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anyone here make money from permaculture?  RSS feed

 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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good questions! we attended LOTS of farm conferences in the years before we actually planted anything, we were also using this time to research our varieties to plant. 3 years worth of research before the first bush was bought. I tell you, that drove me up the wall, I'm the type to run and do something, my better half is more to thank/blame for all that research haha.

Some of the conferences were put on by a group called A.S.A.P. they're a great group and work with most of the eastern u.s. . During these conferences, we met wholesalers and spoke with them, several of them sounded interested and even hazarded a rough price they were willing to pay.

I hope I didn't mis-speak, we don't sell anything at the "city" farmers markets, 2 hours travel isn't too much but if we were to focus on farmers market items I feel it would take too much of my already dwindling time for something that isn't going to provide the type of income we want. I could obviously charge more doing retail, but the risk involved isn't worth it to be our goal market. The next few years, we will be all retail and all at our local "country" farmers market, which really isn't too bad, but the city we can get much higher prices. If/when we get quantities to make it worth the extra driving/fuel going to a city market will be a possibility. Right now we are roughly 2 hours from Asheville, N.C. ; Knoxville, T.N. ; Chattanooga, T.N. ; and Atlanta Ga. so we're pretty lucky to get our pick of any of those larger markets all within a fairly reasonable drive.

Our choice of blueberries as the main focus was due to ease of organically growing, ease of maintenance, profitability, longevity, and we just like them

We will be running a U-pick operation, but with a production capability of 20 tons possible in a year, u-pick just isn't going to take them all. We will also be experimenting with "value added" products in our cannery, if we can make a market for our jam/spreads then that is what we will do, but for now just having the flexibility sets my mind at ease. My biggest concern with our operation is if our wholesalers prove untrustworthy, I wanted the capability to turn our whole crop shelf stable all on our own. The most important thing to us was flexibility and being able to chase different markets if they present themselves or if we can create them. We have lots of other things going on here, really too many to get into here, but we judged them all from a couple of major key factors. If they weren't in high demand, were they rare enough for the market to find us? How much profit can we get from them? How hard is it to grow organically? those were the main criteria on top of the normal climate zones and such. Part of it was just walking around grocery stores, even when we were out of town. Noting what is bringing more and when, did the price drop during certain seasons?

Again, the research time was absolutely maddening haha, but I think we've done well so far, of course the proof is in the pudding... I hope we earn a profit, but if not I have had a blast living a life where 'going to work' consists of riding my 4 wheeler with a rifle
 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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I forgot to mention, we also called around and spoke with the buyers for the larger grocery stores in our greater area as well. They were all open to buying from us if we could fulfill their demand and of course had product liability insurance. We would prefer to do it this way and deal straight with the retailers, we could squeeze a little more profit out of our product that way but at this point we're leaning towards the ease of having a truck roll up to our cold storage get loaded and leave us a check.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Lots of ideas here.

> ...U-Pick...

Some folks related stories about u-picks being hard to manage profitably because of very high "spoilage" due to casual negligence of customers in the fields.

> talking to groceries

I suspect those were not the big chains? It's great to hear stores are willing to consider a businesslike arrangement. Was that by any chance because your family has a local history - ie. your name is known? Can you elaborate on the kind of agreement they would consider?

FWIW viz "value added", I've been fairly disappointed in the taste of most of the jellies/jams/preserves I've tried in the last year or so. Most definitely the chain stores are blah but also the specialty stores like Whole Foods seemed to have a rather small selection; while I didn't try _everything_, of the flavors I tried this summer nothing made much impression. Don't know if I'm a good sample but I'd sure be willing to pay a little more for something that actually had some interesting taste. But that might be a whole 'nother business in itself...

Rufus
 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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Rufus, we'd love it if we could branch out entirely into value added products, but right now, selling our produce wholesale is the easiest option (well, when we actually do have some to sell). We are going to be testing the waters for all sorts of things, juice concentrates, dried fruits, frozen fruits (although this one isn't my favorite idea, too much energy expenses), and whatever else we can come up with in the certified kitchen... Luckily N.C. has some VERY good laws to help farmers do this sort of thing.

Actually the chains we were talking to are the bigger chains. One in particular, Ingles, has a policy to buy locally sourced produce if available (and meets the criteria).

As far as us being "well respected"... No, I am a 34 year old "long hair", I meet with LOTS AND LOTS of prejudice in the farming gig. I just try to come across as professional as I can, and have learned to be a chameleon of sorts. When I'm dealing with a country person (I consider myself an educated hillbilly) I'll throw out some "aint's" and other bits of applachian speak, when I'm dealing with a professional that takes themselves too seriously I will speak with proper grammar and throw in some big words every so often. I've found when dealing with folks you need to mirror their mannerisms to an extent so they feel some sort of connection with you, doesn't work every time, but well enough that so far we have gotten along quite well. It's all in presentation and their opinion of you as a person, I've gotten pretty good at that. It also helps to be able to answer any question they may have quickly and directly, everyone knows when you're b.s.'ing , an "i don't know" is better than being caught trying to b.s. your way out of a question. The other thing that seems to help alot, is the type of vehicle I drive... When I'm going to talk any type of farm business with someone, I always drive the big diesel farm truck. It helps that it is also nice and I try to wash it before I go meet with someone "important", pulling up in a big diesel "farmer truck" helps to put alot of folks at ease that I know what I'm doing... sounds silly, it is silly, but it helps. If I pull up in a volvo, looking like I do with long hair and a goatee, I get instantly dismissed as a hippy, when I pull up in the big fancy truck, it helps to dispel a bit of that prejudice before I even open my mouth.

The other big thing that say grocery stores and wholesalers will want to know is scale... Our operation has the capability to produce from zero to twenty tons of blueberries in a year, that upper figure sounds quite optimistic in my mind, but it's possible. They want to know that I can produce what they need and have enough to fill their orders. I don't mind experimenting with things on a small scale, but for things we know how to handle and stuff we want to earn a profit on, provided there is a market, we go big. It is quite hard coming up with the capital to finance a big operation, we are far from wealthy and I would bet we are quite close to "poverty level" of income, but we make it happen by doing without other things. The only expensive vehicle we own is the big farm truck, I got a good deal on it and had to fix the transmission myself, but it opens doors for us that would otherwise be closed just due to our age/appearance.

In regards to your specific question about grocery stores, you have to package the items, provide labels and handle the logistics yourself. They want you to have product liability insurance, but so do our wholesalers, I think 1 million dollars worth was their request. It wasn't too expensive, I can't remember the numbers, but it's affordable enough since you have to have it. The tricky part is knowing how much you're going to have before you actually have it. That is something that we have to learn from experience and have not learned it yet. This summer, looking in the field, I thought we would have 2-3 thousand dollars worth of blueberries, when we actually harvested, we had far less. So being able to predict your harvest amounts based on how your field looks before harvest is critical when dealing with larger retailers/wholesalers... They understand what farmers go through, but you have to be able to have at least a vague idea of some numbers when you sit down with them to strike a deal for that season/month/week. If I had wanted to sell our first harvest this year, I would have made a HUGE mistake. I would have told the buyers that we had several hundred pounds of blueberries to harvest, then I would have actually had maybe 50 pounds. That drove home to me how I really needed to learn to estimate my production in order to be a good businessman. What we have found so far, is that they buyers set the prices. You either agree to them or you don't. Some will make a contract with you, some will not. The prices are dictated by the "market price" and they will be somewhere around that. This is where being certified organic pays off. Non-organic blueberries were going for $1.80 per pound, our buyers here said they could reliably pay us from $3.80-$4.00 per pound. That's a huge jump. Anyhow, we're looking towards doing wholesale right now, prices will be a bit less than direct to retailer since there is a middle man that has to make a profit as well, but we give the wholesaler big flats of berries and they worry about packaging. For now, that makes the most sense to us. Things may change later when our processing facility is fully operational, but until it is 100% complete and certified by the state our only options are selling to wholesalers or direct marketing through farmers markets or tailgating.

