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My vision of Permaculture's financial future  RSS feed

 
cliff jones
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Usually when something is more efficient at meeting the needs of a demander/consumer, that efficiency is promulgated throughout the world replacing all the other methodology it can. Permaculture techniques (wide umbrella that my be) are more efficient than things that can't be called permaculture. I think we all agree. So why is the chief economic output of permaculture trained people PDC's? Some people are very critical that people shouldn't give pdc's for $ at all, which I think is ridiculous. But it's even more striking to me that certain strategies have not been tried, which if they worked would spread permaculture very fast. Like you just invented gambling fast. It would be everywhere overnight, and nothing could stop it.

After all, as bad as business can be sometimes at looking after ecological interests (holistic/long-term interests in general), they aren't evil per se;like all the living things we deal with they simply want to eat, grow, and reproduce. Sometime in interest of those needs they can do stuff we don't like but there is an ecological framework at work there as well which we must all respect. The immediate point of this being, if we can provide a cheaper better tasting apple for their customers, then that should be the instant industry standard. So why isn't it, and how can it be?

PROBLEMS

Quite simply, the bitter truth is that our apples are not cheaper and better tasting. Even though they use less resources of all kinds, taste great when you bite in and even provide the additional consumer benefit of knowing your dollar and your apple helped the earth (a trope which has already been marketed and monetized to death in the food market, like on those "ecological" chocolate bars), a permaculture apple is unsellable. They cost more to ship and build a business around, and they taste like air and teeth because they never end up reaching their customers, due to the former.

How can you manufacture a business that truly competes with the economy of scale offered by an apple monoculture, whether chem or organic, using that business model that works for them? You don't. That's why the best permaculture engineers don't do what the best computer engineers do (and don't make the kind of money pretty darn good computer engineers do, even though despite the fact that food and water are actually more valuable than apps and iphones. Really.). The agriculture business is about trucks and inventory and selling in bulk. That's not to say there's no money to be made in farmers markets, restaurant supply, what have you, but the real potential is not with this chump change. And I love having all that stuff, believe me. I love that it exists for me and my loved ones, I love that the ideas to make them exist, and what those ideas stand for. But I do not love them so I can rest on my limp noodle. I love them for where they can take me, of the dreams and universally deserved future for mankind I believe they present. For real. And I intend to at least look that future square in the eye, if I at all can.

That said, like it or not if we as permies don't somehow find some way to crush the other business models; we are just bums, with nothing to be proud of. Losers.

Sorry to say! Because what we are losing then is the same as what we are fighting for; everything. Our planet, our relationships, our idealized way of life. And it's doubly lame because we all know we're more efficient than they are.

And if we can't reach the point where we can not only put a ecological design in action for ourselves, but monetize that design in a way that interacts with swociety, and exposes all other design agrobusiness as slow and weak, then this world just might catch fire... because in case you hadn't noticed things are becoming a teensy bit unstable...

SOLUTIONS


The way I see things is this;

When you think about imitating other business models that provide the same end product as permaculture systems, you are thinking wrong. Permaculture is the epitome of one size does not fit all, and it needs it's own special business practices tailored to it for it to function properly.

The key concept is this (drum roll)....... you do not bring the products to the people, you must bring people to the products!

Perhaps that seems like a simple and cheap reversal, but it emphasizes Permaculture's strengths while de-emphasizing it's weaknesses to the point of eliminating them. Diversity is made for people consuming on site, thus eliminating the great Achilles heel of permabuisness; shipping. It also allows you to harvest the natural beauty of the land, and monetize it. It actually creates an ecology super structure if I may say so, because you start to see elements of permaculture principles come into play like modular expansion, integration of diverse elements, even catching and storing of (economic) energy.

People everyday spend money, not only on apples but on clothing, leisure, restaurants, accommodations. In a word comfort. What if you were an average person, a stupid person who's not into permaculture, and doesn't want to be. In other words most people. You are perhaps intrigued by the prospect of growing your own special herbs mann, but beyond that like controlling your food supply is not seeming very important or exciting at this time, nor do you want to shop at anywhere that's not the supermarket.

