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Permaculture Should Profit  RSS feed

 
Bobby Eshleman
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Profit is not only not a bad thing, it should be at the center of permaculture. Capitalism has spread to almost every nook and cranny in the world, it has gone viral, and the way to ride that wave is through profit. Profit, the reason for investment or "the profit motive", has evolved from being an aspect of capitalism to the more essential purpose of capitalist economics. So capitalism drives investment into what is profitable, why deny investment into ecological farming? After all, the permaculture approach is to leverage the situation towards a function-stacked advantage.

I recognize that Capitalism has unsustainable tendencies. The systemic relationship between capital, labor and resources tends towards unhappy workers and an unstable ecology. I'm not pro-capital, but until alternatives are realized I see no reason to not try and use the system for a better future. Programs like ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans) could be used in transitioning towards more sustainable economic models. The social aspect is vital, but so is designing forms of capital that improve the planet's health. Demand and consumption is another important topic. I want to see more discussion on money, what do you think?

Credit to Paul Wheaton for originally addressing this issue.
 
David Hartley
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I'm an avid supporter of "free trade" and "capitalism"... What is ruining the world is Capitolism!
 
William James
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Bobby Eshleman wrote:
I recognize that Capitalism has unsustainable tendencies.


That's one way to put it.

I think some people get hung up about money a lot. I've moved past that and I also agree that permaculture should profit. Serving the land should have huge social benefits, and money could be one of them.

William
 
Alan Patrick
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I think in terms of profit, it might be best to apply something of permaculture to capitalism. Money is essentially the mega monocrop of mainstream capitalism. We know that giant monocrops are basically not good. Expect permaculture profits to be spread across multiple 'crops', any of which may be better or worse in any given year. Expect some time spent doing what you feel is right to be doing, some money from things sold, some food, some benefit to the land and wildlife, etc. As you learn more, you'll hopefully find more ways to stack the benefits of one thing with another, but the important thing is to not expect only one kind of profit, just as we shouldn't try to grow only one kind of plant, or eat only one kind of food.
 
paul wheaton
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I think discussions about capitalism is for outside of these forums. That's a political thing.

I do think I encounter a lot of people that are passionate about feeding the world's hungry with permaculture. I think that this is an excellent path and I think permaculture offers a plethora of solutions down this path.

And there are people that are passionate about persuading today's conventional farmers to try permaculture instead. And the primary bait they are offering is greater profit. I think this will help to change the world for the better also.

And there are people that are passionate about exploring food excellence. For the foodies (super delicious-ness). Or as food as super-medicine. I think this is another positive path.

So I have outlined three possible paths. Something that seems to pop up once in a while is people from the first path are uncomfortable with the choices of the people in the second and third path. They say something like "permaculture should not be about profit" or "that's not permaculture because it has a profit motive."

I wish to be clear: it is okay for them to wish for these other things to be not profit driven. But profit in permaculture is, officially, okay. Further, I wish to give the stink-eye to those that would attempt to shame others away from profit in permaculture.


 
Brenda Groth
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even if you are paying less for food cause you are growing your own, that is a net profit of what you didn't have to pay out that you would have. And there also might be non $ profits such as better health, less dr visits, exercise in fresh air, etc.. There is also the profit of more rain, better quality soil, time management, etc.. so it is hard to define profit only to $ and c
 
Bobby Eshleman
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paul wheaton wrote:

I wish to be clear: it is okay for them to wish for these other things to be not profit driven. But profit in permaculture is, officially, okay. Further, I wish to give the stink-eye to those that would attempt to shame others away from profit in permaculture.



Like toby hemenway's recent article mentions, there is a tendency to confuse ethics and practice in permaculture.

When we talk about permaculture and world hunger projects, profit is important because these projects depend on local people. You have to get people involved somehow. I think that's why Willie Smitts in his TEDTalk addresses profit as a pillar of his reforestation program at Samboja Lestari.
 
Bobby Eshleman
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Brenda Groth wrote:even if you are paying less for food cause you are growing your own, that is a net profit of what you didn't have to pay out that you would have. And there also might be non $ profits such as better health, less dr visits, exercise in fresh air, etc.. There is also the profit of more rain, better quality soil, time management, etc.. so it is hard to define profit only to $ and c


That's true. And there are some people in Agroforestry working to develop better financial/economic analysis for this issue right now, which will hopefully establish the facts a little more. Still, they will be primarily analyzing only labor-time and money.
 
