• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Burra Maluca
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
gardeners:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Bill Crim
  • Mike Jay

Farming homestead business plan...  RSS feed

 
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
NM,
Thanks for sharing your topic one answer. It is always good to see what someone else has done.

A few questions come to mind:
1. What was the level of freedom on the leased property?
2. How much property did you lease, how much do you use?
3. Which products did you find profitable, and did you have any clunkers?
4. What was the size of the Farming workforce? Did you have any seperation of rsponsibilities.

Then, on to topic 2: "What I did wrong."

Great discussion, thanks.
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

M. Edwards wrote:
In considering our business model, rather than aiming for the stars so far as profits are concerned, we've put pen to paper and calculated the -lowest- possible income we could feasibly eek out an existence on; to give you a basic idea of our needs, we survived on less than 15k combined last year (nearly all of it spent on food).. we are reluctant consumers. The model we came up with far exceeds our personal needs for subsistence (which is our ultimate goal, though profitability is also important), and once up and running, will clear enough (assuming everything goes quite swimmingly) that we'll have the place paid for inside of a decade. More realistically we're probably looking at a decade and a half, but sitting a couple years shy of thirty myself that's not too daunting a prospect.



I admire your ability to do so well under the official poverty line. Tragically, my wife isn't into living so far beneath the poverty line and wants a dishwasher and running water. Actually, I just don't think I can entice her into the homesteader lifestyle with claims that we could live on $15k. She's would not find that appealing in the slightest.
I'm not terribly keen on it myself long term, and I am jonesing for a humanure system.

That said, I can envision the possibility of making a significant amount of food per acre, upwards of 10,000 lbs per acre and more. I won't be able to do this running 200 foot rows of carrots and beans and lettuce. It will require a food forest implementation.

So, if I can grow it, and if I can pick it, then I have to sell it. I'll be harvesting animals that will be paddocked from area to area. We'll be collecting eggs and harvesting food and collecting seeds.

So, I'll aim high, looking for solutions to the problem at hand. Since I am looking in an area where top dollar is $2500/acre, and sub $1000 is fairly common, I can reasonably buy (with cash)  far more land than I could actually maintain. I see 20 acres as the minimum, 80 as the max. Cleary, some of this is a math problem, some a business problem, some an environmental problem, and some a permaculture problem. I'm just trying to solve all the various equations simultaniously

richard


 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

M. Edwards wrote:

Remaining .5 acre is to account for the 600' rows of trees (2 or 3 rows requiring roughly 10-15' breadth each) to be planted along northern property line (nuts, olives, figs, apricots, peaches.. maybe one row to wine grapes. We can grow almost anything in our climate but are selecting with drought tolerance in mind), plus the space the house and shop take up. The trees will mostly be for household use, but we may throw some of their yield in the CSA boxes in a pinch or if we've more than we can use. It'll be a handful of years before they put off anyhow.

Not even including planned expansions down the road and line items difficult to conjure up hard figures for (value added goods like preserves/pickled odds and ends, honey, soap, et. al.), that's just shy of $50k a year gross income. If we net half of that it'll be enough to pay our bills and live the kind of life we want. That's the plan, anyhow.



M.
This is exactly what I am talking about. If your plan puts you anywhere close to $50K on 3.5 acres, that comes to $15K/acre. If I farm 20 acres at the same level of awesomeness you seem to be headed for, or even less, maybe $10K/acre, then I should be able to obtain an income of about $200K on the 20 acres. I think it is an awesome plan.

I just want you to know that, overall, I think your plan is great, but you will probably get more from your trees eventually than you will get from the rest of the garden.

Can you grow kiwis there? I want to grow maybe a couple dozen kiwis, or 2500 lbs of KIWI fruit by the end of the decade. Don't see that at the FM often, do ya?

Only one other suggestion, plant the trees first.  Plant from seed when you can.

richard
 
pollinator
Posts: 10183
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
308
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hastingr, have you seen this video?:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng

It's one of the most exciting encouraging things I've seen in a while as far as what can be achieved with intensive food production.  Though one needs to keep in mind it was probably started with grant money or some other form of outside funding and is non-profit (as far as I know).

Designing your commercial operations to be intensive rather than extensive will increase efficiency.  That doesn't mean all your operations must be intensive - you may have an extensive food forest, for example, which you maintain while primarily supporting yourself from the intensive operation.

Anna Edey's "Solviva" discusses how to earn $500,000 per year on one acre (she earned $50,000 per year on one tenth of an acre). http://www.solviva.com/solviva_book.htm That might be a lot more efficient than trying to make $200,000 on 20 acres.   Unless of course for some reason you really want to have to deal with such a large area. 
 
steward
Posts: 25392
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I want to remind folks that I will delete stuff that falls outside of my comfort zone.  Mostly because of "be nice".  But really, I'll delete anything that i don't want to publish. 

So if a person posts something that suggests "there is my awesome way, an there is your stupid way" then it seems to send the message that my way (or, whoever "your" refers to) is stupid.  Therefore one can infer that stupid people have stupid ways.  I don't like the idea of anybody suggesting that anybody on permies is anything less than perfect. 

I also wish to point out that this is the farm income forum.  And "fleecing the ingorant public" puts a bit of a taint on the idea of farm income.  I really want this forum to be not about lame farm income, but awesome farm income.  So I would like to ask that folks that want to advocate making a crappy income and get used to it should move on to some other forum.  You're raining on my parade.
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
302
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting video about the fish farm.  It looks as if everything has been maximized.
I am not an advocate of fish farming, as I put it into the same category as "feed lot cattle", but I can certainly understand utilizing it as a means of supplying protein to the homestead.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10183
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
308
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I don't think all fish farming need be "feed lot cattle" any more than raising chickens in a pen need be "confinement chicken farming."

Animal rights advocates will certainly disagree with raising any kind of animal in a pen.

 
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aquaculture appeals to me more than cattle in a 5+ acre farm.  Fish can convert energy more efficiently than animals, and can be an integral part of your nutrient cycling.  I didn't read all the posts here but it seems like you are in a position to make the higher initial investment necessary to create ponds etc.  Although aquaculture is a whole other ballgame, fresh and safe fish are getting harder to come by and a mixed system has the potential for the most efficiency and stability.

Here's a passage from the Designers Manual:

I believe that when creating ponds in barren (or agricultural) landscapes, we must plan for a beneficial mosaic of forest, pond, marsh, and prairie or rangeland. The role of the forest (correctly chosen) is to produce clean water of good nutrient quality, to absorb wastes from fish and their plant associates, and to provide a variety of foods either directly (as fruit) or indirectly (as insect bodies and frass) to the pond in return.
The role of the marsh is to provide a rich habitat for birds and crustacea so that ponds and the forest collect phosphates, and that of the meadow to provide for component assemblies (open water, marsh, prairie, forest) in our mosaic, we can have both simple edge effects and other complex edges involving more than two junctions.  As a round figure for sub-humid or humid areas, perhaps we need something like 15% pond, plus 15% marsh (contiguous), plush 30-60% forest, and a remainder in meadow, crop, or pasture (10-40% of the total). Moreover, we need the forest upstream of, downstream from, and between our ponds, the marshes upstream of and in the ponds, and pasture or prairie as downstream and random patches, where the trees are difficult to grow.  We could perhaps link the whole with a complexs of permanent or intermittent drains, streams, canals, and swales.



 
            
Posts: 177
Location: California
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
I really want this forum to be not about lame farm income, but awesome farm income.   So I would like to ask that folks that want to advocate making a crappy income and get used to it should move on to some other forum.  You're raining on my parade.



I wasn't trying to advocate making a crap income or rain on anyone's parade. I am, however, an advocate for frugality and reduced consumption, which I think falls pretty well in line with the precepts of permaculture. I also think sensitivity is called for in defining what constitutes a crappy income; the median household income in our region hovers just above the "poverty line". I know plenty of folks who would be thrilled to pieces if they could clear 50k annually.
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
hastingr, have you seen this video?:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng

It's one of the most exciting encouraging things I've seen in a while as far as what can be achieved with intensive food production.  Though one needs to keep in mind it was probably started with grant money or some other form of outside funding and is non-profit (as far as I know).

Designing your commercial operations to be intensive rather than extensive will increase efficiency.  That doesn't mean all your operations must be intensive - you may have an extensive food forest, for example, which you maintain while primarily supporting yourself from the intensive operation.

Anna Edey's "Solviva" discusses how to earn $500,000 per year on one acre (she earned $50,000 per year on one tenth of an acre). http://www.solviva.com/solviva_book.htm That might be a lot more efficient than trying to make $200,000 on 20 acres.   Unless of course for some reason you really want to have to deal with such a large area. 



Hey H Ludi, That guy is my hero! I first saw this video about six months ago. Aquaponics is a great way to grow stuff very intensively. And I will certainly be including it in my plan.
Having raised Koi, it just makes so MUCH sense.

Your major input is fish food, which you can grow yourself, and enough electricity to run a pump 24X7.
Some things grow very well in Aquaponics, other things, not so well. So, what does, I will grow aquaponically. I have met a fellow that does this here in Austin, and can't reinvest in it fast enough to meet the need.

As for people living at a certain income level, and being happy with it. I look at it this way. I can feed eight people and make $5,000 or I can feed 75 people and make $50,000.
Or, I can feed 750 people and make $500,000. My goal is to feed the most. It just so happens that this also produces the most income, because it has the most value.
I am all for living beneath your means, but I have never been for limiting your income just because you can. I believe we should work as much, or as little as we want, and our income should reflect this. Then of course we get into whether you are working smart vs hard, right? It isn't a question of I'm right, and you are stupid, merely a difference in values. If I can get to the "work 15 hours a week and cover my expenses and more" I may just stop there
But I do not believe that it is inherently immoral to be "Wealthy". After all, the love of money is the root of all evil. Having it is not neccesarily so.

In the grand scheme, my work has value. If I can leverage more work (and thus more value), then my time has more value. This is one reason I like Sepp. I don't think he is lazy, but he is too lazy to fail.

He asks the question, "Why am I spending time doing this, and is there a way I can stop doing it, but get the same effect?" He only plants seeds once in an area. After that, he lets the lettuce bolt. Maybe he tosses new varieties around to add new things, but he doesn't replant his farm every year. It seems that he invests his labor to reduce his future labor. So, he gets a multiplying effect. If I work 20 hours today, I can reduce my time commitment in the future by 10 hours a year , but keep production about the same. A good investment.

I have not read Solviva, but I'd like to see what she is doing to do that much on .1 acres.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10183
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
308
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

gasden gardner wrote:
if you search the internet, it becomes evident that nearly all permiculture ventures considered successful are non profit



Can you list out some of these successful ventures?  Thanks.

 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gasden,
You raise many good points.
Yes, if somebody has a step by step, "How-to" plan, I'm all ears. I doubt that that is likely to show up here on this forum.
You state that I am way underestimating that tonnage that could be produced on an acre. Well, I just don't want to overestimate. So, I take merely the numbers I could expect from growing an orchard and dividing by two. I don't want anyone to claim that 20,000 lbs per acre is undoable. so, 10,000 per acre is conservative. Which we both seem to agree on.

My area of choice doesn't get three crops per year. It doesn't really get 2 crops per year. USDA zone 5/6. Could one produce 525,000 lbs of food per year? Almost certainly, but I would have trouble "moving" that much food, you are right. But I don't have to pick all 250 tons if the market won't bear it. It is all the same to me, and if I feed 200 tons to the deer and birds and "soil", then that's fine with me.

You imply that I would saturate any market I could be in on 40 acres. Well, that is possible, if I had a single product. If I plant nothing but lettuce, well one can only eat so much salad.One can only market to a limited number of Farmer's markets each week.
Heck, with the goal of 100,000 lbs of food, that still works out to 5000 lbs a week over 40 weeks. But how outrageous is this notion.
That is the eqivilent of 200 CSAs. A lot, but not huge by any margin. We have at least four CSAs in our area that are larger than that.
The CSAs in my area provide less than 25 lbs of food for about $30/week. My math gets me to $240K gross on CSA alone. And I haven't even sold any eggs or honey yet.
We are moving into a time where food will be more scarce world wide and the environmental impact of industrial farming is forcing many, including my family, into looking for well grown organic food. If the biggest complaint you have is that I will feed the entire state, well, I am pretty sure that even half a million lbs a year of food will not feed a small town. Not one with a population over 2000 anyway.

This is all with the idea of selling just the basics at slightly above wholesale prices.  Would I be able to sell 1000 CSA's? Not sure I want to work that hard

One could always spruce things up a bit with growing vanilla beans in a heated green house, might even try it, but it looks like that really is a time intensive, high maintenance situation.
But at $5/bean, it just might be worth it. Could you sell 10,000 beans a year? Pretty sure you could.

gasden gardner wrote:

if you search google for "lbs of food per acre" one of the first links shown is: http://www.gardensofeden.org/04%20Crop%20Yield%20Verification.htm which reports an AVERAGE yield for organically grown veggies and for nuts, fruits, and grains as 10500lbs per acre. if you had 3 crops a year (which most wouldnt consider intensive, and permaculture could possible produce more per acre) then you would have some where around 525000lbs of food a year. if my math is right, you'd have around 13500 lbs a week to sell at a high premium price (assuming about 9 months production). thats more than what a few grocery stores in my area could move in a week. i dont know if you could more that much produce at all the farmers markets in my entire state during a weekend. in my opinion, this means you would be forced to wholesale some, if not most of your production. this would drastically reduce your profit.



I would never harvest more than I could sell. Makes no sense to. Anything left over is allowed to go to seed, drop, go to the pigs, whatever.
Now I am pretty sure that my local grocery store goes through much more than 13K lbs a week though. Each person probably averages a couple lbs each, and I am pretty sure that more than 500 families of four shop there each week. Of course I am including meats, breads, butter etc...


gasden gardner wrote:
if you research the farms that make lots and lots of cash on super small acreages, you will quickly notice a theme. they all exploited a niche in their market. some sold micro greens to chefs, some focus on profitable salad mixes. part of their success is that they were small and demand was high. another part of their high return on investment was because they grew one or two things at the expense of all other less profitable crops. labor was also kept to what the owner/operator could do themselves without outside labor so that expenses were minimized. if Solviva had scaled her operation up to 100 acres, here niche market would have collapsed under the weight of all her product regardless of permaculture or organic processes.



This is an excellent point. What you can be sure of is that a single product will not be sufficient to get rich beyond all avarice. Can we grow enough olives, for example, to crash the local olive market? Probably, but not if olives are only 1/12 of the product mix.
One of Paul's biggest suggestions is that you find a premium product that you sell for a premium price. Not lettuce or tomatos, but purple carrots, or kiwi fruit, or pineapples or vanilla bean, citrus or $4000 hams. The problem with having a single niche is this. One crop failure and you are out of business.

gasden gardner wrote:
It appears the op is repeatedly asking for someone to lay out the step-by-step instructions to progress from selling his current house to ultra-profitable permaculture farm. i dont think anyone on this forum can answer his question to his standards. partially because noone on the forum has such a farm, and partially because those that do have farms are much more frugal and realistic in their ambitions. i dont think that this has anything to do with permaculture........ more with farm economics.



I believe you are correct here. If you are homesteading and doing "ok" then there isn't a need to do better. So, maybe they are at the Wheaton ECO level 3, working 20 hours a week, and think that being "rich" is a character flaw. They choose to live this way, and that's fine. But in fact the idea of making $200K doing this is repulsive to many. Why? Doesn't really matter.

gasden gardner wrote:
lastly, i think the time investment required for the owner/operator of a farm the scale of which the op is aspiring is being drastically underestimated. you could easily burn 60-80hrs a week just managing an enterprise of that size. coordinating the farm management, farm labor, marketing people, sales people, and delivery people (and any others im missing) would be an astronomical task. youd be in the company of corporate farms, competing for the business of store like wally world and whole foods. dealing with their special requirements alone could drive you nuts.


If you watch http://thesociocapitalist.com/2581/mark-shepard-interview-profitable-permaculture/ Mark says that he spends a lot of his time doing "not much" and he has 106 acres.

gasden gardner wrote:
i think the market for ultra-premium priced produce is medium to small in most areas. flooding your area with over 13000lbs of premium produce a week would drastically plummet the price you cold get for your products. also, youd be working your butt off to sell more and more product for a ever decreasing price. this forces you to further and further markets constantly increasing your expenses.



I agree, I would have market to a city to be able to market that much food. Like all economic situations, we have tradeoffs. I would not be willing to produce 13K lbs a week for $20,000. But I'd be happy to produce 5000 lbs a week for $15,000. But this is simple economics.

gasden gardner wrote:
every good company started small. if your buying their product at a best buy, lowes, walmart now, then they sold out quality for quantity and ever cheaper prices. walmart always want cheaper socks to sell. this is a model that transcends all products and markets. this is not a permaculture issue, this is a farm economics issue.



I expect it to take at least ten years to reach maximum production. I don't think this is "starting out big", perhaps ambitious, but not big.
If we want to convert the world away from growing industrial, then we must give people a financial reason to become permies. You can't do that without a lot of income.
I want to be the guy in ten years on permies.com saying "You can make money doing this. Here are my books."



 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10183
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
308
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

hastingr wrote:
This is all with the idea of selling just the basics at slightly above wholesale prices.



That looks like an admirable goal to me, to make basic food available to regular people. 
 
Posts: 83
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My question is why can't you make that kind of money or more?  So what if it hasn't been done before.  There has to be a first time.  I say make your dreams come true.  Go for it.  Rise to the top.  Be different. 

I have done this in a different business.  So many said it can't be done. I had no business experience what so ever just a dream.  You can't charge this you can't charge that employes are hard to find. You can't work that hard. blah blah blah.  I look at it this way as long as you are willing to learn and work and never stop solving problem/obstacles it will work.  It just might not be in the "normal" circle of what others have tried.

Marketing matters.  Watch the tv and you will see what the people are being bombarded with.  Huge corp spend big$$ to find out what makes people emotional enough to buy.  Most people part with their money on an emotional basis.  On a perceived need. Use that.  Get sexy loose weight get healthy and fit feel younger increase your energy eat holistically all natural better than organic.  Then charge $1000.00 per 3day weekend to work on your farm and feed them food that you have grown and let then go out and forage for stuff.  You can do a follow up email for progress recipes beauty from nature products.  Make sure they all leave the farm with their all natural $50.00 honey mint face mask and $35.00 beef jerky.  And of course the $25.00 soap you make.    Ok so you get the picture.  I figure if you have a lot of work to do 20 spots could be open little work 10 so 10k-20k per week end with a mail list and auto order products not to bad.  How creative can you be?

It's all in the packaging.  And you know what if you have a lot of money you can help a lot of people.  What else is it good for?  Farming dose not have to be in the normal traditional sense.  Wait Permaculture is all about that a different way so why not market sell and profit in a different way.  Think outside the garden box  Go for it.
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

danelle wrote:
My question is why can't you make that kind of money or more?  So what if it hasn't been done before.  There has to be a first time.  I say make your dreams come true.  Go for it.  Rise to the top.  Be different. 



Those who claim you can't do something are often interrupted by people that have already done it.

Thank you for your kind encouragement...


Marketing matters.  Watch the tv and you will see what the people are being bombarded with.  Huge corp spend big$$ to find out what makes people emotional enough to buy.  Most people part with their money on an emotional basis.  On a perceived need. Use that.  Get sexy loose weight get healthy and fit feel younger increase your energy eat holistically all natural better than organic.  Then charge $1000.00 per 3day weekend to work on your farm and feed them food that you have grown and let then go out and forage for stuff.  You can do a follow up email for progress recipes beauty from nature products.  Make sure they all leave the farm with their all natural $50.00 honey mint face mask and $35.00 beef jerky.  And of course the $25.00 soap you make.    Ok so you get the picture.  I figure if you have a lot of work to do 20 spots could be open little work 10 so 10k-20k per week end with a mail list and auto order products not to bad.  How creative can you be?


This made me laugh. I know exactly what you mean. But a $25 soap?  Better be a good one


It's all in the packaging.  And you know what if you have a lot of money you can help a lot of people.  What else is it good for?  Farming dose not have to be in the normal traditional sense.  Wait Permaculture is all about that a different way so why not market sell and profit in a different way.  Think outside the garden box  Go for it.



Money is nice, you can do all sorts of good with it.
 
danelle grower
Posts: 83
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know funny about the price of soap 11 years ago I had a bar in my shop that sold for $20.  Some places were selling it for $35 and up. CRAZY.  But it was a "very special" bar imported from France and only a very limited select group of places were aloud to sell it.  Talk about mark up!  People just loved it.  I used it a few times and didn't like it.  When I was taking a survey about getting rid of it people said "NO WAY".  So give them what they want who was I to judge. 

It does crack me up when I watch commercials.  How a hamburger is going to turn you into a blond thin tall young thing. Guess I must of got some bad burger.  I would love to have the money to help more.  But for now $20-$100 or what I have will just have to do.  Best of luck to you. Keep on dreaming. 
 
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is an idea of what you can do with one of the income from growing great fruit.

I work for a small business called www.Jourdansbeautifulfood.com . We are in South Florida and get premium selections, probably the highest quality of fruit in South Florida commecially grown. We ship the tropicals across the country for a premium price.  If you were to ask me, the fruit is worth more than what we sell it for. We also sell at farmers markets, and with ripe mangoes or lychee, we sell on the side of the road.

It is a very small business with only 3 employees right now. We buy from farmers so we need to mark it up from there. Our intentions and goal are to have our own far, which  would be a total permie farm, and then use those fruits to sell. Granted it would take more work growing than buying, however the income coming in would be amazing. I can sit on the side of the road for 3 hours and make $400 selling lychee's.

After all is said in done, what goes into the quality control of the fruit, makes it a fair exchange for what is being paid. It is a lot of work getting on top of farmers that once wanted to just sell the fruit and get rid of it, now they care about what they are growing and how it is picked. The reason why they care now, is because they are being paid a lot better value than they were.

If you have premium quality, you can get what you deserve which is a premium dollar. However, it's the education and seperating yourself from the other similar produce to let people know that you're $2 mangoes are worth every single penny if not more.

PS, I am really tired so I hope this makes since. lol
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jason wrote:
I work for a small business called www.Jourdansbeautifulfood.com . We are in South Florida and get premium selections, probably the highest quality of fruit in South Florida commecially grown. We ship the tropicals across the country for a premium price.  If you were to ask me, the fruit is worth more than what we sell it for. We also sell at farmers markets, and with ripe mangoes or lychee, we sell on the side of the road.

PS, I am really tired so I hope this makes since. lol



Hey Jason, makes perfect sense to me
Clearly there is a need to be a jack of many trades if one is going into premium food. One must be good with the soil, and great with the marketing and selling side of things.
This is one reason, I think, that we got into the mess we are in today, having mega-marketing companies buying food from mega-farm productions. Include a couple other middlemen and the pie is split six ways, and nobody does really well in the end.

Just pondering the thought that there might be little companies like yours that buy from multiple farmers, paying a really good price, getting an even better price, and both farmer and marketer makes a good/great income.

Or, if the farm and the marketing arm merged, business wise, so that there wasn't any separation between them, would they both be better off?

Hmmm..
 
Posts: 243
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
4
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You may have seen my post already in the Farm Income forum but I'll re-post this report I found the other day anyway as it contains a number of case studies on organic smallholdings (some of which use permacultural techniques). Link to report.

Each case study includes a summary of how the smallholding started, how it developed, and how it makes it's money. There is also a SWOT analysis for each. You may find it useful although from what I've read you've considered many of the themes discussed in the report (diversification, adding value etc).

In relation to the micro scale agriculture, a bloke covered by the report makes about £10-12k ($16-19.5k) growing (and adding value to) shiitaki mushrooms on 0.15 acres. He works hard to make such a profit and the mushrooms need daily attention in order to harvest them at the correct time so it may not be an ideal income stream for someone who wishes to generate a higher income but something to consider. For example, increasing efficiency of the operation (discussed briefly in the report iirc), or possibly employing someone or a WWOOFer to take on some of the graft (allowing you to concentrate on other income generating activities) in exchange for a reduced profit could be things to investigate.

Anyway, so ends my late night theorycrafting.
 
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ok I've read all the post and just when I was going to start writing a whole bunch on all the things that were said I reminded myself of how I'll do it. Because believe me when I finally made my 120k after 15 years starting from 250 dollars a months, I thought I was rich but somehow I'm not wealthy. To make that kind of money I had to move to the most expensive city in Canada. So that get's me some organic smoke's, a no sweating the price attitude at home depot and just screaching in with late taxes every year.  
 I share your vigor for enterprising, and that's a different energy than money grubbing. I reduce my need to earn to expand my money's bandwith, instead of new shoe's I buy a cast iron dutch oven that will last 100 year's when I want to blow off steam. I think though one thing you've overlooked in your planning, what you require more than any step's is to be gifted at permaculture before all the thing's that come with succeeding. I know 10 year's is a way to space things out, but what you did in year 1 will ultimately define what's climaxing in year 10. I don't know if you've got one of those green thumbs I hear people hide in their gardening gloves, but everything I touch is uphill from there. It remind's me of when you said and I'll hussle honey, I broke my hand and smashed my foot racing to build behive's because when I actually took a course in mainstream beekeeping to verify my do nothing warre hive system. There were a myriad of thing's in just than one subject I thought I could get into and boom boom boom add it to that multi tier'ed selling strategy and get another permaculture badge. By the time I took a weekend course I had already put in 40 hour's of reading and at my current day rate that's $2500 spent just in not being lame when I went to class. By the time the 42 reason's why bee's fail, why it's so competitive to just make 5 bux on a jar of premium honey, I would have given up if I didn't know there was a permaculture way to everything but it require's you to walk down dark path's alone. So when I found out if you want bee's this year this last 2 week's is it, I dropped everything else to go intensive, greenhouse had no roof, the acre was a mudslide, the ducks were rampaging on everything green. Just so that I would be ready cause of course if your not the bee's dye in the tube in 2 days, 3 week's prior I was just pa-rousing thinking read another book add another theoretical degree and place it in the later in life I'll kick ass at this box. I wasn't so lucky, my bee's are doing fine but I can't tell you why, I don't go in their hive, I originally fed them essential oil's in sugar which is bad for them. I left them in the cold for 5 extra days when they arrived because I had a really hard time at my first woodworking project with 1 hand.
Basically what I'm saying is even with the benefit's of the sustainable and procreative pathway on allot of topic's, because people who we grab information from have dedicated their energy usually to just a few simple subject's intensively. We risk the downside of our big brain's, we don't fracking know if anything is going to work, and when it work's your lucky if you at least think you know why.  And your too busy with the next thing to even care, but when thing's go wrong we tend to crash hard, as it start's to shake the foundation of all the other things we have on the go that we think will work.

I'm going to keep on the example of bee's "which we can't farm without" because they drove me so much deeper into demanding I expand my knowledge in jack of all tradesman ship just not to frig up this one thing. One of the thing's I really like about permaculture is you have to convert the equivalent's on allot of things, so you have to become the native expert in your region on bee forage system's just to feed your bee's. I'll tell you I thought I had just finished choaking on plant species just when I tried to get serious about weed's as food and medicine. I'd ignored flowering for age's the one day I have to know what's to eat in flower's from feb to nov or I could lose just one vital, fundamental and always salable item like honey. So I did my part, I'm at the side of the road at every abandoned lot looking for a plant we have called broom. A supra invasive exploding pod, 50 year viability ilegal weed, because it's the only thing flowering in march. Do you see what I mean about having to live a head over heel's lifestyle of permaculture just to have the stomach to keep up with your intellect's dream's when it comes to permaculture as a topic. Then if your not that savy at transplanting your fudged anyways after all that work, research and filthy tensor bandages. I notice anytime i dont dip things in willow water, and plant them in compost they always die. Or is it because I ripped out flowering plant's? I've got 3 hives on 1 acre so not the end of the world, but if I made those mistake's on broadscale when I hit my 11 acres, not just a rental i'm permaterrorizing. Finito..... sure we have warbuck's so long as we keep working, but your going to get to the day where you know the reason why you can't make permaculture happen the way it bubble's in your mind. Your not doing it full time, you need summer's off as you mentioned great, then this summer you know why your cover crop's have been all eaten by birds. Yeah there were no dam bird's in sepp's video, not that high, not minute's after the excavator came through. But you came up ona a weekend and figure'd you do some of that sweet sweet, multi specie's bucket of goodness round so youd have nutrient's for your future.

I dont see my wife using the 1g tlut i copied from paul's video's, so if you can't tripple the effort compared to your current occupation to transition to equal success in half the time. I dunno, I'm going through the same thing but hyper accelerate, I already left my job and they keep trying to give it back to me. If I take my eye's off the landscape I know what I didn't give time to see will break the system becoming an harmonic that run's itself. If I dont want to feed my bee's sugar, I have to master collecting wild specie's because going to the nursery isn't an option's and bee's can't drink from seedlings. So my latest gash come from ripping out wild rose's from the forest there going to clear, I swear it's like nature purposly put's 3 giant dead root's and a rock over the root's of the plant i'm trying to dig up.
Anyways I went into myriad example mode just to break down a simple toolbelt item like honey, never mind a complex animal like beef. You use the word premium with min imput's but forget to mention that it require's a touch of genius.  I wish I could say a guy like Sepp is just a few lesson's on observing nature away, but you gotta go hard, your wife need's to tag in just as hard, and you need to brainwash any kid's you got with permie films. I say this because I feel I wouldn't be harmonious with the universe if it required any less.  
I think everyone hit's their limit of what their willing to do, and how much of their dream's there willing to let go of. On the subject of money I that where life's pain's clash with one's imagination. I simply wont be getting an excavator unless one of my penny stock's explodes, so in the meantime i have to back off my vision's of 4 foot tall hugelkulture bed's, cuzz my bee's would die from all the digging id be doing, and so would the ducks, and my wife. I tried pulling a land anchor with a winch tied to a tree and me holding the rope and surfing the anchor through the ground. I think that was after my panic attack that my dream's require allot of digging and my back hurt.

I like your drive, I don't know if you can get it if your running with dollar driven fuel, you might want to put more unleaded "for the love of the system itself" into the tank and what comes from what you do with that energy will automatically bring in the dollars.

I will get rich as my inner 17 year old like's to call it, I'm going all out within my domain with permaculture. Not cuzz I need money for things, as much as what I love doing also envole's completing the system and that include's money system's.

Before when I lied about making this short, I was originally going to say what I will now say at the end.

I'll make money with permaculture by writing the book on how to make money with permaculture.  The trick is you'd have to be me to do what I'm outlining can be done, I can't be Sepp, I cannot be a sepp clone or even a mangled photocopy of him. But I dont see why I can't out Love Sepp's love for system's cuzz that's the finnest fuel you can run on. Even with a double broken hand one can cary free cinderblock's in the rain over a 4 foot high pile of manure and blackberry in the dark because damit I'm not letting these bee's dye because I didn't know fudgeall about cutting wood, these hive's are going in now! That's the kinda love I think you gotta have to wake up early and go to bed late, if you got a better plan on how to acheive I' could sure use it cuzz I'm tired. And I really refresh the permie's forum 10 time's a day to hide from my other web tab's with thing's I must understand to avoid failure and their piling up.

Great thread it was sundown when i started reading it and not it's past midnight. Sorry about the bad spelling and grammer, that speed reading course I took in highschool gave me dyslexia.  

 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Saybian,
It must have been late when you wrote your post, but I have to tell you, you made me laugh.
Yes, if one does this, it really must come from a love of doing it. You can't be motivated by Money, there isn't quite enough of it to work it that hard.


what you did in year 1 will ultimately define what's climaxing in year 10.



I see permaculture as a continual investment with a long term payoff.  A tree planted today pays off five years later, profits in years 6 through 30. That is a long investment horizon when you are trying to choose between food on the table today and food on the table (maybe) six years from now.

Let us know how the bees are doing...
 
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rich,

I applaud your efforts for trying to develop a Farm Business Plan that will make $$$.  I think it's entirely possible to find success doing so, and keeping to heart core principals of sustainable agriculture.  As an engineer, I appreciate your breakdown of what you foresee as obstacles.  Livestock has pretty quick turnaround provided proper conditions, fruit trees could take 4-10 yrs. to produce yielding crops…

The challenge is of course that it has potential to become more than one individual can manage:  First you have the R& (do you pay for these hours, or comp them?). 
Second you have the preperation (soil prep, shelter, storage, processing facility).
Third you have the startup (planting, hatching, birthing/acquisition).  By this point, you already need to be marketing, getting your foot in the door with friends/family to prepare for consumption.  This is part of your initial marketing.
Fourth you have Maintenance/Upkeep, you cannot look at any element on a farm as being a static environment.
Fifth you have PAPERWORK/BOOKKEEPING/PAYROLL...if you're lucky your location will not have too many ordinances against farming, but you'll want to apply for farm use, take out loans/bonds to cover major expenses (acquisition - farm equipment, livestock, seed).

Certainly some folks have made the model work...and I'm sure I'm leaving tons of steps off - but each element needs a dedicated driver.  It is a fact that you cannot be collecting eggs, slaughtering livestock and pruning fruit trees at the same time that you’re preserving the harvest, packaging for sale, managing a website/advertisement, while paying your help, doing the taxes, and researching your next niche.  So my advice…think about WHO YOU NEED ON YOUR TEAM – hopefully your spouse shares your passion with you.

Paul B.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
302
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To all of the people who say "It can't be done.", just tell 'em "Outta my way, I'm commin' through!  You're blocking my path!"  It can be done as long as you're not stumbling over the nay sayers along the way.
 
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
57
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Running the numbers and having a business plan is a very good idea. Keep in mind it will take more time to do things than you think. Get fruit trees going ASAP. My one regret is I didn't plant fruit trees immediately. I kept putting it off planning where when I should have just got some going and worried about the perfect place later.

As to the $120K income needed, realize that your expenses should plummet if you're homesteading or farmsteading. We live way below the 'poverty level'. Our personal expenses are minimal. We produce most of our own food, we have little need for fancy stuff, we have minimal clothing needs (not like working in an office), we don't commute, we don't eat out much, we don't buy lattes and junk, etc. As a family of five we exist comfortably on less than $15K a year.

As to income from a farm, it is possible to gross $200K. But you'll also have significant expenses to go with that or alternatively a lot of hard work. I prefer the hard work.

We do timber and livestock as our main thing. From that long list of potentials I would suggest picking one or maybe two product lines and focusing on them first. It will take time to get your feet under yourself doing production, marketing, developing a customer base, etc. Figure on three years or more to do that. In the mean time keep your belt tight.

Buying the property with cash, and everything else you can with cash is a good move but also leave enough cash on hand to last yourself several years while you get things going.

As to building a home, we built our tiny cottage in about two months for about $7,000. Small, easy to maintain and virtually heats itself plus stays cool in the summer. See:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/cottage

Speaking of maintenance, always remember to avoid overloading yourself with maintenance. With everything you create, consider what will it take to maintain. You want to have time in every day for maintenance, construction (creating new things), research (education) and relaxation. Don't be a dull boy, Jack.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the main problem is designing the property for profit. I'm not saying you can't make money, but earth and people should come first. If you are planning on living there, first take care of what you need, and see how much extra income you actually need to live there, which should be very little. Then you can observe and find out what the property is best suited for. It doesn't make sense to raise cattle if you can raise eel and make 10x more money, i understand diversification, but it seems you are grabbing up more things that anyone can handle, and looking for advice how to implement them. That's the whole point of an ecovillage with a common work model, that all these things can be achieved by say 12 people, sharing work and benefits, instead of you doing all the work and hiring cheap labor who isn't intersted what they are producing, resulting in a lower quality, and allowing the people who buy your produce to do anything they want to get the money, like working for FDA, the FED, drug dealing, insurance, etc.
 
Posts: 104
Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
6
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a n00b to the forum here, but I thought I'd weigh in with a little of my own perspective.  I have 20 acres and am in the process of making it into an income-generating operation built along permaculture principles.  There are two things that I think are going to end up being important to my business plan that I didn't see in the other posts (though I confess I only read about 2/3 of them... there's a lot of stuff here!).

First, I believe it's more important to target a lifestyle than an income level.  I am making use of Allan Savory's Holistic Management process here, which I believe is extremely valuable.  If you're not familiar with it and you're really considering starting a production operation, I would recommend it very highly.  The idea is that you define *why* you are putting the effort into a thing in order to figure out *how* to best make it happen, as opposed to most decision making processes that reverse that.  For example, instead of saying "I want to do permaculture and make six figures doing it," you might say "I want to live a sustainable lifestyle and maintain good financial security and a high comfort level."  The result of that process might not mean that you go into production as a permaculture farmer, instead keeping a high paying job but redirecting your capital toward a homestead that can sustain you. Alternatively, you might have found a good location, some niches in the market you can fill for good profit, and a way to fill them that satisfies your sustainability goals. That would allow you to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.  In my financial plan, I'm looking for a certain savings rate after my expenses are met, which means I will have money in the bank approximately equivalent to my current savings but will require far lower income to achieve it as a result of my dramatically reduced living expenses.  I currently make a large salary (at least by local standards), but my expenses are large as well.  The implementation of my plan will reduce the outflow of money (as well as the inflow) but the net savings rate will hopefully stay pretty steady.  So in summary, I think that making a dollar figure the goal might be misleading, and it is more valuable to figure out why you want that dollar figure and make *that* the goal instead.  It may turn out that you really do need that much money, and there's nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but it does make it more difficult to get established with a food production system as your income source.  People in America just don't spend that much money on food (I think it's less than 10% of income, if I recall).

Which brings me to my second point, that being that I believe limiting yourself to food products is a mistake.  Permaculture is much more than growing food -- it involves development of technology, expansion of local culture, increased living standards, pursuit of knowledge, deep changes to lifestyle, and an overall shift to long-term systems thinking rather than short term local optimization.  There are profit opportunities in every one of those areas, and thousands more that we haven't even imagined.  Widespread adoption of permaculture would result in huge changes to the way the economy works, with much more of the activity coming from small scale free enterprise rather than large multinational organizations.  Enabling that shift to happen is a big part of my long-term profit plan.  That process (for me) will include appropriate technology workshops, permaculture classes, on-farm agritourism (farm resort, so to speak), specialty food products, writing, and even off-farm services (compost consulting, edible landscape designing,etc.).  There are numerous opportunities to make more money from permaculture than can be reasonably expected from food production, though that is the typical focus of most permaculture literature.  People like to feel like they're a little more independent, and that they are supporting their neighbors with their spending instead of strangers in a foreign land.  If you can help them get there, I think there's good money to be made in the process.

Anyway, I guess the points I wanted to make are that I believe it's important to know exactly what will make you happy and pursue it effectively.  It's easy to get distracted by dollar figures and end up working yourself to death to get somewhere that isn't actually where you want to be.  Also, be careful not rule out many of the high-profit aspects of permaculture just because they are not food production.  My farm will produce some food for sale, but at this point I'm expecting that to be a minority portion of the total income generated.  It's all theory at this point, but we'll know if it works within a few years.....

 
Posts: 42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great topic guys. This is right up my alley. My hubby and I want to start a food forest farm on Pelee Island in Ontario and we are currently trying to make our plan but I have been running into stone walls. The LACK of information is startling. I know we can make this method work, especially out there. Any help or advice would be helpful.
 
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am in the process of formalizing a business plan for the farm my folks and I started a few years back. I was lucky that my folks liked the idea and they invested in the farm. They sold their house and we bought 10 acres in Florida. They are paying the mortgage and the tractor payment and occasionally chip in for projects when they have extra cash. The bulk of my income comes from a small CSA that I run twice a year. I'm lucky, but I am 32 living with my parents. My dad is set to retire in a few months and we need to organize our finances as they are about to get tighter. I wish I had done this task years ago but it's better late than never.

I started as a farm apprentice and was managing the farm 2 years later. It was a great experience to learn in depth growing techniques and experiment on someone else's dime. The farm was an amenity for a development so we had a nice budget and produce was not sold but used in the restaurant and given to members. I left this farm in south Georgia and moved to Kentucky to start a farm for someone. I spent a year turning part of an old tree nursery into a small diversified farm. I planted a 2 acre food forest, brought in chickens, bees, ran a CSA garden etc. It was about 8 acres total. This experience was extremely valuable. I was able to get experience starting a farm, which is very different that managing a farm. The myriad of tasks involved is mind boggling, but each thing is one step on top of the next. Getting a paycheck instead of relying on sales was a bonus. A rule of thumb I have heard from many farmers is that you don't really make any money until your 3rd year, but each farm and farmer is different.

I want to encourage anyone thinking about starting a farm to really think about the land. I decided that Florida had many advantages...year round growing, good ground water, not many organic producers, and we have a network of friends there. These friends became my first CSA members and were very forgiving as I learned about growing in Florida. I hate thinking about marketing and my location pretty much took that problem off the table. Central Florida has very few organic producers and I always have a waiting list for my CSA. The biggest drawback to central Florida is our soil. It's very sandy with little organic matter. My passion has always been agronomy, so the extra work required is in line with my passion.

My current step in business planning is to divide each "project" financially so I can see how much goes into and comes out of each section. My garden is the cash cow right now, but the majority of my labor goes into this. The chickens have about broke even, but as I start raising my own chicks and their food forest comes in the costs should go down. The sheep have made me no money, but they are a longer term investment. I kept my first set of lambs for breeding and the next will be the first I sell or slaughter. The sheep do have intangibles such as reducing mowing costs/time, and cycling nutrients under my pecan trees. (One big bonus of the land was that it was a run-down pecan orchard that I am rehabilitating parts of)

I am passionate about permaculture and many of the relationships created with this mindset have financial benefits. Although I pasture my sheep, we have very dry springs and I have to supplement their feed. Luckily, that is the prime growing season in my irrigated vegetable garden so they eat lots of leftover kale, greens and such. I also have spent time finding the cheapest resources in my area. I pick up spent grain from a local organic brewery that I use as a feed supplement for the chickens, sheep, worms and hopefully soon a pig or two. I trade produce for this so the expense is really time and gas. It's usually more than I can use so I give some to a neighbor for their chickens and helps create a closer nit community. I can't tell you how valuable it is to have good relationships with neighbors, especially when they have lots of farm equipment.

I can definitely say that in year two the farm is not profitable. Certain aspects are, but that money is then used to build up new operations. All these variables make valuing any particular project difficult, especially over the long run. My sheep have not made me a penny, but they are providing valuable services. Anyway, I just wanted to share my story and I appreciate any advise. I do plan to meet with a friend who teaches a business plan course at the local university, which will hopefully really help. Unfortunately many farmer's feel like they need to do it all, yet a big part of permaculture is community. Letting my ego relax a little and asking for help is hopefully going to make the farm more sustainable.



 
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I often thought that the most viable formula for a profitable permaculture scheme would be:

* Rich milk from Jersey and/or Dexter cows and/or goats
* Rich eggs from Geese and/or ducks
* Honey
* Fruit - all kinds
* Nuts - all kinds

Combine all of the above to make a top-end organic Ice cream
 
pollinator
Posts: 308
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just read this thread and I felt I had to post two thoughts, respectfully, for you to consider Rich, if you're still following the thread. For the record I'm starting year two of a serious kick at farming based as much as possible on what I think are essential permaculture values..no profit yet but I will definitely get there.

First thought... Business plan is a good idea, but you can't crunch input / output numbers as though you are running a factory. Farm does not equal machine, that's what's got us in so much trouble in the first place. In a lot of the posts above I've read, x acres or x pounds of production makes x dollars, so I'll just do a hundred times that and I'll reach my economic goals. The farm is a really complex living system and it's very sensitive to scale. The methods are sensitive to scale. It doesn't respond in a linear way. What works at a 1/2 acre scale can't necessarily be ramped up to 50 acres. Factory farmers are driven to apply this sort of industrial input / output model thinking to their production and sustainability and the environment is degraded. If you're an engineer you'll have run into systems theory, those ideas apply here in spades. I think it's good to start with understanding how your land works and what you can take from your land without degrading it. If people value what you are doing they will be willing to pay you more for what you produce, and I think that is a more important means of increasing profit than maximizing production or farming a larger acreage. When you actually stand in your forty acre field, hoe in hand, it will become clear.

Second thought is more about 'right livelihood'. Paul, I understand that you want to make money with permaculture. I want to profit from it as well. It sounds like you did well in software or some sort of I.T. which is a strange kind of economic animal as you are essentially able to sell an idea, over and over, with no real tangible resources consumed. I suppose the analog for a permaculture farmer would be to sell permaculture 'experiences' to people who are hungry for that sort of reality...and that may well be viable. If your goal is to sell permaculture derived food products and you want to make a lot of money I think you face a dilemma. You can either produce a LOT of food, which leads to the road of industrial ag. and compromises permaculture principles and the planet. Or you can sell a little food at an extremely high price...the aforementioned $4000 ham. I do ask a premium price for my food because it does have a value beyond wal-mart factory food, both in health and for people who care how they live on the planet. But I would be uncomfortable asking an exorbitant price, as I truly believe that everyday people should be able to access healthful food grown with respect...

Which for me brings up the question of what is the right amount of money for me to make? If I respect the land I grow on, and the community I feed, is there a limit to how much personal profit I can extract from the enterprise? I am sure that everyone will answer this differently, but I think it is an important question to ask. For me, when thinking of profit derived from the finite resources on a finite planet, and considering just how many beings are along on this ride, over a hundred grand in profit seems like more than one human's share.

And a final thought...as long as you're making enough profit to sustain yourself and the enterprise, if you do get out on the land you will be rewarded with riches beyond anything your accountant or tax collector will ever know anything about. Rich, I'd quit the day job and buy land cash, then you can farm the way you believe and not be beholden to anyone..

Will be interesting to hear what people think...




 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I agree that many people are drawn to permaculture for ethical reasons and I think ethics should be considered when it comes to the economics of the farm. This could become a whole new topic, but I think it's an important one. Something I always knew about my farm is that I wanted it to be small. I wanted something that I could manage with some help from family or a few apprentices. Once you reach a certain size, you either have to turn to equipment or a lot of labor. I think scaling up with equipment makes maintaining the permaculture ethic difficult if not impossible. If you scale up with labor you end up being a manager and lose part of the lifestyle I was drawn to.

Great food for thought Kari...
 
steward
Posts: 1793
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
104
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow ! 120-200,000 a year! I would be happy with 20,000 so I could work three 12 hour shifts at outside job. I know retail is the key.
 
Posts: 21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey all,
Let me say first that I think grossing $120k a year is perfectly possible. I think it's a great thing to try and do; I'm working on a business plan myself for our homestead. I hope to one day bring in this much.

Secondly, I think the business plan as presented by OP is a bit unrealistic, as it doesn't include the expense side of things. I'm not trying to rain on your parade, just caution you and others to think about some of the expenses. I've been running the numbers for our farm for over a year now and I know that you would have to make well over $120k to net over $100k a year. Here's a list of some of the expenses that will have to paid:

Gross Income: $120,000

Sales Tax: 8-10%, call it a 9% average. That's $10,800.

Labor: Assume three laborers working 20 hours a week for 25 weeks a year. If you pay them $8-10 an hour, you end up paying closer to $12 an hour because you have to absorb the cost of FICA, SSI, workman's comp, etc. That works out to $18,000

Processing Fees: Unless you want to spend hundreds of thousands or possibly million of dollars to build your own processing plant, you will have to pay to have your cattle and hogs butchered. The chickens you can do at home. In our area, it costs $100 to process a cow and $50 to process a pig. If you butcher 7 hogs and 7 cows per year, that works out to $1050.

