As a proselytizer for gardening, I’m always on the look-out for people who teach it well, and new ways they’re reaching potential students – especially ways that help pay their mortgage. (Because as we all know, paying gigs for garden communicators are drying up, as newspapers close, etc.)
So when I noticed that Joe Lamp’l was adding paid online courses to his many educational offerings, I decided to check into it. After all, he’s been teaching millions of people for over 15 years through television, including his PBS show “Growing a Greener World” now in its 10th season. Of more recent vintage is his Podcast, one of my favorites, and with still too much apparent downtime, he’s added full-blown courses to the mix.
First up at his The Organic Academy” is a course in Beginning Gardener Fundamentals, with 10 modules of 15 to 35 minutes each covering the food-growing basics (soil, planting, raised beds, fertilizers, etc) in Joe’s usual expert yet approachable way.
The tuition is $147, and for that you also get these: how-to videos, e-books, and a Facebook Group just for students in the course, where they interact with each other and where Joe does two 1-hour FacebookLive events every week. Students have lifetime access to course info and the online mentoring community, plus updates.
With a password from Joe I logged onto the course and noticed right away the discussions below each module, with long answers by Joe and lots of back and forth. Which makes me wonder how much time the guy is devoting to this, and what kind of enrollment does it take to make the time pay off? More will be revealed.
These days there’s still a presumption that content online should be free, so what do I think about courses that aren’t? The $147 seems reasonable or actually a bargain. I’ve paid $100-$175 for one-day educational gardening events that, after all, can only teach so much in that amount of time.
I see Joe’s course as a natural addition to the growing “freemium” culture online, in which some valuable content is free and even more is available if you “go premium.” And I’m happy to see good teachers get paid for what they do.
It may surprise readers to know that despite my mission to find and promote the best free how-to-garden videos on YouTube, I’m also pleased to see video instructors like Karen Chapman and Rachel Mathews charging for outstanding instruction – because gardening channels on YouTube may never pay well enough. Which, considering the astonishing incomes some lifestyle “personalities” are earning on YouTube these days, is just sad.
So what’s free from Joe? Growing a Greener World Online and on PBS when aired; his terrific weekly Podcast (I particularly loved the episode “Catching up with Paul James”); a new video every week at JoeGardenerTV on YouTube; and the Joe Gardener Facebook group, now with over 21,000 members.
I called Joe to find out more about his newest venture, and learned that despite his years on TV, his “real love” is digital content, where he has so much more control. Pursuing this new income stream seems smart to me because you never know when those nice PBS sponsors will decide to go elsewhere in today’s fast-changing media landscape.
Another income stream for Joe is working with “brand partners” like Corona, with whom he’s creating 30 short videos this year for YouTube. I urged him to do as many as possible on pruning because YouTube’s how-to-prune videos are still grossly inadequate, considering the need.
So how’s the course going? Joe said he’s been surprised by the nonbeginners who are enrolled – horticulturists and very experienced gardeners, including Harvey Cotton, director of the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Surely beginners have the most to learn from the course, and they’re using terms like “transformative” and “empowered” in their feedback.
More courses are in the works covering the challenges of organic food-gardening in greater detail.