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how much income?

 
pollinator
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Greetings all.

I've been thinking and reading for a year or so about the possibility of taking up small-scale organic vegetable farming using permaculture principles. Probably we'd start selling at farmers' markets and hopefully move on from there.

As I've been researching, one thing I haven't found too much information about is the exact income (gross, net, etc.) of people who do this sort of thing. As a total outsider, this makes it hard to plan. We've been saving and should have enough to buy a few acres in need of improvement, get things going, and  live a couple years, after that my wife and I will need income, as I'm sure most everybody does.

Can anyone point me to places where I can see reasonable figures? I know that mileage varies etc., but even ballpark numbers would be very helpful at this point.

Of course I'll be glad to learn about individual experiences, too, but that's probably a bit sensitive for a public forum.

Thanks in advance
Chip
 
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How long is a piece of string?  Ballpark figures are okay.

Some people work harder than others.  Some people understand money better than others. 

I've seen people work 16 hours a day or years and years on some really spectacular stuff, but they didn't really have a business model around it that other people would pay for.  So they didn't really make any money. 

Sepp Holzer probably makes six figures.

I think that if you have ten acres, a good work ethic and good business sense, in five years you could be earning six figures.  And, if your business sense tends to be good only to you and not to the rest of the world, you can count in four figures.


 
chip sanft
pollinator
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paul wheaton wrote:
How long is a piece of string?  Ballpark figures are okay.



Note that I didn't ask about generalities -- or "how long is a piece of string." I asked for places where I could find  figures relating to specific examples. Of course things differ -- that's the implication of mileage varies. But examples will help me learn and develop my own plans.
 
paul wheaton
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Sepp Holzer is a good example.  Of course, it isn't clear exactly how much he is earning.  Have you seen the thread about permaculture being economically viable?  There are further indicators there.

 
Posts: 556
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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realisticly,most small farmers I know work really hard and dont make much.Its an ongoing joke around here that farm internships are so people can check that one off their lists as a future job.Yet some do make it and a rare few even thrive.Sep is a questionable example and clearly some things are missing from his equation.It would perhaps cost a million (estimate based on $100hr cost for machine and operator,all his ponds,62Kilometers?of terracing) for the excavator work alone and he paid for all this by selling some fish and doing tours?Much depends on your location if you want to sell a dream to people.perennial/woody crops(permaculture) take many years to establish and the global economy suppresses anuual prices so having a backup plan might be nice.
 
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I know this has been discussed (possibly too much so) before, but I think Sepp is so profitable because he inherited most of his land and has been doing these things since childhood.  Fruit trees can take many years to become serious producers, but once they do, it's all profit.
 
pollinator
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Mt.goat wrote:It would perhaps cost a million (estimate based on $100hr cost for machine and operator,all his ponds,62Kilometers?of terracing) for the excavator work alone and he paid for all this by selling some fish and doing tours?



It seems to me, based on the videos, that he makes a lot of his income as a design consultant to wealthy families who want to buy an idyllic home in the Alps.

I would also guess that his budget for heavy equipment isn't too much higher than for typical farmers, but that it's allocated more toward shaping the soil, and less toward turning it over repeatedly.

I'm also almost certain that the market price of machine plus operator, denominated in pounds of turnips, was dramatically lower when Sepp's first pond went in. If I were a BCS driver in that area, I would probably give him as good a deal as I could manage, in hopes that he would recommend me to wealthy families, base don my expertise in sealing ponds for idyllic homes in the Alps.

That said, he seems to be in a very unique economic situation.
 
paul wheaton
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When sepp inherited the land, it had a maxed out mortgage and he considered just walking away from the property.

People pay $95 euros to tour his land - from which they can take home anything they can carry. 

So that's about $130.  And there is something like 50 people per day.

So that is more than $5000 per day.  That sounds like good money to me.
 
Neal McSpadden
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Fair enough then.
 
Matt Ferrall
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How many places in the US could you do that?Marthas vineyard.The Bullocks should be able to pull that off in the san juans.Yes a few are able to find good niches but it would feel iresponsible for me to say "yeah,just go sell tours of your place for $100 a day.Its that easy"Also soil type is key for annual production but you have to pay for it usually.
 
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From reading his book (which wasn't quite what I hoped, but I thoroughly enjoyed it) Holzer had a LOT against him and "made it" in spite of it all.

I think farmers markets can be a viable outlet, but be careful. To think from the outset that you are going to start by being like everyone else and selling tomatoes and cucumbers at the peak of the season when everybody has them running out their ears could be a mistake. Focusing too heavily on that market in a generic sense could streamline your thinking and reduce your creativeness. They can be a great place to meet people and talk though.