Farmer's Market Fees: FM's charge money to set up. How much depends on the market. The cheap ones in poor areas near us charge $10 a week; the prices the farmer's get reflect this. The upscale ones around here charge $50 per week. That's where you want to be because that's where the money is. Let's assume you go to two markets per week, which is not unreasonable since some are on Thursday, others on Friday, others on Saturday, etc. If you go to two markets per week for 30 weeks out of the year that's $3000

Gas: If your place, like ours, is 50 miles one-way from the city, that's 200 miles a week in gas. Our truck gets 20 miles to the gallon, so 10 gallons a week times an average of $3.50 per gallon times 30 weeks per year comes to $1050.

Soap Supplies: I'm going to assume you're selling top-notch soap to the lucrative "middle market." I've been selling soap for years, so I can nail this one without any calculations. 4000 bars of good soap equals roughly $1500 in supplies.

Canning Supplies for the jams: Bulk canning jars cost about $7 per dozen, while bulk lids cost about $2 per dozen, so call it $9 per dozen. At 50 dozen, that will cost $450.

This is a short list of expenses; there are others I could add -electricity to refrigerate the produce, containers to hold produce, rental fees for a commercial kitchen to make the jams, etc. One of the most important expenses I left off was liability insurance, which will run several thousand a year and will be required before you can hire labor. I also didn't include property taxes, investment in the land, and the like.

Even with all these expenses, a $120,000 gross income still comes out to $84,150 before taxes. That's not too shabby at all. After federal taxes, you'd be left with a little more than $71500. If you factor in the other expenses I mentioned and any state income taxes, the amount would probably be closer to $60k. Still not too bad, and far better than the average farmer!
 
Posts: 155
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A Profitable Permaculture Farm:Interview with Mark Shepard
http://www.groaction.com/discover/2581/mark-shepard-interview-profitable-permaculture/


He's not small (106 acres)
http://www.forestag.com/index.html
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ben, you said "I think scaling up with equipment makes maintaining the permaculture ethic difficult if not impossible. If you scale up with labor you end up being a manager and lose part of the lifestyle I was drawn to."

Equipment is what? Any tool is considered "Equipment" and whether that equipment is a hammer, a copper wire, or a 65 HP tractor, it is just a tool. Each tool has it's place and it's function. Some may be inappropriate, some might be unsuited for some particular task. But I don't see how tools would somehow go against the permaculture ethic. You are going to have to explain that one to me.


If all you know is "wage slave" and "slave treatment" then all you can imagine is a system where working with others is a part of that system. Do you follow me on that?

It is my contention that being paid for a job well done is not slavery. Treating people with love, kindness, respect and with servant leadership towards a certain goal is not "slavery".

I would also postulate that if Permaculture does not or cannot properly scale, then it will fail as a viable alternative to big AG.

So, I would say that, for you to be comfortable with your life, Maybe you need to stay small enough that you can do maybe 95% of all the work yourself.
That does not mean that someone else cannot have 1200 acres of land, all planted in an awesome food forest, supporting people for miles around with food and employement and calling it permaculture.
Secondly, when I am sixty five, I had better have people helping me, whether family or neighbors or employees because I will not be able to do as much physically or mentally twenty years from now. I'm just saying, nothing works like it used to.


Rebecca and Kari,

Awesome job, thanks for sharing.
Once again, I am not doing this for the profit alone, I am doing it to not be the wage slave I am today.
I'm just trying to figure out how not to go broke, as I really hate being broke.
I mean, I really hate the idea.

I look forward to the evening when I am sitting on the back porch with my lovely wife, sipping iced tea,
listening the the owls hoot from the tree tops, no sound of traffic a hundred yards away.

I like Paul's idea of being a very lazy farmer. By that I mean that I want to build systems, over time that take care of themselves, such as a fruit tree or a perenial grassland area that essentially takes care of itself, with just a little coaxing from me. So wherever I look I wish to reduce the amount of labor involved as much as possible.

For the fruits, I want to get to the point where harvest is more than 50% of my time and where annuals are at a minimum.

For the pigs, chickens and cows, I want to promote a system where they self feed as much as possible. Perhaps I move them from paddock to paddock every few days, checking on their health and making sure that we don't have any obvious problems in the herd/flock.

I have it on good authority that animal feed can be quite expensive, over time. So growing animal feed is a huge priority. One estimate is 4 lbs of feed for every pound of pig growth.
I also have it on good authority that you can out produce your market with pork in the early years, so start slowly, keeping the market slightly ahead of production.
I have been told that it is almost impossible to over produce beef on a small scale like this (less than 100 acres).
I don't know if you can over-produce chicken, but I suspect that one could easily produce 1000 broilers a month on a 10-20 acre area, and I suspect you would have a lot of trouble processing and selling that much in a "normal" market. But Chickens seem like a LOT of work to me, so I suspect that I might start with chickens, since they are easiest to get to market. I love eggs, and I also think that Eggs are a great source of income, but once again, I think that they would be pretty labor intensive, just in the collection process, much less anything else. So I expect that over time, I would reduce the egg production levels. But maybe I will discover that I love selling 300 dozen eggs a week. Who knows. ( I think I will be pushing it at 30 Dz

Consider it, if you will, a farm succession, as one system matures, another might diminish.

So, as I refine/rethink the plan... I think that we will look at investing in the land, planting trees, fruits, upgrading the pasture areas, legumes and so forth. The first five years will be really tight, and then it should start to get better, as the investemenst start to come on line.

Year zero and ongoing goals: Improve the soil and the water holding capacity through all the techniques mentioned here on Permies. Reuse and improve on the ones that seem to work best

Year one goals: Plant as many long term "pig/chicken/cattle food plants/trees, and the supporting forest systems. obtain farm ducks. Raise a handful of weaners to market. Raise 500 broilers to market. Raise 150 chickens for the egg market. Raise a calf for personal consumption. Raise lots of garden veggies. Build some ponds and major land moving projects. Touch a hot wire or two, just to test them out.

Observe.

Year two goals: Rinse and repeat, adjusting for what we learned in year one, scaling to the level that we feel comfortable with. Run a couple sets of weaners through to market. Get some heritage breeding sows in the second or third year. Buy a few calfs, one for personal use, the others for market.

Observe

Year three: More farm investment, adjusting for what we learn in year 2. Scaling up or down, depending on what we have already learned. obtain small herd of cattle. Start to scale up the pork production, if possible.

Observe

Year four: Should have some fruit to sell, starting to produce enough chicken and pig feed to start reducing the feeding costs. Increase cattle herd. Probably start reduction in vegetables and annuals grown.

Year five: Observe and Reevaluate everything. Probably start to add beef to the products sold.

and so on..

I expect that somewhere between year six and year ten will be when the tipping point occurs when the food forest will start to hit its stride and really produce. And we will pick what we want, and let the pigs harvest the rest.

Question, how much chicken, cattle, and pig feed can we expect in a year? If we convert much of that to "meat", then even after "processing costs", it will make a nice tidy sum.

Back of the envelope says that we should be able to finish off at least ten hogs per acre on such a system, with a net of $700 (hang wt of 175# nets $4/lb) per hog to market. If I am growing nearly all of my own animal feed, reducing the inputs substaintially, I think you could make a real living doing this. Add in a bunch of perrenial food crops, a farm stay, misc "value added" items, a few beef cattle, broilers and 200 egg layers and I can see being able to send the kids to Disneyworld.

Of course, pigs work well because they are so prolific and are good omnivores. Some people, it seems, don't like keeping pigs, some do. I hope I do, otherwise, this all falls apart and I need a new plan

Have a great day, and thanks for all the thoughts, suggestions and testimonies.
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I definitely did not mean to come off as anti-tool or technology or whatnot. I have a 30 hp tractor with front end loader/tiller, every hand tool imaginable, weed eater, chainsaw, etc. I was referring to the large planting/harvesting equipment that only work in monocultures.

