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Land healing and flipping as a viable business?  RSS feed

 
Jason Nicoll
Posts: 61
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I know making money is an ugly concept in Permaculture, but I still need to "dance with the devil" to keep my kids (and wife) in shoes and relative comfort, whilst I gain experience and help to build up Permaculture in the region (tragically, its not very well established in Southern Brasil). My 2-5 year goal is have various sites at differing levels of development and maturity, so that we can host Woofing and PDC courses to locals and international visitors and start to restore the region's bio health, local cottage industries and community resilience.

How viable is it to buy land of 1-10 hectares (2.5 - 25 acres) in size to keyline rip, build keypoint dams and swales and then flip for sale as healed/repaired land ready for planting? Of course, there are many factors that can weigh in and make some lands more viable than others, but in general how much profit can be made from adding lakes and dams etc.? Subdivision of the land and selling off in sections would be an option as would adding further value by building permaculture designed, sustainable buildings (in the future).

Cheers
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 804
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Jason, I like the way you're going. I think the only satisfactory metric you can use for business plans is soil analysis. You need to get the quality of the land assessed at the time you get it, and then at the time you want to sell it, in order to be able to quantify the change. I know that where I live there are soil classification systems that judge overall agricultural land value, and if you could take something damaged or marginal and bump it up a few points, your approach certainly could have some merit.

I think it would take a season or two, at least, of sowing it to soil and fertility-building seed mixes, or to get more out of it financially, you could include more forage crops in the mix and run a few different species of livestock over it all to build soil and increase fertility.

Finally, I read recently in a thread on the cattle forum that diluted raw milk was being used to restore degraded pasture land. I think the degraded land in question must have had a low bacterial count, because they were diluting the raw milk 1:10 with water, and there was no difference in improvement between that pasture and one treated with undiluted raw milk. They were measuring (I believe, as I understood it) the sugar content of the grasses by refractometer. The pretreatment reading was something in the neighbourhood of 2 (I don't recall the unit of measurement), and post-treatment it was 10 (I don't remember the extent of the scale, but 10 could conceivably represent a biological upper limit). I will see if I can find the thread and I'll post it. Point being, as long as you can get it raw, you can take something that in a lot of cases is a waste product (though pigs love it, and this discovery probably came about by someone dumping the stuff on pasture that wasn't good for anything anymore, and lo and behold...) and use it to increase your land's productivity. If this was done only to increase the health of the recovery species fixing the soil for you, I would guess that you would still benefit from the added fertility.

-CK
 
Jason Nicoll
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Hi Chris, I shall look into using raw milk to increase land fertility. It sounds very interesting, as does using a soil classification system to provide a before and after picture to measure the success. Do you know the names of any well recognised soil classification systems? Soil testing and analysis sounds like an absolute requirement of this type of permaculture business model. Thanks.

Jae
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Jason, have you ever been to Wyoming, or much of the western US for that matter? I can buy land for a couple of hundred dollars an acre but it is very arid, sandy soils, low biomass. I found land within the same county with water, trees, ponds, for $5000 per acre. I think if you could buy the cheeper land and turn it into a permaculture place you would be able to make pretty good profit. I also think most people would rather have a place with trees and water, all other things being equal. So yes it sounds like a good plan to me.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It can be done, but it is not as fast or easy as flipping a house.

Follow permie design and you can rebuild land quickly, but it is years instead of months.
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/80255/craig-wichner-new-model-investing-farmland

This podcast talks about doing something similar, but without the flipping

Basically a fund created to purchase conventionally farmed land, convert it to Organic / Sustainable farm methods, and using the profitability to create returns on the funds... Permaculture seems like a logical progression of this thought.

Seems like a really interesting mix of socially responsible investing and land management, but I haven't done enough research on it to know if they have been successful.
 
Tom Davis
Posts: 156
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I don't think this concept is outside of permaculture and if there are people who think it is ugly, then whatever. I think that is a silly idea.

I have heard well known permaculturists talk about mainframe designing property and selling it on as a very profitable way to work with permaculture.

I don't think it needs to be years in the making either.

Installing water harvesting features, ponds, and roads using design principles e.g. keyline, permaculture, restoration ag -- will quickly increase the value of the land monetarily and otherwise.

You could design out the entire properties intended progression, for an added fee, or let the owners decide how to proceed.

You could quantify the improvements, but simple b/4 and after pictures might suffice, or the land may just radiate vitality and abundance and then no need for any qualifications.

If you choose the right time of year, I can see installing the mainframe, seeding pioneer species and nitrogen fixers immediately after installation and having land for resale in 6 months time or less, with the dams full or well on the way to full (depending on size of dams).

Sell on the property and let the new owners "decorate" with food forests and such. This is b/c most folks (not all) into this type restorative practice, in my estimation, enjoy planting and planning gardens.

Seems like one of the best ways to make a living to me.

I have heard numbers of $4 dollars in return for every dollar invested in earthworks. I think a lot of that ROI projection depends on fuel costs and other local factors.

So, if you are or can find a skilled heavy machinery operator or 2, you may be able to have better margins. And the local market demand will (of course) dictate how much ROI you will see on these types of projects.

 
Jason Nicoll
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Thanks for the great advice and encouragement. I feel I am pretty close to getting the right piece of land and can't wait to sit down, take stock and start to see the design. The next challenge is going to be finding a competent bulldozer/digger operator.
 
Dave Aiken
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Jason Nicoll wrote:Thanks for the great advice and encouragement. I feel I am pretty close to getting the right piece of land and can't wait to sit down, take stock and start to see the design. The next challenge is going to be finding a competent bulldozer/digger operator.


Hoping for an update from you, Jason. I'm in a similar, but slightly different situation. I have property that we MAY build a home on ourselves in 2-3 years. But I'd put the odds at about 50/50 not knowing what direction my career may take after finishing a PhD program. I have done some small things on the property:

1. I had a foresters write a management plan to get that perspective
2. I planted some fruit and nut trees along 2 fence/property lines.
3. I've done a little selective clearing of low quality timber and started a few oaks and hickories.

My dilemma is the uncertainty - I'm not ready to build for fear of having to sell. But I've contemplated getting all the main frame in for a permaculture system that that when the time comes, it's ready for a house with productivity already underway, or it's turnkey for somebody else to do the same. I've found that this uncertainty has slowed my design/implementation, but I'm thinking that your idea is the way to proceed. While the somewhat "unmanicured" appearance of a permaculture system may be a turnoff to some buyers, to the "right" buyers it may be worth a premium. Or better yet, we build on it ourselves and it's already producing food and fuel for us.
 
Jason Nicoll
Posts: 61
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Sadly I haven't gotten my own land yet (hesitation and being outbid), but that is what I want to do more than anything else. As you pointed out, the main problem with the land flipping/development is the time taken and the uncertainty of what any future customers would value. As there is no guarantee that ecologically minded people will come along and see the "bio-wealth" of the land, I think it makes sense to only implement things that will probably add value to the land (well built dams, decking and pergolas around dwellings) or have the land be multi utilitarian, either of personal value or have it provide a form of income.

The system I prefer is finding the longest, highest site for a top swale and linked dam system with food forest and then sub-soil rip the land below at a slight angle towards the peaks. Then charge local farmers a monthly rate per head of livestock to feed off the land and control their grazing with electric fencing on a chicken/pig/cow tractoring system to make revenue. This should help towards gaining an income whilst improving the nutrients of the land and keeping development and land sale options open.
 
Dave Aiken
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Jason Nicoll wrote:...The system I prefer is finding the longest, highest site for a top swale and linked dam system with food forest and then sub-soil rip the land below at a slight angle towards the peaks. Then charge local farmers a monthly rate per head of livestock to feed off the land and control their grazing with electric fencing on a chicken/pig/cow tractoring system to make revenue. This should help towards gaining an income whilst improving the nutrients of the land and keeping development and land sale options open.


Sounds like a good plan - I wish I had taken my PDC before I purchased this land. It's a little short on grazing space. It would be great for a few hogs or goats raised in timber, but that's a very niche market, and there would be a few potential management issues to work around. Finding land with the right topography for larger-scale earthworks and grazing of inter swale space would be great. My place's niche would be more for resale to somebody interested in a resilient homestead with a large stream, lots of timber, and good potential for agroforestry. I'm not sure how I could generate short-term income.

Keep us posted.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 804
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Shade - loving berry crops.

-CK
 
ben harpo
Posts: 76
Location: Illinois, zone 6b
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The earth moving, water catching, and soil building sounds great. Creating education and jobs for the locals is great too. If the subdivision plans create affordable places to live for workers in that region, then it's probably a good thing. But, if the whole plan hinges on "ecologically minded people who come along" (especially foreigners or people from the big city) and say "Oh Wow!" and bid up real estate prices beyond the reach of people who work in the region. That is ugly. Brazil already has a huge problem with absentee landlords on the one hand, and landless peasants on the other. Please don't make it worse.

 
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