Frank Turrentine
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There's no reason why the different views should necessarily conflict. We live in a pluralistic world. Some folks are only going to get permaculture if there's a price tag associated with it. Some folks are only going to get it if it's more akin to a religious conversion. Some want to buy their way "green" and others want to earn redemption for societal "sins" and their own former blindness. I probably fall more into the latter camp, but I figure whatever works works. And I see no reason to take missionary zeal and channel it into trying to be the "thought police" about how others should conduct themselves along similar paths.

Permaculture for me is a way to stop being a slave to technologies I cannot control, comprehend or afford. It is a way to perhaps stop being a wage slave in a city and civilization that I feel is not only unsustainable but self-destructive and lethal to life and the landbase. It is a method to save the earth at my feet if I cannot save the entire Earth itself. It affords me a viable vehicle for redeeming the little piece of creation I have within my realm of influence, and it allows me to also feed myself and hopefully several others in the process.

But hey, I still gotta pay taxes and have a little jingle of some sort in my pocket, a prudent reserve for those instances where showing off my fresh beets just won't cut it. So yeah, if I can peddle my paw-paws to the rich, white women in Dallas and make money at it, or set aside a parcel for clover and alfalfa for the folks in town as well, then I feel no hypocrisy lurking in those cracks. Holzer and Mollison both encourage that sort of activity, I think, so I figure I'm doctrinally sound in that respect. I just hope my application is as good as my theory, and I'm able to make all that work. And soon.
 
Frank Turrentine
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I think it's honorable to make a living doing just about anything. I'm a little leery of making a killing at anything, however. I don't begrudge anyone who manages it their wealth, but I distrust the product that results from it. But the market for that sort of thing is rather self-correcting, in that what is transmitted on a smaller scale is perhaps more genuine and durable. But there is a taste for everything and no disputing taste in any case.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I would like to see more about how people are making a profit through permaculture. I would like to see more examples of that.

 
Gary Abshire
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It doesn't matter what your motivation is for practicing permaculture.

 
duane hennon
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one of the permaculture principles is to obtain a "yield" whereby you profit from the system
the form,ie., money, good food, health, etc, that the yield takes is dependent upon how the system is designed

here are some people having a conference to discuss this very thing

http://www.financialpermaculture.com/cms/

2013 Financial Permaculture & Local Business Summit
 
David Good
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Good thread.

I've sold gardening articles to Mother Earth and other outlets. My readers pick up valuable information and I can pay some bills. I also make enough money off my additional radio work that I can afford to take time and experiment with my gardening - and write about it for free on my site.

If we make money doing what we love, that's just icing. Go for it!

I don't think permaculture is the gardening equivalent of the Franciscan order. Permaculture farmers are getting the info out there, fixing the soil and giving folks an alternative to the poisonous products of Big Ag.

Profit is not evil unless we're extracting it from others forcibly. As long as there's a voluntary exchange - great! Both parties are happy. And if it makes my happy to give away plants and produce - which I do all the time - I do it. And I don't complain about those that sell them... they're just walking a different path. At some point I may need to do that too.



 
Joanne Rigutto
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If a farm is operating as a business, profit (in money generated) is essential. I farm for a living and, being a sole proprietor, the profit generated from my business is what constitutes my wages, at least according to the IRS and my state tax department. Were I an LLC or corporation, that profit (which would be what was left over after I paid my wages and any wages or fees from employees or contractors working out here) would be what goes to expanding/improving the business, and as an operating fund to tide the business over in times of loss.

People working as employees also need profit. Profit (on the personal level) is what enables a person to put money in the bank in the form of savings (or investments) to tide one over in times of financial hardship.
 
Brenda Groth
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well someone asked what we are doing to make a profit. I'm not really doing much but I have planted a lot of fruit and nut trees, which will provide much more food than we'll need when they are all in production, so I can either sell or give the excess..so not only will I have less to buy, but can share..

In the past I have sold our abundance for a profit, but mostly we use what we grow and give what we have leftover....but it also does tend to Profit in other ways..

we have given to people and they have given us..not really barter....just giving..we have been given things like bear and elk meat, sausages, produce we weren't growing, jellies, firewood, etc..those kinds of profits are difficult to measure..I have also been given plants (blueberry, trees, tomato plants, asparagus, etc.. ) and seeds and cuttings..there is no way to measure the profit of things like that but they are still tangible
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joanne Rigutto wrote:that profit (which would be what was left over after I paid my wages and any wages or fees from employees or contractors working out here) would be what goes to expanding/improving the business, and as an operating fund to tide the business over in times of loss.


a which point it becomes an expense.

 
Mary Lou McFarland
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Profit for me means making a living. It's my wage so I can pay my bills. I think our society has gone into a dark place with the recession and the lies and deceit of investment bankers so I believe all that is truly needed is a definition of profit. It isn't an evil word. Besides, if what I read is true and my little farm can support me then how many acres (out there in the real world) can be converted from row crop monoculture to permaculture of one form or another? Without profit there is no motivation to change the world ..... and change we must!

To be honest, I am mesmerized by profit. Just for fun... let's do a math problem! Here goes. Mary Lou bought an unimproved parcel. 38 acres. a house had to be put up and her husband, who is occasionally a poopy butthead would not consider alternative building methods and the bank would barely go for the earth bermed home they ended up building. So now she has a $168,000. mortgage. On top of that, Mary Lou's husband, the PBH, had his leukemia come back followed by the bone marrow transplant, followed by liver complications, followed by three heart attacks... which then caused Mary Lou to have issues with buying, fencing materials, planting stock, chicken feed....... groceries. Mary Lou's children want her to sell out as soon as possible and move into the oldest daughters basement, where she can babysit grandchildren. Mary Lou's only plan for getting help is to contact Ellen Degeneres and hope she will gift her a tiny ground driven manure spreader and an aerator... some lime would be nice... and some seed.. and some.... you get the picture.

So, the problem to solve is... if Mary Lou is going to be forced off her land within two years... how can she pay off the mortgage (and save herself ) before that happens?

All ideas will be entertained.
 
paul wheaton
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I feel a little weird when people say stuff like "I need to pay my rent" or "I need to be able to buy clothes." It seems like part of the message is that to justify making money, you have to be accountable for what you spend it on. Once in a while in a transaction somebody asks me what the money will be used for and I always say "hookers, heroine and hooch."

I have seen excellent folks work hard and make nothing. I have seen excellent folks work hard and make lots. I have seen nothing/lots with virtually no effort. And I have seen icky people screw other people out of money.

So .... I think people should have some privacy in what they will do with their profit. It's theirs.

The only profit path I see for outcry is where somebody is being wicked. And in the world of permaculture, I know of some people teaching expensive PDCs and they don't know diddly.
 
Alex Ames
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Mary Lou McFarland wrote:Profit for me means making a living. It's my wage so I can pay my bills. I think our society has gone into a dark place with the recession and the lies and deceit of investment bankers so I believe all that is truly needed is a definition of profit. It isn't an evil word. Besides, if what I read is true and my little farm can support me then how many acres (out there in the real world) can be converted from row crop monoculture to permaculture of one form or another? Without profit there is no motivation to change the world ..... and change we must!

To be honest, I am mesmerized by profit. Just for fun... let's do a math problem! Here goes. Mary Lou bought an unimproved parcel. 38 acres. a house had to be put up and her husband, who is occasionally a poopy butthead would not consider alternative building methods and the bank would barely go for the earth bermed home they ended up building. So now she has a $168,000. mortgage. On top of that, Mary Lou's husband, the PBH, had his leukemia come back followed by the bone marrow transplant, followed by liver complications, followed by three heart attacks... which then caused Mary Lou to have issues with buying, fencing materials, planting stock, chicken feed....... groceries. Mary Lou's children want her to sell out as soon as possible and move into the oldest daughters basement, where she can babysit grandchildren. Mary Lou's only plan for getting help is to contact Ellen Degeneres and hope she will gift her a tiny ground driven manure spreader and an aerator... some lime would be nice... and some seed.. and some.... you get the picture.

So, the problem to solve is... if Mary Lou is going to be forced off her land within two years... how can she pay off the mortgage (and save herself ) before that happens?

