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Inheriting 500+ acres - feasibility & planning questions for starting Permaculture farm  RSS feed

 
Dustin Rinker
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Hi all - as the subject suggests, I at some point will inherit a lot of land. Currently the land is being used as a conventional monocropped/pesticide/anhydrous ammonia fertilizer using dryland wheat farm (for about 50 years at least). Some is CRP ground. There are a couple big questions right off the bat; lets get into them.

1. Is it feasible to convert this ground into a permaculture farm because of the condition of the soil, or better to sell?

My quick thoughts on 1: It may be extremely hard to rid the ground of chemical residues and then massage a healthy soil system into existence (decade, longer?). This being said, we need to start converting this kind ground at some point or the entire current agriculture system will be a desert. The exciting part: if wildly successful and more profitable than conventional monocropped/subsidized farming, it could spark permaculture revolution with this kind of land! (I can be optimistic). Second thought is that we need to start experimenting and learning how to successfully heal these kinds of farms if we are to save our agriculture and social systems. It might also be a great place to do PDC's and learn and record processes and systems.

2. Is it feasible because of adjacency to other farm ground that is spraying chemicals? I know with water seepage, wind, etc., this would be an issue until I convert all my neighbors or buy all their land. Thoughts?

Those are two big questions so lets start there. I know it would be easier to just sell. Continuing to own the land and lease it to its current farmer (it is being currently leased) would provide significant annual income source, but my conscience says that idea sucks. I am very new to permaculture. Your experience, ideas, and input are appreciated.


 
allen lumley
pollinator
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Dustin R . : Location, location, location !!! what we really need to know is where you are located, A topographical map with both your Tax map boundaries
and the boundaries of your near neighbors sketched in would also greatly help your fellow members help you !

It is possible you can break the mono crop cycle by converting to pastureland and actually improve the fertility of the soil, your water use would change
dramatically ( I think! ) But again this could be land leased out to a neighbor to rotationally graze cattle and even followed up by chickens Vice Saladan (SP)

Come back with a little more information on your land to springboard the conversation, hopefully we can propose several variations to help you And your
land/inheritance !

For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Dustin Rinker wrote:Hi all - as the subject suggests, I at some point will inherit a lot of land. Currently the land is being used as a conventional monocropped/pesticide/anhydrous ammonia fertilizer using dryland wheat farm (for about 50 years at least). Some is CRP ground. There are a couple big questions right off the bat; lets get into them.

1. Is it feasible to convert this ground into a permaculture farm because of the condition of the soil, or better to sell?


It is wildly more feasible and profitable to heal that land. I have a whole Youtube account chock full of educational videos on improving soil health to help you do just that. Don't sell it. But it will take a lot of work.

Dustin Rinker wrote:2. Is it feasible because of adjacency to other farm ground that is spraying chemicals? I know with water seepage, wind, etc., this would be an issue until I convert all my neighbors or buy all their land. Thoughts?
You have to start somewhere. I might even start with working with the farmer you are leasing to now. Maybe try and get him to adopt this strategy recommended by the USDA-NRCS: Undercover farmers

Keep in mind, this is not an endgame, this is a transitional strategy. But if you can get your farmer to take the beginning steps, you can take over much later after you 1) earned substantial income 2) learned the unique characteristics of your land, microclimate etc... better. The biggest advantage here is that you may actually convert that farmer that currently leases your land! Most can't be told, but all farmers are very observant. Once he realises the increases in profit, he may start transitioning his other land too!

So personally I would invite your farmer over for dinner and show him that movie. Then in a very nice way just ask him, "Is that something you would be willing to try on my land?" It's not chemical free, but it does dramatically reduce chemical usage gradually year by year. Some of the people doing this several years have reduced chemical fertilizers to zero, insecticides to zero, and herbicides to once every 3 years. But they didn't start out that way. It was a process that happened gradually as the land healed itself.

Now if you were an experienced farmer, we could talk about a way to go cold turkey. Are you?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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When I acquire a new field, and convert it away from petrol-chemical farming, I figure that it takes about 3 years for the -cide residues and their side-effects to dissipate.

I worked for 20 years as a chemist, studying things like the degradation of -cides in the environment. What the neighbors are doing has a miniscule effect compared to what we apply directly to our own land. The math works out as a quadratic equation, so a little bit of distance quickly dilutes the neighbors -cides.

The way I look at things, our social structure cannot be saved. We are way beyond bankrupt, and eventually the price will need to be paid. I can't predict how society will change, other than I suspect that petrol-chemical inputs will continuously become less available and more expensive. Therefore I focus on feeding myself, my family, and the community with minimal inputs from the outside world: No seeds, no fertilizers, No pesticides. I'm not ready to give up my tiller though. I'm holding on to that as long as possible.
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Dustin Rinker wrote:Hi all - as the subject suggests, I at some point will inherit a lot of land. Currently the land is being used as a conventional monocropped/pesticide/anhydrous ammonia fertilizer using dryland wheat farm (for about 50 years at least). Some is CRP ground. There are a couple big questions right off the bat; lets get into them.

