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Industrial scale permaculture?  RSS feed

 
                                              
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Hello all. I came across this wonderful little part of cyberspace via reddit quite awhile ago, but this is my first post.

What I"m interested in is the idea of doing a massive development, on the scale of 100,000-500,000 acres, in a temperate forest in North Eastern North America. I know from reading some of the Barking Frogs leaflets by Mollison that he has at least considered the idea of permaculture on a huge scale. What I am envisioning is something that incorporates everyone from Robert Hart, Emilia Hazelip, Mollison and Holmgren, geoff lawton, Joel Salatin, Darren Doherty, and of course, everyone's favourite, sepp holzer.

In fact, for this little mental exercise, let's assume you can bring all of them together to do the planning. So, basically there is carte-blanche as to what concepts can be used (i.e. acquaculture, small scale hydro, raised beds and terraces, edible food forests, silviculture/pasture, etc., etc.).

The starting land is replanted forest historically used for producing pulp, paper and timber. And while there is a budget in the sense that it needs to be financially viable, assume the land is already owned and access to capital is not a problem. The end products would be sold through an existing retail infrastructure for food and wood products. The amount of value added along the way would depend entirely upon the economic viability of doing so. There is existing corporate support for engineering, sales, etc.

Obviously, such an endeavour raises an almost infinite number of questions, and I figured this was probably the place to come looking for some answers. A few that pop to mind are:

Does permaculture lend itself to such a large scale?
Are there economies of scale to be had such as is enjoyed in other industries?
Would the whole thing be economically viable?

Basically, I"m looking to take advantage of the hive mind here at permies forum to get some feedback on whether this pipe-dream has any legs. Thanks in advance for all your help, and thanks as well for all I've learned already.
 
Tyler Ludens
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By "temperate forest" do you mean a plantation, or do you mean an existing wild forest?

It would be against permacultural principles to disrupt a functioning wild forest, even with a permacultural installation.

 
                                              
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By temperate forest I mean to describe what the prevailing natural forest would be and/or the prevailing growing climate. If my choice of words is incorrect or lack sufficient descriptiveness, I apologize. The land I am describing would be much closer to a plantation than a functioning wild forest, as it was planted with the goal of maximizing returns in the pulp/paper/timber industries. So, presumably, it's far from what nature would choose.
 
rose macaskie
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      What about remembering your own american, permaculturist type, guy Hugh Hammond Bennett for once . I have to start a thread on him it seems.
      What woudl be the advantages of permacultuer on a big scale, big scale micro climate formation that prove its utility, prehaps.
      If permaculture reduces illness in plants because it has a more complete veiw of their needs and so produces healthier plants, the a big scale permaculture activity would further reduce illness, there would be less around to propogate.
      If that happene then it would be that permaculture had one the day.
would htere be more inset bennies around if you could get a concentration of permaculture farmers, i suppose so. agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
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I'm sure products could be produced in a permaculture situation on a large scale and sold off property, however, one of the main points of permaculture is to return the waste to the land, but a lot of people who use permaculture principles on their property also sell products from their property commercially.

so yes it is possible and doable..but remember that the tonnage that is sold off of the property must be replaced back on the property in some form.

say you grew a lot of willow for crafting, and you coppice your willow trees and sell the branches for willow furniture and crafting baskets, etc..

the wood removed will leave a hole in your return to the property of the rotted wood..however, you can return the leafy material and some of the branches to the soil, and possibly bring in other materials that are being discarded by other commercial markets, to add the replacement of the woody material to your soil..such as sawdust and chips and bark from say a sawmill..thus renewing the soil with a similar material as that which would be oging out of the property.

many people sell milk, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, crafting supplies and such from their property as a commercial venture, ...this is the YEILD that is spoken of in the permaculture books, but as you remove a yield, you must be also bringing some sources back onto the property  to feed the soil to produce more yield

 
                                              
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Rose and Brenda,

Thank you both for your replies, I will be sure to look up Hugh Hammond Bennett (although I am certainly not American).

I do understand the need to return waste to complete the nutrient cycle. However, I must say that I disagree somewhat, in that to me yield is the surplus over and above that amount required to maintain the system, and is the eventual result of proper permaculture desgin.

For instance, I've read that plants produce 98% of their mass from sunlight and air, not from taking nutrients directly from the soil. So while there is a need to consciously beware of how much we "leave" to the soil (and soil health is obviously priority number one), I believe yield to be by its very nature that which is produced over and above the sustainable amount.

On a grander scale, in my opinion the only way we are going to be able to benefit from permaculture on a global basis is if it is implemented on a massive scale, beyond what small numbers of people are able to produce by working on their own. Don't get me wrong, I have every intention of being my own permaculturalist for all kinds of different, non-monetary reasons and benefits. But, if we really want permaculture to change the world, it needs to be economically viable, and the one way to potentially make that happen is to do it on a large, intensive scale. I just don't believe that the world, as it is currently arranged, is going to return to producing its own food on an individual level. And that is the benefit of the division of labour: I don't need to spend all my time growing my own food, so I have time to pursue other things. That aspect of human behaviour is not going to change anytime soon, so we're going to need to find better ways of feeding the world.
 
Dave Miller
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Just off the top of my head:

1.  I do believe we must figure out how to do industrial-scale permaculture.  One of the apparent paradoxes I've seen in moving toward global sustainability is:
    - Sustainable housing tends to increase the density of people per acre.  i.e. in a compact city, most people don't need cars, don't have to travel far to meet all their needs, there is less urban sprawl, etc.
    - Permaculture (sustainable food production) tends to require that everyone have enough land nearby to grow their food (in their yard or neighborhood).  Thus the density of people per acre needs to be somewhat low.
   
    Now I have not researched the numbers, but I'm guessing that there is not enough arable land in a compact city for it to completely feed itself.  Thus food will have to be imported into cities, and that food should IMHO come from nearby industrial-scale permaculture farms.  There certainly is plenty of room for improvement in terms of utilizing city land for food production, and some cities have made great strides (e.g. http://www.cubaheadlines.com/2010/08/24/26228/sustainable_agriculture_and_urban_gardens_in_cuba.html), but I don't know of any city that is able to feed itself completely from within the city limits.

2. Spend at least a year just observing the property.  Invite "expert observers" to observe with you.  By expert observers I mean people who are already doing permaculture in that area, people who know the native flora and fauna, people who know the local people/towns and what they might be interested in buying from you.

3. Identify any areas that are being used by rare/unusual wildlife, or could easily be used by them.  Try to preserve those in your design.

4. Include people in your design.  A mature food forest may be self-sustaining, but you will need people to (at least) keep making observations/adjustments (reference sepp holzer) and to harvest the yield.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't see how "industrial scale" is in concert with the ideals of permaculture.  Maybe someone can explain this to me. 

A permaculturist needn't spend all their time growing their own food.  That's the point of a system which largely regulates itself.  The permaculturist mainly harvests the produce.  Permaculture is the most efficient way of producing food (horticulture in the anthropological sense). 
 
Tyler Ludens
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adunca wrote:

    Now I have not researched the numbers, but I'm guessing that there is not enough arable land in a compact city for it to completely feed itself. 


Ecology Action and John Jeavons have done a great deal of research on the smallest amount of land which can support a person, and they have arrived at about 4000 square feet as the minimum per individual eating a vegan diet.  This is using Biointensive, not Permaculture.  And 4000 square feet is in an ideal climate.  That amount of land represents the land used for cropping along with the land needed to produce compost materials. It does not include land needed for livestock if one chooses to eat an omnivorous diet.

See the books "How to Grow More Vegetables" by John Jeavons, and "One Circle" by David Duhon, along with the research papers of Ecology Action.

 
Brenda Groth
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yes I believe that you are correct about the yield..i was only stating that my only concern about large scale, would be making sure you aren't taking too much off the land, say, not leaving enough to maintain soil building, of course in order to have a  yield to sell, you will be removing your saleable items..

why else would a commercial permaculture venture be undergone?

I hope I wasn't misunderstood, i was only saying that i do feel that it is important to make sure that you are being sure to keep the soil growing, as large commercial endeavors nearly always deplete the soils in some fashion, unless real care is taken in preventing that.

You were talking about pulp..and i see this every day in our area as I live in a county where there are dozens of wood forest product trucking companies, 3 on our road alone.

these wood forest product companies have removed thousands of mixed deciduous forest trees in the areas behind our home, and in areas nearby, and when they "replant" the forests after clear cutting, they do NOT reploant the same types of trees that they remove..nor do they consider the loss of oxygen production, the absorption of water, and the other benefits that the original forests were providing nor do they remember that there were animals living in those forest that are now relegated to OUR property to scavange for berries and nuts, that they previousy were able to glean from the forest, as well as cover, protection, den material, etc.

our property was pulped off about 40 years ago, and it was nearly destroyed, no trees were planted to regrow in the area..but fortuantely my husabnd and I bought the property and immediately began to plant trees, as well as some of the roots of the trees (mostly aspen and alder) regenerated into baby trees which did provide some deer browse and some protection for the naimals the following years..but clear cutting is never an answer for a forest..i see it every single day in our county and i hate it.

so if you are talking about some type of permaculture where pulping is done in a manner that doesn't destroy the wildlife habitat and the forests, than more power to you, but when tons and tons of materials are taken off of the acres and a few bales of seedlings are put back, that is not resposible permacultuer
 
                                                                    
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Your curiosity impresses me.
This is a topic that I have given a great deal of thought to.
What works well on a small scale works even better on a large scale.   
Having an MBA and thinking a great deal about businesses and their viability I would say that you are on the right track.
Last week I earned my Permaculture Design certificate and I think the world really needs large scale industrial  permaculture to capture market share from those who would harm the environment to produce  less healthy food. 
The land investments are of course a common investment strategy.  But along with asset appreciation an investor would see substantial income streams.  A designer would need to be involved at inception and at regular intervals.  Most of the work could be done by less skilled help.
My family is from a rural area in the country of Greece.    In this rural town permaculture has thrived for millennia.  My Olive trees of my great, great grandparents regularly produce an abundant crop.
Here is why your concept would have a high return on investment:
First, it is a land holding company eligible for substantial environmental tax credits.  Also, public land could be devoted to such projects at no charge under long term lease.
Second,  very little capital equipment is required due to the nature of the process.
Third, the income is substantial and re-occurring
Fourth,  local jobs, educational opportunities and health are always great for business.
Fifth, labor planting trees is needed during winter when conventional agriculture lays off employees.
Your idea sounds fantastic to me, a person who grew up in Massachusetts and makes regular trips back there.  My advice would be to make a business plan and implement it.
We are formulating a business plan at www.permavations.com and would happily collaborate with your team in such an endeavor.

