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doing permaculture NOT as a self-employed farmer

 
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To follow up on one of Elizabeth's comments... Lots of people who have come through my introductory farm business planning courses (Exploring the Small Farm Dream) decide NOT to farm as a business. There are lots of other ways to "scratch the itch" that make more sense for some people. Maybe you are not organized enough to be self-employed, or you have a big family and need health insurance through a proper employer. Having a "real job" can pay for a nice site pretty well, and then you can raise crops and livestock without the financial pressure of farming. This can make it more fun! Getting paid to manage someone else's land as a farm or land manager can be lucrative and lets you build skills on someone else's dime.

Succeeding as a farmer means having a lot of skills (or hiring or partnering with people who do). Check out this list I came up with in an old day job: http://www.smallfarm.org/main/for_service_providers/tools_and_resources_for_working_with_new_farmers/nesfi_tools_and_resources/dacum_occupational_profile/.

That's not to say don't go for it, but to encourage people to walk in with eyes open. One of the great things about the Regenerative Farm Enterprise Planning course we are planning is that Rafter Ferguson will report on his recent tour of almost 50 working permaculture farms across the US. Among other things he will talk about how they got established and where the money is currently coming from. Most farms, like most new businesses, do not support themselves for several years.
 
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For what it's worth, I approach permaculture mostly as a toolbox to help me be a better gardener and land manager. It helps a lot that permaculture dovetails nicely with my resource surpluses (land, sunshine, wild fruit and nut trees) and resource shortfalls (money or inclination to buy fertilizers and pesticides, ag equipment beyond hand tools, reliable summer rain, topsoil).

Nothing wrong with being a farmer, but it's not for me. My goal is simply to improve the food productivity of our land. I'm not looking for self-sufficiency but I do like the notion of using our land to enhance our food security situation. We're getting older and slower and poorer (those trends probably won't change) and the world is getting faster, crazier, hotter, drier, weirder, more expensive, and harder to predict (those trends probably won't change either). The diverging trend lines make old age look fairly unappealing, from my middle-aged vantage. Permaculture offers me tools to claw back some measure (however small) of control and security and gastronomic pleasure.
 
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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A diversity of income had helped us. I see permaculture as a broad set of design principles that guides us to a more resilient and livable future. We do sell produce and we do eat our own home grown food, and we also make a living from our farm in other ways, especially within the gift economy. Our community provides so much for us in terms of clothing, furnishings, child care, education and entertainment and we share our abundance too. Many folks in the global economy have to pay for that stuff! We grow as big a crop of good will as we can (sow seeds early and often...)

You can say being home and having a simple life saves money and you can also say it creates value. It certainly feels like it raises our quality of life.

That said, the economics wouldn't work if my husband didn't work outside the home
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