For folks who aren't able to do something really large scale due to land restriction, there are still markets. Asian is a great one, asians (my g.f. is Filipina) care more about their food than most other cultures, if you can tap into an asian market and sell things that they have a hard time getting, you will have a market. Restaurants are another great outlet, however you really have to have your stuff together for a restaurant to take you seriously, they want to know that if they need an order filled, it will be there, no excuses.

Regarding the U-pick thing, I share the same concerns and we will see how that goes. We have a market for all of our berries, so I'm certainly not relying on U-pick, but if it will work without too much damage to the plants, then we can sell for the same wholesale prices without having to pick them ourselves... Plus, that coupled with the workshops we will be hosting will actually get the public to our farm, where hopefully we can then sell them some of our value added products. I'm curious as to how this is going to work out, but it's an experiment we're going to try in the next couple of years.

Our jams/jellies and other value added products, we hope are going to hit a niche market. We've been experimenting with low sugar recipes as well as infused syrups from our sorghum production. With the increase of diabetes in our country, we think a low sugar line will find that market... Again, like everything else, we're not counting on the one thing, but if it does... well, then, awesome!

We have alot going on here, and it's all coming together, but having such a low capital we have had to really cut down on our expectation of when everything will get in place. Most of our stuff we are doing is more of a long-term but higher payout type of farming. The long waiting time for our berries/cherries to get into serious production is a blessing and a curse. It is giving us enough time to get our infrastructure in place at the pace that we can afford it, BUT, as stated in previous posts, it is absolutely maddening.

I don't want to put out the impression that we're a well financed operation by any means, we're no better off than most anyone here and possibly worse off than alot of you. We have had a bit of luck, and lots of planning. We wait to do things until the timing is right and we can afford it, even if it's bits and pieces at a time. I've been collecting used/reclaimed/salvaged building materials for a few years now to build our cannery and we're starting the building now. I hope we can have it at least partially operational by next harvest, but if it isn't, oh well... Anyone can do what we're doing, just find the right market and then find a backup to your backup. Furthermore, to show folks how low on funds we are (and possibly give others some hope) I have 3 tractor jobs to do this week with one of our old used farm tractors, I can't do them until I can afford some more hydraulic fluid since it leaked out haha. We're making due though and things are coming together in their own time.

sorry for being so long winded, but there really aren't easy quick answers to things and I always seem to forget about important points
 
M Foti
Posts: 171
Location: western n.c.
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to add... learn some marketing terms, catch phrases and learn how to push them without being pushy. Restaurants can have specials that sound much fancier than they are by serving "locally grown organic X" the same with grocery chains. Let them know that by advertising the catch points of what you are selling their profit margins will be higher. A.S.A.P. is a GREAT organization, their website is here http://www.buyappalachian.org/ and while they may not work with your specific area, they have TONS of marketing advice. A truly great resource. Part of what they do is to educate the public into the benefits of buying local and buying organic (mostly focused on local though). It does no good to convince the middle man if there isn't a consumer market that wants locally sourced items. Get out in the community as often as possible, get people locally to see your farm name as often as possible so they remember it even in an unconscious level, and help to further the cause of "buying local"... Heck, even a good bumper sticker will help as long as it isn't lost in a bunch of others on the back of your volvo


I'm saving up for a vehicle wrap for my big farm truck, the minor advertising point will be our farm, the big advertising point will be "buy local"... Luckily my gal is a graphic designer that worked in advertising for a few years before we started the farm
 
Adam Klaus
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M Foti- Thanks for sharing all your experience on the money making front. It's clear from what you write that you are in the game, and know how to play. Much appreciated.

I am in a pretty similar situation, I think. My hair is probably a bit shorter, but being the same age, I know the difficulty of proper presentation. I am getting better, with more confidence the big key.

I started our farm 8 years ago, it has been a constantly evolving journey over those years. The one suprising development for me, has been my embrace of driving to higher value farmer's markets. I was really set on our wholesale and restaurant customers for the past four plus years. I liked the ease, the paychecks, the volume. But in time, it soured a bit for me. I have found the wholesale angle to be limited by the bottom line motivation of groceries and restaurants. They exist to make money, and will ultimately squeeze me to make more for themselves. They will place 'race to the bottom' with other growers to get the lowest possible price. Things start out good, but it has gotten frustrating over time.

So this year, I took a chance, skeptically, and started participating in a high-dollar farmers' market. I drive about an hour and a half, to a resort town here in Colorado. The customers come for the good food, and pay a nice premium for everything. Yes, I take a risk in moving my volume. And really, I hardly ever sell out completely. But at the end of the day, I am making much better money. The customers arent trying to squeeze me for every penny so that they can make more profit for themselves. They pay well, and just as importantly, really appreciate what I do and the products I offer. I feel much better as a farmer delivering food directly to the end use consumer. I never imagined that it would be such a positive experience, both for me and my farm, but it has really exceeded my best hopes. The farm market also has much better legal restrictions than wholesaling, so there are many products that I can sell direct to customers, that I can not market through a grocery. My customers know and trust me directly, and do not expect me to have any official certifications, so I save big money and hassle not being organic certified, not having massive insurance premiums, etc. It is a much simpler relationship, that I much prefer. I am building direct relationships with many, many customers, rather than being dependent on a few wholesale channels. It feels much more stable and secure, rewarding and profitable. So I guess I would say, driving to Atlanta sounds like a pretty good opportunity to me!

In all, good luck with your farm. The poverty line is not such a bleak place, when you live on a farm and eat like a king. Thanks for being here and sharing your story.
Adam
 
M Foti
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thanks for the heads up adam! I can definitely see where you're coming from, and can see how that could become not only a problem, but a real psychological deterrent as well. I do "burn out" easily, so that is something for me/us to really remember.

For the first few years, we will be doing direct to consumer. Who knows, our business may stay that way or it may branch off into something drastically different from what we're imagining/planning for. We are planning on going wholesale, but we are also trying to stay as fluid as possible and letting new ideas take hold. We have short access to several high dollar farmers markets that as you point out, are not a terrible drive for us to make. The blessing/curse of the fruit farm taking a while to hit full production is that we will be able to test several different markets before we get the big harvests coming in...

Thank you for your experienced insight, I will certainly take the advice to heart!



 
Rufus Laggren
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That's good to hear about larger chains getting on the "buy local" bandwagon. And A.S.A.P. sounds like a good resource.

I hadn't really considered the legal hurdles to selling, but on consideration that's pretty obvious given the the quality and safety Americans like to think they get from their food - can't have that w/out some kind of rules and procedures. But aside the product insurance, what kind of cash expense do the regulations cost you? Is it more of a matter of knowing best way to touch the bases and get through the hoops or are there really significant government dollar costs, initial or ongoing, to bring a large harvest t market? Rereading that maybe we best limit the Q to fresh field or orchard crops.