So what do you want? You want to consume. Or in American inner monologue: YOU WANT TO CONSUME!!! RIGHT NOW!!! AS MUCH FOR AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!!! NOMNOMNOMBDFHADFOGHOG!!!

Well.... what if I told you there was a place in your neighborhood where you could go, get some good food to eat now, buy some electronics, buy some groceries for later, hang out, maybe swim, listen to live music in a concert, or in a club/bar, get a drink, get some coffee, get a massage, take a yoga class, workout in a gym, maybe even sleep in a nice hotel located in a beautiful natural setting. But not totally natural (because that's dirty) it's beautiful nature that's been somewhat mall-o-fied. And of course all of it was a la carte, and all of it was better quality and was less expensive than what you could have otherwise got for those same products/services wherever you'd normally consume them from. It might be a bit father away/less convenient, but the excellent diversity of activities and consumption oppertunities means you could get a lot of bang for your buck as far as driving distance vs. hang out time goes. You might want to spend a few hours at that place if you could and stack those cool activities together.

All that is totally in the ball park of what permaculture can do and should do, because people love places they can do all these things at once (shoppin and eatin!), and meeting these desires is something Permaculture systems can do far better than any other design plan can, to the point where they can't even compete, be it conventional farms or conventional malls, they will all have to do what we do to survive. It's not so much selling stuff as it is selling a place to come buy stuff. Selling a place to hang for an hour, stay overnight or two, come out on vacation for a week, even a month, buy a slice of the neighboring subdivisions you construct!

This takes money and planning, obviously. If it was easy and DIY people would have done it already. But all the upfront and ongoing costs of the various establishments I've proposed are sustainable and viable anywhere there are enough customers who want their individual services (apply self-regulation and accept feedback!), and if all these elements are in place alongside the well known fruits of permaculture (and the fruits of permaculture are likewise situated next to a quality dose of the consumption addicts next hit) then customers there will be. The fact is that this possibility exists, and while I or you or all of us together may not be able to make one of these projects happen, it is here in front of us and it's real. If we can agree this makes sense I think you've got a new kind of ecological design! And if we can agree it works in theory to a strong enough perhaps it will somehow manifest and win the war overnight like Aldo Raine. Anyway, I needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for reading whatever parts you read, hope it wasn't too long or arrogant.


 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't see permaculture as a business model, I see it as a way of life.

 
Jason Silberschneider
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Permaculture can't compete with the current business model, because it isn't meant to. The role of permaculture is to render the current business model obselete.

The global apple market shouldn't be your target market. People who live in a 10km radius of you are your apple market. Anyone further away than that should have a closer source of homegrown apples. Maybe there isn't even meant to be a trade in apples, as an apple tree should be a staple in every person's yard. But you might turn your apples into cider, because you don't like the taste of your apples. And so you trade your cider with your neighbour who has much tastier apples, but doesn't want to make their own cider.

Primary produce should definitely not have a global trade. But that means getting used to eating things that are only in season, and maybe even accepting that there are some things you shouldn't really have in your diet if they can't really be grown here.


Edited to satisfy my OCD-driven need for correct spelling
 
Su Ba
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Jason said....."Permaculture techniques (wide umbrella that my be) are more efficient than things that can't be called permaculture. I think we all agree."

Sorry, but I don't think we all agree. At least I don't. One of the top reasons for monoculture being so well entrenched is that it far more efficient than any other large scale system. I have a permaculture style 20 acre farm. A friend of mine has a 220 acre monoculture style farm growing much of the same stuff though not as much diversity. He can get more accomplished on his farm in one day then I can in one week. His monoculture set up allows for far more efficient soil preparation, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and pest/disease control. He get a crop into the ground faster and out of the field faster. He can spot crop problems faster than I can. He can make a visual survey of a crop easier and quicker than I can. This is all due to monoculture.

