OK, this is probably going to be rather unpopular with some, but I just have to say it…and it may be long. And keep in mind I generally don’t rant, but this issue has become so prevelant that I just can’t sit back and simply watch it anymore.
My issue is with “homesteading” classes. Not so much the classes…ok, maybe a little to do with the classes…but mostly to do with the cost of these classes. Now mind you, this doesn’t relate to classes that deal with specialized skills like spinning that you can only really learn by having a mentor teach you. This has to do with non-specialized homesteading skills that anyone can learn by simply picking up a book or watching a video online. And it also has to do with the exorbitant prices surrounding those classes.
I recently came across a class on how to make mozzarella. It cost $75 per person for an hour and a half of instruction. $75! I’d rather just get a book, watch a youtube video and go through trial and error. If I fail my first time, that’s ok. I learned something in the process and I still have something somewhat edible.
I’ve seen whole animal butchery classes that are $300 for three hours. Really? For couples that both want to take the class, that’s $600. Sure you get to keep the meat, but it is only worth a third of the class’ cost – retail. I can take a class for half the cost that also includes slaughtering, dressing and making use of the entire animal PLUS a dinner and overnight camping.
And don’t even get me started on canning classes. $100 for a class on canning? Save your money and buy a book on canning that uses the USDA’s guidelines for safety. I prefer the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
However, they charge these fees because people are willing to pay them. So that begs the question – why are they willing to pay such steep prices? I feel it’s because of our instant gratification society. No one wants to do something the first time and fail. They need to know how to master it right away. And time = money. Do you really learn anything that way though? That’s the thing with failure, it shouldn’t be feared, but embraced as a learning experience.
Like many people, I’m homesteading because the economy has really done a number on us and we needed to trim as much fat as possible from our budget. Sure there are skills I don’t know yet but would like to learn, but I won’t be paying a premium for a class on them. If I do need to take a class I’ll find one that’s reasonably priced that fits our budget. I really like the classes with sliding scales because it shows that the instructors are aware that not everyone has unlimited funds. I’ll try not to pay at the bottom of the scale, but sometimes it’s all we can afford and I appreciate the instructors for offering that option.
11 thoughts on “Classes = Cash Cow”
I don't know if it's instant gratification as much as people just think things are harder then they really are. Also, we seem to still be immune to prices for many things, even with the slumping economy. $100 for a canning class, hooray, I'll make that back in six months of not buying Smucker's!
For me, it's been auto maintenance. I always thought there was some voodoo to it. I probably, if it was available, would have paid for some expensive auto maintenance class, or just taken everything to a mechanic. It's just now I'm figuring out it's not that hard. Buy a book.
I have had an issue with this for quite a while also. I learned from Amish grandparents, and picked this all back up 25 yrs ago, when I quit the urban fast track and moved back to Nebraska from Denver from an unfulfilling job and urban stress. I fortunatly kept my grandmother's cookbooks and journals of canning, and the rest was trial and error, as internet was not even available then, and so it was knowing a few older women, and also asking the Mennonite women, who used to come into my mother's quilt and needlework shop to get fabric. I also had an extension office here and I could get info there with pamplets.
I think that everyone is starting to see "green" from the green movement, and trying to cash in on people's misery and fears. My grand-dad would tell me "plan for the worst, hope for the best" and my grandparents went through the 29
crash. And they made it, but it was darn tough, to say the least. I have lived a substainable lifestyle for many years, but it has taken years to reach it, it is not instantly achieved like these new kids coming up think that it will do, I assure all, it won't. And it will slap you in the face too. substainable living takes time, takes planning, and some wise purchases to help to get to the goal, it depends on the family and what the needs of the family are. I do not like this "instant homesteading in a can" and one size fits all bit, it is being made like a MLM scam almost.
I am sorry for the rant also, but I have seen this coming for a while also, and am not sure if it will help or hinder what some are trying to do to help others attain.
I completely agree with you. This has bothered me for sometime. It is "trendy" to homestead in the city/suburbs these days and people pay for trends.
I agree people want immediate gratification.
I also think it is indicative of the "expert" mindset in our country. People believe only an expert is capable of doing something properly so they don't even bother to try to educate themselves.
Don't even get me started on the people who hire someone to begin their homestead for them…
You've hit one of my pet peeves! With me, I get people coming up to the house and asking if I teach classes about gardening. Look, I turned my front lawn into an apple orchard and also grew squash. I do know a lot about growing my own food- I have 3/4 of an acre and we bought this house for that reason- but I learned most of it by trial and error. What is wrong with people, that they can't grab a shovel, a packet of seeds and put some work into teaching themselves? Mistakes are a wonderful part of learning anything new. Good for you for saying this!
Love the post today. When I talk simple gardening, seed saving, canning, and composting techniques its because I've spent my time with my head in a book, or engaging and listening to an older person that grew up farming, or searching and reading the net. I think most people do not want to invest the time to learn something new on their own. And if success doesn't come easily most give up and use it as an excuse to justify it. I've learned more from my failures than my successes. I try to learn something new every day, makes life so much more interesting. Sure have learned a lot from bloggers like you, Thanks for that Robin
I think it is part of a disturbing trend that hopefully will not commence with standardized organic-farming training. The last thing we need on this other (other than many GMO's) is 6-sigma "green"belt organic farmers.
I'm just catching up, as I've been in Southern CA since last week. So glad you wrote this post though. It wasn't all that long ago we would learn 'homesteading' skills from our parents, or grandparents, and I honestly prefer the mentoring approach. Last year I was visiting a 'farm' website, offering chicken keeping classes for $125. I almost spit my coffee into my computer monitor. You've got to get a lot of eggs from your hens to cost-justify taking that class. Then I saw other classes on offer, and couldn't help but roll my eyes at the screen in disgust. Since then, like you, I've seen those butchering class fees, and others, and I've had the same thoughts. Why? Why so much? Well, it's obvious, because they CAN charge so much, as you pointed out, become some people are willing to pay. Well, more fool them. Personally though, from what I can tell, most of these classes are taught by people with little more knowledge about these subjects than you and I. I refuse to take them, for one, because I'm not made of money. Besides, I think it's more fun to learn from others muddling along much like we are, who are willing to share their knowledge with others, and aren't just in it for a quick buck. I'd rather read other's blogs, ask a friend with more experience, join a community interest group, or pick up a book, or heck, just try it ourselves and see what happens.
Clare, you bring up a good point about the knowledge of the instructors. One thing I didn't mention in the post was that the $100 canning class included a segment on preserving in oil. Even I know that is a HUGE no-no which can lead to botulism.
Exactly…where I am the fancy neighborhood school districts and community college offer "night school" classes such as the ones you mention. I cannot beleive people would pay for some of the offerings, but I guess they do considering they keep having them. I am fortunate to have people I call or visit with and an excellent library system to borrow books to learn about these issues. Somehow great-grandma did this with out classes, books, or high tech equipment. I am all for safety, but with books and experienced people, I feel safe.
Glad you posted this. I am not opposed to classes and have even considered teaching a couple myself, but for a REASONABLE fee. I paid $40 for a chicken raising class, which I took because I wanted to handle a chicken before I actually purchased one. The class was fine, but I didn't learn anything more than what I learned through reading books and the internet. However, I did get to handle a chicken which made me feel 100% positive that I could raise one. I'd place the value of the class at $20-$30.
I have had a lot of friends want to learn canning from me because they just want someone to run through it with them and give them the confidence that they aren't going to poison their families. i love doing this stuff with folks, but it can be very time consuming if you do it for everyone who asks. a little bit of compensation would be great, but $100 for a canning class is so ridiculous I don't even have words for it.
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