Sounds like you got a lot in play. Maybe there's a way to involve others under your direction, people who are more interested in the production and less in the business research and PR. There are different ways to "buy in" or invest. While you may not be able to pay wages and salaries, it sounds like you already have a lot of top level management and planning taken care of. That might provide the umbrella for a person(s) who can pretty much feed and house themselves from other sources while they build out one of your ideas (under your name probably) on the basis of a large cut of the future net profits. Might even bring in some cash investment to get equipment and such. The hassle and risk might be worth it for the faster game plan - if you could arrange that the sub-enterprise was separate enough that it didn't load your daily schedule, impose large risks and could fail w/out causing too much grief. Just a thought based on the number of ideas you have mentioned so far.

Rufus
 
M Foti
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Adam may be in a better position to answer that question than us, from what we can see, the wholesalers only require us to provide insurance. One of them even has a truck that comes right through our town, so we don't even have to worry about logistics. Grocers have us package our goods and label them, so there is that expense to consider as well as getting a bar code although from what I remember that is a minimal expense to have your own barcode set.

North Carolina does have an agricultural product safety office now, it was just instituted a couple years ago and they are still learning. Mostly it has come about due to the lettuce issues from Taco Bell and a few other high profile cases. Part of what they enforce is ridiculously simple and mindless, the rest is just ridiculous haha. I can remember one food safety conference I attended they were scolding an apple farmer for transporting his apples from the field to his on site processing center in an uncovered wagon, because a bird could poop on them. His response was, "what about when they're in a tree, can't a bird poop on them there?"... That didn't go over very well. So, yeah, they are instituting some new things now and I do believe you may have to be "certified safe" from them, but from what I remember it is pretty b.s. and doesn't really cost much money. They are going to find something wrong, you'll have to fix it, it won't make any sense.

We have some friends who are helping us do a few things like what you say, they're helping us with the workshops and other functions I mentioned before. We have been very hesitant as to who we bring on board and how deeply we get involved. We may be a little more open to that once we actually start earning something worth mentioning. Most of our friends aren't as "driven" as we are, so that is part of why we are hesitant to bring anyone on board. We do host wwoofers and have left the option open for us and them if someone comes who is the right fit to stay and do a profit sharing type of situation for one of our operations if they can manage to run it. We haven't met that person yet, the ones that we would have considered something like that with already had big plans in motion of their own

Thanks for the ideas though, it is something we may be open to in the future, but right now we don't have much to offer except reasonable expectations of a profit.
 
Shannon Wise
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I think there are a lot of different ways to make income with permaculture systems and selling food is not the only way and id say usually not the most efficient way.
I used permaculture principles in forming my business which has nothing to do with growing food but its income has enabled me to build a tiny house for my family and start implementing permaculture on the property we are living on, I see the business as a part of the system and have designed it to require as little input as possible and every year requiring less time to run while increasing or sustaining size.
the surplus income from the business is invested back into it or into permaculture or other businesses, once you start this process it gains momentum and what you end up with is a diverse system that is gaining in yields and stability all the time.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Adam Klaus wrote:

The poverty line is not such a bleak place, when you live on a farm and eat like a king.
Adam


That line means very little to those who live in their own house and grow their own food and fuel. When I was a kid in the seventies, we had a neighbor named Gary(single dad) who was an organic farmer. His tangle of unusual vegetables and 8 foot comfrey hedges grown with the help of a donkey, were in sharp contrast with the rows of corn and soybeans grown elsewhere with giant 4WD tractors. Gary told us that while many had lost their farms to the bank, due to crazy machinery loans, he was able to save over half of his income while he and the 3 kids lived below the official poverty line. They did this in a nice house built from trees harvested from his swamp. He bought one of those foreclosed farms.
 
M Foti
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Very true Dale, my original reference to that was just to emphasize that we are able to put together a large and hopefully profitable permaculture/organic wholesale operation without being "wealthy" to perhaps give some encouragement to other folks in a similar situation... We have invested alot of money, but it has been over time. I have moved away from buying ANYTHING on credit, but would not be opposed to it if I could truly justify the expense/risk. A new tractor is not it. I would go into debt for another small piece of land if it were close enough to be realistically part of our farm, but barring that I can't think of anything we would deal with a bank for. Through a very odd set of circumstances, I did have to get a mortgage on the piece of land that has been bought and paid for since before the civil war, but it is a relatively small loan and if the bank were to "call in their marker" while it would be painful, we could sell enough things and raid the savings in order to save the farm. That's something I do not care to get into on a public forum, but suffice to say that it was a blessing and a curse at the same time and the 400 dollars a month we have to give the bank is not too much of a burden, although I could do alot with that $4,800 per year.

 
Adam Klaus
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M Foti wrote:We have been very hesitant as to who we bring on board and how deeply we get involved. We may be a little more open to that once we actually start earning something worth mentioning. Most of our friends aren't as "driven" as we are, so that is part of why we are hesitant to bring anyone on board.


I really think that there is a reason that 'family farms' are the bedrock of stability and success for small farms in our country. The postmodern, 'community farm', is a total economic disaster from what I have seen, mainly in California where a lot of earthy type people tried these types of arrangements over the past few decades. I would encourage you to be super duper careful about bringing others into your economic livlihood.

When people give you money for infrastructure, they become investors, who will always expect some power for their investment. IME, you really do not want to be burdened by these people and their capital.

When people contribute their working hours to your projects, they expect to be compensated monetarily. They do not necessarily appreciate the years of work and investment on your part that have maid their small contribution possible. It is very difficult to find an arrangement where the worker feels paid properly, and you feel rewarded justly for your previous efforts. It is a messy balance, and one I would not want to try and find with a ten foot pole.

Being "driven" is the best thing ever. It means that you have a dream, and a drive, and will make it happen by any means necessary. You are right that nobody else will have this for your farm. That's okay, you will make it if you stay focused, push with all your might, and learn from your mistakes. I try to run my farm like a cow in the pasture. Slow and deliberate, not prone to haste or waste, with spiritual intuition rather than mechanistic analysis. I wish you all the success of a small farmer, the greatest livlihood in the world.
 
M Foti
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thanks adam, we too have gotten into the same pace it sounds like. When we started I was far too optimistic about what can happen and when, now I try to set more realistic goals. No one could have told me to do this, I would have scoffed at them haha. Just something that comes with realistically doing something that is a long term investement like a farm.

I have had experience, personal and through friends, with intentional community farms. I haven't seen them work myself. I know they can, but it seems to really take some stars to align for that to happen. We are lucky to have friends who sincerely enjoy helping us realize our dreams and when we can we hire friends for money. Sometimes it gets tricky, but I don't like not trusting strangers with our perennials like the blueberries.

My best advice for someone in our situation is to set down and write out a clear game plan, not necessarily a business plan (although that should be done) but a plan for what projects you want to accomplish. Write them all down. Then figure out which ones are most important, try to get an estimate of how much money it will take to put it together, and concentrate on no more than a couple at a time. I tried to do everything at once and got very overwhelmed to the point of I couldn't figure out what to do and didn't get ANYTHING done haha...

