I sent this in email form to a few people that I respect in the permaculture arena, but I thought I would post here as well as I am at a loss on how to handle the situation.
Your advice/thoughts would be appreciated.
Here is a bit from my letter....
I have recently met a guy that started his own aquaponics business and has been quite successful. I offered my insight from a permaculture perspective and he was hooked. After much discussion he approached a local man who has quite a bit of money and is willing to let us “play” on an acre of his farmland which he claims is not good for growing anything but hay. I have some knowledge and a ton of resources to make the project a reality, but I need advice on how to handle the gentleman that is letting us use his land. Here are some key points of concern.
1. He has tried growing commercial crops on this land and has failed miserably but as a businessman has been very successful wit his produce distribution business. I think he is willing to give us the chance because he has a good heart, but I will have a tough job ahead of me to convince him that this will work.
2. He is extremely picky about appearances and thus does not want something that will look “overgrown”. Keep in mind his mindset is very traditional when it comes to landscaping and agriculture.
3. The gentleman, his wife and son (who helps run his business) would like to meet with me and my new friend to discuss our “plan” for this property. They are really excited about it but I think from their perspective they might be viewing this as a business opportunity where we tend to think of it as a model for local farmers and a proving ground for some overseas work in countries like Haiti and Kenya where food, rain and good soil is scarce.
4. We have less than 2 weeks to put a plan and presentation together.
5. Oddly enough, a USDA inspector walked through my new friends aquaponics business a few weeks ago and after hearing his speech on permaculture she became very excited about our plans. She even told my friend that she is one of the people that can write grants for this type of thing. Can we use this to our advantage?
In closing, I am not concerned with the design or implementation process, my main concern is getting on the same page as this gentleman. I am hoping this turns into something big in this area as a model for small scale farming. Everyday I see more and more farmland being sold to developers because the farmers can’t make much of a living on monoculture, I hope to change their way of thinking by giving them a real model to look at. I also want to take this process to areas of the world where people are dying by the millions due to a lack of sustainable food.
For example, those who have worked to develop their skins in building with cob host workshops (for $) and publish how-to booklets/DVD's. In addition they take 'work-party' trips (missions) to third-world countries to teach and establish/build using their skills for free every year. (Give-back mission trips you could say). Plus they offer scholarships and such to their workshops for those in real need.
So my quick response is - believe both can be done, look for how to make it happen, and it will happen. Thereby fulfilling everyone's dreams/visions.
my advice is to make appease the guy's aesthetic out of the gate, and over time introduce the complexity that he might object to, always keeping him in the loop and explaining why it's beneficial. there's something to be said for getting your foot in the door and then working toward your ideal from there.
blitz1976 wrote:He is extremely picky about appearances and thus does not want something that will look “overgrown”.
One way to get on the same page as him might be to make a show of control, even where control is unnecessary.
My cartoon sketch of resolving the landscape vision mismatch would be to start flats of some regionally-appropriate plants with their Latin species names, talk with him about their role in the system you're designing, transplant them in a regular pattern...and if some volunteers of the same species happen to appear, to help fill in the gaps, maybe he'll jump to the conclusion that weeding has been very thorough.
Another strategy entirely would be to stipulate from the beginning that the aesthetics won't be in his style, that making a profit probably means allowing it to look shaggy.
Jami McBride wrote:
For example, those who have worked to develop their skins in building with cob host workshops (for $) and publish how-to booklets/DVD's.
I am not quite sure what you mean here. And your example of missions is exactly where I see it going. We have a high demand right now from people asking us for help. The original plan was for my friend to use aquaponics there, which considering the circumstances might be the best initial option while we get a perma plan together. I am just convinced that we can help them without all the manmade inputs that aquaponics brings along. I guess I don't want to do all this work with the intent to help people, and have it be turned into a business so that the preople that need help don't get it, and the people that already have money get more money.
I do like the idea about getting a structured appearance and then introducing more non traditional elements in to it as time goes on and we gain his trust.
There are a lot of needy people in our area and I could foresee 1 acre of land producing enough food to feed a few homeless shelters easily and in turn get those people involved with the work.
has the landowner seen your pal's existing setup?
That is the crazy thing, my friend is leasing the land from this guy for his aquaponics business. The landowner previously tried hydroponics in the same greenhouses and failed, so I believe between the established relationship we already have with the landowner and the fact that my friend is succeeding will be a great asset. As it turns out it is a really small world and we all know each other through other people, which is funny but makes it a bit more complicated.
My vision for the first year is just to prove that this can work and show him how it will improve the soil. I plan to take soil samples along the way to show the improvement. Keep the good advice coming!
Their vegetable area looks almost like traditional gardening in that it's wide rows of veggies separated by lush, manicured grass paths. The vegetables are in guilds (I think...) and there are very complex food forest guilds lining miles of other pathways, but something about how they've kept certain areas manicured, and by having such beautiful healthy abundance, makes it all very aesthetically pleasing.
Here, I'll attach some photos from a tour I took with my crappy cell phone camera last August.