While monoculture is more efficient when it comes to time, labor, problem control, harvesting, it's not "earth friendly" in any fashion. My friend can make more money faster and easier than I can, but at a cost that I don't deem acceptable. My priority is to create a farm that can be sustained for generations to come, to be in harmony with Mother Nature. His priority is to make a profit, regardless of the future, regardless of what damage he leaves behind. Two very different sets of ethics.
 
David Livingston
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"So why is the chief economic output of permaculture trained people PDC's?"

I dissagree . It may seem this way as lots of noise is created by folks seeking publicity to sell places on their PDC courses but if you look at many places eg Zaytuna , sepps place etc etc this is a minor yet I accept significant out put . I am unaware of any where it is over 50% of their finance there may be some smaller sites I am not aware of . But its cream on the milk as it where for most places The chief economic output is food

David
 
cliff jones
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Permaculture can't compete with the current business model, because it isn't meant to. The role of permaculture is to render the current business model obsolete.


Wooden ships are obsolete. That's why you don't see them anymore. If you want to not see monoculture anymore you have to see markets as an ecology and adapt your system to them. And then monoculture will be in museums like the old ships. I agree the role of permaculture is to render the business models obsolete, so let's figure out a way to do it!


The global apple market shouldn't be your target market. People who live in a 10km radius of you are your apple market. Anyone further away than that should have a closer source of homegrown apples
Of course I agree completely. My only point by saying that is there is such a thing as an apple market, is that apples are consumed, and almost all of them not by a permaculture design. Because while Permaculture is a more efficient ecological design, it has not yet been used in a model suited to what it does well, except the "feed me and my family, plus I sell a little of this and that" model, which is very limited, more limited than it needs to be.

The chief economic output is food


Maybe I was exaggerating on purpose, but the statement about apples is painfully accurate. In terms of holding a market share of apples, permaculture is a big fat nothing. The apple makers have not been incentivized to switch. And why should the chief output be food anyway? Why provide just one thing, when we strive to learn so many different skills and create such diversity and holistic integrity? Why can't we yield "a great place to be"?


I don't see permaculture as a business model, I see it as a way of life.

This might be bitter for you but business is a way of life. Your way of life. When you decide what to do with your resources, time, money, apples, favors from friends, you are thinking like an entrepreneur, trying to get as much for as little as possible. Every living being does this, including the plants animals and bacteria. Business has an ecology that has so far gone unappreciated in permaculture. If this logic is very grating to you then you could even say;one person can invest a lot of money to bring elements of the consumer way of life to the farm, that way Permaculture could be the way of life for far more people than the number of people who are currently interested in Permaculture.
 
cliff jones
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Cliff said "Permaculture techniques (wide umbrella that my be) are more efficient than things that can't be called permaculture. I think we all agree."

Sorry, but I don't think we all agree. At least I don't. One of the top reasons for monoculture being so well entrenched is that it far more efficient than any other large scale system. I have a permaculture style 20 acre farm. A friend of mine has a 220 acre monoculture style farm growing much of the same stuff though not as much diversity. He can get more accomplished on his farm in one day then I can in one week. His monoculture set up allows for far more efficient soil preparation, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and pest/disease control. He get a crop into the ground faster and out of the field faster. He can spot crop problems faster than I can. He can make a visual survey of a crop easier and quicker than I can. This is all due to monoculture.

While monoculture is more efficient when it comes to time, labor, problem control, harvesting, it's not "earth friendly" in any fashion. My friend can make more money faster and easier than I can, but at a cost that I don't deem acceptable. My priority is to create a farm that can be sustained for generations to come, to be in harmony with Mother Nature. His priority is to make a profit, regardless of the future, regardless of what damage he leaves behind. Two very different sets of ethics.



Monoculture does present a kind of efficiency, but only when it comes to meeting the need of a certain kind of market. Mr. Global Apple. But is it really more efficient in the abstract?

Your friend may accomplish many tasks faster than you, but faster isn't always better. That person needs to be faster at those tasks to achieve the goals set by the food system they are in, but if you were to change the business model, you change what qualities are valued in a farm. Possibly such that the things about your farm which are different from your friend's will make your farm a more efficient one in the eyes of the market.
 
John Weiland
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Kind of a long video but you can scroll through to find the good bits. About the "cost of doing business", including a discussion of 'money', from a human-powered versus fossil-fuel perspective:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EMlDuNH59c
 
cliff jones
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Another benefit of the system I proposed is that the people who come there to shop and hangout will be local customers for permaculture consultations, and you'll know the dynamics of the area really well because it's your permanent home. You'll be able to offer quick cheap and effective permaculture fixups, as well as being able to promise that when you come back to assess how things are going after time passes, that these necessary added expenses will be affordable for your customers, increasing the number of people who want permaculture work done on their property.

Really i don't see how you can have true permaculture consults that aren't local to some home site, or aren't very expensive or compromised compared to this.
 
cliff jones
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cliff jones wrote: Another benefit of the system I proposed is that the people who come there to shop and hangout will be local customers for permaculture consultations, and you'll know the dynamics of the area really well because it's your permanent home. You'll be able to offer quick cheap and effective permaculture fixups.

You'll also be able to promise that when you come back to assess how things are going after time passes, and do more work, that these necessary added expenses will be affordable for you and therefore your customers, increasing the number of people who want permaculture work done on their property.

Really i don't see how you can have true permaculture consults that aren't local to some home site, or aren't very expensive or compromised compared to this.
 
Tyler Ludens
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cliff jones wrote:
business is a way of life. Your way of life.


I don't personally see business as life, or life as a business.

Simple Definition of business
: the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/business
 
Travis Johnson
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I understand what you are saying and I think the one thing that makes permiculture work on a micro or small scale is the low input in mechanization. Low overhead is what appeals to a lot of budding permiculturists, however, to really get permicuture to a point where it is making a true impact and feeding the world; mechanization is going to have to happen.

We actually have the technology. Where I live (Maine) we are the most heavily forested state in the nation, but have just lost another paper mill to closure. I think it is 12 that have shut down in the last 2 years, and as such our high paying jobs as well as loggers, truck drivers, dock workers, railroaders, etc. But nothing has changed, we are still growing wood and with my own farm being an American Tree Farm and certified to the even higher environmentalists standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, I can assure logging is a very good thing. Right now we have two major markets; high end logs for lumber, and low grade wood for biomass (wood burned to make electricity), but there is no middle-market. That is where permiculture COULD come in.

What if we took that mid grade softwood and chipped it? Now that moldboard plows are making a comeback because when used properly they have their place in tillage; we could inject that biomass directly into the soil so a farmer essentially has a multi-acre hugel without resorting to hummocks or strips? I know first hand hugel pits work because I have them on my farm. In any case injecting chips and then covering them with a moldboard plow would certainly alleviate the need for chemical fertilizers for many years to come. Historically, it has been done in this state because in the past when New England provided its former mother country Britain with potash. It can be done, but I have not run the numbers on what it would potentially take to do that and return on investment.

Right now I see it as a catch 22. Without mechanization permiculture to the point of feeding a hungry world will never take off, yet since most permiculturists prefer to be micro or small in size, the demand for mechanization will never result. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that we use natural gas to produce Urea as chemical fertilizer for our crops when we have the potential to convert forest into fertilizer for our food instead, employing local loggers, foresters, mechanics, etc by doing so, but who is going to take the plunge and invest in large scale permiculture and its corresponding mechanization?

Maybe the answer to that is me now that I think about it.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Right now I see it as a catch 22. Without mechanization permiculture to the point of feeding a hungry world will never take off, yet since most permiculturists prefer to be micro or small in size, the demand for mechanization will never result. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that we use natural gas to produce Urea as chemical fertilizer for our crops when we have the potential to convert forest into fertilizer for our food instead, employing local loggers, foresters, mechanics, etc by doing so, but who is going to take the plunge and invest in large scale permiculture and its corresponding mechanization?

Which large scale are you talking about Travis? Large on the scale of a few hundred acres I can totally respect; but there's an immense limit to one farmer's ability to actually interact with the land.
 
cliff jones
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I love the idea of Hugel pit, I'm planning to do a Hugel pit on my own property. But most people who have need of Hugel pits wont recognize their need, or the value of Hugels.

So it seems to me your mid range woodchips, which i assume is better than the woodchips under the slide at the playground, would not have the proper client base to supplant the general industry making woodchips.

I tend to agree that the right path is not trying to imitate the sprawling farms of agribusiness. Permaculture is permaculture, and there's no point trying to dilute it. That's why I tried to think of an area that was not as physically large as a big farm, but one that somehow had numerous stacking functions and all the economic power of a sprawling farm, in a much smaller area. And that's how I came to the idea of bringing the customers to the land instead of products to customers.
 
r ranson
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Good for you, looking for a better way. If you haven't heard of it yet, check out your local Trasistion Movement. Perhaps there is something like you envision already in the works. You could join in, help them out, and encourage a permaculture approach (Transition and permaculture are perfect partners).

I do think, perhaps there are a few challenges with what you envision. Permaculture's primary focus, at least how I see it, is sustainability. That's the 'permanent' part. The current economic system in most of "The West" is not sustainable, it's built on the assumption of infinite growth. I envision a permaculture community has needing to move away from the current capitalist method of interaction, and adapt a something, I don't know what. A kind of financial system that isn't like anything we've seen in the last few hundred years. It's almost as if it needs to be like capitalism, and like socialism (for the people care ethic to work), but not either of these two. Both capitalism and socialism haven't found a way to be sustainable. So maybe there is a perma-lism that needs to be developed. A center like cliff describes here could be a transition stage towards a sustainable community... but one would have to be vigilant not to fall into old economic patterns.



There is also a fatal flaw in the reasoning of the original post.

Usually when something is more efficient at meeting the needs of a demander/consumer, that efficiency is promulgated throughout the world replacing all the other methodology it can.


I can't think of any example in history that this holds true for. There could be a few, just none I know.

Have a read of Marvin Harris's work. I think Cannibals and Kings is the one where he shows how technology is invented, it's worlds better than the old stuff, but people keep using the old for generations before adopting the new. Jared Diamond, I think also writes about this, but in a more popular way.

While you wait for your local library to open, check out this article about medieval climate change and how it affected technology. Something as simple as a chimney had been around for, oh hundreds of years. It was well known to be "efficient" and less smokey, but what's the point? A fire in the middle of the floor was always good enough for my grandma, why change? An external catalyst, aka, the weather got colder, motivated the change. It also encouraged the attitude that change is the norm. With the industrial revolution, people began to believe that change for the better (teleological) was inevitable. Darwin came along, talked about evolution. People took that to heart, it matched their industrial values and showed the world that any damage they were doing was in the name of progress, which was a perfectly natural thing. (have a look at the old TV show Connections with James... someone starts with a B, to see more about how technology changes)

It's very difficult to shrug off these belief systems and to return to a time when sustainability was the norm. Because we hold the teleological (progresses focused) belief system at the core of our society, a lot of people find it difficult to look back. So I can see why you would think that people would automatically adapt the 'better' technology. However, this belief isn't supported by history. I don't see humans changing so fundamentally that they will start adapting the 'better' technology without an outside catalyst.


So, with that in mind, how could you adapt your plans to account for people's natural disinclination to accept change?
 
Waldo Schafli
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So, with that in mind, how could you adapt your plans to account for people's natural disinclination to accept change?


That little nudge people need might be closer than we think. South Africa just suffered it's worst drought in a hundred years. The effects of which we'll start seeing this winter and probably for the next four years. Nudge on my side. Most of our large industries are downsizing at a shocking pace – if the rumours are true this is the same in the States. On and on we can go, truth is it seems we're in for another recession. Nudge on both our sides.

People tend to cut their overheads in a recession, growing your own food is a great way to do this, as we all know.

But it's even more striking to me that certain strategies have not been tried
I would like an elaboration on these strategies please. Here is ours in it's Infancy.

