Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Is the "Permaculture Design" movement just another "New Age" scam ?

I am probably going to make a few enemies with this opinion, but I must be honest; we need to promote more self sufficient living. Why not plant a garden, raise a few chickens and preserve what we grow?

Then again, I don’t feel comfortable supporting the “Permaculture Movement” or the educational organization known as "The Permaculture Institute". I see no real value in their expensive classes – that reach a very small audience at a very high price – or the “Permaculture Design Certificate” with very little value in return for the price. It seems to me that there should be a more equitable way to provide instruction without a profit motive. I may be wrong, and many associated with this movement may truly have good intentions, but I get a feeling that some “Instructors” sound more interested in teaching the “Permaculture Design Course” as a way to make money instead of really helping people that could use some good advice. Like many similar movements, they charge for classes to learn there ideology and for a higher fee you can become an "instructor" to teach classes for profit.  To be honest – I kinda feel like the whole “Permaculture Movement” smells like a scam. Some very well-meaning people have simply bought into the idealism as many did with “Transcendental Meditation”, “Feng Sui”, “EST”, and other “New Age” movements.  There will always be a few people that can afford to pay for the expensive classes, but many who could really use some instruction and encouragement, like low income working families, cannot afford the high price.  In this struggling economy we need to reach a large audience and show that anybody can grow some of their own food and not just a few of the 1% that can afford the expensive programs.  Teaching 1000 people, instead of 10 or 20, how to set up an indoor salad garden to grow lettuce, kale, chard, and grape tomatoes during the long Alaska winters with donations or a sponsor makes much more sense to me.


There are many good examples of "self sufficient living" information online for free - and I don't personally see very much in the “Permaculture Movement” that is new or unique. I have followed Robert Rodale, Elliot Coleman, Ruth Stout, Scott and Helen Nearing, Will Allen and others for years. They have been teaching the same principals for decades through Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News magazines, GrowingPower.org urban agriculture, many very affordable books, and now with free online videos... https://youtu.be/Pyd3sYmCPUM

I try to practice what I preach and provide complete plans for the Alaska Grow Buckets system online for free. It was not my original idea, but I made some changes and improvements. I put a lot of work into designing my very simple instruction booklet and even made a free video. I pay to host my Alaska Grow Buckets website and I reach 1,000-2,000 new visitors each week. I share my improvements and failures all for free. Anybody can get the complete instructions and make this simple growing system. I did it myself from parts I picked up locally or online for free or at very little cost. Some people prefer to buy my kits and I try to keep the price as low as possible. I would like to set up a donation system so that for every 10 kits sold I could donate a free kit to a local community garden organization. It will not feed your family after a disaster – but it is a simple step in the right direction. People in cities, like Anchorage and Fairbanks, still want Avocados in January, and much of what we eat cannot be produced here.  It is still cheaper to grow tomatoes in Mexico and ship them to Alaska all winter than it would cost to grow enough here to fill the supermarkets. I can grow enough fresh tomatoes in my living room for myself all winter and so can anybody else… sharing that knowledge should not be limited to a few that can afford to pay for an expensive class.


  1. Juli Beswick-ValentineJanuary 24, 2017 at 10:54 AM

    I so agree with you and I have taken the Permaculture certification. Thankfully it did not cost a huge amount where I live and it does have some merits some of it is so idealistic it is impractical. So I have gone back to the old ways

  2. Jim, I appreciate your opinions about the somewhat institutionalized art of permaculture. I am/was planning on taking a course one of these days to prepare for when I will begin my own perma project in Tennessee in about 2 years. The course is in fact expensive and I intuit that a lot of it won't apply to me, but I feel the need for some guidance because I am completely ignorant on the topic!
    Again, thank you. Will keep your thoughts in my thoughts ;)