BTW, just to share, today I was able to earn a few hundred bucks doing some odds and ends for neighbors with the tractor, none of the jobs took very long and I was able to give them a ridiculously good deal on the work since I didn't have to drive the tractor far and worry about loading/unloading all the equipment on a trailer. I feel it is very important when you are just starting out to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along, even if it's only 50 or 60 bucks... Every cent is counting right now!
 
Calvin Mars
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Hello,

Diego has a valid question. There's nothing wrong with being motivated by profit. I certainly am. Being only motivated by profit is questionable, but is that really the point of the original question?

Due to the amount of discussion generated, it's clear that this question is on a lot of folks minds whether they be of the money is bad camp or the money is good camp. I did find a few examples of folks that have the appearance of being profitable in these responses, but I certainly did have to dig for them.

I will give you an example of a yes answer to this question.

One of my friends is profitable using permaculture techniques. He doesn't realize it's permaculture, may not have heard the term, and didn't sign up for the religion. He is, however, engaged in a completely natural farming system that synergizes on the connecting of different systems together. He doesn't use chemicals, he doesn't till, and he co-exists and harvests from the natural forest system around him. A lot of his income is derived from foraging choice edibles that local restaurants pay big money for. He spends a lot of his time nudging the forest to provide for him, what he is looking for. He also generates income from free range chickens, that feed themselves, by selling to a wholesaler.

Every year he makes more money than the last. I didn't ask him how much, because that would be rude. My observations are that things are going well, though. Anyone who pays folks to lug around giant rocks to certain areas because he thinks they're cool has to have a bit of financial slack. Did I mention that he's happy and isn't stressed out at all? I know for a fact that he is profitable.

Myself, I see this as a freedom, fun, and survival thing. I make a very good living selling technology to large customers, but I have absolutely zero faith in our financial system. I'd rather buy a fruit tree than put the money in a 401K. I do both, because it makes good financial sense to hedge bets by playing different games. I don't feel bad about trying to make as much as I can as fast as I can make it. It doesn't consume my life, I rather enjoy it.

Large concentrations of wealth have the power to move mountains. Sure, we can make giant swales on huge properties with shovels, but that takes a lot of time. Building eco-systems is all about time. If you can compress the effort in the beginning, systems can get off the ground a lot faster. Can you rent an earth mover without money? Stop being so judgmental about money and the desire to be profitable. It's OK. It's what we do with the money that matters. If you can't stand the money that you have because it's so terrible, get rid of it by signing some paychecks for folks that need it.

If you have lofty goals of feeding good food to good people while saving the environment, I would encourage you to make as much money as you possibly can and put it all back into your intentions. Money is a resource, just like water, sunlight, and organic material. Don't get worked up about it. it's just a spell on a piece of paper. If you understand what it is, and it's place in the world around you, it has no power over you and will do your bidding.

Don't get me wrong. I highly respect folks that reject money. One of my friends lives in the woods, making his living by foraging what he needs. He doesn't need money. I aspire to have that type of freedom.

We're all entitled to our own views as to what motivates us and how we make our way in this world. I would love to see this thread continue with some answers to the original question. I would like to find more examples of successful permaculture based businesses, so I can learn from them. The video about the dude that converted a traditional orchard into a permaculture system, was rather inspiring, for instance. The other video with the seed company fella with the amazing water works, was fascinating.

It's OK to think money is bad. It's OK to this that money is good. Let's not get lost in trivial things and get excited about awesomeness instead of being offended that certain folks might not completely share our world view. There's so much grooviness to agree on.

Big hugs.
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 216
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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great question.

wanted to chime in and say that I think their are many small farmers who have cut down their expenses and sell to farmers markets who are using permaculture.

met a guy when I was involved in the Transition Towns movement in AZ name Charles Calbom. He bought a maladapted 1/2 lot, retrofitted the house and began urban farming. was making decent income within the first growing season from hot peppers. and took off from there.

He'd lost his job as a brick layer, and had to find a new way to live. So this guy had literally no other income that from his farm. When I was there he was working with local down and out immigrants on the land with him in payment he gave them food, support and good company. here's a site with some info on him:
http://phoenixpermaculture.ning.com/profile/CharlesCalbom

Now I am up the PNW, and know of a couple of people who are using permaculture on a small farms (10-20 acres) in Hood river converting orchards into more diverse polycultures. Doing you-pick produce for berries and fruits, selling other fruits to bulk suppliers or breweries. These folks are also certified organic...

I know another fellow, Tim Jeffreys who runs a cattle ranch in central Oregon (incredibly cold and arid landscape.) and has done tremendous work with rotational grazing to build soil and sustainably run a rather large herd with hardly any energy. He produces most of his own food and has a well designed house and zone 1 area that is really productive. Sells his grass fed beef and earns a good living, but also hardly has any costs and so doesn't need (or want) huge amounts of money.
https://www.facebook.com/JefferiesRanchBeef

There are also many wineries in the Columbia river who are practising polyculture underneath their vines. Some are re-establishing native grasslands and running animals underneath the vines. They are pretty well making their living from their land.
 
Jose Reymondez
Posts: 137
Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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Hey Andrew, any way of finding out what they are planting underneath their vines? Spain is sore need of info like that.

Here plowing below/beside vines and applying store-bought Bourdeaux mix (so it has added pesticides I'm sure) is like a religious ceremony here, it drives me crazy, especially when I discuss alternatives and I am ignored, derided, treated as crazy by relatives and locals.

I don't even like wine.

I'd rather have Birch Sap, Mulberry or Strawberry Tree wine. Less pruning
 
David Miller
Posts: 286
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Jose, you need to check out Restoration Agriculture
 
Craig Pettersson
Posts: 5
Location: Gregory, Michigan
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Making money is great but it takes time to build a profitable and abundant system. This is going to be my first year for my farm and if I can install all the swales, ponds, and trees in the first season it would be a huge victory for me. In 10 to 15 years I am confident the money wont be a problem. I plan to make my annual crops fill in the early income gap. Part of the business plan is to sell micro greens and exotic or rare organic vegetables to local chefs. I also have bees and chickens that already provide me abundance. My over head is extremely low so it takes a lot of the money making stress out of it. Its hard to put a price on being home every day and having enough food to feed my family for a year. To me its priceless and true freedom, and for that I am beyond wealthy. My 2 cents, C & C Micro-Farm.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3920
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Craig, welcome to permies!
I hope you start a few more threads and show us more of what you are doing!
 
Andy Reed
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Is anyone here making money from permaculture? It's a good question, because permaculture sounds like a great way forward, but if I give up my day job can we still afford to go to the dentist, how are we going to make sure the kids have warm clothes in winter etc.?

As I see it the income streams come from training, courses and tours in a purely permaculture sense. Other income streams could easily not be called permaculture, they could be organic farming, orchards, livestock. Which are fairly standard business models.

The organic dairy farmer next door who practices rotational grazing etc. is making big bucks, but not from permaculture.

I used to wonder how to make money from permaculture, but I don't think it's the correct question. A better question would be how to make money while applying permaculture principals. Which is actually a lot easier. Permaculture theory is a set of principals, permaculture practical is a mish mash of ancient farming techniques which are reasonably sustainable. Permaculture definition varies depending on whom you are talking to.
If you want to orchard permaculture style, build swales, plant on contour, incorporate various other beneficial plants, stack layers to maximise production, easy. If you want to farm livestock, rotationally graze etc. If you are selling produce off your farm though, you are removing the nutrients and they will have to be replaced, unless you plan on mining your soil for minerals until not even dynamic accumulators can find any. So you are still going to have to replace those nutrients.