My wife and I are in the process of starting South Africa's first Permaculture Nursery. All of the nursery owners in our area say it is the Worst time to attempt this because “people are only buying seedlings & compost”. Imagine that, people are starting their own food gardens and the nursery people say business is bad.

you do not bring the products to the people, you must bring people to the products!


As a solution to this current problem we'll be focusing mainly on edible plants, either in six-packs or larger 128 flats (which can be broken into smaller pieces) which can be pre-ordered or arranged on site.
We won't deliver outside of a 100km radius. As a test, our delivery prices will be somewhat exorbitant to see if we can rather get people to the nursery. We'll have Sepp inspired Hugel walks, fishing spots, photography-cooking-gardening workshops, nature walks & a whole host of on farm activities. We like people. We like talking to people. The more you talk to people the more they know what you're about & you know what they're about.

Most if not all of our business ventures will be done as co-ops.
Most if not all of Permaculture is about cooperation.

The stock we don't grow ourselves we buy in bulk together with a few local people. We're in the process of making compost with Black Wattle (Acacia Mearsnii) and will be selling it in a co-op structure which is linked to numerous producers and consumers across our country. So instead of having to pay $0.28 for our bags as individuals, we will order as a whole and pay $0.12 per bag.

This is where our strength as permies lie.
Instead of a one-farm CSA with 150 clients, we can create five-farm CSA's with a 1000 clients and spread the bills between the farms.
Instead of a stand alone Permaculture Designer just churning out designs, you can gather a few like minded people, implement and maintain these designs.

Cliff is right, we need to change our ways.

How can you manufacture a business that truly competes with the economy of scale offered by an apple monoculture


Imagine Permaculture as a Tree.
Bill Mollison & David Holmgren were the seed.
sepp holzer & geoff lawton where some of the first branches.
Joel Salatin, Paul Wheaton, Jean-Martin Fortier etc are branches on their branches
Most of us are the small twigs on their branches, all part of the one big tree.
This tree is beneficial to anything that comes into contact with it.
Birds, bees, monkeys, the warm gardener etc

As permies we have the potential to LITERALLY CHANGE THE FACE OF EARTH.
 
r ranson
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Although permaculture is not a new idea; it's been around thousands of years before we thought up a name for it; it is a new-to-us idea. "us" for the sake of that last sentence, being "the west". Consequently, we forget to look to the past, and other cultures, to see times and places where it permaculture worked, fit into a larger economic system, and increased fertility of the land. There are quite a few historic examples of whole cultures accepting permaculture practices. For example, Edo Japan. Japan was on the brink of ecological collapse, farming practices, deforestations, polluted water, you name it. They made a nation-wide change that reversed environmental degradation, and set up a system that increased fertility of the soils. For more on how that was accomplished, the book Just Enough ties in the history lesson with ideas for improving our own society.

Where I'm going with this, is if we pretend that Permaculture is a new thing, then I see it as if it's just about past the proof of concept stage. These external 'nudges' are getting stronger, so we may be nearing a time when permaculture is universally accepted. If this is so, then it's a good idea to think about where we go from here and how we scale it to provide for a larger population.

I think, where I got caught up in this thread was the apple example. The permaculture apple in the first post, isn't very permaculture. I would say we are comparing apples and oranges here, but no. We are comparing two apples, neither of which fits the "permanent agriculture" model.

The expenses to make an industrial apple are like this
(from memory so I might be wrong on the details, but this is more to show the general theme)
- apple cuttings
- possibly pots for starting cuttings, several sizes and translated as the tree grows
- potting soil
- grafting supplies, plus labour costs
- apple seedlings
- people and machines to plant seedlings
- pruning trees
- water
- sprays
- fertilizer
- trellis and support (for some of the more modern, high-density apple farms)
- machinery for picking
- machinery for sorting
- machinery for storage
- refrigerated storage
- shipping

A permaculture apple, the expense would be... um... well, I was going to eat the apple anyway, so does it count as an expense if I save the seeds?

