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Permaculture applications beyond homesteading

 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Diego de la Vega wrote:
Honestly, I was disappointed when I came to this board and failed to find evidence of financial success.

Maybe permaculture is great on a small scale to help individuals and families to be more independent and to eat better food. Maybe it cannot work on a larger scale. Please prove my impression wrong.


I thought I'd jump into this hot topic by responding to the original post. I apologize if my points have already been made.

I have to constantly remind people that permaculture is not farming. It's not even gardening. It's a philosophy and a way of life that touches on every aspect of living. How we feed ourselves is only one aspect. Permaculture is also a process and a journey-- it's not a destination where we can suddenly pass some sort of milestone and say "Aha! I have arrived! I am now doing Permaculture!"

Permaculture has many benefits. Some are financial. Others are physiological, psychological, ecological, social and spiritual.

I would encourage you to understand that money is not an ends-- it is merely a means. If one's true ends are found through alternative means to money, then what need do we have for money? If 90% of your needs are provided for by Permaculture through alternative means, then why make money "doing permaculture"? Why not do some sort of art, craft, or profession that you really enjoy doing in your spare time, making the money you need to fill the remaining 10% gap? Many Permies are finding that they really LOVE teaching Permaculture, so that's how they make up that gap.

Dave Holmgren's Permaculture Flower proposes that Permaculture spans Seven Domains of living. The food production/gardening aspect only describes one of those domains. So yes, you could sell excess produce to the community, but I would ask how you are compensating for the loss of nutrients, carbon, water, etc... that's going out the door in every bushel of produce? If you're not bringing in materials to replace it, then you're depleting your soil, rather than building it. It's something to consider. You could also design and build energy systems or transportation systems for those who are homesteading, as technology is another petal on Holmgren's Flower. You could teach herbalism, yoga, and spiritual living-- yet another petal on the flower. You could become a structural engineer and approve alternative building plans and methods for those who want to build with earth or straw or tires-- another petal. You could hold workshops on non-violence, consensus decision-making, and community governance-- another petal.

So yes, there's plenty of ways to make money doing "Permaculture"-- and do so without ever touching a shovel.

Frankly, I'm not much a green thumb myself. I'd much rather delegate the food production to those who are more talented at working with plants than I. But I understand physics, economics, social science, and spirituality. These are the areas where my talents are best used. Am I doing "Permaculture"? Can I make money doing these things? Absolutely. I am currently studying Organizational Leadership through Fort Hays State University. Understanding how groups are organized and led to create useful change is a big part of Permaculture, and I plan to make a fair amount of money consulting organizations and coaching individuals on leadership. I also implement leadership in my own life. My wife and I are seeking others to cohabitate with us in an Urban environment, implementing the efficiency of stacked function (a Permaculture principle) in a commune, where the savings we realize are reinvested into a land purchase for eventual homesteading together.

(Personally, I think that the American ethic of Individualism is contrary to Permaculture, and that too many who are trying to do Permaculture on their individual/family homesteads are short-sighted and buying into a consumerist cultural value that does not serve them nor their descendants nor the world).

There are many ways to "skin a cat" as the proverb goes. There's also many ways to realize prosperity, and money is only one way-- and one that's not nearly as paramount when doing Permaculture as it is in the Consumerist world.

 
Cortland Satsuma
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@Kevin...

So, then...Your answer to Diego's question is "No."?

Please note, as has been repeatedly stated, he did not ask for your opinion or approval of his life's philosophy. I encourage you to read his actual question; if you want to start a thread on your personal feelings or philosophies and their strategies; please do so. There are many views represented on this board. There is no need to take over someones popular thread; just start your own.


Diego la Vega]Does anyone here make money? This is a very blunt question, but let me be more specific. Does anyone here make enough money on their agriculture (permaculture) sales to support themselves (pay bills, [surl='https://permies.com/t/22168/Mortgage-Free-Innovative-Strategies-Debt' class='api' title='a thread about the book Mortgage Free']mortgage, clothing, electric, etc).

