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Mary Jane's Farm

 
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Here is a stellar income model. 

I have never been to MJ's farm, but I have heard from several people that have been there:  there's not that much to it, really.  But!  She gets people to come to her farm and pay $2500 to stay in a tent for a week.  And they help out on the farm.

Granted, it's a really nice tent. 

Apparently, she got a million dollar advance on writing a book. 

And her magazine is loaded to the gills with excellent photography and layout - a very professional mag. 

I think that this income model is a mix of art and agro-tourism.


 
              
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haha, they do say a sucker is born every minute.  Sounds like a big ripoff she uses on the big following she has.  Definitely not what permaculturalists should aspire to. 
 
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Didn't Bob Dillion have a song about Maggie's farm? 
 
paul wheaton
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LoonyK wrote:
haha, they do say a sucker is born every minute.  Sounds like a big ripoff she uses on the big following she has.  Definitely not what permaculturalists should aspire to. 



Over the last year I have learned some powerful lessons that there are different interpretations for what permaculture is.

I'm going to say that Mary Jane Butters has done an excellent job.  And, I wish such good fortune on everybody here. 

Therefore, in contrast to your statement "Definitely not what permaculturalists should aspire to." I'm going to say that I think this is something that I would hope many permaculturalists would aspire too.

As for it being a ripoff - I suppose if she billed it as something it is not, then it would be a ripoff.  But I don't think that is the case.  I suspect that there are a lot of people earning a lot of money and they get very little vacation, and they will find this $2500 well spent. 

 
              
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Ok, found her site I think  http://www.maryjanesfarm.com/bb/

it gives us a better idea of what exactly it is, rather than just hearsay on here.  So it appears it is a bed and breakfast, not what I had in mind when you were talking about it.  Also, looking at the site, the cost sounds like more like half of the cost you had said. 

As for it being a ripoff - I suppose if she billed it as something it is not, then it would be a ripoff.  But I don't think that is the case. 



I think the word you are thinking of is scam, which is different than ripoff.  Ripoff is more in the eye of the beholder, as I see it as a ripoff and you don't, type of thing. 
I bet Oprah could get people to rent boxes to live in,  in a Chicago alley for 5000 a week, just because of her crazy following, doesn't make it right. 

I have never heard of this Mary Jane Butter person before(and when you first mentioned this topic, thought it was going to be about growing marijuana)  Anyways, looking online about her,  seems like she has a fanbase, which helps brings in more money. 

Over the last year I have learned some powerful lessons that there are different interpretations for what permaculture is.

I'm going to say that Mary Jane Butters has done an excellent job.  And, I wish such good fortune on everybody here. 

Therefore, in contrast to your statement "Definitely not what permaculturalists should aspire to." I'm going to say that I think this is something that I would hope many permaculturalists would aspire too.




The issue I have with some of the farm income topics you bring to our attention are that they aren't realistic.  Its like telling every kid that plays in a play in highschool, they'll make millions as a movie star, or every kid that plays sports that they are going to make alot of money in professional sports.  People are going to crash and burn if all they think about is how to make the most money out of a permaculture system. 

And obviously you stated there are alot of interpretations of what permaculture is.  So I guess that is why there may be some disagreement with this stuff.  I think capitalistic views have flooded the idealogy behind what true permaculture is.  And when treated like that, it becomes just a shell of what could ideally be attained. 




 
paul wheaton
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I bet Oprah could get people to rent boxes to live in,  in a Chicago alley for 5000 a week, just because of her crazy following, doesn't make it right.



If she was honest about it ahead of time, I don't see why it would be anything other than right.  If people wanna rent a box for 5000 per week, it is their right to do so.  A bit weird, but .... people are allowed to be weird.

The issue I have with some of the farm income topics you bring to our attention are that they aren't realistic.  Its like telling every kid that plays in a play in highschool, they'll make millions as a movie star, or every kid that plays sports that they are going to make alot of money in professional sports.  People are going to crash and burn if all they think about is how to make the most money out of a permaculture system.



And you have the opportunity to help us understand how they are anything less than realistic.  In the meantime, I'm going to continue on this path.

It is my hope that everybody reading what I write will be convinced that they can make far more money through permaculture techniques rather than conventional agriculture systems.

And obviously you stated there are alot of interpretations of what permaculture is.  So I guess that is why there may be some disagreement with this stuff.  I think capitalistic views have flooded the idealogy behind what true permaculture is.  And when treated like that, it becomes just a shell of what could ideally be attained.



The funny thing is that my opinion is exactly the same thing when you replace "capitalistic" with "anti-capitalistic".

If you are not comfortable with the idea of earning money from farming, then I'm not sure why you are here in this forum.


 
Fred Morgan
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I once had interns here, I hate to say never, but I didn't charge and what a mistake! Not to step on people's toes too much, but Interns generally aren't worth the food you feed them, especially college student interns, and especially when coming to a tourist destination like Costa Rica. 

Most places I know of here charge at least 1,500 per week, which is babysitting. The interns do work, but really, it is cheaper to pay a local than deal with interns.

Really, I have no problem with those who do a vacation where you learn and charge for it. Sounds like a nice vacation to me. Knowledge is the most valuable thing there is when you think about it, giving away your time for free doesn't make sense when you are trying to make ends meet.

But it isn't proving that permaculture can support itself, but there is no issue on people seeing things for what they are.

When you think about it, 2,500 is pretty cheap to learn whether you are willing to go the route of permaculture or not.

 
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i find fault with it because it means in general that the economics of the farm go against the laws of physics

someone is subsidizing their crappy farm by being famous... that's fine, no one is going to stop them, but is it an example we can or should follow?

i feel that permaculturalists should do more to reach out to the public besides charging yuppies and trustafarians over a grand for a week long class

not saying it wouldn't be worth it, but i certainly couldn't afford it, pretty sure my money would be better spent elsewhere

if we really want to replace the dreaded modern agriculture, agrotourism shouldn't and won't play a part in it
 
Fred Morgan
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A picture is worth a thousand words - so it may well be worth a week of your life and 2500 USD. But, you can't bill yourself as being sustainable if what you are really doing is tourism. But if it pays for a few vacations, why not?

Or pays down a debt you have when you purchased the land.
 
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asmileisthenewak47 wrote:

if we really want to replace the dreaded modern agriculture, agrotourism shouldn't and won't play a part in it



I agree with just about everything you said except the above. One of the pitfalls of modern agriculture is the disconnect between producers and consumers. I'm not saying you need to have a B&B but I think that generally a good idea to get the public onto farms through tours, CSA pickups, U-pick, corn mazes, etc.
 
                    
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wow, well I think the tents are a brilliant way to avoid constructing housing to code for guests.  She fills them with very nice furniture, I'm sure the climate and the seasonality of the whole enterprise means that the housing is well suited to warm nights with no air conditioning.  And if she can get people to spend lots of money staying there, more power to her!  There are many many things that affluent people can and do spend their money on - a little bed and breakfast like this is actually pretty close to awesome when you compare it to the energy needs of a 5 star hotel. 

I think marketing is probably 75% of a successful ANYTHING in this day and age.  She has a beautiful website, I haven't seen the magazine but I can imagine it to be just as nice.  That's a big part of the reason why people pay. 

I feel like agrotourism is important because it is educational just being in a green lovely space, just spending a full day outside for many people is quite a rare and wonderful experience, one that might make you want to re-create that feeling in your own life, somehow. 

For people who don't want to sell goods, selling farm hospitality is a good alternative. 
 
                    
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but Interns generally aren't worth the food you feed them



A worker is only as good as the person who is managing them.  In my opinion, if you can't kick your interns into gear, that's your problem, not a problem with interns in general.  I have mixed feelings about interning.....I've been one and I don't feel that I was burden, rather contributed a lot to the place I was temporarily living.  Next summer will be my first time on the other side of the relationship.  We're being very selective, as in, the college age couple living in LA right now who most recently wrote us about the ad.....probably not our best option. 
 
paul wheaton
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i feel that permaculturalists should do more to reach out to the public besides charging yuppies and trustafarians over a grand for a week long class



I think that it is hard to make a living on a farm. 

I think that if I can be on the farm and earn $400,000 per year instead of $2000 per year and it all fits within my ethics, then I am good with that.  To me, many aspects of permaculture help me to meet that end. 

I was reshaping my land and conducting dozens of expiments in an effort to maximize yield when somebody told me "oh - you're doing permaculture" - it was the first time I had ever heard the word. 

My goal is to make freaky big piles of money from a farm that is vastly superior in quality.  So I think a lot of my market is gonna be those folks that are willing to pay more for a better product.

But, that's just me.  I respect that there are thousands of alternative plans that others are signed up for.

My impression is that Mary Jane is doing pretty good in the superior food department and she is doing DAMN good in the freaky big piles of money department. 

My hat is off to Mary Jane Butters. 

 
paul wheaton
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Consider .....  your grow big heaps of food for you, your family, the interns, the other folks that are contributing to your farm .... 