 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
I don't see how "industrial scale" is in concert with the ideals of permaculture.  Maybe someone can explain this to me.


I certainly disagree - the ideals, techniques and knowledge of the permaculture community, to my admittedly amateur eye, seem to be perfectly in keeping with large scale food production. At the end of the day, there is a hungry world to feed, and I think permaculture is not only the best, but the only way we're going to be able to do that going forward.
 
Joshua Msika
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This is what I like doing; building castles in the air... I am simply not a practical person but I love having ideas and evaluating their feasibility.

I am reading through Bill Mollison's "Permaculture for Millionaires" available as chapter XV in this document: http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/PDC_ALL.pdf

Chapter XIII "The Permaculture Community" is extremely useful as well.

The main work in permaculture is firstly design and then harvest. Of those two, harvesting is the real issue.

Yields are limited firstly by the biomass being synthesised, as Brenda mentioned. They are then limited by the amount of people harvesting (assuming low availability of fossil fuels).

What one must do, according to Mollison, is figure out as many possible, non-conflicting ways of making a living off the same piece of land.

In the Eastern forest region those ways of making a living would include, in no particular order except the order in which they come to mind:
- raising animals
- raising fish
- on-site restaurants
- honey production
- maple syrup and similar products
- wooden handicrafts
- basketry
- tanning hides
- spinning wool
- making other fabrics from plants or animals
- being a tailor
- being a cooper
- plant nursery
- research institute
- managing herds of semi-wild deer and other animals for meat and hides
- vegetable production
- flour production from acorns or chestnuts (I think blight resistance will spread through the genome and chestnuts will eventually make a comeback, they're just going through a "black death". Plagues are natural. But that's beside the point)
- nut oils
- biofuels (mainly for lighting but maybe also for machinery but I'm not sure if machinery has a place in this system)
- methane production
- making pipes and other conduits from elderberry stems or other hollow stems
- blacksmithing with recycled metals (many different tools to make, many livings to be made)
- charcoal production
- medical services
- educators
- stonemasons
- carpenters
- potters

It goes on. Some of these jobs will not allow a person (or family) to make a complete living, some will require more than one person. Some will remove organic matter from the property, some will trap it from outside (think restaurants... :wink, some will circulate it inside the property. Circulation is what we as permaculturists are going for but any exports from the property will actually just be entering larger cycles in the economy.

One could guide the creation of such a system by simply inviting one person after another to come make a living off a part of the natural systems available on a piece of land. To work, it needs to appeal to people's self-interest. I am not a believer in the practicality of communism and nor is Bill Mollison. This means that a bee-keeper would be keeping bees because he wants to harvest honey or beeswax or beestings or whatever, not because he wants to pollinate other people's plants.

What the designer(s) need(s) to do is set up a legal and regulatory framework to make sure things stay on track. This is probably the most important thing that needs to be done. People living on the property will identify niches that are available much better than a designer who walks around the place once or twice.

Anyway, enough said, what do you think?

 
                                              
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Brenda Groth wrote:
yes I believe that you are correct about the yield..i was only stating that my only concern about large scale, would be making sure you aren't taking too much off the land, say, not leaving enough to maintain soil building, of course in order to have a  yield to sell, you will be removing your saleable items..

why else would a commercial permaculture venture be undergone?

I hope I wasn't misunderstood, i was only saying that i do feel that it is important to make sure that you are being sure to keep the soil growing, as large commercial endeavors nearly always deplete the soils in some fashion, unless real care is taken in preventing that.

You were talking about pulp..and i see this every day in our area as I live in a county where there are dozens of wood forest product trucking companies, 3 on our road alone.

these wood forest product companies have removed thousands of mixed deciduous forest trees in the areas behind our home, and in areas nearby, and when they "replant" the forests after clear cutting, they do NOT reploant the same types of trees that they remove..nor do they consider the loss of oxygen production, the absorption of water, and the other benefits that the original forests were providing nor do they remember that there were animals living in those forest that are now relegated to OUR property to scavange for berries and nuts, that they previousy were able to glean from the forest, as well as cover, protection, den material, etc.

our property was pulped off about 40 years ago, and it was nearly destroyed, no trees were planted to regrow in the area..but fortuantely my husabnd and I bought the property and immediately began to plant trees, as well as some of the roots of the trees (mostly aspen and alder) regenerated into baby trees which did provide some deer browse and some protection for the naimals the following years..but clear cutting is never an answer for a forest..i see it every single day in our county and i hate it.

so if you are talking about some type of permaculture where pulping is done in a manner that doesn't destroy the wildlife habitat and the forests, than more power to you, but when tons and tons of materials are taken off of the acres and a few bales of seedlings are put back, that is not resposible permacultuer


Once again, I appreciate your comment. And what you are describing about clear cutting, horrible re-planting strategies, etc., are all the existing strategies that currently exist and that I would hope to replace. I have serious doubts that pulping would be a income stream pursued in this endeavour, as pulp is really the lowest common denominator in a forest - it's commodity production at its worst. Moreover, the forest industry where I am at has been decimated as lower-cost producers from South America who use quick-growing Eucalyptus pulp have undercut the production here. That is partly what is motivating me, the need to take the forests from being strictly commodity production to a multi-faceted income producing business which is not overly reliant on one particular item. The video that comes to mind is that of sepp holzer explaining what happened as a result of the government encouraging farmers to plant spruce trees. 40 years later, it wasn't even economical to bother cutting them down! That, in a nutshell, is the problem that needs to be solved.
 
                                              
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joshthewhistler wrote:


Anyway, enough said, what do you think?




I think these are some fantastic ideas, and you touch on one of the problems that I can envision: the human aspect required for these value-added/harvesting needs. While I certainly don't have the answers, I think some type of partnership with local tradespeople is the best way to go, with the corporation holding the land, doing the initial design work, etc., and then entering into agreements with people who want to work the land.

To steal a line from the movie Field of Dreams, "if you build it, they will come", or at least that's my thoughts.
 
                            
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I'm not convinced that permaculture would enjoy significant cost economies of scale.  I suppose you would gain some benefits from increased sales volumes, but it will be always be more labour intensive than traditional farming.  How can you compete against massive mono-crops where they can amortize the costs of specialized harvesting machinery?  The diversity of permaculture is also it's achilles heel when it comes to competing with traditional commodity crops.  I mean your harvesters would probably need a degree in botany to figure out what was a crop!
I think a better business plan would be leverage the strengths of permaculture (sustainable, organic, diversity) and think more along the lines of 1000 X 100 acre farms with a consistent branding.  I think the economies of scale would work much better from the perspective of centralized human resources support, business models, accounting, marketing, advertising, community involvement, etc. etc. 
 
                                              
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Campy in Nashville, Tennessee, USA wrote:

What works well on a small scale works even better on a large scale.   
Having an MBA and thinking a great deal about businesses and their viability I would say that you are on the right track.




hahaha, ironically enough, I also have an MBA (or will in two more courses). And, if this ever does go ahead, I will certainly keep your company in mind.

I suppose one thing I should have added is this: I actually am going to have an opportunity to give an "elevator pitch" to a wealthy person about this idea. So, that's a big part of why I turned to this forum: to gather ideas of waht I should say to him. I already have a lot, but this thread has already helped me tremendously. Keep it coming permies!

This person has extensive experience in the forest industry and has a lot of knowledge about soil health, ecology, etc., but he has never really been exposed to the ideas of permaculture as he was "indoctrinated" on the philosophy of planting whatever was best for the bottom line, ie. pulp, paper and timber from a near-monoculture.

That said, I think this person is an ideal candidate to do permaculture on a level never before seen, as I know he is personally interested in these matters. Put it this way: he walks through the forest and it takes hours because he's going along breaking up snagged branches and deadfall and laying it flat because "it's what's best for the forest soil". And this is an individual who is amongst the richest in the entire world, not just "kinda" rich. And no, before you ask, I am definitely not rich or even close to it-  see above re: MBA, to say nothing of the other decade spent in university! In other words, I'm poor! It just happens that, as luck would have it, I am friends via my employment with someone who is very good friends with the potential investor, and he has already had preliminary non-business discussions about what permaculture is (but not within the context of "you should do it", more just kind of mentioning that he has a coworker who doesn't shut up about permaculture).

Anyways, I'm off to bed, again, I can't say enough to thank everyone for all their replies.
 
                                              
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Rabid Chipmunk wrote:
The diversity of permaculture is also it's achilles heel when it comes to competing with traditional commodity crops.  I mean your harvesters would probably need a degree in botany to figure out what was a crop!



No question about it, but in many ways I think this is a fantastic part of  the business. It's not easy to get pure manual labour in the local workforce, as local farmers can attest. But, if you can excite someone with an interesting job where they are constantly learning and it's something beyond pure grunt work, I think you have the makings of longterm employees.

OK, I really am going to be now!!!
 
Brice Moss
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some economies of scale are not unreasonable to expect
for example if there is a city 50 miles or so away it is plenty more eficient to take one large vehicle of produce to the farmers market in the city than several smaller ones

I think given an opourtunity to play with such a large peice of land I would desire to offer a combination of a long term lease 5-15 years and share cropping agreement to folks who have graduated from a PDC thus the cost of entry could be very low.

imagine living in a community where you were mostly free to do your own thing on a peice of land but had access to a weekly train ride into a major city to do your shopping and or sell your wares at the high priced downtown farmers market.
 
Emil Spoerri
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Sorry, I'm slightly ticked off, so I am going to go ahead and break the rules of this website and say that a massive pulp farm isn't and never can be permaculture.

A better technique I believe would be to make pulp production illegal.

To me this is a gigantic joke, probably the biggest problem in the world is desire. Humans have a huge desire to get pulp. Do you really need pulp? No, of course not.

Not to mention, hemp is probably the best source of pulp for making paper, perhaps not when you consider the sustainability of growing it itself, but because the stuff takes an insane amount of time to degrade (it lasts WAYYYYYYY longer than regular paper) and it takes much less effort and other inputs to produce.

For pulp production to be permaculture IMO it would have to be all done by hand and when the products are done being used... dumped back on the land.

I just think it should be illegal, I am dead sick of junk mail, catalogs and romance novels, not to mention school text books. USELESS ARGH
 
Matt Ferrall
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My farm has evolved with me to utilize aspects of the location to my advantage.The secret to my sucess has been my personal relationship with my land and observation.A white collar class making decisions from afar and not having daily observations of the land is the same stratagy that got us here so unsustainable.So No I sorta think industrial permaculture is  an oxymoron and using it in the quest of commody production a gross co-option of its original intent.
 
Dave Miller
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Couple more thoughts:

1. I doubt anyone would make a major investment to create a permaculture farm if they have never seen a successful example of one (unless they love taking major risks).  I have been able to convince several decision makers to adopt sustainable features in their projects (e.g. city park) by taking them to see a successful local example of that feature.  Thus you should set up a trip for them to visit a successful example of permaculture, preferably nearby, and allow them to speak with the owner/manager. 

2. Most people will compare permaculture to existing industrial agriculture and argue that it could never be scaled up because it would be too labor-intensive and the labor-intensive tasks cannot be automated.  Also they may be skeptical about the yields vs. a factory farm.  But the days of cheap oil are numbered, and thus so is cheap fertilizer, pesticides, and fuel, and in turn our factory farm food production system.  So we must make some major, radical changes no matter what.  The big questions are 1) when; and 2) change to what?  You might probe their thoughts on the future of oil, and make sure they understand the connection between oil and our food system.

3. If they watch online videos, these are what I recommend:
1) "A Farm for the Future", a beautiful 48 minute film from the UK: http://www.viddler.com/explore/PermaScience/videos/4/
Pay attention to the permaculture examples and how much labor is required (i.e. very little).

2) A 300 year old food forest in Vietnam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5ZgzwoQ-ao
This is good to show that permaculture is indeed permanent.
 
Brice Moss
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this discusion reminded me of a film a watched a while ago about rice farming in Bali
turns out the church traditionaly controlls the flow of water to the rice paddies

some time ago some of the farmers got talked into abandoning the rotation system thats been in place for a couple thousand years and planting crops in close succession

the result was one year of great yeilds; then pest problems ect the next year that time at least the story ended hapily with the farmers deciding to return to the traditional sustainable system
 
                                              
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Emile Spore wrote:
Sorry, I'm slightly ticked off, so I am going to go ahead and break the rules of this website and say that a massive pulp farm isn't and never can be permaculture.

A better technique I believe would be to make pulp production illegal.

To me this is a gigantic joke, probably the biggest problem in the world is desire. Humans have a huge desire to get pulp. Do you really need pulp? No, of course not.



Firstly, you evidently didn't read what I have written, because the last thing in the world I'm suggesting is pulp production. In fact, I"m suggesting the EXACT opposite - going from existing use as pulp production to something entirely different.

Your comment illustrates what I view as the main problem of the organic/permaculture/green advocates. What you are suggesting is that we fix human desire. Suffice to say, good luck with that. Basically what you're saying has parrallels to religion,"if only people would change and follow my god, and stop desiring puplp, everything would be great.". Well, guess what - people ain't changing anytime soon. For those of us still living in the real world, finding a better way of doing things is the only option.
 
                                              
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Mt.goat wrote:
My farm has evolved with me to utilize aspects of the location to my advantage.The secret to my sucess has been my personal relationship with my land and observation.A white collar class making decisions from afar and not having daily observations of the land is the same stratagy that got us here so unsustainable.So No I sorta think industrial permaculture is   an oxymoron and using it in the quest of commody production a gross co-option of its original intent.


Again, commodity production is completely NOT what I am going for.

I totally agree with what you say though that personal relationship with the land is key to avoiding mistakes caused by white-collar decision makers. That's why doing this would require having trained, skilled and educated permaculturalists "on the ground" to oversee things. See above re: my comment about the need for labour that is beyond simply grunt work. Thanks for your reply.
 
                                      
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hmmm yeah lets build castle's in the sky.
and dream about permaculture as far as the eye can see, and beyond.

but in this discussion there is a difference between, a large surface converted with permaculture or 'large scale permaculture' if i understand right.

i had to use an online surface converter to the metrical system.
were talking about over 2000 km2..... to be farmed by one person? family? company? in order for this person/family/company to work this land (and take the profits) normally large harvesting and other machinery will be needed, which will influence your permaculture systems negatively, compacting deep soil layers, and renders you dependant of outside (old growth/fossil) energy recources ...

Lots more manual labour is needed in pc systems innit? lots of studdys suggest that the smaller the plot the more productivity per square meter. So lots of employees is what you are thinking of? employees who commute to and fro work or employees who live at the site?

I think if designing permaculture systems we should design humans into them, because humans are part of nature and its cycles. So in that surface area we're gonna need villages and villagers, composting their poo, working the land around them, eating, working and shitting within the system. These people have some more needs (apart from working shitting and eating) and probbly we're gonna need more people apart from the ones working the land. Would they all be employees? If designed top down for 500,000 acres, prescribing employees how to live (our crops and profits are depending on the system to work, we cant have people wasting their shit by flushing it away for example) for our company-farm it already starts to sound a bit like farming people as well. And a lot of top down control, and prescribing people how to do what would be needed. And this is allready starting to sound like state control... i dont like that.

Also would these workers and designers be living in the villages in the system, would we then be paying them so they can buy the food they produce themselves?

i wóuld like (dreaming on of aircastles) to have all kind of permaculturists and like minded people colonizing such a derelict pulp factory farm and forming communities that together will convert the land piece by piece, designing for their own local needs and the needs of that specific piece of land.
(this doesnt necesarily mean everybody joining a collective or commune, there is enough land in this 2000 km2, those who wish could be loner farmers on a slightly bigger plot, like a vet for the land producing staple food like nuts and tubers, or maybe permaculture consultants. In the end forming resilient local and interlocal economies.

i also really think that for one person (even if through a company) owning and taking the yield & profits for such a big piece of land wouldnt stay within the limits of everybody's fair earth share. (if everybody wanted to farm and profit from 500,000 acres, how many earth's would we need). and thus not staying within the permaculture ethics. but that has been said before in this thread...
 
                                              
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:
hmmm yeah lets build castle's in the sky.
and dream about permaculture as far as the eye can see, and beyond.

but in this discussion there is a difference between, a large surface converted with permaculture or 'large scale permaculture' if i understand right.

were talking about over 2000 km2..... to be farmed by one person? family? company?

I think if designing permaculture systems we should design humans into them, because humans are part of nature and its cycles...


I'm all about building castles in the sky! If you don't dream it, how will it ever happen?

And yes, it would be a corporation with lots of employees.

I am all for incorporating housing/humans onto the sites, be it for employees of otherwise. Now, given the rural setting, I don't envision something along the lines of Village Homes in Davis, California. 

Also, given that the land would be a natural paradise for animals, other potential revenue streams include eco-tourism and moose/deer hunting.
 
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permieobserver wrote:

And yes, it would be a corporation with lots of employees.


People working on the land but not living there, not having a permanent stake in the well-being of the land is not, in my opinion, in concert with the  ethics of permaculture.

Have you learned about the ethics of permaculture, or are you only familiar with the techniques?

Why will the people working the land not be co-owners of the land?  Wouldn't that be more in concert with the idea of people living with the land and caring for it?



 
                                              
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:

i also really think that for one person (even if through a company) owning and taking the yield & profits for such a big piece of land wouldnt stay within the limits of everybody's fair earth share. (if everybody wanted to farm and profit from 500,000 acres, how many earth's would we need). and thus not staying within the permaculture ethics. but that has been said before in this thread...



Frankly, your "fair earth share" is a complete castle in the sky. It's an ideal that has never, and will never, exist throughout the world. People are greedy, and some invariably end up acquiring disproportionate share of resources. Always have, always will. Again, this goes to the need to move away from strict dogmatic interpretations about how people should behave and live their lives. And this is the one area where I tend to disagree with Mollison - ethics. It's not that I don't think they are essential and important - on the contrary, I would undoubtedly try to incorporate them into my own permaculture farm, which I hope to start within the next decade and which will be closer to one hundred acres than one million acres. But what you're advocating is that we change human behaviour and go against the forces of greed and capitalism, and that people should just change the way they live altogether. While I think that's great if it could happen, it once again begins to reek of quasi-religion, which it evidently is for Mollison. There's no doubt that he is a very spiritual man whose reasons for permaculture stem from deep within him. And, I have no illusions that large-scale corporate permaculture would lose some of this "spiritual" element.

But, I ask you this, what is better for the earth: permaculture with concessions made for corporate needs, or the current corporate structure that brutalizes the world's resources with no concern for future generations? While the former is by no means perfect, it sure as heck is a lot better than the latter. And that's what people forget - the current reality is the factory food, so any movement away from taht should be encouraged instead of being pulled down for not being a "pure" enough permaculture. Obviously, doing things on a massive scale will require doing things differently. But that's the beauty of permaculture, because it's a set of ideas and principles, it can be adopted, molded and shaped to fit whatever biological system it is faced with, in this case exemplified by doing things on a scale heretofore unseen.
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
People working on the land but not living there, not having a permanent stake in the well-being of the land is not, in my opinion, in concert with the  ethics of permaculture.

Have you learned about the ethics of permaculture, or are you only familiar with the techniques?

Why will the people working the land not be co-owners of the land?  Wouldn't that be more in concert with the idea of people living with the land and caring for it?

Personally, I find the idea of such a large-scale operation with "lots of employees" to be repulsive.    




As for ethics and finding the idea repulsive, see above re: same. While lots of people here seem keen on changing the world and getting it to conform with their view of how people should live, I'm more concerned with feeding my geographic region for the next 100 years. If something is lost along the way, it's unfortunate, but so be it. Permaculture is about more than the individual, and the argument that it should only be the purview of the single, back to the earth homesteader is simply not one I"m prepared to accept.

The reason they will not be co-owners is that they won't be making the multi-mllion dollar investment to buy and shape the land, or to bring in the expertise to lay the groundwork. Don't get me wrong, if you see above, I've mentioned how I wouldn't be adverse to partnerships, and I believe that a synchronous system in which both the employee/craftsperson AND the corporationbenefits is entirely possible.
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:

There are no "corporate needs".   Humans have needs, but corporations do not, as they are artificial constructs. 


I'm well aware of the artificial nature of the corporation, as I am a lawyer.  Yet again, I feel the need to say this: I'm dealing with the reality on the ground, today, not some pipe dream where all is well if we all just stop the big bad corporations and grow our own food.

