Permaculture Design Certification course formats
As the (middle-aged) organizer of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s (FLPCI) programing, I would like to address some of your concerns about permaculture students and programs. I assure you that our course is not geared for twenty-somethings. I would also, however, like to agree with you in general about the limitations of a two-week intensive PDC. The format is largely a result of circumstance and economics. FLPCI has offered other formats and have found only one (so far) that does not result in a personal financial loss for the organizers. However, we will continue to explore other formats because the two-week intensive is certainly not the only or best way to bring the permaculture course to others. I suspect most other PDC organizers would say the same. Likewise, the teachers who have to take time away from their jobs and families, and work more for the passion of the subject than the pay, would also agree.
Currently we offer a 36 hour Community Training in Ecological Design (CTED)course that is largely inspired by the permaculture curriculum but involves much less time and money from the students. It was very successful last year in Tompkins county, and this year is running in Schuyler county. Next year we may expand it to several counties and the Syracuse area is on the short list of desirable places to teach it. It also has its shortcomings and is not a replacement for the PDC. We have other ideas for teaching the PDC as well that, if we can implement them, they will be advertised on this list.
Few–if any–of our students would be the gamer, electronic devise-addicted youngsters you describe. Most young people who commit to taking the PDC already have a critique that has pushed them far away from the commercial culture. In fact, I’ve met more people younger than I who have eschewed cell phones and Facebook accounts at the course than anywhere else! About half of our 25-30 students are older than thirty, with at least a half dozen in each class over fifty. One joy of the summer intensive is the inter-generational learning community–with so much in common among each other–that blooms and inspires during the course.
The two week PDC is certainly less than ideal for many working people regardless of their lack of age, income or experience. During the first three years of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, we offered a winter weekend series of classes for the PDC curriculum as well as our summer intensive. The weekend course attracted less than half the students compared to the summer course and many students found they couldn’t keep up with the material because of the drive, and their other time commitments. In a way, we noticed the same critique of the summer course: the format does not fit with all people’s circumstances. We also lost money; essentially finding ourselves donating our personal money and time to make the course happen.
Five years ago, we were the only course in upstate NY, so we felt an obligation (and inspiration) to run the courses once advertised. Now with a few others in the region, we have focused on our most successful programs. We also saved ourselves from burn-out and a type of financial fatigue that happens when you realize you are personally subsidizing the effort. Additionally, this has allowed us to worry less about money and to spend more effort improving our curriculum and instruction. This summer will be our ninth PDC and we are exceptionally happy with the quality of our teaching after more than 800 collective hours of PDC teaching.
Considering that a decade ago there were almost no PDCs offered in New York to at least a half-dozen now, the permaculture movement has expanded it reach, but not very far…
Regardless, we still are not satisfied. Our students may be happy, but there are many more who could be if we could deliver the course in way that works for them and ourselves. That said, this year or next we may offer alternatives because the permaculture design method has a lot to offer us old fogies and the the following generations.
Board Member & Founder
Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute