My wife and I are on a trajectory for a homestead/farm in Michigan to be located and purchased within the next eighteen months, or less.
Primary funding will come from the sale of our suburban New Jersey home. We plan to relocate to an area she is generally familiar with, a fairly small radius from the house where she grew up and her Mom is still living. Lots of her family in the general area, including a cousin who is a realtor.
Our long distance land shopping is driving me crazy, as there are so many questions I cannot get answers to from online listings, and we really are not yet ready for talks with realtors. We are seeing potential parcels that we could consider purchasing that range from ten acres to over one hundred.
This afternoon/evening we sat down and talked about what our goals are in doing this. After we worked through our first formal pass, because we have been talking about this for over a year it is not our first discussion of the topic I proposed making a permies topic about it.
And here we are: Tenalach Farms, LLC mission statement: to be a profitablepermaculture based regenerative farm producing a variety of produce and animal products for sale through multiple channels tbd; to be a continual learning experience for the two of us and to provide educational services relating to permaculture practices, sustainable crafts, alternative construction methods and alternative energy sources; to provide a venue for workshops run by others and potentially other forms of gatherings (Farming the Forest mentions an example in NY where the farm has held a music festival each year for twenty five years or so - I think we are aiming a bit short of that); to provide essentially all of our staple food and energy needs; to provide us with satisfaction, fulfillment and an excellent quality of life; to inspire in others the recognition that this approach really is viable. Forgot to mention being a nursery providing healthy, adapted plants for our local region.
There are some things we know we want to do, whatever the property loks like. We want to build our home using methods suitable to the site and materials available, with definite biases in favor of cob and or rammed earth. We do not want balloon frame construction, but timber frame or round wood frame construction is in play. We do not want a tiny house, but neither do we want a large one. We are both craftspeople, with very different crafts, and both want our own shops/studios for practicing our crafts.
We want a greenhouse and probably will go with a walipini design. The house, greenhouse and both studios are all to be linked into an integrated PASHVAC network (passive annualized solar heating ventilation and air conditioning).
We intend to keep a variety of livestock: chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese, turkeys, sheep, goats, pigs and possibly even cattle. And about three alpaca (anyone know an alpaca rescue? 😃) We plan on building animal infrastructure before we start building our own living space, in part to practice the construction skills before we are betting our lives on it working and in part to get yield producing elements in place as quickly as possible.
In the horticultural arena we are thinking of a very mixed variety, forest gardens with pasture meadows and lots of fruits nuts and berries on perennial tree and shrubs, mushroom culture on a number of levels - shitake because the market is there and still open, King Stropharia because it can be a virtual side effect of mulching a market garden, Lion's Mane because cool , reishi for nutriceutical markets, oysters; various perennial vegetable types drawn from Toensmeier; kitchen garden with herbs and annual vegetables (but trying to naturalize that as much as possible).
Obviously the land will impact how far we can take these ideas, the scale on which things can be executed and the details of form. A long narrow plot with a large pond taking a bite out of the middle is entirely different than a nearly square bit with one toe touching a lake
Among the permaculturists influencing our thinking are Lawton, Shepard, Falk and Hemenway, Pilarski and Toensmeier, to name a few.
Taking pages from Shepard and Lawton, we plan that when we do get a parcel, the first stage is to determine water management on the land. Considering the business structure Shepard uses, with the land investment broken out from the farm enterprise. Heeding Wheaton and Salatin on the subject of multiple income streams from diverse sources. Pilarski's near jungle approach to "gardening" appeals to me, but we have much to learn in plant identification before we can pull it off
Details of placement will have to wait for a property to be selected, but as much as possible we want to work out desireable synergies in advance, so that we have a goid handle on what elements we wamt organized in what ways relative to one another no matter what the terrain.
For any of you that have taken the time to read through all of this, our thanks. Please offer any suggestions, questions, cautions or other forms of input that you may have. We appreciate all of them.
Since I initially posted about Tenalach, we have shifted our destination further west. Looking hard, with a scheduled scouting trip the last week of May, at Allegan county. Possibility of a rental on three and a half acres while we conduct a search for our final location and that lead came through the permaculture network (thanks Donna!).
Wrestling with some of the more mundane and less romantic aspects of trying to put together a businesss. Researching insurance, looking for regional market data, researching the regulatory environment (can you process poultry on farm for sale? Local farmers markets?), cottage enterprise limitations?
Justified or not, I am reasonably confident in our ability to raise livestock and grow crops, and I feel like my grasp of design concepts is at a point where it is going to take application to test it out and help me make the next steps in understanding. You can only go so far 'on paper'
My biggest concern is centered around marketing - and there is really nothing I can think of to do about that before we are on the ground in the marketplace. Advance research can give some clues about channels that exist, some potential opportunities (the region gets a substantial summer tourist population), identify restaurants that might have an interest in exceptional produce or proteins, but how do we build connections long distance and with no products or track record? The real work in that regard cannot happen until we are there with the goods in hand, I think. And this is an aspect where I am not comfortable, sales is not a thing I have ever done well.
We are brainstorming more about products and educational activities (which are themselves marketing exercises). Jean Martin Fournier (sp?) has an interesting approach to market gardening and makes a highly cogent argument for doing the produce production on a very intense, small 'garden' scale rather than following a 'farm' archetype.
And while we are anxious to get things in motion and make our transition, I am also anxiously awaiting arrival of the seed order for planting this year's garden Here
Power corrupts. Absolute power xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx is kinda neat.
Dave Burton's Boot Adventures at Wheaton Labs and Basecamp