I know there are designers and consultants making money teaching people permaculture, selling books, etc. However, I have searched this board over and have not really found anyone who said that they themselves made enough income from their homesteading/farming operation to support themselves throughout the year. People mention sepp holzer, but no one seems to know how much he makes and his income is clearly supported by his book sales and tour fees.

I have read many of the things that Paul Wheaton has written, watched EVERY youtube video, and listened to some of his podcasts. I agree with him that to make this work you have to make money. Otherwise you become just another failed farmer without a farm.

 
Adam Klaus
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Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Personally, I think that the American ethic of Individualism is contrary to Permaculture, and that too many who are trying to do Permaculture on their individual/family homesteads are short-sighted and buying into a consumerist cultural value that does not serve them nor their descendants nor the world


Harsh. And meriting of me repeating one of my favorite sayings, "There seems to be only one person with a shovel, for every ten with a megaphone." Those of us with shovels in hand seem to find that making money from permaculture is very doable. It's sure hard to make money from permaculture when you arent producing anything though.

Permaculture is fundamentally a system of living with the Earth as the foundation for our sustanence. That is another word for agriculture. Grab a shovel folks! There are more teachers than do-ers, tragically. There are more leaders than examples. This has a lot to do with why many question the financial viability of permaculture. Permaculture works well for those who are working. Just like my other favorite quote, "family farms work when the whole family works the farm."

And for future reference, as Cortland suggested, read the whole thread. There has been a lot of good discussion. Participate in the conversation, rather than just grabbing a soapbox and getting started. In the academic world, we build on the research of our predecessors, scholars dont just jump in with our declarations removed of all context. There have been a lot of quality contributions to this discussion that merit consideration.

Of course, if you have something you want to just say on your own, removed of context, by all means, start a thread and go for it. That's great too.

Until then, I'll keep on keeping on, making money and supporting my family through permaculture.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Cortland Satsuma wrote:@Kevin...

So, then...Your answer to Diego's question is "No."?


Actually, my answer was "yes", you can make money by doing Permaculture, but that Permaculture is far more than producing agricultural products.

It's this assumption that Permaculture is all about the dirt and what comes out of it that I'm trying to shift. We can broaden our ideas about what Permaculture entails, and what prosperity means.


Please note, as has been repeatedly stated, he did not ask for your opinion or approval of his life's philosophy. I encourage you to read his actual question; if you want to start a thread on your personal feelings or philosophies and their strategies; please do so. There are many views represented on this board. There is no need to take over someones popular thread; just start your own.


Not offering my opinion or approval of his life's philosophy. Just pointing out that Permaculture has some different underlying assumptions that may make his original question of reduced importance.

Diego de la Vega wrote:Does anyone here make money? This is a very blunt question, but let me be more specific. Does anyone here make enough money on their agriculture (permaculture) sales to support themselves (pay bills, mortgage, clothing, electric, etc).


So looking at this original question. He's concerned with making enough money with agriculture (which he equates with permaculture-- something I disagree with) to support himself... paying bills, mortgage, clothing, electric, etc... But if we take Permaculture in its broader implications, bills are reduced, mortgage is reduced or eliminated, clothing is approached differently, electric is reduced greatly. Many of the things we think we need money for can be handled in a different way through the Permacultural approach.

So yes, you can make money to meet your needs doing Permaculture. But it's not just about more money, it's also about less needs for money. The gap may be bridged more from the demand side than from the supply side.

Kevin
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Personally, I think that the American ethic of Individualism is contrary to Permaculture, and that too many who are trying to do Permaculture on their individual/family homesteads are short-sighted and buying into a consumerist cultural value that does not serve them nor their descendants nor the world


Harsh. And meriting of me repeating one of my favorite sayings, "There seems to be only one person with a shovel, for every ten with a megaphone." Those of us with shovels in hand seem to find that making money from permaculture is very doable. It's sure hard to make money from permaculture when you arent producing anything though.


Also harsh. And also only one way to approach it. I produce plenty. It's just not vegetables (yet-- I may at some point). I actually make several hundred dollars per month through Permaculture right now, and I live in an apartment. How do I do that? Well, for one-- by not having a second vehicle. I save money on a car loan, on insurance, on gas. I walk home from work several times per week, and get a ride when the weather is too extreme. Permaculture is not just about what we produce, but also what we save through reducing consumption. I'm using that extra "income" to go to school and to purchase my vegetables from an organic CSA. Frugality is rewarding. Not saying that everyone must do it the way I do, or that this is the extent of which I aspire to do. But it's one way in which I am living according to Permacultural values RIGHT NOW. We all have to begin where we're at. If we fail to realize that, then we have a bunch of people dreaming of "doing Permaculture someday, but it'll have to wait until I can afford to buy some acreage".

Permaculture is fundamentally a system of living with the Earth as the foundation for our sustanence. That is another word for agriculture. Grab a shovel folks! There are more teachers than do-ers, tragically. There are more leaders than examples. This has a lot to do with why many question the financial viability of permaculture. Permaculture works well for those who are working. Just like my other favorite quote, "family farms work when the whole family works the farm."


That's great! If you're a farmer. I'm not. I still do Permaculture.

And for future reference, as Cortland suggested, read the whole thread. There has been a lot of good discussion. Participate in the conversation, rather than just grabbing a soapbox and getting started. In the academic world, we build on the research of our predecessors, scholars dont just jump in with our declarations removed of all context. There have been a lot of quality contributions to this discussion that merit consideration.


I never said I wouldn't read the whole thread and participate through further discussion about it, but before I got side-tracked into other things, I wanted to address the original question in my own way.

Of course, if you have something you want to just say on your own, removed of context, by all means, start a thread and go for it. That's great too.

Until then, I'll keep on keeping on, making money and supporting my family through permaculture.


That's the point, I was saying what I was saying in the context of the Original Post. Hope that's acceptable...

Kevin
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@Adam...

I agree with you; the coined term of "Permaculture" was slang for permanent agriculture. It is based in the ancient knowledge of polyculture gardens, farms, and keeps. Upon this foundation the rest of the concepts are built. Devoid of agriculture and husbandry; one is not discussing Permaculture. Diego in this thread ((prior thread this came from))) is looking for input to the permaculture profitability of his parcel of land; not how to be greenish or frugal. There are numerous threads here that cover those topics to death. We appreciate your first hand experience at being a profitable permaculture homestead. Let us hope others share their profitable land use experience!
Adam Klaus wrote:
Kevin EarthSoul wrote: [/b]It's sure hard to make money from permaculture when you arent producing anything though.

Permaculture is fundamentally a system of living with the Earth as the foundation for our sustenance. That is another word for agriculture.

In the academic world, we build on the research of our predecessors, scholars don't just jump in with our declarations removed of all context. There have been a lot of quality contributions to this discussion that merit consideration.

 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Cortland Satsuma wrote:@Adam...

I agree with you; the coined term of "Permaculture" was slang for permanent agriculture. It is based in the ancient knowledge of polyculture gardens, farms, and keeps. Upon this foundation the rest of the concepts are built. Devoid of agriculture and husbandry; one is not discussing Permaculture. Diego in this thread is looking for input to the permaculture profitability of his parcel of land; not how to be greenish or frugal. There are numerous threads here that cover those topics to death. We appreciate your first hand experience at being a profitable permaculture homestead. Let us hope others share their profitable land use experience!


Permaculture has also been interpreted to mean "permanent culture", implying that it's more than just about the "agri" (acreage). I mentioned that we buy a share of organic CSA veggies. I have now finished reading the thread, and one thing that was brought up is that to be profitable, your agribusiness needs to have a market to which to sell. It's folks like me and my wife that are your market. We are participating in this all-important agriculture and husbandry you refer to by being the buyer of that excess produce. Without us, you have no profit.

