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Review: Toby Hemenway's "Permaculture Design for Conserving Water" course at Organiclifeguru.com

Posts: 6
Location: CA: warm mediterranean
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Yesterday I decided to purchase the $40 online "Permaculture Design for Conserving Water" course available on the Organic Life Guru website. There are a number of online courses available on the same site from recognizable names such as Toby Hemenway and Michael Pilarski and a few others. This seemed to me to be an endorsement of the content. The description of the course also includes a list of 13 "Lessons", and so for $40, it seemed like a value.

First, the term "Course" is in my opinion very generous in this case. The course consists of a recorded powerpoint-style presentation that Hemenway has given. The "lessons" (again, I think a very generous term), are the presentation broken down into segments, most of which are 2-5 minutes long. Two of the segments are free (the intro segment and a segment on "Contour Soil to Hold Water") one of which I think is one of the meatiest of all the segments. The majority of the remaining content can be gleaned from videos of Hemenway that are freely available online on Youtube or from his book which retails for $17 on Amazon (Kindle price $9.88 ).

I am a fan of Hemenway, have paid for and read his book Gaia's Garden, and try to consume as much content featuring him, including Paul's podcasts, as possible. I have to say that even for $40 I feel like a sucker for having paid for this online video "course". I suppose that for a certain group of the people, this collection of video snippets could prove informative. I realize that with this $40 I could be subsidizing an important part of the Permaculture movement, but if a person is paying for something, they should receive goods or services in return that aren't legally available online for free paired with a book from the same author for a fraction of that cost.

I'm truly disappointed in what I received for my money, almost to the point where I wonder if it is a scam and Hemenway even knows about the "course" being sold in his name. I certainly will not be paying for anymore of the videos available on organiclifeguru.com. In comparison, I paid $25 for the digital download of The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic movie, which though is a slightly different subject matter, I feel is a far better value.

I do not have inexhaustible funds to dedicate to my Permaculture interests and education, and I set aside what I can afford for quality, interesting, and educational material. If you have been toying with the idea of paying the $40 for this online "course", sadly my suggestion is to spend your money elsewhere. I simply could not in good conscience recommend it to anyone.
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It looks like I didn't do my due diligence on this. After such a good experience with organiclifeguru.com in their production of my forest gardening video, which is 7 hours of workshop instruction for $60 with handouts, I only gave the preview of the drought talk a quick glance. I agree that $40 is too much, and that it's not a course. It's a 90-minute lecture that I've given several times, now with the title "The Joy of Drought," and I've gotta say, I think it's a pretty cool talk--it shows how one permaculture principle can be applied to create a comprehensive drought-proofing that has over 40 other benefits. It slips in a whole raft of permaculture ideas while dealing with one of the most serous problems we're facing in the West. It's currently my most requested lecture.

That said, the post is not a "review" any more than my lecture is a course. It doesn't review the actual content of the lecture at all. It's a complaint, not a review. And the polite, proper thing to do when you have a complaint about a product is not to blast it on a public forum and talk about "scam," but to bring your complaint to the maker and ask them to make it right. Especially in a small community like this where many of us know each other and are easily reachable. If you had done this, I would have immediately asked organiclifeguru to give you a refund. Since you chose to handle it this way, I feel no obligation to help you. But I will ask the producers to change how they are offering this.
Posts: 40
Location: Whitefish, MT
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At Organic Life Guru, our goal is to make valuable information accessible to as many people as possible. We are not out to scam anyone. What this person failed to mention is that when he complained directly to us, we happily offered to refund his money and did just that.

We feel Toby Hemenway has an important message to share and is highly skilled at presenting on permaculture. We have received many positive reviews of this course. That being said, we agree, the course is over priced compared to our other courses and to the industry standard. We will address this issue asap.

If you purchased the course previously and would like a partial refund to reflect the change in course price, please contact us here.

Thanks for your interest and concern!


Samantha Langlois
Program Coordinator
Organic Life Guru

andrew westman
Posts: 6
Location: CA: warm mediterranean
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To Organic Life Guru's credit, I was contacted after submitting their course survey where I expressed my disappointment in the course. They provided me access to their "Organic Soil Building for the Organic Backyard Gardener" course for free and refunded the cost of the "Permaculture Design for Conserving Water" course. I will see what the soil building course has in store, but at this time I cannot complain about the customer service.
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