tuition was $2,500 semester but the allowed us to go into debt and be burdened for the rest of your lives. Every new student loan had higher interest, they refinanced the interest of all the older loans.

The only problem with starting your own land project while in school, even if you can afford it, is that you may not be in a place to study where you would like to live for the next so many years. Even so, you could be like johnny appleseed and put into places where you have been things which will continue producing. Of course, your project could end up like my mothers perennial garden with the next owner, under the weed killer.

The way i see it, we do what we can and hope that we influence at least one other to follow the path
 
Cynthia Callahan
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I think you should get a heavy equipment operator licence. that way you can earn money doing "GIGS", rent the equipment to build raised beds and terrace your land. Farm for health and sanity, operate something big so you can afford to buy truffle trees for your orchard..
 
Heidi Hoff
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Pat Black wrote:North Carolina State University might be worth a look. You can take Introduction to Permaculture for credit with them. They also research organic greenhouse production. Talk to Will Hooker there. He teaches permaculture and his home is all permacultured out.


I second this suggestion. I have started watching Will Hooker's class online. It is free, in-depth and fascinating. It is taught simultaneously at the undergraduate and graduate levels (with extra work for grad students). Watch the first class and you will see that his students come from very different backgrounds and have very different plans for future applications of their permaculture knowledge. And, as he points out, it is Hooker's very own garden that is featured in the cover photo of toby hemenway's instant classic, gaia's garden!

Here is the direct link to his entire course: Permaculture Course at NC State

By the way, from what I know of active duty, plunging into permaculture is probably one of the most positive things you can do to reinvent yourself and restore your well-being. Mega-kudos for your decision!
 
Heidi Hoff
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Paulo Bessa wrote:
Jordan Lowery wrote:You can always study soil, micro biology, geography, hydrology, ecosystems, Botany, all of these and more have major influence to things we do in permaculture. Just don't forget to keep the permaculture mindset as often people and scientists take these useful subjects and move in the wrong direction with them.

As a biologist with a former PhD in microbiology (and having also into ecology, botanics, etc), I must say I slightly disagree ...The academic world seems only to be good to use scientific method to investigate a narrow area of knowledge, that fits into consensual scientific status quo, that aims at publication, writing thesis and patenting. ...I felt it had nothing to do with the paradigmas that permaculturists aim towards. ... Probably better to try landscape architecture...

I have to agree with Paulo. I too am an ex-academic (biochemistry, veterinary medicine, molecular virology) and I feel that during my years in academia I was an unwitting accomplice in the perpetuation of terribly damaging agricultural practices. Now, 13 years after leaving that world, I have come to learn sooooo much about the planet and my role here that was shrouded behind all the indoctrination that comes with naively plunging into the academic research world. At one point, when preparing to start a new job as a professor, I was trying to convince myself that I could balance my work for the university with international development work (to feed my soul). I did not succeed in convincing myself that it was humanly possible to do it effectively, because I would never have had the required independence. I was also just plain ignorant of how best to go about things. I never took the job, moved to Quebec and eventually became a translator. Now I am, like you, learning about permaculture as fast as I possible can and will be implementing permaculture systems on my own land, and hopefully networking with likeminded folks nearby.

That said, I still think that hooking up with Will Hooker at NC State (in the department of Horticultural Science) would be a great move. He seems to have the right approach to make permaculture work in an academic setting. Notably, Mr. Hooker did not do a doctorate, so he apparently escaped from the form of indoctrination I refer to! Brilliant move! (He does say that when David Holmgren spent a few days at his house, he got the equivalent of doctorate training in those three days!!)
 
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