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Chris Kott
Posts: 823
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi all,

I am a 30 year old fine arts student thinking about returning to school. I want to do something, like a 3-4 year or longer program, that will give me a career where I can directly apply the lessons of permaculture, and whose skills and accreditation will lend not only credibility, but some necessary skillset or knowledge base that I can apply to my permaculture design projects.

To be clear, I am looking for college/university level, and while I will travel and relocate if it is warranted, I am currently living in Toronto, ON.

I am intending to take one of geoff lawton's Online PDCs, but not until I can offset the cost directly by slapping the word on a design business.

The type of thing I am currently looking at is sylviculture, agroforestry, forest management, or anything where I am studying complex living forest systems.

An offering I found very interesting a couple of years ago was a joint program between Fleming College and Trent University offering a BSc. in environmental remediation after four years, but as a subject it is very peripheral to my needs as a permaculturalist.

I would dearly love any good advice you guys can offer.

-CK
 
Mike Cantrell
Posts: 555
Location: Mid-Michigan
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bee books duck food preservation forest garden hunting solar trees
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Chris Kott wrote:Hi all,

I am a 30 year old fine arts student thinking about returning to school. I want to do something, like a 3-4 year or longer program, that will give me a career where I can directly apply the lessons of permaculture, and whose skills and accreditation will lend not only credibility, but some necessary skillset or knowledge base that I can apply to my permaculture design projects.


Well.

You have 3 to 4 years and access to $16,000 to $120,000. (What IS your budget for tuition, btw? Do you have any of it, or are you borrowing it all?)
You want " a career where I can directly apply the lessons of permaculture... Skills...accreditation...credibility...knowledge base that I can apply to my permaculture design projects."

Are you pretty positive that a degree from a university is the best way to get this?

I mean, if you had an awesome time in undergrad, and now you feel like your life's in a rut, and you're thinking this degree could be the catalyst to change your future, ok. Or if you discovered permaculture in the last year or two, and you're completely in love, making a living of it looks like an impenatrable thicket where this degree is the only way in, ok.

But... Holy cow, that kind of time and money can give you SO MUCH access to skill, ability, experience, and credibility. There's SO MUCH frickin potential contained in three years of your life and $16,000 (let alone four years/$120,000, good gracious), that it could move you to anywhere. Absolutely anywhere.

Think about this. If you're set to give up three to four years and $16,000 to $120,000 AND your earning potential while you're in school (that's another $100,000 or so, isn't it?) are you positive that a university is the place you can buy the most skill, accreditation, credibility, and knowledge?

Have you considered:
Going for three one-year internships at permaculture farms? Cost:$0, skill and ability high, accreditation/credibility medium to low.

Creating a portfolio? By which I mean, do some permaculture projects on your own dime. Buy a couple of acres, make it amazing. Same again next year and the year after that. "But it'll never sell!" That's fine. You're spending $16,000 - $120,000 on this remember? If you can sell your project, that's a cherry on top, but it's not the point. The point is getting your project onto your blog, youtube channel, facebook page, and maybe in some magazines. Cost: -$120,000 - +$120,000. Skill and ability medium to high, credibility very, very high.

Working for a school, park, university, museum, life insurance company, or ANYBODY with some land, weaseling your way into a position of authority on the grounds crew, and doing permaculture on their land, with their tools and materials, and getting paid well for it? Cost=very positive. Skill and ability: medium (since you only get one canvas, not several like portfolio creation above). Credibility: medium, depending on self-promotion and a receptive institutional audience.

Edit 6:55p 1/7/14: Here's two more. You've already replied below, but I'm going to add these anyway'for the sake of future readers.

Start a boring landscaping business. You'll need a pickup with a snow plow for the winter months, and a trailer to carry your zero-turn mower and various smaller machines (push mower, string trimmers, etc) in the summer. Every customer who tells you, "Wow, that looks great," you say, "Thanks! I love working with plants. Have you ever heard of permaculture?" Pitch it enough times, and you'll get some permaculture design clients. And then, year by year, you transition to only permaculture design. Cost: $25,000, then reliably make it all back in short order and start earning a decent living. Skill, abiity, credibility: low then gradually getting high.