All ideas will be entertained.


Permaculture should be something you can profit with but perhaps what you need is something you can get rich quick with.
You need to strike oil. Does this mythical 38 acres have assets you can sell like mature timber? If it is all to be done from sale
of fruits and vegetables that you don't have seed for then it is hello basement and be thankful for it.

A more profitable course of study for most people would be to determine what it would take to generate income in smaller increments.
What would a permaculture operation look like that would generate $1,000 per month income, people's costs will vary and affect profitability.
Now you have primed the pump and shown actual income, how do I expand and get profitable? Once this is put in place you can move with all deliberate
speed to get to the kind of income you want. There are many things to deal with. Who is my customer going to be? How am I going to get
the product to him or get him to come to me? Can I generate enough quality product to keep this customer? What kind of cutting edge/trendy
or specialty items can I grow well and make myself a factor? In the end it turns out to be hard work.

As a "design system for human settlements", permaculture is just common sense. Why pay for things at the grocery store that will grow right out
back. Just keep adding more and more and make it better and better as time goes on. This is how I am using it and what I think is a starting point.
When I get it perfected to some extent I will have something of value for other people. Something that can be replicated to some extent with the
pitfalls taken out. That would be worth money.
 
Mary Lou McFarland
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I recently had a farm donor/sponsor which allowed me to buy some hay seed. Also did a bunch of work for a neighbor so in barter will get a bunch of postholes dug for free next spring. No timber trees. They were cleared before I purchased the property. I do have some black walnuts large enough to tap for syrup. Have a potential buyer. Have started a couple of asparagus beds to get a faster crop then fruit trees. Want to start some morel beds as they are getting more scarce around here and are commanding a very good price. Looking at starting my own rootstock for my fruit trees and scouting around for local apple trees to get scions from. When I do get a little ahead I will be buying elderberries... I can buy bulk from the state DNR. I've also started hazelnuts. I've got a perfect area for blueberries so trying to figure out ways to raise a little cash to start purchasing those. Looking into ginseng. Need to start looking into ways to guest people here whether as an educational venue or a place for family reunions etc.

Paul, if you are floating around out there..... we are in a difficult area with the @%&$** deer. Would it be a bad thing if I made bone sauce and sold it locally? I can buy bones at the local grocery store. Might be an effective way to enlarge my farm investment dollar.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I am really intrigued by what I have read (or maybe I heard it on Paul's podcast) of sepp holzer's business model in which he sells tours of his farm for $$$. People get to learn a lot, have a fun time, and as I understand it they also get to take some vegetables and fruit with them when they leave. So that's the model I would emulate if I could set up a cute place.
 
Mary Lou McFarland
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Tyler sorry for being lazy, but where did you find the sepp holzer business model? I am still learning my way around all of Paul's threads.

I do not have the luxury of getting extremely philosophical about the permaculture processes. I believe we have a clear choice, save the planet or die. I have the opportunity to work at saving the planet. I still have to pay off the mortgage or I will lose that opportunity. I am not big into capitalism but participating in this society pretty much thrusts us into that realm. The bank where you borrow your money really, really wants you to participate in the program and since land can rarely be had with out the bank a person is often S.O.L.

For me, it is nuts and bolts. this is the job that has to be done. I'm the person to do it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think I might have heard about it on one of Paul's podcasts: http://www.permies.com/forums/f-88/podcast or it could have been in a thread....maybe this one: http://www.permies.com/t/2641/farm-income/sepp-holzer-income
 
Mary Lou McFarland
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thanks Tyler. I will start going through the podcasts when I get to my daughters. she has streaming capability but out here in the country watching video is a real exercise in patience..... which I'm not.
 
Alex Ames
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Mary Lou McFarland wrote:Tyler sorry for being lazy, but where did you find the Sepp Holzer business model? I am still learning my way around all of Paul's threads.

I do not have the luxury of getting extremely philosophical about the permaculture processes. I believe we have a clear choice, save the planet or die. I have the opportunity to work at saving the planet. I still have to pay off the mortgage or I will lose that opportunity. I am not big into capitalism but participating in this society pretty much thrusts us into that realm. The bank where you borrow your money really, really wants you to participate in the program and since land can rarely be had with out the bank a person is often S.O.L.