As I said before, my skills do not lie in farming. I'll throw in some manual labor under the direction of someone with the know-how, but I'm not a "growie". I'll never be a farmer, but I already make money exercising permacultural principles, and will continue to do so. (I say this, with the caveat that I am highly interested in some of the other peripheral aspects of it, such as composting and vermiculture and soil building. Since I have a "brown thumb", I might as well make myself useful through working with the decomposers and detrivores).

Adding some additional commentary based on the rest of the discussion above...

I've got nothing against money. I think it's really helpful to remember that one of Holmgren's "Flower Petals" is "Finance/Economics", and that his Twelve Principles apply just as much to that domain as to Land Stewardship. I perceive that there are some who get excited about Permaculture and, thinking that it's all about the farming, want to jump right into buying themselves an acreage and make their growing operation profitable enough to someday quit their day jobs.

My plan is different: I am making "slow and steady changes", one of the Principles. I am "applying self-regulation and feedback", another principle. I am "obtaining a yield", another principle. By understanding that Permaculture exists beyond the farm, I am harmonizing my life with Nature, starting where I am at.

I can't afford to buy an acreage. I can't even afford to buy a home yet. But I can live frugally and efficiently. I can find others who are doing the same. We can find residence together and, stacking functions and "Integrating rather than Separating" (another principle), we can live even more frugally, without compromising our quality of life. We can pay down our debts with the efficiency gains, and start saving for an acreage. In the mean-time, we can eat healthy, locally sourced produce and animal products (produced by people like you, Cortland). In the mean-time, we can reduce our carbon footprint by owning fewer cars and carpooling more. In the mean-time, we can build a backyard greenhouse, compost our waste, and raise a few veggies and/or keep a few rabbits or chickens.

I believe that applying the Principles of Permaculture to the life I live now will be the training I need to be successful in whatever Permaculture endeavor I eventually come to be a part of.

To bring this back to the Original Post... it seems, from what I am reading here and elsewhere, that many of the people who are "making money at it" are the ones who have invested years in their "slow and small", integrating the Principles as they go, staying out of debt, and letting Nature do the work for them in ever increasing degrees, until it becomes self-sustaining.

Kevin
 
Adam Klaus
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Hi Kevin, rereading your posts, I just wanted to politely suggest that maybe you come at the forums here with a little bit different tact. Really the forums work best when we share what we do, rather than debate. I think Paul has said that these forums are specifically not a place for debate.

Permauculture for me enables me to operate a more efficient farm, and the efficiency of working with natural systems makes my farm more productive. I always thought Permaculture was short for Permanent Agriculture; that the fundamental thing this is about is farming in harmony with natural systems, in reverence towards the many cultural practices of the past, to create a permanent solution to our needs for nutritional sustanence. It is a beautiful thing.

I would never write off yourself at such a young age as having no ability to grow food. It is pretty easy, really, it just takes knowing a certain skillset.

My wife never thought she had a green thumb, but one day at a time she has learned a million little skills, and is now a seriously accomplished farmer in her own right. Learning works. Working works. The rewards, financial, spiritual, and everywhere in between, that come from growing food are a simply priceless aspect of our human heritage. There are a lot of skilled folks here to learn from. Anybody can learn how to grow food. Give it an honest effort, it is absolutely worth the work!

good luck!
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Hi Kevin, rereading your posts, I just wanted to politely suggest that maybe you come at the forums here with a little bit different tact. Really the forums work best when we share what we do, rather than debate. I think Paul has said that these forums are specifically not a place for debate.


I'm not precisely sure what qualifies as a debate in what I've written.

Permauculture for me enables me to operate a more efficient farm, and the efficiency of working with natural systems makes my farm more productive. I always thought Permaculture was short for Permanent Agriculture; that the fundamental thing this is about is farming in harmony with natural systems, in reverence towards the many cultural practices of the past, to create a permanent solution to our needs for nutritional sustanence. It is a beautiful thing.


It is a beautiful thing. Permaculture has its roots (pun intended) in perennial polycultural farming, but it's much larger in scope than farming. The very fact that the Permies forum includes entire sections on things other than farming bears this out. It is about sustainable living at all levels. One doesn't have to farm to do Permaculture, but if one is not personally farming, then I hope one is sourcing their food sustainably, or working toward that goal.