The benefit of a permaculture apple would be
- shade
- wind protection
- draws up deep moisture
- retains moisture and slows down runoff
- mulch
- compost
- wood is used for many tasks on the farm, and my favourite for smoking bacon.
- apples
- attracts spring pollinators
- ducks love eating the flower petals and any insects that try to get near the tree
- ad infinitum

We can already see that permaculture apples cost less to produce... then why isn't everyone doing it? Ah! That's the big question.

I've seen this kind of list called 'stacking functions', but in my great grandfather's day (the last of my family to live a pre-industrial life), this was called common sense. To apply a capitalist approach to these functions, would be an exercise in futility. Most of these have no economic value, except that they reduce the need for external inputs. The permaculture apple tree produces all these things and has ZERO expense! It is self perptuating. If we want to graft it, then all we need is a knife and the knowledge to make a strong enough wrapping from the local grasses.

The permaculture apple need not be pruned. Fukuoka's book One Straw revolution shows how fruit trees, when left alone, automatically grow to the most beneficial shape.
The permaculture apple need not be shipped - this is a big deal. Long distance shipping is NOT sustainable. Unsustainable practices do not create Permanent Agriculture.*

And this brings us back to the main topic of the conversation.

I too dream of a permaculture hub. I talk about it a bit here. Basically it a lot like the medieval village system. The village is self-contained, and most of the trade happens among members. However, it also has a public face: an open everyday shop that sells only products from the village members, weekly markets (indoors when the weather is bad), festivals (monthly), &c. A movement away from the current economic system, while still participating in it. It would be a stepping stone towards a global system of localized farming.



*however, I think that shipping of dry goods, like pulses and grains, would probably continue, as when one area has a bumper crop, others might have a crop failure. Dry goods require fewer resources to transport, and can be moved slower (via water barge for example) thus requiring even less energy.
 
cliff jones
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Thanks for taking the time guys.

So to get more specific.

I see this protocol as being principle based strategy, not one size fits all, like any other part of permaculture.

The foundation for everything is having your permaculture site and food stand on site on LOCK. The reason people will want to come out and see you is they get the best meal in town at a dirt cheap price.

Now this may be all that works. This may be it. Or this may be incomplete without the rest. I don't know. Yet. But I will.

The reason it might not work is there might not be consistent customers to support the food stand/grocery store alone. Depends how far you are. Let's say not for hypothetical sake. If you don't have enough people consistently, your business is not going to be efficient. So I was thinking we could add more things for people to do. This is conservative, if you have millions you can build a mall in the woods and I think it'd be interesting. But from a micro modular perspective you might have a foundation layer of the food (eat in and grocery), a secondary layer of hangout infrastructure (natural beauty, gazebos, benches, swimming hole, make it a comfortable place to hang), and tertiary infrastructure (extra stores and services). The extra stores and services should be the cherry on top, the things that make the place a whole diverse thing. They could be yoga classes, massage, stores selling material crafts from earthy stuff to electronics, internet cafe. Overall you want people to come out not just to eat shop and split. You want people (with money) to be populating your area. This will justify having more retail on site, and that will make the site more attractive to more people.

Now these things may create balance, they may give people a reason to come around often. They may like your place as much as their friends living room, and these extras may make the difference to them. Or the extra capital investment may swing and miss, and you'll have to eat it.

The one thing you can count on is if you can saddle up within a few miles outside of a commercial area, then start getting those customers to drive to you, because they like you and want to be in your base, then you've just done a very significant thing. If this is based on you sustainably lowering your prices and raising the bar for quality, then your methods will be imitated. And then the world is saved. And you'll be in position to get rich.

Major concern is dudes just hanging out all day and not buying stuff, but managing that is part of the challenge.
 
Mark Fox
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John, thanks for the link to the video. The featured speaker in the video is Nate Hagens. Nate's presentations are always amazing and uncomfortable because of the subject matter. If this thread is about how permaculture could become more of a success, Nate's focus is more on why permaculture should be more of a success and why it isn't. Of course, he isn't focused on permaculture, but his talks cover aspects of society and the human condition that have to be understood to be worked around if permaculture is to expand. Highly recommended.

