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Is a PDC really worth it?  RSS feed

 
Guerric Kendall
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Location: zone 6a, NY
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It seems like PDC's are touted as the epitome of permaculture education, they'll even get you a step ahead on Paul's eco scale.

...But at this time we've all got incredible amounts of information at our fingertips. A few clicks can access videos given by every great permaculturist on youtube. Thousands of real-life experiences are posted on Permies to be learnt from. Countless diagrams, pictures, and information on every subject are published in assorted articles. New innovations and methods are constantly thought up every day on many blogs. And best of all, if there's nothing else, people are around glad to give advice at any time on various forums.

So for those of you who have taken PDC courses here, was it really worth it? Is there really any hidden knowledge that can't be learned from a bit of online research?
 
Alex Apfelbaum
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Location: Northeastern Spain (Mediterranean, zone 9b)
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Honestly, all the theoretical knowledge you'd learn in a PDC course is available in books or for free on the internet. Then there is the "get your hands dirty" practice part and the social aspect of interacting with other people, which may be as much if not more important than the theory.

I took an online PDC which was interesting and interactive, the practical training I did on my own property, applying the theory and following the countless info gathered before and after the PDC. I feel that I am learning a lot by trial and error, there is something important in doing the mistakes first before doing it right (and it's never completely right, right?). It's been a constant going back and forth between information, people and the soil.

I found that a lot of what I learned during the PDC course didn't apply specifically to my local climate (coastal mediterranean bordering a forest) nor to my setup (less than one tenth of an acre, sub-urban), it was still important knowledge, but not primordial to my own site's development.

Overall I'd say it depends what kind of learner you are, some people need a strong teacher figure (and we know there are some great ones in the Permaculture world), some people are motivated by the group aspect of it, others feel the need to have the "offical" approval (the certificate may be helpful if you want to teach yourself one day). Others again are more individual learners and do with what they find around.

You could perfectly work on your own and see where it leads you, if you feel you're missing something then you can always look for classes.
 
Dave Green
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Location: London, United Kingdom
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I did an online PDC and I'm really not sure! I did it mainly so I have some sort of certification for designing landscapes and to force me learn things that I might not be so interested in on my own. I'm implementing the first design for my portfolio right now.

As it was online I got no hands-on experience from it and I also didn't receive any feedback on my design. Some of the backyard designs that passed seemed really really simple and something that anyone who's read a few thousand words on Permaculture could do. This was my main disappointment - could I have done more work or done anything better? Did I do anything that was feasible yet impractical? Was my implementation plan realistic? I didn't even mention the ethics in my design.

I also echo the comment about how most of the course wasn't relevant to my local climate (UK). There was a 20-30 minute video on temperate climates and a few references back to them in other videos. Most of the focus was on warmer/sub-tropical climates. I don't regret doing it for the certification but I think in retrospect I should have spent my $1000 on a 5 day on-site UK course that enabled me to get my hands dirty and use a few earth moving machines.

From all this, I think there is a big opportunity for experienced PDC teachers out there - offer an exam or a service that enables people to get certified just by submitting a design rather than watching videos as well. This way people could be judged on their designing ability without having to buy a $1000 course of videos. On my course they had no way of knowing if I actually watched the videos, so someone should just offer the certification service.

So, bearing in mind that you can source and talk about Permaculture information elsewhere, you are basically paying for the certificate and the certificate's main uses are (A) to start teaching others Permaculture or (B) get work as a Permaculture designer. If you don't intend to do either, I question the point in doing a PDC.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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Dave Green wrote:From all this, I think there is a big opportunity for experienced PDC teachers out there - offer an exam or a service that enables people to get certified just by submitting a design rather than watching videos as well. This way people could be judged on their designing ability without having to buy a $1000 course of videos. On my course they had no way of knowing if I actually watched the videos, so someone should just offer the certification service.


If anyone did that, it wouldn't be a PDC, which I believe has a set minumum number of hours and a set curriculum to follow. It's a course, not an exam.

 
Jason Silberschneider
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I spent (invested!) some money and got the DVD course taught by Geoff and Bill, and the PDM Black Book. Then I sat and watched the series while following along with the textbook.

What did I miss out on compared to the students who actually attended Bill's and Geoff's course? Really, just the practical exercise at the end, and a piece of paper that says I'm a "qualified" consultant.

Toby's gaia's garden book, and perhaps sepp holzer's Permaculture book are the only other purchases that you really need to make, and the rest is free at permies.com

At this stage I would honestly see no point in attending a PDC for me.
 
Dave Green
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Location: London, United Kingdom
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Burra Maluca wrote:
Dave Green wrote:From all this, I think there is a big opportunity for experienced PDC teachers out there - offer an exam or a service that enables people to get certified just by submitting a design rather than watching videos as well. This way people could be judged on their designing ability without having to buy a $1000 course of videos. On my course they had no way of knowing if I actually watched the videos, so someone should just offer the certification service.


If anyone did that, it wouldn't be a PDC, which I believe has a set minumum number of hours and a set curriculum to follow. It's a course, not an exam.



It wouldnt be a proper PDC as it's not a course, but someone could provide the certification.

On my course you could pass without watching a single video
 
Rene Nijstad
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Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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We took an online PDC from geoff lawton as well, just before moving from the city to our farm. To me it was totally worth it.