I would never write off yourself at such a young age as having no ability to grow food. It is pretty easy, really, it just takes knowing a certain skillset.


I'm not sure how young you think I am. True, I'm in college. True, I just got married. True, I have no children yet, but I am old enough to be a grandfather.

My wife never thought she had a green thumb, but one day at a time she has learned a million little skills, and is now a seriously accomplished farmer in her own right. Learning works. Working works. The rewards, financial, spiritual, and everywhere in between, that come from growing food are a simply priceless aspect of our human heritage. There are a lot of skilled folks here to learn from. Anybody can learn how to grow food. Give it an honest effort, it is absolutely worth the work!


That's great that your wife learned so much and has become so accomplished at it!

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I'm uninterested in farming because I'm bad at it. It's the other way around. I'm bad at it, because it just doesn't ignite my passion. I'd much rather be building, designing, or teaching than digging and picking. I just don't care that much about plants. They don't really excite me. I'd dig and pick as a work tithe in a community, but I wouldn't make it my primary function.

good luck!


You, too! Just because it isn't my path, don't assume that I don't have extremely high regard for those who are the growers. I tell people often "When the collapse comes, it'll be the gardeners who save the world." I really believe that, but it's just not my path to be one of them.

Kevin
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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NOTE: The posts in this thread were originally posted to another thread in the "homesteading" forum. Some "quotes" referenced the other thread and may not be pertinent here. Original posters may wish to edit some of these references, or not - up to you.

The point of making a new thread on this topic and moving it to the "permaculture" forum is to discuss the points put forth by Kevin in a broader "permaculture" context.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Thanks for breaking this out, Jennifer. I never imagined that those practicing Permaculture would be unaware that Permaculture goes beyond farming (and building).

Here's Dave Holmgren talking about the Seven Domains of the "Permaculture Flower":
http://permacultureprinciples.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Holmgren_Pc_Flower.mp3

In it, he mentions that the most important, fundamental domain is that of "Land Stewardship", and that it progresses around clockwise to Building and Energy/Tools, but that this is the extent that most people think of Permaculture. However, he asserts that Permaculture extends into four more domains, completing his seven petaled "Flower".

Here's the Flower itself: http://permacultureprinciples.com/flower/

If we click on each petal, we get a list of examples of things that reflect Permacultural values within that domain.

We can also read much more extensively about each petal in his downloadable booklet: http://permacultureprinciples.com/resources/free-downloads/

Now, even Holmgren starts with the Land, and I agree that just as life really starts in the soil, Permaculture starts with how we work with the Earth to provide our basic survival needs of Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter, etc...

But since the Flower represents a cyclical system that spirals outward, I believe we can make our entry point at any point on the flower that is reflective of where we begin are at when we first encounter the concepts of Permaculture.

I also believe that any ONE domain on the Flower is supported and enhanced by attention and work done in ALL the other areas.

If we insist that Permaculture is all about the Land Stewardship/Farming, or that it must be our starting point, you'll lose the opportunity to help millions of people get started with Permaculture who can not afford any land, because they are too bound up the system to have that kind of capital. Or if they have the capital, they can't quit their day jobs, and so are still bound to the cities in which they live, and can't afford the higher real-estate values within commuting distance, or afford the commute (in time as well as money) from more remote locations.

So what do we do?

We realize that Permaculture can be applied to all processes of living, and we creatively find ways synchronize our lives with Nature in incremental ways.

This is what I and my wife are doing, even as we live in an apartment in a city. We have no farm, but we can buy our food from those who do, so that our application of "Land Stewardship" means supporting those who are respecting the Land at least through low-intensity, organic agriculture if not Permaculture. We have no home of our own yet, but we can do our planning and designing, educating ourselves about our options. We are still tied into the grid for our power, but we can reduce our consumption (we chose an apartment with south-facing windows on the top floor, so that we could keep our heating costs low. In Summertime, we use fans extensively with little clothing to reduce our A/C needs). We are looking at buying or renting a home with as many as 6 or 7 bedrooms, to start a communal living home with others who share our values. By stacking functions in that environment, everyone can save significant amounts of money, which can be used to pay down debts, and to save up, as a community, for some land. In the mean-time, in that communal home, we learn to apply Permacultural principles to other aspects of our lives.