Most folks at this point then think CSA or farmers market.  A lot of work/time is tied up in either path above and beyond the growing and harvesting.  What is the ROI? 

With folks staying at the farm, you just connect people to the food stream that already exists.  No extra transportation.  No standing at a booth.  No food boxes.  And there is a good chance they will even help with the labor. 

This seems like the ultimate in stacking your functions.  Damn smart.

 
                    
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My goal is to make freaky big piles of money from a farm that is vastly superior in quality. 



amen! 

I think it's a personality preference, the desire to have your place open to the public or the desire to take your products to a public place.  Some people, my romantic partner especially, simply aren't keen on the idea of talking to strangers - ever, really.  And many of us live away from the city because we don't want or need to see new faces every day. 

Catering to people, especially to people with a certain amount of money who expect a certain level of quality in the things that they purchase, can be a paininthearse.  Part of my interning experience was in helping to run a bed and breakfast cabin operation.  A huge part of the day is devoted to cleaning up after people when they leave, washing their sheets, scrubbing their toilet, etc.  Hospitality can seem like a nice way to make money, but in reality, it leaves you in the position of being a glorified maid.  I cleaned houses professionally for too long to want to do it the rest of my life.  I prefer my hands in the dirt.  But, that's my preference, and I see nothing wrong in other people doing it, especially if it supports a sustainably managed piece of land. 
 
paul wheaton
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I have visited a lot of intentional communities where they are trying to come up with on-community ways to earn money. 

One of the big complaints there was "the train station factor".  It feels less like a home when there are new people every day that you know will be a thousand miles away tomorrow. 

Some came up with solutions:  part of the land is closed to the masses -  a private area for the all year residents.    That seems to have helped a lot.

 
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The farm is not sustainable if the bank takes the land.

 
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Ken Peavey wrote:
The farm is not sustainable if the bank takes the land.



Absolutely true!

And I am struggling to understand why you are bringing this up?

I suspect that Mary Jane is not about to lose her farm.

This does make me think about about the rather excellent film "broken limbs" where apple farmers going down the conventional road are going broke, but the permaculture guy seems to be doing pretty good.

 
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We're planning on doing a similar thing as Mary Jane seems to be. We'd like to build some hobbit-type cabins for people to vacation in, help out at the farm, walk in the woods etc. I can't speak for all of my group but I'd like to think that we would keep the rental prices as affordable as possible and not just aim for the 'yuppie' market.
 
Fred Morgan
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marina wrote:
A worker is only as good as the person who is managing them.  In my opinion, if you can't kick your interns into gear, that's your problem, not a problem with interns in general.  I have mixed feelings about interning.....I've been one and I don't feel that I was burden, rather contributed a lot to the place I was temporarily living.  Next summer will be my first time on the other side of the relationship.  We're being very selective, as in, the college age couple living in LA right now who most recently wrote us about the ad.....probably not our best option. 



You are correct in a way, and given this is a foreign country where the locals only speak Spanish, and are not accustomed to ordering around spoiled college students. Not going to happen.

I am thinking about an Internship where they come with a Den mother though with a project to be completed, and if not, no grade.

But any employee I have who only works if they were forced by management is soon replaced with someone who wants to be productive. I won't have interns who demoralize good workers.
 
          
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Hey, this is something I know about!

There's not much of a farm. She doesn't sell produce, she buys products and processes them, but it does try to be an organic, somewhat local operation.

Her farm really is about image, the magazine is O magazine, farm-girl style, and she markets "romantic farm lifestyle." That's actually a phrase that's painted on the side of her little 'Sweet dreams shop' that she opened in town - sells organic cotton sheets and chocolates (those aren't organic cotton ).

I've read articles about how she started, really a hard-core activist, growing food to feed the people and all that. Nowadays it's mostly just about the fancy new products and ways to sell the culture she's created, it's very superficial anymore, as far as I can see.

It is a professional magazine, because it's a real authentic lifestyle magazine, selling calico prints and braids.

She's done some cool things. She's popularized organics and encouraged people to live a little more simply. But I think her real impact has run it's course. There are a lot more people out there doing more real things, besides just driving a fancy pink Cadillac with a farm logo on the side.   
 
paul wheaton
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I've shopped at the moscow food co-op many times!  You guys need to carry more pie

About a year ago I got a subsciption to MJ's mag with the thought "she's found an excellent channel to collect a premium price for her organic product:  good marketing."  I thought that by observing what she was doing, I might be able to emulate some of that. 

But I have to say that I am dropping the subscription.  The sexism is just too much for me.  I appreciate that she might have niche:  women bonding with women with an organic farm theme and fancy pictures.  And I am not a woman.   

