I think this forum could really use a section on permaculture education. Book and movie reviews are good but I would like to hear reviews of classes (online and otherwise), institutions, internships, farms, and teachers. Preferably this would include location, cost, quality, etc.
I ask because I want to get serious about having a farm and a career in permaculture but I don't really know how to go about it (already reading Gaia's Garden). Is an online course worth the money? Is hands on the only real way? Can I just WWOOF around at permaculture places for a while until I get it?
I heard a really good idea about this from a super smart permaculture guy.
(it kind of doesn't matter to me that he is a permaculture guy since I think this is a worthwhile description of learning for any task)
He said something to this effect:
Three stages of education/learning exist
I have information -- a book/movie has been examined
I have understanding -- I can see how to utilize and apply this info, maybe I watched somebody do a task, I ponder
I have knowledge -- this is having muscle memory of specific tasks
For me, when learning, I go through all of these stages and sometimes very rapidly and always recursively (i.e. I revisit them).
For example, I read a book or watch a video, ponder it in my brain and then go do something with that new stuff in my brain.
Then I may rewatch/reread the text, talk to people (live and on forums) and make more stuff. Then revisit/revise. Maybe move on to new stuff.
Also, some times I may skip steps one or two and see what those results yield.
At other times, this three step process takes years.
For me it depends on the task at hand and my background knowledge set that I bring to the table.
Some things I want to read a whole lot about and ask a whole lot of questions before I try and other things I will get an idea and go try it.
I am also able to take things that aren't necessarily permie based and see how they fit into this realm e.g. conflict resolution and problem solving techniques -- I says to myself, hey, that's permie stuff.
I guess it really depends on how and what you want to learn, your time and money resources at hand and where you are interested in heading.
And a whole bunch of other stuff too that one figures out for one's specific situations.
With that said, I like having first hand knowledge as much as I can, b/c there is really nothing that can replace getting your hands dirty and having book info to back up your muscle memory is a great thing.
If you like jumping in with both feet, do it, if you have to transition that works for folks too.
After tons of research, I am leaning towards the idea that a PDC is not for me.
Some thoughts and ideas:
1. A lot of reading and online reasearch are a must. There is a good series of videos from NC State in which Will Hooker teaches an intro to Permaculture course. There is a lot of information and it will take some time to get through it, but it fueled my desire to learn and pursue this even more.
2. See if you can find others in your area that you can connect with and learn from / bounce ideas off of. I am finding myself that feeling connected with others in this learning process is very important so that you don't feel isolated or alone. Also, you can learn from others that have tried things before you. Why reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.
3. I am currently enrolled in an online PDC course because of the cost effectiveness and time constraints. I would have liked to do an in personn course because I imagine it has a little better flow, but I am still connecting with people in the online course and don't feel alone in personal transformation process. It is also my understanding that to promote yourself as a permacuturist and use it for business purposes, you have to have a valid PDC certificate in hand, to ensure that things stay pure to the ideals that it was built upon. It is the same idea as with the organic thing...you can do things organically, but you cannot promote yourself as organic unless you go through the certification process. (I think you can even be fined for promoting yourself as organic if you don't have the certification.) Again, this helps to maintain the pureity of organics...so that people don't just slap a label on it and take advantage of people in the process.
4. WOOFING would be a great option, if you have the resources and time to do it. (sigh)...maybe some day
5. Don't stop learning.
Permaculture is great because it gives you some boundaries to keep you between the guard rails, but it also allows you the freedom to develop what works best for you and what you want your focus to be. You don't have a checklist that you have to do on your site...it can be as much or as little as you want it to be. For example, while I realize that conserving resources is of the utmost importance, right now my focus is not on solar or alternate heat. I suspect that, in time, there will be a natural evolution for me to migrate toward these, but now my focus is on developing the water systems and plantings on my site.
I think the biggest thing (and trust me, I am continually reminding myself of this) is that this will take time, and a lot of it. Take some pictures of your site before you start and continue to do so as you progress so that you can go back and remind yourself of the progress when you hit those moments of discouragement. Also, don't forget...YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS!
"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb
I started by watching hundreds of youtube videos, read a bunch of books, began practicing it on the land I had access to, interned at a permaculture farm and got my PDC. Now I'm doing larger projects and starting to teach. I think there are three main ways to learn - by yourself (observation, reading, ect), with a teacher (distilled knowledge) and with your peers (you can point out eachothers blind spots)
"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin