I’m looking for ideas to develop 30 acres in the Arkansas delta, transitioning from years of row crops to a functional permaculture system. This would be a non-profit endeavor, aimed at providing a few local jobs, engaging the public, and producing some offsetting cash flow streams from what the land produces. Time isn’t of the essence, so I’m looking for something like a 5 year plan, which would allow some of the quicker growing trees to be in play. Having bees is a priority, and I’d like to stack systems to provide forage for the bees as well as other harvestable output. I‘ve heard that black locust honey is fine tasting, and an idea for a stacked revenue stream would be to manage a coppiced black locust lot for a woodworker (employee) to make things like fence posts or broomsticks, since the wood never rots. Or fruit trees to make preserves. It would be wonderful to arrange the land such that there’s an abundance of flowers of all kinds at any given time, keeping bees on the property (and away from row crop pesticides) as much as possible.
I’d be thrilled for others to help throw ideas out to see what sticks. What would you do if this project fell in your lap?? Thank you for reading and your thoughts!
My suggestion is to start some raised beds. One can grow more produce more easily in a raised bed than a ground level bed.
I am a fungal fanatic so I suggest filling up with woodchips and inoculating with a desirable mushroom. The first year one can plant in fertile holes while the woodchips break down. After that the new bedding can be treated like any other bedding. This way, the garden bed can produce veggies at the same time it produces mushrooms—a sort of 2 for 1 deal.
And you don’t have to put in all the beds all at the same time. They can be added as time goes on.
Probably the cheapest and easiest bed edging is cinder blocks. You might even be able to get some cracked, unsalable blocks for free/cheap.
Anyhow, this is my personal suggestion. Do what you will with it.
Creating a 501(3)(c) or some other type of nonprofit entity. It could be argued that a “Permaculture” nonprofit would fall under “Advances religion, education, or science” as the putative qualifying reason for gaining tax exempt status. Other types are “Social welfare organizations: 501(c)(4) status” and “Other tax-exempt organizations: 501(a) status” (501(a) status includes farm coops). it is important to remember that as a 501(3)(c), “your organization cannot benefit private interests, use its income to benefit yourself or private shareholders, or violate public policy.”
The first step is to create a well vetted business plan that lays out the who, what, when, where and how of it all, and of course the why. Basically laid out on paper justifying your nonprofit entity. Will the charity own the land it uses or will it rent the land. How many employees will it have. What assets will the nonprofit hold initially? Will it exist as a Public charity or private foundation? Is the 30 acres currently receiving an ag exemption for property taxes?
If the 30 acres becomes an asset of the nonprofit and the nonprofit goes out of business there are rules that the land be sold to another charity, or fines can result.
I love my raised beds, mushrooms and such but James is absolutely correct regarding the financial side of things. A non-profit is entirely possible, appropriate, legal, ethical etc. but it is positively critical to get the financial ducks in a row BEFORE starting any real actions (especially before you receive any funds). In fact, do you already own the 30 acres? How did you get it? This needs to be reported at the very beginning of operations.
If you jump through all the IRS hoops you should be in the clear. But you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of the IRS and end up owing taxes that you never collected in the first place.
I say all of this as a cautionary note, to be prepared, not to discouraged.
Some places need to be wild
The first person to drink cow's milk. That started off as a dare from this tiny ad: