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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.