This is our plan for entry into the more traditional, land-based Permaculture that everyone knows and loves.

But even once we're there, which model do we strive for?

Do we try to set up a for-profit farm, where we grow more than we need ourselves to sell to others? Perhaps...

Or do we focus on meeting our own needs (subsistence), while earning money in our other professions? This is where I think a lot of answers were going to the original poster in the other thread. Many people do subsistence Permaculture, not making money directly on a surplus of produce from their land, but saving money and time on meeting their own needs, allowing them to make money on their primary professions, and keep more of what they earn there.

My wife is a Masters of Counseling student. I don't think she wants to give up her dreams of counseling others to become a full-time farmer. I want to be a leadership educator and coach. Others who join our community may have other passions. We may have one person be our "Lead Land Steward", or we may divide out that responsibility over several people as their secondary occupation. I don't know yet. I'm open to multiple possibilities for tomorrow, while I work today to make Small and Slow Changes today.

Kevin

 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Jennifer...

Thank you for moving this thought line to a better track!

@Kevin...

I am glad that your overview has been vetted to a more conducive thread. Permies does have a vast array of topics and directions to be a part of. (Most of us are active in several areas.) Your voice is appreciated, too; equally to others. As a polyculturist, we appreciate those who support our efforts as customers and choose to live a life conscientious of nature. I hope this new thread assists you and your spouse in your endeavors!
 
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Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Thanks for breaking this out, Jennifer. I never imagined that those practicing Permaculture would be unaware that Permaculture goes beyond farming (and building).



To be fair, the original thread was in the farm income forum, which was why the emphasis there was on money from farming.

I've lost count, but I think we now have over a hundred forums, covering much more than just plants and building!

Check out the main forum page with the whole list.
 
Kevin EarthSoul
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Burra Maluca wrote:
Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Thanks for breaking this out, Jennifer. I never imagined that those practicing Permaculture would be unaware that Permaculture goes beyond farming (and building).



To be fair, the original thread was in the farm income forum, which was why the emphasis there was on money from farming.

I've lost count, but I think we now have over a hundred forums, covering much more than just plants and building!

Check out the main forum page with the whole list.


Indeed! I am a bit embarrassed now. I came to that thread by clicking on "Hot Topics", rather than through selecting the particular forum.

However, as I read through the responses, a lot of them seemed to be in line with my thesis... that "profit" is not just about selling produce to consumers. If we define "profit" as "revenue/income - expenses/overhead" you can choose to draw the boundaries of that equation around just the farm operations, in which case, Permaculture can help to increase yields while lowering expenses. If your primary aim is to make an income off of the farm productivity, then Permacultural principles can help. But I think few people are doing Permaculture this way. I think many people have discovered that it's hard to scale up Permaculture to the point where it's economically competitive with other forms of agribusiness. I wonder, too, if compromises are made by those who do decide to scale it up. I've read some threads where people seem to be selling lots of a single product to market, and I wonder if they've had to plant in extensive monocultures-- but that's a discussion for a different thread.

The profit equation can also be drawn around an entire life. If "revenue/income" is primarily from one's "day job", then Permacultural gardens help reduce the household's "expenses/overhead" by providing high-quality abundant food for far less money than purchasing it at the store. By building energy-efficient homes without taking out loans to do it, they reduce mortgages (perhaps just a mortgage on the land) and utility bills. So yes, Permaculture leads to additional "profit", not by adding to the revenue stream, but by reducing the overhead. I believe a great many people are doing Permaculture this way. This is why even a half-acre yard in the middle of a city can be used "profitably". If I don't get 100% of my food from my yard-- even if I get just 20%-- that's money in the bank for me.

Kevin
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