I'm not making money from permaculture, but I'm looking forward to when I can run my own profitable farm while applying permaculture principals.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
Posts: 135
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Andy Reed wrote:Is anyone here making money from permaculture? It's a good question, because permaculture sounds like a great way forward, but if I give up my day job can we still afford to go to the dentist, how are we going to make sure the kids have warm clothes in winter etc.?

As I see it the income streams come from training, courses and tours in a purely permaculture sense. Other income streams could easily not be called permaculture, they could be organic farming, orchards, livestock. Which are fairly standard business models.

The organic dairy farmer next door who practices rotational grazing etc. is making big bucks, but not from permaculture.

I used to wonder how to make money from permaculture, but I don't think it's the correct question. A better question would be how to make money while applying permaculture principals. Which is actually a lot easier. Permaculture theory is a set of principals, permaculture practical is a mish mash of ancient farming techniques which are reasonably sustainable. Permaculture definition varies depending on whom you are talking to.
If you want to orchard permaculture style, build swales, plant on contour, incorporate various other beneficial plants, stack layers to maximise production, easy. If you want to farm livestock, rotationally graze etc. If you are selling produce off your farm though, you are removing the nutrients and they will have to be replaced, unless you plan on mining your soil for minerals until not even dynamic accumulators can find any. So you are still going to have to replace those nutrients.

I'm not making money from permaculture, but I'm looking forward to when I can run my own profitable farm while applying permaculture principals.


Good points! Right along with my own thinking.

I tend to think of "Permaculture Farming" as more of a subsistence practice than a profit-based business. But even as a subsistence practice, it can be profitable, depending on how you calculate your "profits".

I said this in another thread, but the basic equation for profit is:

Profit = Income/Revenue - Expenditures/Overhead

If we draw that equation around just the agricultural operations, then "profit" would mean exporting produce from the farm in exchange for money (or I suppose other trade goods).

If we draw the equation instead around the household, then the farm is used to reduce the household overhead/expenditures by providing the household with food, lowering or eliminating grocery bills. Then, it doesn't matter what the income stream source is-- retirement income, a "day job", residual investment income, a structured settlement, alimony... then "profit" is increased. The other aspects of Permaculture further help to possibly reduce other bills for power, water, sewer/septic, etc...

So yes, I'd say Permaculture is profitable... one way or another.
 
Chris Hodge
Posts: 6
Location: Onalaska, Wa
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"8. What is even stranger is the fact that not one person who has responded has said, "Hey I do permaculture for a living and we are able to pay our bills, feed our kids, love life, and we are not sinking further and further into debt."


Hey Diego! My name is Lindsay Hodge (I'm signed in to my husbands forum so my name is probably showing Chris)

I want you to know that My husband and I have started our permaculture farm last year. We are not doing the homestead thing full bore yet because we still have too much debt to make it work, yet. I will say that since we made the switch to permaculture, our needs and wants have changed significantly and we have knocked out a huge portion of our debt. When you live a permaculture life you do it because it feels right, and you make sacrifices to become self sufficient. We will have no debt in 3 years (or less if we can manage it), and our expenses at that point will be food (for humans and animals), utilities (which will be minimal), clothing, healthcare, and the various insurances that our society says are mandatory We will need to make just less than $1000 a month in order to live well. But hey we only started last year! Give us a couple and I'll tell you that we do permaculture for a living and we feed our kids, love life and all that jazz!

In my opinion, limiting the income to only the farmy stuff is a little shortsighted. If it's permaculture than it should be a multi-faceted business. For my husband and I we have a list in a notebook that is two pages long that describes all possible streams of income. You are right that it's important to make ends meet. It all comes down to this: Spend less than you earn, and do your best to put some away for a rainy day. You just have to manage your farm right. And besides t's difficult to quantify the amount of money having a personal use farm makes because of the amount of money you don't end up spending on food. If you do it right, you won't have but a really small grocery bill. We are raising our own meat, eggs, fruits and veggies, and honey. That leaves us to buy grains and goodies. And we only have 4.5 acres

You can see all that we are doing now at www.havenhomestead.com. We are hoping that Chris will be able to quit his 9 -5 (which is really a 7 to when ever he's done, usually 6:30) when the Agri-tourism business takes off, or when we are completely out of Debt. He is currently exploring other ways to make more money while having time at home!

If you are interested in having a successful permaculture business, you could check into Spin Farming.

From the spinfarming.com website:
"Make farm-size income from garden-size plots with the SPIN-Farming guide series. It’s the easiest and most effective way to learn how to make money growing food for those with no agricultural background. It is non-technical and process-driven, and equips you with everything you need to start in your backyard or neighborhood lot. And the authors, Wally and Roxanne, are available by email to answer your questions every step of the way!"

Good luck on your foray into Permaculture!

 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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I like the idea of reducing our out going and our expectations . On another thread someone said he wanted and expected all permies to achieve lower middle class life style and that was his aim. Its not mine . I am lowering my expectations keeping out of debt and reducing my needs . Thus I will be in profit I prophet
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6290
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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David Livingston wrote:I like the idea of reducing our out going and our expectations . On another thread someone said he wanted and expected all permies to achieve lower middle class life style and that was his aim. Its not mine . I am lowering my expectations keeping out of debt and reducing my needs . Thus I will be in profit I prophet


I have a low cost of living, but I have not lowered my expectations. I expect my cost of living to drop further when I move to my place part time in a couple months. Some of my work produces tree waste. This stuff will be brought home for use in hugelkultur and for firewood or building. I'm going to live in the existing cottage for a while, but will eventually move to a sort of spa/greenhouse that has an insulated portion to the north.

Then I will either rent out the cottage or have my daughter live in it with a friend or two. She's looking at paying $450 a month to live with friends in town, since she can't get along with her mother. I've told her that I won't contribute one penny to that dubious plan, but the cottage is available for free. Her university is 9 miles away. She doesn't drive. I've told her to ask some of her friends who do drive if they'd be her chauffeur for free rent. They go to the same school and already commute together.

This property is my greatest asset. I expect to earn more outside income than before. Having my own food, my own dump site (clean organics) and unlimited storage are all a bonus that should make my regular work more profitable. I'm bound to develop a live in employee who gives me a few hours of demolition labor per week in exchange. I have housed several workers in the past. Not only is the rent guaranteed, when a job comes up on short notice I don't have to figure out who my helper will be. All of this means that I've raised my expectations. My money pit of a farm is finally going to send money my way.
 
Travis Schultz
pollinator
Posts: 303
Location: South East Michigan Zone 6
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Thought I should share my story.

I am 25 years old and for the last 4 years knew I wanted to farm, in the last 2 years I have made some bigger steps towards making this a reality. Last summer I worked at a CSA, meanwhile I was posting ads and fliers online and around at peoples houses that had large yards. I was advertising that I would garden a plot in your yard, you supply water and land, I garden it and you get a percentage of the produce. I received a call around August from a guy that had an old pre-industrial age farm that he had been doing organic horses on in the 25 years he has owned it. He said he had 24 inches of the best topsoil and nothing to do with it, and that I could use a roughly 6k sq foot area for a garden. The property has 6 freeze proof pumps with super clean well water (the whole area has either been gravel pits in the past or are currently being mined). His property sits just outside an upscale town with a thriving upper class, about a 5 minute drive. His pay for all this is 500 dollars per year and all the vegetables he can eat.