As far as labor goes...that's a personal choice. I love apprentices because they have a passion to learn and I've had great experiences with them and hope to always have one or two. I'm not opposed to employees, but when you reach a certain number, the majority of your time is spent managing them. I've worked for people that are not great workers, but great farm managers. I think there is room for all types. Some people like the idea of farming/permaculture/etc...but would never enjoy the physical demands of working on the farm the majority of the time. Yet, these people may prefer marketing aspects, design, etc and have a part to play. I was just stating that I would not want to try an purchase a lot of land that would require me to have many employees...it's not my ambition. However, if an opportunity came about to assist with land management of a large property I would be excited to help, because I think it benefits everyone when more agricultural land is managed this way...it's just not my goal.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
Posts: 308
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

R Hasting wrote:
Equipment is what? Any tool is considered "Equipment" and whether that equipment is a hammer, a copper wire, or a 65 HP tractor, it is just a tool. Each tool has it's place and it's function. Some may be inappropriate, some might be unsuited for some particular task. But I don't see how tools would somehow go against the permaculture ethic. You are going to have to explain that one to me.



I think Ben's right. There are serious scaling issues. A tool is not just a tool, the choice of tool defines the method and scale. Just one example..With a hand hoe you have a tremendous control and sensitivity and selectivity...but you're not going to cover 1200 acres. With a sixty or hundred foot wide cultivator you cover a lot of acres but lose all of the contol and sensitivity. Or how about a scythe and flail versus a self propelled combine with a forty foot header. A jumbled polyculture food forest with lots of edges mostly demands human beings and hand tools. Machines just can't do it. With increasing mechanization and production size you are pushed inexorably into the realm of industrial monoculture. Scaling up using machinery does lead to conflict with permaculture values. There is probably a middle path that will be a necessary compromise.

R Hasting wrote:
I would also postulate that if Permaculture does not or cannot properly scale, then it will fail as a viable alternative to big AG.



Yes!!! You are absolutely correct. As much as big AG has failed us and is ultimately unsustainable, it's essential right now just because of the huge volume of essential food that it produces. For permaculture to become a viable alternative it will require a massive shift in the distribution of the population back to farming, massive education projects, massive land re-allocation. Mostly because of the scale issues. Huge sense of urgency here. I think we might even be a generation too late to pull it off.

I think you're on the right track...I'd be thinking more of a grassland system for your managed grazing in a more extensive perm. zone 3, and the food forest production on a smaller scale, more intensively managed, like perm. zone 2 maybe with some limited grazing. Check out 'the stockman grassfarmer' for good grazing info..
 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Ben Walter wrote:I definitely did not mean to come off as anti-tool or technology or whatnot. I have a 30 hp tractor with front end loader/tiller, every hand tool imaginable, weed eater, chainsaw, etc. I was referring to the large planting/harvesting equipment that only work in monocultures.

As far as labor goes...that's a personal choice. I love apprentices because they have a passion to learn and I've had great experiences with them and hope to always have one or two. I'm not opposed to employees, but when you reach a certain number, the majority of your time is spent managing them. I've worked for people that are not great workers, but great farm managers. I think there is room for all types. Some people like the idea of farming/permaculture/etc...but would never enjoy the physical demands of working on the farm the majority of the time. Yet, these people may prefer marketing aspects, design, etc and have a part to play. I was just stating that I would not want to try an purchase a lot of land that would require me to have many employees...it's not my ambition. However, if an opportunity came about to assist with land management of a large property I would be excited to help, because I think it benefits everyone when more agricultural land is managed this way...it's just not my goal.



Thanks Ben for clarifying that. BTW, I think that what you have going sounds like a positive enterprise.
And Kari, you make a good point. Clearly the one hundred foot wide cultivator is not useful in a food forest, or really even useful in a open pasture/grazing system. It would be "inappropriate" but not because of scale, but because of it not being useful in this kind of system.

As I reread Ben's statement, it was "scale = labor OR bigger machines" and there I agree with Ben, that this would be true, with a caveat, I would simple state the following:
"scale = (labor + appropriate tools) x N + shared tools" where (N) is the scale. But there is very little multiplier on "size of tools", though you might say that having a six person golf cart is better than 3 "2" person golf carts or something... What you would get as an increase in productivity is merely in the shared tools and the additional brain power from the additional labor, which is not insubstantial.

Ben, You are correct, eventually, one would become a "manager" of farmhands, wwoofers, interns, family, or COOPers. Or even a manager of managers. "You take this 100 acres, you take that 250 acres..." and so on

Have been a manager at a high tech Dow 30 component company, I am certain of one thing. I don't want to be a middle manager

The biggest problem there was that I always had to get my guys (yes, all software guys) to produce a little bit more each quarter, without any increase in budget, and not having any ability to make real changes.

But I think that we can, if we think outside the box a little (or a lot) we can figure out some new paradigms on how we can deploy labor across an enterprise, share the wealth in a way that can be considered equitable, save the planet, feed the world, and make rainbows and unicorns commonplace throughout the land. Ok, being a little silly, but I think it is possible to do. We just don't do it very often anymore. Think outside the box, that is.

I'd like to contemplate the extended family or tribe as a labor workforce. It has been in existence ever since Adam was thrown out of the original food forest garden. I suspect it might still work. With me, as elder statesman, of course.

My point is that we can look at lots of alternatives. I think that a lot of us agree that the world will be vastly different 20-50 years from now. I don't know what we will have, but eventually, it won't be a petrochemical based agriculture system. So, we just may have to absorb a lot of folks that can't find food in the city at that point. So, let's keep our options open...



 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Lacy VC wrote:Great topic guys. This is right up my alley. My hubby and I want to start a food forest farm on Pelee Island in Ontario and we are currently trying to make our plan but I have been running into stone walls. The LACK of information is startling. I know we can make this method work, especially out there. Any help or advice would be helpful.



Hi Lacy,
Glad you could join us in the discussion.

It looks like Pelee is a great place. 10,000 acres in size, just north of Ohio, and it has 300 residents year round and maybe 1500 in the busy months. So it is small, but it is so lovely in the photos.. Very nice. I guess water isn't much of a problem...

So, plan involves multiple parts, and anything I have to offer here is incomplete for now.

1. Take stock of what resources you can bring to the table.
2. What can those resources obtain in the way of some means of production?
3. If Aggriculture... What kinds of things on the island? What is the soil like?
4. Is there anything you can do to add value to any products you can produce?
5. What would your marketplace be?
6. What is the maximum size of your market?
7. What is the competition in that marketplace?
8. Can you expand your markeplace to include outside the island (maybe through online?)


Start with some of those questions and work your way from there.

Richard

 
R Hasting
Posts: 184
Location: Mineola, Texas
12
cat chicken dog duck fish homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:

R Hasting wrote:
I would also postulate that if Permaculture does not or cannot properly scale, then it will fail as a viable alternative to big AG.



Yes!!! You are absolutely correct. As much as big AG has failed us and is ultimately unsustainable, it's essential right now just because of the huge volume of essential food that it produces. For permaculture to become a viable alternative it will require a massive shift in the distribution of the population back to farming, massive education projects, massive land re-allocation. Mostly because of the scale issues. Huge sense of urgency here. I think we might even be a generation too late to pull it off.

I think you're on the right track...I'd be thinking more of a grassland system for your managed grazing in a more extensive perm. zone 3, and the food forest production on a smaller scale, more intensively managed, like perm. zone 2 maybe with some limited grazing. Check out 'the stockman grassfarmer' for good grazing info..



Kari,
I am convinced that the right way to do this is to have some of all of the above. food forest, grasslands, in and out like fingers overlapping.
Creating lots of edge so that the grasslands can benefit from being near trees, and vice versa. Something like each paddock might be it's own little grassland with part of an edge to it. Some animals, like cows, in the grass, some in the forest, some in both, at different times.

 
Brace yourself while corporate america tries to sell us its things. Some day they will chill and use tiny ads.
Permaculture Voices 1 - Purchase All the Video Here!
https://permies.com/wiki/pv1
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!