So I had the privilege of attending the Holzer event in Gimli, Manitoba... I have let the workshop digest for a couple of weeks, so that I could summarize my thoughts and impressions more succinctly. Here are some of my unfiltered thoughts:
Sepp has a lot of passion. It is clear when he speaks that he loves this work and loves to speak to individuals and groups about his experience.
Sepp works from instinct and uses natural feedback to progress. This was somewhat frustrating for me and a few others at the workshop. My biggest criticism of the workshop was that we were not told what to expect content-wise. The organizer (who did an excellent job) clearly mentioned that the content was at Sepp's discretion, however, the entire educational portion lasted about a day and a half and the rest of the time was for review and critique of our projects. Now normally this would be excellent and of high value to anyone serious about their project, unfortunately though, Sepp's team required us to have diagrams, contour maps and other info in order for a consultation to happen. Most people were unprepared for this, as was I, and the lost opportunity meant that, for those of us who didn't have the prepared info and documents, that we would be spending the next two days listening to consultations for other people's projects. Keep in mind that the lecture portion of the Workshop was really about a day and a half. There was value in listening to these project consultations for sure, but for me it was a difficult pill because none of these projects even remotely reflected my own project situation. Kudos to the organizer for doing all that she could to enable people to track down the info and docs they needed, it just wasn't a possibility for me.
The one and only technique of value that I picked up was the idea of the Kratergarten. This concept alone was worth the money of the workshop. I live in zone 0b which gets to minus 50 C occasionally, so any technique to get my plants through the winter was welcomed. In fact, micro-climate creation was the sole motive for my attendance. Unfortunately the info on building and siting these was vague and brief. While I will search out info on my own on Kratergartens (and would like to point out someone else asked about where we can find info on Kratergartens on this forum and was unanswered), but it would have been nice to get some practical info during the workshop.
Sepp really doesn't like government or politicians. I am both a government employee and an aspiring politician so I made sure I pointed that out to him to "give him the gears"! We had a good-natured exchange, but it was clear that he would feed me to the pigs if he could...
The workshop overall was light on practical education and consisted of many rants down one road over another. I think Sepp is brilliant, it is clear that he is, but I just wanted something more tangible than was delivered. Some things may have been lost in translation, others just not clearly answered. Of course, one of the major issues was that everyone was told not to ask stupid questions which immediately made people more hesitant to ask them to Sepp. (Nonetheless, there were one or two really dumb questions.)
I felt that the one hour sessions with Judy (?) of Permavitae, prior to Sepp coming in the morning were of more benefit than the time with Sepp. The answers were more direct, practical and useful. I regret that I didn't spend any time with the permavitae folks. It seems to me that time with Zach would have been much more productive. I regret not being there for those permavitae days after Sepp left, I just couldn't afford the time with little kids at home.
The absolute most valuable thing about attending the event was meeting the diverse group of people that attended. There were many people in attendance from my Province and are close by (if 800 km away is close). These connections will be valuable in the future and I look forward to keeping up with these people and their projects in the years to come. The workshop drew some people from far away places as well and many of the conversations with these people were wonderfully enlightening and a pleasure (thanks guys if you're reading this). The crowd seemed to be half purple, half practical, many of whom were drawn in by Jack Spirko's podcast (as was I). It was interesting to see the very different focuses for these two "groups". It made for a good mix of people and I truly enjoyed the balance of people.
All in all I would recommend this to people for the reasons I stated above... you are going to make invaluable connections to people who are of a similar mind, have similar goals and are discovering Permaculture at the same time as you. I would recommend a session with Zach and the permavitae folks over a session with Sepp, but that won't matter now as Sepp will not likely make it to N. America again. I look forward to getting more detail about Kratergartens and implementing this strategy when I understand it more clearly.
Finally, Kudos to the organizer, Kristen Benot. All you hard work and organization definitely did not go unnoticed. You ran circles around us to ensure that we were fed, sheltered and educated. Thanks Kristen!
Carl Sagan, Buddha, Gandhi and Fukuoka, soon maybe even Wheaton.