I wonder if there might ever be a farm magazine that is blatently for men, just as MJ's magazine is so blatantly for women?    I suppose backwoods home is close - but, no, I think they might have a 50/50 gender appeal.  Farm Show?  I suppose that not many women are interested in that, but it isn't loaded with columns clearly labeled to be for "farm boys" or for men. 

But, now I'm straying away from the smart business model and toward a debate on sexism.

I suppose there is damn good money to be made in feeding into [s]racism[/s] sexism.  I just wouldn't be comfortable doing it. 

I still think there is a lot of good things to be learned by looking at MJ.  Just try to look past the blatant sexism.


 
          
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paul wheaton wrote:

About a year ago I got a subsciption to MJ's mag with the thought "she's found an excellent channel to collect a premium price for her organic product:  good marketing."  I thought that by observing what she was doing, I might be able to emulate some of that. 

But I have to say that I am dropping the subscription.  The sexism is just too much for me.  I appreciate that she might have niche:  women bonding with women with an organic farm theme and fancy pictures.   And I am not a woman.     

I wonder if there might ever be a farm magazine that is blatently for men, just as MJ's magazine is so blatantly for women?    I suppose backwoods home is close - but, no, I think they might have a 50/50 gender appeal.  Farm Show?  I suppose that not many women are interested in that, but it isn't loaded with columns clearly labeled to be for "farm boys" or for men. 

But, now I'm straying away from the smart business model and toward a debate on sexism.

I suppose there is damn good money to be made in feeding into [s]racism[/s] sexism.  I just wouldn't be comfortable doing it. 

I still think there is a lot of good things to be learned by looking at MJ.  Just try to look past the blatant sexism.





The problem I mostly have with her "organic product" is that there isn't really a product at all. She is not growing food to feed the world, or even to be most self-sufficient. She is not setting an example of sustainable living, she is just selling pretty, romantic pictures for a lot of money. There are people around, lots of people, who are doing things that are a lot more real, living off the grid, growing food for people and themselves in a sustainable way, really living the way MJ talks, but they aren't going to open a B and B because they are damn busy working, something which MJ doesn't do a heck of a lot of anymore, unless you count photo shoots work.

I would have to look past a lot of things in order to read MJ's farm magazine, and sexism is just one part of that. My love for farmers goes very deep, but MJ isn't a farmer, she's just a celebrity.

I hope there isn't a farm magazine that's just for men, I'd hope that most of them are for people. There certainly is money to be made from sexism, that's why O magazine sells, and Woman's day, Vogue, Elle, and Maxim, and all the other disgusting gender oriented, stereotype enhancing drivel that gets marketed to people under the guise of helping them live their lives better. MJ's magazine is no different, just riding the green wave right to the bank.

 
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My wife and I have talked about the possibility of opening our farm up in the future, but as a camp for kids.  I've even considered taking in problem children (specifically boys) who are in the foster care system but are bouncing around from family to family.  I was in the Army with quite a number of kids who were quite the hoodlums growing up, but the military turned them around and they matured into responsible adults.  I think what a lot of these kids need are a structured and disciplined environment.  We've run a daycare in the past, when my wife was the stay at home parent, and later when I became the stay at home parent I took it over.  We love kids and they seem to love us, because we pay attention to them.

After rereading the above paragraph I can see how some people might infer that we mean to open up a mini boot camp for kids or that we might be harsh and strict, which is not the case.  By a structured and disciplined environment I mean getting up early every morning, having certain chores that need to be done and instilling a certain amount of personal responsibility.  My wife plays the violin and viola (both classical and Celtic fiddle) and teaches the kids music.  She is also well versed in American sign language, and the kids love to learn that as well.  In fact we've taught all our kids (inc. daycare kids) sign language before they can even speak.  A child that can communicate it's wants and needs before they have the words for it become a lot less fussy early on.

Personally I would much rather deal with children than taking in adult borders.  I've had the experience of dealing with people who have more money than sense, and the last thing I would want is to have them on my property while catering to their needs.
 
paul wheaton
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Michael, I think you are on to someting really fascinating.  I think it is worthy of a brand new thread - do you mind starting one?

Jessica,

Good points. 