I am running a 15 share CSA off of this land. I got everything ready last fall, it is broken into 30 100 sq ft beds, all herbs, flowers, gourds, and any other specialty items are planted on borders and hedge rows not taking up any of the garden beds. It is a Bio-Dynamic intensive garden. I have surrounded it with a 3 strand 6' electric fence, and an 18" high black construction fabric, the kind with the wooden stakes built in to keep lots of the small critters from ever knowing anything is back there. The landowner is also letting me build my Tiny Home on wheels at the site of the garden, so soon as the roof is on I will be staying there most of the time anyway to be closer to the garden.

After expenses, I am bringing home about 6k in profit.

Between me and the lady, our regular jobs, saving, and help from family we are close to purchasing an acre with a fixer upper house, 3 bed 1 bath, with good well and septic and a river running through the back corner of the lot. All this for 10k.

The ground is pretty much all kalkaska sand but I am hopeful I will find much topsoil and fill dirt for free, I know of plenty of free manure in the area, a big organic dairy is near by that sells their doo for a high price but being local I will be able to get a better deal. When the snow melts and vegetation starts growing again I will make mass amounts of compost for 2015 growing season. With all the savings we have we are going to be able to buy this land, do a little work on it this summer mainly build compost, then in the fall are house we live in now will be sold, and we will move onto the new property in our tiny home. Once the house onsite is finished, which it really only needs finishing work and some furnishings, we will rent it out for hunting and fishing competitions in the area, there is a huge state park just down the road. Also rent it out as a bed and breakfast down the road once we have enough food production to sustain more than each other. Meanwhile we will live in the tiny home using minimal resources.

I designed the house so that it has some steel construction and rockwool insulation in the 2' near the wood stove. This way I can have a woodstove in such a small place and not risk the minimum heat clearances. At full production and all lit up it uses 60 watts.

With the money we get from selling the house, we will have enough to pay health insurance bill and what little we need to live for a couple years while we build up the land to being productive. Our only goal to make enough money to be comfortable, and for us that is not much. But the end goal is to make it a productive food forest over 10-15 years, and when I am 35-40 years old sell it and buy more land. I am not in debt right now, and will never be in debt with my plan. The property sits within an hour and a half of 2 major cities, and a big college town. One city, was recently voted best city in America to raise a family and its only an hour away, I have yet to go and see the prices for myself but I am assuming the markets bring higher than average.

Last year I didn't have much but the house, and this year I am only a few months away from getting a farm operational, while living debt free and within my means. The only issue I face is car or truck problems if they arise, they will take away dearly from our fund, so we are crossing our fingers on that one. But I can grow all the food for a year for both me and the lady on only 4000 sq ft. I have 43k on this acre that I can turn into garden. I can use all the water I want from the river, already checked with the township.

Only downside is its within village limits so I cannot have livestock, I will still have rabbits and fish ponds (down the road), but do not like that I have to wait 10 or 15 years before I can have milk goats and pigs. I will substitute this pig by processing my own deer come hunting season. Fish and rabbits will help fill the freezer for winter. People flood these areas during deer hunting season, and I don't think a 3 bedroom house close to the state land would be hard to rent out for a few nights here and there from Oct-Dec. And it would no doubt bring in a good amount of money.

So that is how I have gone from owning practically nothing besides a crummy house, to starting a CSA on free land, getting enough money to buy land and build a mortgage free tiny home. I would say sustainable living and permaculture is profitable, at least for me thus far, because of biodynamic intensive gardening. And even if I never make enough money to buy more land, I can live happily on my 1 acre food forest for the rest of my life, and produce a profit, at least enough to live. And what is life worth if you wait to live it till your to to old to enjoy it fully?
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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This thread finally made me register here.

I think one has to be realistic on the income perspective for farming in developed countries.
Here in Germany, farming is the branch with the highest average investment requirement for creating a new job.
The average investment for one job in farming is 432.000 Euro (596.000 US)) not (!) including the farmland. This investment is required for buildings, machines, animals etc.

The average farm has 1,7 workers (including the owner) and is managing 57,2 hectares of farmland.
(Farms below 5 hectares are not included in this statistics.)
In average 25% - 30% of the land owned by the farmer. The rest is leased.

There average price for farmland here in Bavaria in 2012 was 31.800 Euro / hectare.

Therefore if you wanted to buy an average farm and own all the land required you would have to invest:

1.7 x 432.000 Euro (Machines, buildings, animals, etc.)
57,2 x 31.800 Euro for the farmland
150.000 Euro for a used house to live in
-> 2.700.000 Euro (3.727.000 USD)

This farm generates an average yearly profit of 62.900 Euro.
This profit includes your interest claim for the money you have invested and the payment for working hours of the 1,7 people involved.
And you have to pay social assurance and income tax from it.

Any questions why the number of career changers going into to farming is that low?
Even if you have that amount of money you will sure find some better investment and some more recreational task to spend your time.

If you anyway want to go into farming and you are not coming from a family owning enough farmland and you do not happen to be multiple millionaire, you will have to find some free-spirited solution.

The first post of this thread addresses government payments:
If you live in a country with government payments for farming, be it some kind of crop insurance, compensation payments, conservation payments, investment assistance etc. this payments have huge impact on the prices for farmland and on the product prices.
Therefore find and take any such money you can find as long as the restrictions linked to it do not stop you from your own plans. Your competitors do it and you will not be able to keep up if you do not collect the money they do.

If you live in a country with low or now customs duty for agricultural products you have to face the competition of countries with lower wages, lower prices for farmland, better climate and far less restrictions on farming methods. Therefore you will never be able to keep up in products grown in large scale much cheaper elsewhere. Make sure you know what your unique selling features are.

If you want do jump into farming full time and don`t chose some long term sideline built it up approach, you need a return on investment as soon as possible. Therefore you will start by growing plants and animals that give you a cash return within weeks, for example salad vegetables and broilers. Things with a slow return on investment have to be built up alongside.

Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard give very good information and proposals on how to start into farming.

What Joel does depends on a large input of bought, conventionally grown grain to feed the chicken in pigs. Therefore I think it cannot really be called permaculture. But using this methods would at least give you a good start until you have established your long term permaculture crops.

Vertical integration cannot be accentuated enough. An authorized kitchen for processing your produce can generate far more return on investment then buying more land.

Direct marketing is a difficult topic. It needs a person that is a good salesman. And if you are a good salesman, you like contact to people, there are easier ways for you to make money than farming.
Therefore you somehow need to be both, a farmer by vocation and a good salesman, if you want to make up a really good direct marketing farm business. And the number of people having both these vocations are lower than one might think.
The reality of many direct marketing businesses is, that the return per hour spent for marketing is even worth than that for the time spent farming.
The trick in economic direct marketing is to have a high throughput of product in a short time.
For example: If you are direct marketing beef, it is much better to have a very busy pick-up day once a month when all your costumers come in and get their prepared meat packets, than standing in your on farm shop 6 afternoons a week, waiting for customers to come in whenever they want to.