The reality is that we as a society have chosen to govern ourselves by laws which allow people to pool their capital into legal fictions known as corporations. And, I would argue that society has both benefited from this decision, as well as suffered (i.e. as a result of regulatory capture in the U.S. of the banking, agriculture, oil, pharma, etc., by big business interests, which problems are not to be downplayed). But, you also forget that in years past, skilled tradespeople had extreme disincentive to share their skills, creating artificial shortages in the market by forming secretive guilds. And that's to say nothing of the amount of skill, information and knowledge that was lost to humanity as a result of this secretiveness. The example of this that comes to mind is the Antikythera Mechanism, which was a computer invented over 2000 years ago to track the stars. Whatever knowledge existed to build that amazing piece of technology was lost to humanity, and I (and others) would posit that this is at least partially a result of the business frameworks which exited at the times.

So, please people, I don't want a discussion of why we shouldn't do it. Your objections are duly noted. Presuming these objections are going to be disregarded, how could it practically be implicated?
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:

Have you even read the book?





I have a digital copy, and have read the first few chapters thus far. But no, I am by no means a permaculture designer, nor do I claim to be.

Also, I know Mollison envisioned large human settlements, and that is certainly something I would encourage, as in the aforementioned Village Homes. But the project scale and rural location means that human population density is, and always will be, sparse.
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
Actually no.  Corporations are not part of human nature, and we managed to live on the planet for some 100,000 years without greed and capitalism.  Greed and capitalism are part of our culture, an aspect of civilization.  Civilization has been the minority of human culture until just the last few hundred years.  Before then, other forms of culture, including horticulture (similar to permaculture) were the majority.  To claim that recent inventions such as capitalism are part of human nature is simply false from the perspective of anthropology.


I nearly laughed when you said we have lived 100,000 years without greed.  I fear you may be suffering an idealized European version of what life is like for primitive peoples. From http://www.rogersandall.com/what-native-peoples-deserve/:

The main point that annoyed [Mead] was the concept, unstated by me, that primitive peoples were any better off as they were. She said she was “maddened by antibiotic-ridden idealists who wouldn’t stand three weeks in the jungle” . . . and the whole “noble savage” concept almost made her foam at the mouth. “All primitive peoples,” she said, “lead miserable, unhappy, cruel lives, most of which are spent trying to kill each other.” The reason they lived in the unpleasant places they did, like the middle of the Brazilian jungle, was that nobody else would.

So no, capitalism has not existed forever, but the vicious forces of greed and competition that drive humans has, and they haven't changed, nor are they likely to anytime soon.  They've merely been beaten into submission by our "culture" (and thankfully so).

Regardless, we are in a world where capitalism is the ideology du jour, and where we actually have civilization. In order to preserve this civilization, I think it's important that we all have enough to eat, otherwise we quickly revert to our jungle ways and the killing begins. Going back to some idealized "pre-greed and capitalism" system just is not a reality, and wouldn't be until there had been a lot of war in the meantime.
 
                                              
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Ludi wrote:
Then stop claiming what you plan to do is permaculture.

As a lawyer, you should know that words matter.

Please read:  http://tobyspeople.com/anthropik/2007/06/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words-matter/index.html






Unquestionably, my impertinent use of language is to blame for some of the confusion, and definitely, what I"m suggesting is not permaculture per se. I appreciate that link, and it was very informative. But getting caught in the semantics of what it is called distracts from the question at hand, namely can a food/fibre/fuel producing piece of land be profitably designed on a massive scale using a conglomeration of all known knowledge about ecosystems, farming, organic farming, perrenial agriculture with acquaculture, keyline design, horticulture, permaculture, gardening, no till, etc.

I can certainly understand why Paul mentions how Sepp calls it Holzer Permaculture, to avoid just these types of semantic arguments.
 
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permieobserver wrote:

But getting caught in the semantics of what it is called


Semantics is how we communicate.

"Permaculture is a word coined by the author....Permaculture...is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way....The word "permaculture" can be used by anyone adhering to the ethics and principles expressed herein."

Bill Mollison, Preface "Permaculture: a designers manual"

emphasis mine
 
                  
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So, please people, I don't want a discussion of why we shouldn't do it. Your objections are duly noted. Presuming these objections are going to be disregarded, how could it practically be implicated?

At the risk of sounding contrarian, I believe it is the idea of "industrialized" permaculture that is a pipe dream. Why? The consumer's "needs" in our present day society could never even remotely be satisfied within the constraints of a permaculture "yield". Impossible.
In Bill Mollison's "A designer's manual" he states: "...our concern in permaculture is that this essential base yield is sustainable." and "...we must concentrate on productive use, which implies that the energy used is turned into biological growth and held as basic living material in the global ecosystem."
Creating IPods from a permaculture yield is not sustainable because the energy withdrawl is too great. Consumer goods are sink-holes for energy. Entropic bodies we throw in the trash when they no longer suit our "needs". Until this practice of making things so that their embodied energies are thrown into a landfill is changed, then nothing will change.

I just don't believe that the world, as it is currently arranged, is going to return to producing its own food on an individual level. And that is the benefit of the division of labour: I don't need to spend all my time growing my own food, so I have time to pursue other things. That aspect of human behaviour is not going to change anytime soon, so we're going to need to find better ways of feeding the world.