1. Is it feasible to convert this ground into a permaculture farm because of the condition of the soil, or better to sell?

My quick thoughts on 1: It may be extremely hard to rid the ground of chemical residues and then massage a healthy soil system into existence (decade, longer?). This being said, we need to start converting this kind ground at some point or the entire current agriculture system will be a desert. The exciting part: if wildly successful and more profitable than conventional monocropped/subsidized farming, it could spark permaculture revolution with this kind of land! (I can be optimistic). Second thought is that we need to start experimenting and learning how to successfully heal these kinds of farms if we are to save our agriculture and social systems. It might also be a great place to do PDC's and learn and record processes and systems.

2. Is it feasible because of adjacency to other farm ground that is spraying chemicals? I know with water seepage, wind, etc., this would be an issue until I convert all my neighbors or buy all their land. Thoughts?

Those are two big questions so lets start there. I know it would be easier to just sell. Continuing to own the land and lease it to its current farmer (it is being currently leased) would provide significant annual income source, but my conscience says that idea sucks. I am very new to permaculture. Your experience, ideas, and input are appreciated.




Ya in Wyoming? I'm surrounded by wheat fields. My land is former wheat field. We just started doing permaculture last year and I've already noticed things we'd never seen before on our land. We have a lot more water. We have volunteer native plants growing where nothing was before. We have animals returning. We found a lizard last weekend. A lizard my husband had never seen and he'd lived in the area most of his life.

Anyway, the soil isn't too noticeably different. However, it's changing. So go for it!
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Another idea is not to go too crazy all at once. Do it in sections. So take 100 or so acres and start experimenting with it. Then you are still able to lease 400 and get that income. It's a lot less overwhelming to work on a less vast section. I only have 40 acres and I'm working it in 5-10 acre pieces. It's so less overwhelming that way.
 
Dustin Rinker
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Wow - great thoughts and comments everyone. I am very encouraged! Thank you.
Some helpful info is that the land is in central Washington. It is all dryland - so no irrigation. The average rainfall is around 10-11 inches annually.
There are multiple parcels that are spread over a 15 mile radius or so. I grew up on the ranch so I have some experience; but I would say that I have a lot to learn before I could run it myself.
I was thinking about working and replanting field by field as was suggested, incorporating a swale system.
What are your thoughts on a no till, polyculture crop system, with paddock style mob grazing? Could plant between lines of swale-planted tree lines.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Dustin Rinker wrote:
What are your thoughts on a no till, polyculture crop system, with paddock style mob grazing? Could plant between lines of swale-planted tree lines.
Sure that will work. I recommend you call up the Burleigh County Soil Conservation district for advice. It's nearly identical conditions to what Gabe Brown and several others do there.
 
David Livingston
steward
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Location: Anjou ,France
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I would check out Gabe Brown too if I was you ,his talks on youtube are really great . I loved the "sign the back of the cheque not the front" as a farmer he knows hope to talk to farmers .

David
 
Sam Boisseau
Posts: 155
Location: PNW, British Columbia
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Is it a place where you want to live for the next 20 years? That might affect your decision.


Maybe look into keyline design? A great resource for that is http://www.regrarians.org/ . I think keyline is a great approach for large farms and I think Darren Doherty has the best understanding of keyline out there.

Once you get grasp on the keyline approach, you could look at the topography of your land and see if there is good potential for building ponds etc. Check where your key points are and see if you can get a good ratio of water storage to cost of building the pond. Check that you have enough of a catchment area to fill up those ponds. Check that the ponds are well situated compared to where you would want to irrigate.

To sum up, if it was me, I would look at the opportunities for water on the property and those opportunities would derive from the contour map of the place.

You can use this website to get a first glimpse of your topogrpahy:

contourmapcreator.urgr8.ch

It is based on google earth data which is quite inaccurate but does give you some basic idea of what you are working with.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Hi Dustin,

GO FOR IT! Transition happens faster than you can dream as soon as you start planting!

we're doing similar at Versaland - have fully converted 145 acres of rowcrop ground to polyculture/silvopasture systems.

Here's a satellite view after a hay cutting last year

https://www.google.com/maps/@41.7413336,-91.435173,540m/data=!3m1!1e3

and of course, lot's of other folks have done similar broadacre conversions and talk about it here: http://www.versaland.com/workshops/farmscale-permaculture/

https://www.facebook.com/versaland?ref=hl

Grant
 
Amanda Suzanne
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I have a similar situation. Will inherit land that is presently row cropped, no-til system on about 300 acres. What would you say is the first step here? Plant it all back to native pasture?
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Amanda Suzanne wrote:I have a similar situation. Will inherit land that is presently row cropped, no-til system on about 300 acres. What would you say is the first step here? Plant it all back to native pasture?


I'd say that's the first step to rebuilding soil structure and health, get it under perennial cover.
 
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