Regarding real estate development:
In Mark Shepard´s book I read that his land is becoming more and more valuable as real estate as his trees grow. One could sell it for a much higher price sometime in the future, to somebody rich seeking for a recreational farm with nice view and pasture for his horses.
But: You have to be careful on this part of your old age pension scheme. Government regulations can thwart these plans in seconds.
In my region arable land is the highest priced (about 1.5 – 3 Euro per m2). But if you do seed grass and do not plow it for more than five years, the land gets grassland by law due to EU conservation regulations. You are not allowed to plow it again or only under severe restrictions.
And grassland is only worth 0.5 – 1.0 Euros per m2.
Hedgerows have an even worth effect. When established, you are not allowed to remove them again. And the land below hedgerows is almost worthless. And the hedgerows reduce the price for the arable land around it, as the big tractors are slowed down in their work.
If you buy 10 hectares of row crop land for 300.000 EUR here and make a nice permaculture agroforestry with fenced pastures between fruit hedges out of it, you might be happy to resell it for 50.000 Euros in the end, because of strict conservation regulations.

Conservationists are the biggest threat for permaculture activities around here, as their regulations make any kind of improvement (like building ponds) very expensive and they are reducing the market value of your real estate more and more the further your permaculture transition goes.
This also is the reason wy no land owner here will let you devolop a agroforestry on land leased from him.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1091
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Manfred Eidelloth wrote:There average price for farmland here in Bavaria in 2012 was 31.800 Euro / hectare.


This emphasizes the importance of picking where one buys one's land. Bavaria is a very expensive place. Our land was about $500/acre. Far less than Bavaria. I would not sell my land for that little and I bought it back in the 1980's when I could afford it during the previous real estate crash. Pick the time and place to be buying.

I also find the half million dollars per job (432,000 Euro) for machines, buildings and animals to be extra ordinarily excessive. I am not sure what the number should be but I have created five farm jobs and not spent 1/10th of that. Beware of government statistics, or any others. They overstate things because it is to their benefit. Always question the motivations of the sources.

I also built our house for only $7,000. It is valued by the town at $28,000 so we'll use that excessively high number. This is a beautiful example of how government blows up numbers. They want me to pay more taxes which are based on the real estate assessment so they jack up the valuation as high as they dare. I have to go to bat with them on this each time. They come down some.

Based on this I find that the cost of the farm startup is more like $130,000 which is 94,000 Euros or about 1/40th of the figure derived from government sources.

The point of this is don't buy in the most expensive place, don't buy lots of expensive new equipment and don't spend so much on buildings. Pasturing requires very little machinery, infrastructure and buildings. Permaculture is not expensive.

Manfred Eidelloth wrote:This farm generates an average yearly profit of 62.900 Euro.


Is that after paying for the 1.7 jobs in which case the owner is already paid or is that the owner's income or is that the owner and the 0.7 person's income? This question matters a lot.

That is $86,000 in the USA which is a heck of lot of money in any of those cases. We live on less than $15,000 which is only about 1/6th of that. Keep in mind that the numbers given already have the house and land paid for and this is a farm so one can raise much of one's own food.

I would say that is a very good income with not much investment. But then I'm a farmer.

Manfred Eidelloth wrote:The first post of this thread addresses government payments:
If you live in a country with government payments for farming, be it some kind of crop insurance, compensation payments, conservation payments, investment assistance etc. this payments have huge impact on the prices for farmland and on the product prices.
Therefore find and take any such money you can find as long as the restrictions linked to it do not stop you from your own plans. Your competitors do it and you will not be able to keep up if you do not collect the money they do.


Our family thrives without any government subsidies. Frankly, the subsidies need to be ended. In the USA 96% of subsidies go to Big Ag. They're my competitors. I pay my taxes so that they can use my money to compete with me. That needs to end.

Manfred Eidelloth wrote:What Joel does depends on a large input of bought, conventionally grown grain to feed the chicken in pigs.


This really isn't necessary and I would agree with you that it is not permaculture that way. We raise pigs and chickens on pasture without any commercial feed / grain corn/soy bought in. We get a little bit of spent barley but that is handling a waste stream and I can do it without that - that just helps us build soil. We also buy winter hay from down in the valley but again I could hay, they just do it better at lower altitudes with flatter land. Our land is ideally suited to grazing pastures. No farm is an island.

Manfred Eidelloth wrote:Vertical integration cannot be accentuated enough. An authorized kitchen for processing your produce can generate far more return on investment then buying more land.


Agreed. That is why we're building our own on-farm USDA/State inspected slaughterhouse, butcher shop, smokehouse and cave. A third to half our income of every pig goes to processing. Doing it ourselves will save that and it will let us sell more of the pig as well as doing products we can't do right now. Most of all it will give our family more security. It's ten months from breeding to plate - we need to know where our pigs will process to have a stable income.

Manfred Eidelloth wrote:Conservationists are the biggest threat for permaculture activities around here, as their regulations make any kind of improvement (like building ponds) very expensive and they are reducing the market value of your real estate more and more the further your permaculture transition goes.
This also is the reason why no land owner here will let you devolop a agroforestry on land leased from him.


Agreed. They're a nasty lot. Too concerned with other people's doings and not doing enough themselves to improve the world.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 
Andy Reed
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I bought it back in the 1980's

Needless to say, it isn't the 80's anymore. Wages have gone nowhere since the 70's and land prices have gone up up up.
Permaculture is not expensive.

Tell that to Paul Wheaton, who is money grubbing, and will continue to money grub, because it takes a lot of money.

I think you are doing great work Walter. You are more unique then maybe you realise. I would say for Joe 6pack it takes a lot of money to get into permaculture. Imagine you were starting out, in my area decent bit of land costs around $400k, without a house or livestock. Then factor in that most people have nfi wtf they are doing. Add on a mortgage payment and a slightly higher cost of living, and it starts to become pretty expensive. I know because I am doing it, I earn good money and it still takes time to get to the point where you can get by on 15k per year. Its a tough world out there, and getting tougher.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Andy Reed wrote:Needless to say, it isn't the 80's anymore. Wages have gone nowhere since the 70's and land prices have gone up up up.


Which is why I used today's numbers instead of those from the 1980's. I corrected for inflation.

Andy Reed wrote:
Permaculture is not expensive.

Tell that to Paul Wheaton, who is money grubbing, and will continue to money grub, because it takes a lot of money.


Huh? That didn't parse. It doesn't take a lot of money. I'm doing permaculture. Yes, one could do it in a high finance manner but that isn't the only way. It is just like building a house. You can spend $150,000 to build a house or one can do like I did and build it for $7,000. There is a 20x factor there. Everyone can choose to spend a lot or a little. It's all in their preferred style. Nobody is making anyone else do it one way or the other. (Ironically my $7K house will last longer and has less maintenance costs and lower heating costs than virtually any high priced home. That's a design issue.)

Andy Reed wrote:Imagine you were starting out, in my area decent bit of land costs around $400k, without a house or livestock.


First I would move to a different area. That is what I did 30 years ago. I evaluated exactly this issue and chose an area to buy land that was situated between my markets but up in the mountains where the land was cheap. No sense in buying land in the expensive areas and paying high taxes every year when I could get equal land further out. I spend almost all my time here on the farm. We then deliver product into the more expensive areas. That is how farming was traditionally done. It makes sense.