The energy withdrawls from the natural world by modern society are so great and so unsustainable we are on the verge of a global energy crisis. In your "real world" most people may not want to change or debase themselves to the level of growing their own food (let alone use their own poop to grow it) but soon there may be no other option. We're running out of time. There is a convergence of sustainability issues taking place all around us that threaten to topple our existing way of life and more. I'll repeat, there is no possible way that our present excessively consumeristic way of life can be salvaged within the context of permaculture. Your best hope for salvaging this way of life is in the stars. Hope that there are still energy and material resources available in enough quantity so that technology will give us the means to drain the natural resources of the asteroid belt, other planets and the sun. I, however, am doubtful this will ever come to pass.
 
                                              
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Old hammy wrote:

Creating IPods from a permaculture yield is not sustainable because the energy withdrawl is too great. Consumer goods are sink-holes for energy. Entropic bodies we throw in the trash when they no longer suit our "needs". Until this practice of making things so that their embodied energies are thrown into a landfill is changed, then nothing will change.

The energy withdrawls from the natural world by modern society are so great and so unsustainable we are on the verge of a global energy crisis. In your "real world" most people may not want to change or debase themselves to the level of growing their own food (let alone use their own poop to grow it) but soon there may be no other option. We're running out of time. There is a convergence of sustainability issues taking place all around us that threaten to topple our existing way of life and more. I'll repeat, there is no possible way that our present excessively consumeristic way of life can be salvaged within the context of permaculture. Your best hope for salvaging this way of life is in the stars. Hope that technology will give us the means to drain the natural resources of the asteroid belt, other planets and the sun. I, however am doubtful this will ever come to pass.


Thank you for this, and I agree that we are on the verge of upheavals that will fundamentally change our unsustainable lifestyle. To me, that sounds like a fantastic business opportunity, and being out in front of the curve with a sustainable business premised on and inspired by permaculture is a fantastic way to capitalize on this. I don't envision this land producing Ipods, but I do envision it supplying the needs to many many thousands of people. And by needs, I mean the very basic needs like food and shelter.  I also agree that we'll never harvest the stars, at least not for a long long long time (and that is coming from someone who believes technology, despite its pitfalls, is in fact the best and only way forward for human kind).

One other thing I would add is that you're absolutely correct about humans overconsuming. It goes back to that old saying: give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he'll overfish until there's nothing left.  Just like how we cut down the last tree on Easter Island, we're going to exploit this earth for all she's worth, consequences be damned. I just want to find a way to take this belief about human behaviour to its natural end (ie. the inevitable downfall of the agro-food business as its currently arranged as a result of its short-sighted success based on exploitation of stored energy in the form of oil, potash, etc.), and come up with a better alternative.

Again, thanks for you comment.
 
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Old hammy wrote:

The energy withdrawls from the natural world by modern society are so great and so unsustainable we are on the verge of a global energy crisis. In your "real world" most people may not want to change or debase themselves to the level of growing their own food (let alone use their own poop to grow it) but soon there may be no other option.


Hence why it is so important, in my opinion, for people to live on the land that produces their food and other needs.  Rather than devising more systems in which resources can be extracted from one place and transported (using fossil fuels) to another location (the city), we should probably be devising more ways to aid people in living where they can produce their own livelihood. 
 
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permieobserver wrote:

One other thing I would add is that you're absolutely correct about humans overconsuming.


Overconsumption of course is also not inherent in human nature.  There is the capacity for it as there is in all animals, but it is not inevitable.  The islanders of Tikopia are an excellent example of a culture who saw the limits of their resources and devised their way of life accordingly, in contrast to the Easter Islanders.

Overconsumption is certainly inherent in our culture, especially in aspects such as the corporation, whose entire purpose is to make a profit, and, apparently, in which ethics are the first thing to be discarded when looking for a business model.

 
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First off, in my opinion, I think, there is way too much hostility in this thread.   

Moving on, I think there is a lot of value in a discussion of this topic of large scale permaculture.  It may just be the word "industrial" that has a number of folks up in arms.

Welcome Permieobserver - I hope you stick around.

A couple of thoughts relating to what a few others have already suggested. 

From an investor standpoint, it may not be necessary for them to stay involved long term.  There may be ways to appease the wealthy benefactor getting things off the ground and then transitioning them out of their role as venture capitalist within a period of years after recouping a return on their investment.  A transition to "ownership" of the company to the workers can be similar to other types of corporations that go public and the employees have large holdings of either stock options or preferred stock.  In this way a lot of the benefits of the corporate structure could be realized without a need to institute what commonly happens where a huge disparity of income and authority evolves between employees after the company gets off the ground.

Another issue that may be helpful is to think in terms of hubs or large zones for the various aspects of the project.  It may be too hard to conceive of thousands of acres as one effort for many people.  By implementing hubs of focus that are from 1-100 acres in size, depending on the terrain, focus, and needs of that hub, you can form an organization that is still "owned" in a block of thousands of acres.

I do think that as some have mentioned above that a village concept may be the easiest way to design something on this scale.  It would seem important (at least initially) for the majority of the resources and yields to go towards internal use, providing company and employee benefits (food and services) that further enhance efficiency and engage the people working in the jobs on the projects.

An example of an "intentional community" on this scale is described at the links below:
brief synopsis:
http://directory.ic.org/20482/Co_Op_Village_Foundation
more details:
http://www.co-opvillagefoundation.org/vBook_Offer.asp

I thought it was a very interesting read.  Many parts may be too idealistic, but I think many aspects could be encompassed in a large permaculture setup.

Good luck with your pitch!
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