Try to figure out a rough estimate of what you want for your family- regardless of how you earn a living. Permaculture is highly adaptable. Your family's needs might not be that adaptable. If they hate it, it ain't gonna be fun. You can do permaculture in New York City. You don't have to buy 40 acres in Missouri (and I like Missouri and would gladly take possession of 40 acres of farmland).

Then go land shopping. If you are wanting to buy a farm, find land that is being underutilized and underpriced. Perhaps a rocky hillside you could turn into a greenhouse and pond setup, a field of wild herbs you can sell, a swamp you can modify to become more productive, a rooftop could become something spectacular, whatever. The key is to see what no one else sees. To do that, you will need to have done a lot of research. You also need a feel for the market as well as some business sense. Ideally, you will have buyers before you plant or birth.

Also, you have to control your expenses. Buy a few basic hand tools, be very judicious with any major earthworks and housing/building projects and think long and hard before you buy any powered equipment. Chances are good you can get along without it or with less than you think. After all, you will be doing permaculture...

If you do this, I expect to earn $US32,496 in your third year. Give or take about US$30,000.
 
paul wheaton
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Mt.goat wrote:
How many places in the US could you do that?Marthas vineyard.The Bullocks should be able to pull that off in the san juans.Yes a few are able to find good niches but it would feel iresponsible for me to say "yeah,just go sell tours of your place for $100 a day.Its that easy"Also soil type is key for annual production but you have to pay for it usually.



I think that if you want to charge $100 a head for tours of your farm, you have to build up to it. 

I think there is a property near bellingham that I toured that has so much cool stuff going on that people would be willing to pay $20 a head to see what I saw.  That's a start.  With ten years more progress and some promotion, I can see people paying $50 to visit.

With the tour of Sepp's land, you get to pick any food you see and take home as much as you can carry.  That seems to add value.

And some folks think that polyculture food will cure stuff that food grown in rows cannot cure - so that helps to inspire folks too.


 
pollinator
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Location: North Central New York
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I am reading Joel Salatin's Pastured Poultry Profits -- Net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 acres.  He gets very specific in it on just how one could do that.  Includes how to manage and process the chickens right through to the marketing.  And, yes, sell your chickens before they hatch.  He sells tours of his farm, too, as well as being an in demand speaker.  But then he's been farming for decades now.
 
pollinator
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we do know people who make a decent living off of their land and selling it at farmer's markets..with market farms..but honestly..most of the people that I know that have attempted this have failed.

there is a booklet available to download on one of the www.homesteadingtoday.com forums that lists a lot of ways to make money off of your homestead besides selling at farmer's markets that you might find helpful.

you really have to do a lot of reasearch in the markets in your area and what sells and what doesn't..and what demand there is.

sometimes it is better to grow for the demand rather than just plant what you think you can sell, and then find out that is what everyone else did and glut the market with one or two things leaving some areas still not filled.

some people might find a restaurant that wants microgreens, and sell those..for example..and make a good living..but if you plant just what you think you should and everyone else does..then the market will not have the little niches filled and there will be a glut of some items and the prices of those will be low.
 
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Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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It's a huge range, but you will likely net 10 - 28% of gross. So if you sell $100K in produce, you'll pocket $10K - $28K before taxes. This won't happen in 1 - 2 seasons, either, only on a more mature operation. There are not a lot of farmers markets where you can gross $100K. So look for other markets too.

Since you are married, one of you ought to have a secure job and farm part-time while the other person farms full time. Assume you will make nothing for 5 - 6 years and you should be okay. Assuming you'll turn a decent profit year 2 is unrealistic.

You should be able to design a farm that grosses $100K with 2 acres under cultivation. On a three-year rotation, that means 6 acres. The best way to learn is by getting paid position on a working farm you respect. You'll learn tons and get a paycheck too!

 
                          
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You have asked a very good question! How much money can we really make? Well I believe if you look up http://www.spinfarming.com/ you will get some very exact info and great ideas on crops etc for sales. I have learned  a lot from them so far and my son and I have been vending in a very small town of less than 4000 people and we always make over $500/wk. They have excellent ebooks you can down load I would highly recommend them. I believe from what I've learned in the next few years working part of the year I'll be able to make $30,000.

Digging
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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The Forestiere Underground Gardens make decent money charging admission. They aren't even being managed for productive plant life anymore, and Fresno is not exactly a center of wealth nor of ecological interest.

As Paul points out, though, a person has to build up to that sort of thing. Forestiere spent about 40 years digging.

There are some pictures of the place in Permaculture: a Designer's Manual.
 
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I'm working on an organic farm near Nashville TN.  Most of the income is derived from our vegetable CSA.  There are about 60 shares (customers) being fed off about 2 acres of vegetables, for a gross income from vegetables of about $30,000.

I've talked to a number of people doing pastured poultry.  Broilers often net $4-$10 per bird.  Laying birds often net $10, (but this figure averages in serious predator losses).
 
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