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Getting started in Spain: Legal, financial and social essentials  RSS feed

 
Bauluo Ye
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Changing your career and relocating rank high on the list of life changing events. It's a radical move to add migration and a whole bunch of other things to the equation and do it all at once. So how to go about to make the transition as smooth as possible and prevent yourself from making very expensive mistakes? There'll be plenty of opportunity to mess up down the line. I'm sure I will. My hunch is we haven't seen the end of permies from abroad embracing the opportunity to start a completely different life in Spain yet. I don't see the point in all of us reinventing the wheel. Most trailblazers are probably way too busy to post their experiences here. It would be nice though, if those following into their footsteps can eventually land on a page like this and learn from other people's experiences. None other than Wheaton himself is luring potential permies to permies.com, so I think we're safe to consider the pr covered There's already very useful info on permies.com and elsewhere, but it's scattered around. One thing lacking in my opinion, is an integrated approach. Wasn't this at the core of permaculture right from the start? The hard stuff is of a legal and financial nature and it doesn't get the attention it deserves. Without it, the fun will be over very soon.

At some point everybody must have had the question how on earth to pull this off. So what are your options in Spain, if you want to go beyond permaculture as a hobby and are aiming to live off of it? The first thought is probably to teach PDC's. I'm pretty sure everybody is aware of this option, but this is easier said than done. If teaching PDC's is your dream, how do you get to the point that people sign up for your course? It's a hype now. Hypes come and go. What if teaching is not your kind of jazz? How do you cooperate with other like-minded people, especially in the difficult startup phase? I think it's fair to say it's hardly likely to get by on your own. We all need a little help from our friends. A lot of it boils down to approaching it as a business. There's plenty info out there to get started. Tailoring it down to your own situation and developing new markets is a challenge. It all starts with a proper analysis of the new situation. This is kind off where I'm at now. I hope I can learn from others and contribute further on.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 504
Location: Andalucía, Spain
26
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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I don't think it is a good idea to try to make money on PDCs. There is too much competition in that market.

If you buy a piece of land with olives, almonds, oranges or avokado on it there are outlets to sell through - but the price is very low (1 kg of carob is sold at €0,50). It is possible to earn a buck selling it though - and maybe your neighbor will let you pick his too because he hasn't got the time, and don't think it is worth the price. Everybody here grows veggies in their back yards, and much of it is organic even if it isn't certified.

So how to find a market? Selling to Northern Europe is a goos idea I think - some of the things that farmers don't even bother to pick here, comes at a very steep price up there - carob eg. But the you need to mill it yourself, and if you want to sell outside your own circle of friends you might need an organic certificate, and an approved preparation area. But that thought has crossed my mind.

I think collecting and selling veggie-boxes migh be an option - esp. to the expat community who aren't in contact with the alternative community. Some of it you grow yourself, some you get from other growers.

There is a big Asian community - so we are thinking tvat ducks, eggs, jujube and gojis are an option.

Berries of all kinds - can't find them orgacically grown here.

Meat and dairy, cannot find it organic except at 2-3 times the price of Northern Europe - but as it is EU beware of regulations.

Value added products - jams, flours (esp gluten free), dried stuff. It also means shelf-life is longer for you. But again - regulations: Legally you need to have a good handling certification (not hard, not expensive), plus an approved place to prepare the food.

Our plan is to first of being our living expenses down: pay off the house (done in one year), produce our own energy (soon), produce our own food(on it's way). The start residual income streams: Rent the spare bedroom out on Airbnb, have campers put up their tent here through camp in my garden, offer meals through voulezvousdiner, host workshops on cooking (our generation down here really doesn't know how to cook). Maybe host other workshops, maybe not teach them ourselves - ie invite cool people to come here. Sell olive oil, almonds and carob to northern Europe. Raise poultry and maybe pigs (but the pigs grown here are the best in the world - we don't plan to compete with that). Have affiliate links on our website. Make value added products to sell on Christmas markets. Many different incomes streams should each add to the basket and make us a living - but first and foremost, spend less.
 
Bauluo Ye
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Great! It's generating a lot of ideas here. I'll cover those in a later entry because this one is going to be quite extensive already.

Over here the demand for honest food has exploded the last couple of years. Germany has been miles ahead of us for many years. You'll have a similar situation in Denmark, I Suppose. It won't be a back to local kind of thing completely. Spoiled as we have become, we feel entitled to the produce that can't be produced locally. Almonds, avocado's, banana, olives, the whole shebang. I don't see people giving up on them in order to reduce fossil fuel emissions. No matter how green they are. Especially with the rise of the real food movement. Personal health probably tromps planetary health on many occasions.

Organic is mainstream now. I consider that a very impressive achievement above all. It doesn't stop there though. We have traded in the personal relationship with and accountability of the person that grows what we put into our bodies, for a label or a sticker. It is as anonymous as the conventional agro-industrial complex. Ultimately, people want to know where their food comes from. Organic or not, local or not. Transparency tromps organic. I'm with Salatin on that. Who produces it, how, where and why is as much a part of it as is the produce itself. A couple of years ago I did some research on the meaning of organic. It turns out the number one reason for most folks to choose organic, is because they want to support that small farmer. And this is where we are, a couple of small fish with beyond organics in the making. Smack in the middle of it. There is no doubt in my mind there is an almost insatiable market for products we intend to produce. The big challenge is how to access it.

You can either aim above or below the radar. The latter one seems the most obvious to me in this stage. There's an increasing amount of farmers markets sprouting up with relevant themes. Local, artisanal, vegan, you name it. A friend has some experience selling there, and I got the impression it's quite easy to attend as a seller. Another friend is working hard to set up a food truck business (you've met her). I tend to want to forge alliances with small businesses like this. One reason is I want to be growing stuff, hands on, as much as possible. This is what it's all about for me. Driving to and from Northern Europe all the time doesn't make sense to me. At least at this point. A transport of goods with a long-sih shelf life once or twice a year seems reasonable though. When done in cooperation with other permies in Spain or elsewhere it becomes all the more interesting and economical. I see a lot of potential for something like a permian coop. I don't know of any existing initiative like that. Right now we're being way more divided and conquered than I like. It doesn't have to be like this, I'm sure. This idea has been with me since the early stages of my permie-conversion and I keep coming back to it. I can't get it out of my head. It must have some merit. Lot's of hurdles and unknowns there too of course. A realistic vision makes it worth while to overcome those I think.

Another thing that has stuck with me is to try to become a supplier of "exotic produce" for a Dutch CSA. To put it bluntly: their customers are stuck with cabbages and potatoes all year round so they go out and buy olives and almonds elsewhere. There's a disconnect there that's a serious business opportunity in my book. Again, I see a lot of potential there because folks will keep wanting to eat those products regardless.

Perhaps my views are skewed to much towards selling in Northern Europe and I also have ideas about selling locally. I do think we'd be crazy not to exploit the combination of our familiarity with our native societies and producing goods that don't grow there. It's simple supply and demand, right? Shengen has been invented for this kind of stuff and I love the thought of small fish using it like the bigger ones do. Another reason is that I'm having trouble seeing a foreigner competing in general, and in the current economic situation in Spain in particular. The Spanish youth has fled the country(side) for a reason.
Let's also not forget to learn from history. African farmers have been shamelessly kept down by European policy. If you can only sell raw material, you're screwed. It's democratically legitimized slavery. The way to circumvent what can only be called poverty, is to add value on site and direct market yourself or at least to keep the lines very short and personal. We won't be able to produce enough bulk material to make a living anyway. Besides, this would mean that a very small but high quality beyond organic stream dissolves into it's middle of the road big brother. I actually consider that the opposite of adding value. The current customer demand is on our side and I don't see it disappear shortly, if ever. This is a big advantage for the small-holder over big ag. Being small is an asset. We don't even need a union because there is no boss to demonstrate against. We can be flexible, social, sustainable, accountable and competitive at the same time. It is a job besides growing your stuff though, but I think it's great fun to manage it all the way through and put a lot of care in what you produce. The biggest hurdle I can see is, as always, of a legal nature. What you wrote about it above is encouraging though.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 504
Location: Andalucía, Spain
26
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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Absolutely - the knowledge of the farmer is more important than the certificate, and if we can sell that then we are good. We were also thinking of transporting goods to Northern Europe 1-2 times a year (when going on vacation anyway).

If we are to sell anything in Denmark it has to be direct sale - anything else becomes impossible bc of fascist food handling laws (there is now even cinamon police...) all geared towards making it impossible for a small time producer compete w. big farms... The laws are not as horrible here, or rather the Spanish have a more relaxed attitude towards laws and authority 😉
 
Bauluo Ye
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People don't wanting to be bothered with harvesting some almost forgotten about crops is quite common in Spain isn't it? Interesting. I'm going to chew on that one for a while. If you can strike a deal with enough people that don't use pesticides, it can become a significant part of your total income. A nice one if you don't have a lot of land or not much on it and you're getting started. If nothing else, carob can be a fodder. Any other crops besides carob you've come across that get the same treatment?