What the PDC did for me was bringing all pieces of information together in a logical and understandable way. It changed my thinking, it reminded me of an inborn capability to observe that I had forgotten to properly use in the 'modern' world. It prevented me from making mistakes and force functions. It enabled me to learn and understand our weather-patterns, to recognize species that are adapted to our rather harsh local climate (wet-dry tropical).

There is indeed no doubt that all information taught in a PDC is available in bits and pieces online and in books. I also read Bill Mollison's designers manual prior to taking the course and I had a hard time getting through it as it is very dense in information. After doing the PDC it was much easier to read and I could use it better as a reference book, rather than as a way of gaining basic understanding. For me the PDC was essential in creating a complete and interconnected understanding of all aspects of design.

I have often said that without doing the PDC we would have panicked in our first year and we would probably have ended up in a battle with nature.

As for the PDC teaching all climates, I heard Bill Mollison explain that by knowing all basic climates you are able to avoid making the same mistakes Europeans made when the brought their local temperate species to everywhere else causing damage to other ecosystems that they invaded. To know all climates is to also understand your own climate better.
 
Olga Booker
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Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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When I first heard about Permaculture, I started by reading all the most popular books by Bill Mollison, David Holmgreen, Patrick Whitefield, toby hemenway and more. Then I read a lot of less popular authors, watched DVDs on you tube, took a course on line (not Geoff Lawton's) but then, decided to go to a PDC course. So did my husband but a different course with a different teacher.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! It was the difference between recognising a mushroom from a book and having someone taking you to the spot and showing it to you. Seeing its habitat, touching it, smelling it and if a good one, eating eat. It was like the difference between listening to your favourite band on CDs and going to see them live. Or like seeing videos of your first grandchild born on the other side of the word and then going to see him and holding him. I do very much enjoy the books and videos but there is something special about a tangible experience.

In a way, there was nothing new with all the theoretical stuff, but the practical approach was awesome. Just being with like-minded people, sharing, brain storming, experiencing, breathing, eating Permaculture for two intense weeks was for me - and I repeat, for me- just magical. The afternoons' practical workshops and field trips were making the books come alive and I learned more than I bargained for.

My husband and I deliberately chose different courses and were able to share our different experiences. We chose carefully our respective teacher. For instance, there is a PDC course somewhere in Europe (no, not telling you where!) where it appears like you have to dance or play half naked in a mud bath. Personally, it's not my cup of tea. I am sure it can be a lot of fun but I am much too old for such shenanigans, besides, I don't know what being naked in the mud has to do with learning about Permaculture. Still, I am sure someone will put me right!

I did not even know that there was a certificate at the end of the course and to be honest, I don't give a toss about a flimsy bit of paper, but since the title of this post is "Is a PDC really worth it" I for one will say that my PDC course was worth every penny (or cent!). Besides, we both made great friends with whom we are still in touch.

 
Ross Mars
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Location: Perth
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I was surprised to read some of the comments about PDC's. I have taught PDC's and other permaculture courses for about 25 years, and for me and I would hope the majority of my students, it is life-changing. Sure, different teachers cover some aspects more than others, some leave important bits out and so on, but experiencing permaculture first-hand by the visits to properties, by the teacher/s and guest speakers, by the practicals, by the sharing with others, engaging with your community will always win over reading a book or watching a DVD (and I should say I have produced about five books and two DVD's on permaculture and related topics). Just a thought.
 
Vicki Marie
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Watch the movie Nightcrawler.Maybe "in the day" it made sense to spend your money on a design course but there is so much free information available it just doesn't make sense to me to spend your money on the course.Your hard earned money is better spent cultivating what you have all ready learned.Just my opinion.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Everyone learns differently. I think it's great there are courses available, both in person and online, and other learning opportunities. For me, just getting to visit one permaculture property was a life-changing experience. I wish there were more demonstration properties around everywhere. That one is now closed, unfortunately.

 
Vicki Marie
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I'm a "hands on" kind of gal.I guess I'm from Missouri and it's the "show me"state.In my mind permaculture has moved beyond the reading and writing state and now it's "just do it".You can spend a lifetime reading but until you actually get your hands dirty it's just talk.
 
Marco Banks
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The cost of a PDC varies from location to location, as does the quality of the instruction. So, as with many questions posted to this site, the answer is, "It depends".

For $2000 dollars, you could purchase every permaculture book you ever wanted, visit a dozen or more farms/homesteads/gardens and observe what the people are doing on their land, and invest in some really nice tools . . . and you would still be left with money in your pocket.

But if you get a really good teacher and join in with a really good group for your course, it will be worth every cent of that $2000 dollars. Sadly, some PDC's are REALLY new-agey/purple/weird --- the dancing in the mud half-naked thing that was mentioned above. Some PDC teachers know less than the people that are taking the course from them. So do your research first and find out the qualifications of the teachers, ask to see the "syllabus" of what will be covered, and ask questions about the culture of the course ---- the hippies dancing under the light of the moon thing.
 
D.A. Solomon
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Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
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After having educated myself through literature through practicing permaculture for decades, I took a PDC year course for certification purposes and to meet other practitioners in my area. What ultimately was most valuable about taking the course was observing and experiencing how other people interpret and learn (to practice) permaculture design principles. This is something that would be difficult to attain by auto-didacting and self-developing design skills through reading and practice. In my course there were people that had never even grown a sprout in their kitchen and others who had run permaculture projects in many different countries. This was the most edifying.
 
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