Write your book. What credentials do Lawton, Hemenway, Holzer, and Salatin have, except that they've done it and written books? Nobody cares what, because that's enough. When you've done it and written a book, you're an expert, as far as ANY potential client is concerned. When you approach someone about a design project, are they going to pay thousands to Chris Kott, MS? Or Chris Kott, permaculturist and author of Canadian Permaculture: Sustainable Agriculture North Of The Forty-Fifth Parallel? You've got three years and $120,000 to work with- if that ain't enough to do your research and experimntation, something's wrong! Cost: $16,000 - $120,000. Skill and ability: medium. Credibility/accreditation: extremely high.


Or, clearly, combining some of each. When the beginning of 2018 gets here, will you have a more solid career "directly applying the lessons of permaculture" if you just wrapped up your M.S. in Silviculture at Oregon State (you owe them $63,657 plus interest), or if you're Chris Kott of chriskott.com, my June seminars are full but it's not too late to register for my July session?

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm beating you up here- that's a dumb idea, forget it, etc. I'm saying the opposite- you're awesome, and you don't need to give a fortune to any university to set your life off in a fantastc new direction. You can do it yourself. If you have the time and money for a degree, then you have the time and money to cut some really amazing permaculture notches in your belt, so that when 2018 gets here, you can say, "Mr. Potential Client, I'm great at this. Look at what I've done over here. I can do the same for you."
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I'd second what Mike said.

Someone asked Geoff Lawton what his background was. Apparently he has a degree in Mechanical Engineering (if I remember correctly).

If you want permaculture "cred" - take Geoff's online PDC sooner rather than later - it's a small investment compared with several years in college and can stop you from making a ton of mistakes right off the bat. If you still want to go back to college - you will find guidance in that class as well. Geoff mentions several fields that are useful for permies to have: forestry, soil science, hydrology/watershed management, engineering, chemistry, botany....and on and on. But really, just like you, permies come from all sorts of backgrounds and that's a HUGE positive in my book. Everyone has something to offer.

I have a BA in Chinese and an MA in Race and Ethnic Studies - I did some work that made use of these skills but really, I fell into the computer world, where I worked for a long time as a systems analyst with no formal training. After a serious illness took me out of that game, I found permaculture. I've taken two PDCs - a local one in 2007 and Geoff's online one in 2013 - Total cost of both $1750. I've also designed over a dozen projects for people (even in my half-blind state!) and was responsible for transforming the local permaculture group from a 300 member group into a 1700 member group in 8 months (now 8000 members) and setting up their very successful classes. Most of the projects I've designed are at non-profits where they are used for learning skills, providing food or for healing.

The purpose of this post is to show that there are many paths. Honestly, if I was looking for a designer, I'd place more stock in someone with a portfolio or who had travelled around interning at various sites, than I would a recent college grad without projects in the ground or much hands-on experience.

BTW - once you have a PDC, you can intern at PRI certified sites around the globe. Check it out here (look for "internships"): http://www.permaculturenews.org/courses.php I'll be doing the Oct/Nov internship in Jordan with Geoff this year - can't wait!!
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 823
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Thanks Jennifer. Perhaps I phrased my question badly, but what I was looking for is the soil science/silviculture angle of things. I am looking for fields of study that are lacking in permaculture, or that will help me understand what's going on, and will aid in careful documentation so that I can contribute to the growth of understanding of the importance of permaculture to the earth's well - being.

-CK
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Chris - got it! Then I think you can't go wrong with one of the fields you've mentioned. One thing that is lacking, in my opinion, is simple tests that can be performed by the random layperson to test out things like:
--soil nutrient levels over time
--soil texture over time
--rehydration of landscapes (wicked important for us drylanders) over time
--food nutrient levels over time
--fungal net spread over time

and on an on. I think that a critical mass of people performing simple tests over time and posting them in one place (here) would really add some cred to the permaculture movement.

Go forth and kick some serious butt!

Now I'm going to create another topic on "simple tests" because this intrigues me!
 
Coley Caldwell
Posts: 7
Location: Redwood, NY
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Hi Chris,

My sustainability campus, Better Farm, offers year-round sustainability education that is custom-tailored to each student. In the application you can list your specific interests; we then provide you with the learning tools and space to research, study, and enjoy a truly hands-on educational experience. This certificate program runs in one- to three-month intervals and only costs a very low monthly stipend. If you'd like to learn more, check out www.betterfarm.org or shoot me any of your questions. Hope this helps!

Nicole
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