I'm reluctant to go for an organic certificate because it can be a bit like a trojan horse regulation wise. It's quite pricey as well. With an investment and a handing over of flexibility like that, you're likely to be tied to more conventional ways of operation. I figure it's only going to be worth while if you can produce an x amount and you feel very confident about the market you can develop. It may be the right thing to do at some point. Personally I'm too chicken to start out with it. I prefer to take my chances below the radar first.

The veggie box for expats is a nice idea. You can probably get the stuff you don't grow yourself for a good price elsewhere. All organic yet uncertified of course. Any ideas on the pr front already? There may be more room targeting this group beyond the veggie box. A lot of hipsters among them?

It's funny you mention the Asian community. I've had the thought of growing TCM stuff. I think I got the idea from Mark Shepard growing medicinal stuff almost as a byproduct and selling it to a pharmaceutical business. The same for a farmer producing ginseng. The margins on that stuff are crazy. None of it is easy I think. But the ducks, yeah, it must be possible to sell those under the table-ish. You may find yourself having to compete with industry-duck though. Red dates and goji sell for nice prices. The latter even better if you target the health movement I think. And while you're at it you may as well add the chia seeds & co. It's a hype of course. Big money there. I don't know what of it will grow in your climate.

I think the airbnb thing can be quite significant. Your place is fantastic, folks are going to love it. And indeed you can offer some stuff around it to. It reminds me of another thing: the pile of burned out and stressed out people in our home countries (I assume your's as well). You could definitely pull of a" Wheaton" here. Let them work for you, get in touch with nature and stuff and charge them for it. I don't mean it as a joke entirely or to rip them off. It just works both ways. You could even tie it in with the work shop idea and offer your guests extra options.

I'm with you on the diversified income. We shouldn't put our eggs into one basket. What I do like is to have some sort of a backbone for the organization and scrape away and build away around it. It's like the shade tree offering other species a chance to get established. Okay, make it two trees.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 504
Location: Andalucía, Spain
26
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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If people don't harvest they often do not spray either quite a lot of places you have olives, carob and almonds standing around with no-one harvesting them.

Ducks in and of them selves aren't nessesarily competitive to the Asian market - they can buy non-organic quite cheaply. But the eggs are not easy to come by - I've been looking for duck eggs for two months and only found one seller - and she is not delivering enough for me to rely on her. I have heard of a producer of foie gras without force feeding - here in Spain, organic: He feeds the ducks figs and valnuts and they overeat because that is their nature. Now there is a man I'd love to meet

I'm not sure we will go into the veggie-box business - but I have seen it done in Denamrk and they are hugely successful.
 
Bauluo Ye
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The ignored crops sound really good, from a starting perspective that is.
Iberico duck, eggs and liver pate. That's quite something! It would go down well in a posh restaurant I reckon.
Not sure how big the market for century eggs is, but it could buy you some extra shelf life and add value here and there.

 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 504
Location: Andalucía, Spain
26
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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You go ahead - I will only produce food that I could actually imagine eating.
 
Bauluo Ye
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lol. I'd actually love to do some experimentation with it. Gonna need some guinea pigs
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 504
Location: Andalucía, Spain
26
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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Won't be me though 😄
 
Bauluo Ye
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Lets consider water for a bit. When it comes to that, your situation is ideal I think. Having a well is just perfect to get started and you can gradually move towards water harvesting if you want to. I may get lucky, but my imaginary starting point is a plot of land without a well, no dinero for a bore hole and no cistern present. First, I want to construct a low budget storage tank. Something like this: [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltfuHGjvBDk [/youtube] I've picked up somewhere that there's a law that fixes prices for drinking water, trucked in or not. Is that true? Depending on the season, it may be a good move to get it filled that way. The preferred way for me is to fix a catchment surface, temporary or permanent. Now my hunch is that regulations are going to spoil all of this and make me wait and pay for years before letting me go through with it. In that case I'd need to turn to sub optimal and above ground storage. No water, no life. I have no clue what kind of fine I may be risking, but I may even consider an "illegal" yet discrete solution for it. Any thoughts on this matter?
 
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