So the first thing to do is break the pre-conception of living in the expensive location. Once you do that all the costs drop dramatically - Perhaps 10x or 20x. Then it becomes very easy to do permaculture and farm.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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@Walter:
My numbers are from the yearly statistics of the national farmers´ union.
They use the book-keeping data of their members. Actually they do the book keeping for most of their members. It is one of the services they provide.
The real numbers for the required investment might be even higher, as the books do not show the hidden assets after depreciation.
And as I wrote: The asset is not after payment of the owner or any hired workforce. The working hours of the average 1.7 workforce (including the owner) have to be paid from it.
If you only calculate a 3 % interest for the capital invested (which you should easily get when investing in shares) that would be 81.000 Euro (out of 2.700.000 Euro investment).
Actually in this case you would earn more if you bought shares and did nothing.
As a farmer you might be buying a load of work. That is what a lot of farmers a really doing here.
And to make it even more funny: For the asset from shares you only have to pay 25% tax here.
For the asset from your own work and own company tax rates can go up to 45%. (In both cases plus solidarity tax, plus church tax).

It really is a mad business.

And you cannot build a home here for 7000 dollars. You are only allowed to build a house on a developed building area. The average price for such a parcel is 50 Euro per m2 here in Franconia. And we are one of the lowest price regions in Bavaria.
If you buy the smallest building lot in the village with let´s say 600 m2, you have already spent 30.000 Euros. To connect your house to the already available water-, sewage-, electricity- and phone connections costs you another 5000 Euros. Than you need 5000 Euros to pay an architect for making up the plans and assuring your planned building will comply with all the building regulations including energy consumption standards.
After these 40.000 Euros and having your permission, you can lay the first stone.

Outside a village you are only allowed to build a house if it this house is combined with a farming enterprise that is acknowledged to be economically sustainable and does contribute a certain amount to your total income. And you are not allowed to only build a house there. Most of what you build has to be buildings required for the farm.
Farmers usually first built barns, machine shops etc. and then later get permission to build their house next to the existing structures.
And before building your house you must make sure the plot is supplied with water, sewage and power. Either by lines from the next village or by supplies built on the plot. Later have to fit all regulations and you must have them inspected every year.
That is why most farmers have their homes inside the villages. Except in areas with traditionally dispersed settlement, were you can use an existing plot for your farm.
Very view ever manage do get there hole farm outside the village.

Who wants to go into farming and does not inherit an existing farm, should really think about trying it somewhere else…
Or you mange do find some niche that allows you to make a living on a small patch of land.
Or you lease the land requried. But as I said: Nobody will allow you to create a agroforestry system on land leased from him. If you plan such a thing, you have to buy the land.
 
David Livingston
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Manfred
I would move to france or poland as its much cheaper to get started and young families are welcomed in rural enviorments

David
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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It seems like I failed to express what my quintessence is, refering to the initial question of this thread:

It need not be that Permaculture is the reason if you fail making money in farming. There is almost nobody who really is making money in farming in industrialized countries.
Even if their seems to be a reasonable income as in my “average German farm example” above: When you look into the details farmers often fail to get an acceptable interest for their investment and if there is something left at all after drawing the interest, the hourly earnings are very low in most cases.

Of course if you are buying farmland, the price development of the farmland itself as an essential part in such a calculation, that is missing in my example above.
But estimating this is very difficult.
In an agrarian state you can say: The world population is growing, the demand for food will rise, thus the prices for farmland will rise.
In an industrialized country with high density of population, adjustment payments, bulky tax regulations etc. this is far more complicated.
In Europe at the moment the farmland prices are driven by investors afraid of losing their money in some financial collapse that might be ahead.
The farmers spent most of the adjustment payments they get for the rent for the land they leased.
Should the governments no longer be able to pay, the rents will fall, causing falling land prices.
This year the tax regulations for profits from selling real estate have been changed. Till then the profits used to be tax free after a speculative deadline of 10 years. Now have to pay taxes on the profits. This might slowdown such investments.
There are also regulations that give you tax advantages when reinvesting the profits of farmland sales into farmland.
There are nature and water conservation regulations as already described.
In case of a financial breakdown there might be compulsory loans on real estate.
And so on.
It is a speculative investment.

If the little farm I am running had not been the family farm for generations, and if I really wanted and needed to make my living from farming, I would most likely sell out and go somewhere else.
Actually I have been looking through real estate offerings in other regions many times…
But my family is living in the villages around here, my parents live here on the farm, my retail business is located here.
Somehow I made it my mission to keep the family farm ticking over . Or more precisely: To make it flourish again.
And as you know: People with a mission tend do make economically unreasonable decisions.
 
Walter Jeffries
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The problem is your numbers are based on averages. Never strive to be average. Be extraordinary. Make choices that lift you up.

And as you know: People with a mission tend do make economically unreasonable decisions.


That is rather insulting.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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Be extraordinary. Make choices that lift you up.


Yes. You have to.


That is rather insulting.


That was not my intention. Perhaps I put it wrong? Should I have written “financially”?
I can only speak for myself and the people with some kind of mission I know:
I could have stayed with my nice career in engineering physics in some Munich technology company and would make much more money with less working hours than I do now.
And I know quite a few people who changed careers to something more fulfilling, but less profitable.
 
Kim Schmidt
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Add me to the list of people who would like to back off the rat-race a bit if I could make a small income using permaculture principles.

The difficulty is with the "small". To have any kind of a market for a product, you have to either produce a lot of ONE product (so you can wholesale) or you have to market your products (more time commitment). If I could take Saturday mornings off of work because I'm working on my land, I don't want to then lose that time sitting at the farmer's market trying to get someone to recognize the value of my product.

It's also tough to transition from produce to adding meat production if you are off-property often for your paycheck.

I'm hoping to add a little at a time to our long-term and current family food production. I won't be making much of an income, but do see it as a value-added proposition for retirement in several ways:

1) Outer zones can have improved habitat for wildlife. This will allow some hunting for now, and will be a feasible way to transition in some livestock on these areas later
2) The place can basically be ready to support us in retirement. Decreased energy costs, ponds, and increased food production
3) Land value. Our property is not valuable to large farmers because it has hills, trees, and a creek. It was also unattractive for multiple housing development because there is no access to city utilities. Thus it was cheap to purchase.

Traditional farming is taking more inputs all the time; this will continue to escalate with fuel costs. Government subsidies can only go so far, and people are starting to be more concerned about pesticide applications.

10 years from now, land that has been turned into food forest production OR is ready for rotational grazing OR is simply not depleted of nutrients could be far more valuable (should we choose to sell it instead of stay on it after retirement).

Even your suburban properties covered in perennial food plants may seem quite attractive to potential homeowners if they are spending a higher percentage of their income on food. I think that's a very realistic possibility.

But right now, you are fighting not the mere "City Hall" but you are fighting perhaps the wealthiest, most powerful government that has ever existed. The wealth concentration around Washington DC is increasing. As long as they are in control, monoculture mass food production will be subsidized to keep the human masses happy. And the EPA (and similar agencies) will stay busy largely with the purpose of keeping themselves employed.

If you can make money now producing food to sell locally, that's terrific. Enjoy it. But if not, improve your personal food supply and prepare for when DC can't get enough money from the general population to subsidize the farm production, because that time might be approaching.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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TED Talk by Angela Moran, about her Mason Street City Farm and recent developments in the city farm movement in North America:
http://overgrowthesystem.com/farmers-in-a-dangerous-time-angela-moran-of-mason-street-city-farm/

They seem to generate a lot of new jobs?
 
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