For me, it is nuts and bolts. this is the job that has to be done. I'm the person to do it.



So, the scenario you outlined is your real situation more or less? It doesn't change my answer but I would not
have answered a real situation that I have no answers for. I like to grow things and eat them. Profit is great and
I am 100% for it but that is not what I am doing at this point. I hope you get some solid ideas and make some
money pronto.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think through creative problem solving and sharing we might many of us be able to avoid debt and the subsequent need to make a profit. I personally like to make a profit, because then I have extra money to invest in things that might make it less necessary for me to work for money in the future. I don't personally like to spend much of my time working for money, so I'm trying to figure out how to do less of it. I love working on the land and would prefer to spend most of my time doing that, but I'm pretty crappy at growing plants or animals so I can't count on being able to make money doing those things.
 
Mary Lou McFarland
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A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) my girls would watch a show called Reading Rainbow. anybody remember that? Anyway, they featured one book that always stuck with me. It was called "Oxcart Man" Basically, it was about a farmer. During the year he grew his crops, Any male calf his cow had became a teamster ox and the farmer also built an oxcart. In the fall when the crops were harvested, the farmer loaded up his harvest into the oxcart he built. Hooked up the team of oxen and went into town. He sold the team of oxen. he sold the harvest. He sold the oxcart. Then he took his years earnings and walked home.

For me that is what farming is about. It isn't just the product produced from the plants, or the animals. It's the value added product not just from the land but from the farmer. so that's something I try to think about. I drew up plans for a small barrel evaporator for my black walnut syrup and if it looks like it's going to work, I'll build more for sale. Trying to have a "whole enchilada" mindset.

My goal is to do about five things and to make about three or four thousand from each project, for starters. Like I said then there is the Ellen Degeneres plan. And not to forget, there is the winning the lotto plan. always good to have a plan.
 
Milton Dixon
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If you intervene in the system in order to maximize any one thing you end up destroying the system. If your only definition of profit is that it equals money then it's pretty obvious where you're headed. Since all of our systems are a subset of nature what type of profit benefits nature, and therefore benefits us?

What I see missing here is a discussion specifically about what profit is. I'm going to say that profit is surplus and any permaculture design should generate surplus. I think one of the best examples of the different types of surplus that can be generated was made by Ethan Roland.



Since there are examples of people living without financial capital (money) that exist, I would say that as a rule it is not necessary for any permaculture design to generate money. It is however, nice to generate funds if you're going to interact with the rest of "civilization".
 
Mary Lou McFarland
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At this point it would be self destructive to not talk about earning a living.... that's money..... that's a mortgage payment..... truck payment.... Dr. bills....taxes and insurance. If I lose the land then it's going to be pretty hard to prove whether or not I can make permaculture a sustainable system, wouldn't you say? If it is attempted to make permaculture live in an idealistic vacuum then it will serve no real purpose. If it can be reproduced into a SUSTAINABLE, ENVIRONMENTAL AND PROFITABLE model then it can be moved into mainstream. Once permaculture is a mainstream alternative, then it has the opportunity to do it's part to save the world. If a method can pay it's own mortgage then it will prove itself over the existing agricultural systems that limp along with the help of government programs.

To clarify, I'm not living to get rich. I do have to show that I can pay my mortgage. that is the biggest hurdle. It will also be the biggest hurdle for anyone who wants to acquire land and go into small scale farming, even low input farming.
 
paul wheaton
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I like to think that someday my permaculture systems will be in place well enough that having an income of $300 will be massive. 90% of my food will come from the land. I don't really need to drive anywhere. The thought of travel is of no interest because where I am is cooler than any other place. I have people and community on the land. So if I have $300 per month, I'm not sure what I would even spend it on.

I very much like the idea of getting to this point some day. It feels .... easy and safe. Free. From this point it seems like I might even be creative. Whereas it seems difficult to be creative when you have to come up with thousands of dollars each month to make ends meet.



 
Tyler Ludens
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I love that vision, Paul.

 
John Polk
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paul wheaton wrote: ...So if I have $300 per month, I'm not sure what I would even spend it on.



I do...you'll spend it on coffee. I doubt coffee trees will do well in Zone 4.

 
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