 
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yeah i got her magazine for a year..fairly nice ladies magazine..the website is a bit offputting and they screwed up my enrollment so i dropped it..but they are into using $ for a lot of stuff..guess that is how she makes her $..

can see where some other small farms might make a similar income from their farms.

i have always thought that if i could get mine to where i want it ..and producing nicely, i could do something with it income wise..

i even thought of having photographs taken here for weddings and sr pictures and such as it is really beautiful in some parts of the summer

my son put in a radio controlled car track on a field area of his property and is hoping to bring the sport out here to his side eventually..but so far it is just made and well maintained and not really used

 
          
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I don't know much about her or her farm, but I do know that she recently ran a pretty, glossified article about mini cattle - and she happened to endorse a farm that has equally glossifed website -
but a horrible reputation with customers...

It's of interest to me because I've been following a trend in the yuppie mag world - they are getting careless.

Hobby Farms ran an article about a Wool CSA. One of the featured photos was of an underfed, parasite ridden sheep in pathetic condition. (The farm owner had a reasonable explanation - the sheep was a rescue. The magazine had no excuse for publishing such a photo without realizing this was far from a healthy animal. )

It's a mixed bag. I'm happy these rags create interest in alternative livestyles. But geez, they dont' seem to have any
basis in fact or accountability for what they are publishing.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:Here is a stellar income model. 

I have never been to MJ's farm, but I have heard from several people that have been there:  there's not that much to it, really.  But!  She gets people to come to her farm and pay $2500 to stay in a tent for a week.  And they help out on the farm.

Granted, it's a really nice tent. 

Apparently, she got a million dollar advance on writing a book. 

And her magazine is loaded to the gills with excellent photography and layout - a very professional mag. 

I think that this income model is a mix of art and agro-tourism.




Hi Paul,

I Couldn't agree more. I think the agrotourism angle is something that barely exists in the united states and yet plenty Americans(and other europeans) seem to flock to Italy for just that experience. My wife is Italian, born in Italy and we go back every summer to visit relatives and we stay in an Agritourismo with her family. Its a fantastic and tranquil experience but its a shame that all these farms that do it are pretty much monocrop farms, as beautiful as they are in tuscany. Olive trees, wine grapes and wheat as far as you can see, with nothing growing around or underneath them. They are periodically sprayed and tilled. The Arno(the major river in Tuscany that flows through Florence and Pisa) is an opaque tan earthy color all year round because of the immense runoff and erosion caused by these farming practices.

I think your "Cancer-curing" polyculture permaculture based agrotourism model is something that would really take off in the states or anywhere with the right marketing.

Europeans seems to be a little ahead of the trend in these things and I think Americans would do well to catch on. In Austria and Germany the practice of making natural swimming pools is so common that one out of every 2 new pools put in is a natural one. In Italy Agrotourism is so prevalent that a drive through the countryside and you'll see as many if not more signs for them than for a hotel. The Italians, Greeks, Austrians, Germans, Swiss, French etc value natural springs so much that entire resorts are built around them with very high cost of entrance. These places not only charge to drink and bathe in the waters but also employ all sorts of holistic, naturopath, homeopathic practitioners in the spa. They spend considerable expense testing and preserving the water to make sure it is always of the highest quality as well as testing its curative properties.

So. Combine all these things into one experience and add permaculture as a foundation and viola something pretty much novel here in the states and maybe even anywhere in the world. At least I've yet to hear of one.
 
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I like the idea of a farm being so cool that people will part with their dough to harvest apples, rotate animals to the next paddock and live in tents. And I think it could be a good way to spread the word about permaculture. Maybe there would be a long term trickle down effect where the rich people buy into the permaculture brand, then regular middle class folk emulate the rich people and eventually permaculture becomes the new normal - kind of like the genealogy of lawns but better for the planet.

However I would be worried if the permaculture brand was limited to a yuppie clientele. I would also like to think that a farmer using permaculture could make a decent income doing regular farmer stuff like selling carrots, oranges and wheat. It would be nice to see small farms popping up again throughout the countryside because the small permaculture farm was a profitable business model. It seems like the big ag corporations would be quite happy to let permaculture remain a niche market.
 
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Location: Missoula Mt
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Mary Janes Farm Magazine focuses on a womans perspective on Organic farming and the organic life style. This magazine was started by Mary Jane Butters in 1996 as a mail order catalog for her line of dried goods. Since then it has grown into an internationally renowned bimonthly magazine containing tips and tricks for women who are living the farm life. She covers many topics including: Art, aesthetics, style, growing, cooking, community and many more.

Clickhere to subscribe to the magazine.

Click here to learn more about Mary Janes Farm.

 
Remember to always leap before you look. But always take the time to smell the tiny ads:
Abundance on Dry Land, documentary, streaming
https://permies.com/t/143525/videos/Abundance-Dry-Land-documentary-streaming
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