Edit: Having watched the video, I just want to point out that it is worth watching to the end. Actually, I'd go further and say that watching the first 75% of the video and then walking away would be harmful to your mental well-being. The subject, reality, is depressing, but the finale offers some hope.

As for the focus of the thread, it is something I have been wondering about for a long time. Bringing people to your permaculture farm is, in my opinion, the only way to get them to understand why they should be paying for your product, and probably more for it, rather than just going to the grocery store. I've always imagined our farm as including a bed-and-breakfast for people looking for a way to live with less guilt. It would include a CSA that would encourage members to make trips out to see their food being produced. A yearly (at least) open house would also be an important way to get new members and strengthen the connection to existing members.

My project is just beginning and won't really get going for at least a couple of years, but it is nice to have an idea of where I'm headed.

John Weiland wrote:Kind of a long video but you can scroll through to find the good bits. About the "cost of doing business", including a discussion of 'money', from a human-powered versus fossil-fuel perspective:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EMlDuNH59c
 
cliff jones
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In response to the village idea, I think it's perfectly fine for people to team up and buy land together, but this has challenges of its own. The project's direction is no longer in your hands. And you have to pay for all this stuff. It's cool to have the blacksmith/craftsman, town hall etc, but are the costs of these things (including the time it takes to participate in them) worth the benefits? Even if this is sucessful, although it would blaze a trail for other interested parties wanting the same thing, it wouldn't incorporate the masses. You wouldn't have real estate developers designing your system and selling it by parcel. You would only be innovating for people already into permaculture. If it works for you and you think its a better life then go for it, but that will not make any change on a global scale.
 
r ranson
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cliff jones wrote:BTW in regard to the "fatal flaw" in my reasoning, I don't see it. I expect PC to replace other methods for the same reason that steamships replaced sailboats, why pens replaced quills. You look at everything in your immediate surrounding made by man and you will see things which people consider to be better than what they replaced, because they are more effective. The needs never really change, the means of meeting those needs are getting better all the time.


Like I said, the teleological worldview is very strong in our society. It is, however, almost unique in history.

I love your examples! These are really good choices... but don't really support your conclusion.

Check out connections, you'll see that steamship technology was around hundreds of years before we adopted steamships, same with the ball point pen. There are far more efficient technologies available (efficient for user and for production). This is coming from a person who writes with a refillable fountain pen or pencil. I've had my pen since I was in high school (a while ago now) because ball point pens caused tendon problems. The pen costs $50 to buy new, price for ink so far about $10, I expect to spend about $40 more on it for the rest of the pen's life... which consequently I expect to exceed my own. One pen, old-ish technology, built to last, efficient to use, affordable to buy and maintain when compared to other pens, efficient to create. Why would anyone want a ball point pen? A ball point pen, I would need to buy at least 12 a year for the amount of writing I do, at... let's pull a number out of the air because I haven't bought one in decades, let's say one dollar. That's $12 a year, plus price and time to buy it. So, let's say $15 a year. $150 every 10 years... which is already $50 more than the total life cost of my fountain pen... Totally inefficient in my eyes.

Steamships and plastic pens rely on finite resources. If we keep using this technology, we will run out of these resources. The very heart of permaculture is that our goal is to create a sustainable system of producing food and living. Plastic pens and steamships are not sustainable technology, whereas much of the earlier technology they replaced, is.



cliff jones wrote:
In response to the village idea, I think it's perfectly fine for people to team up and buy land together, but this has challenges of its own. The project's direction is no longer in your hands. And you have to pay for all this stuff. It's cool to have the blacksmith/craftsman, town hall etc, but are the costs of these things (including the time it takes to participate in them) worth the benefits? Even if this is successful, although it would blaze a trail for other interested parties wanting the same thing, it wouldn't incorporate the masses. You wouldn't have real estate developers designing your system and selling it by parcel. You would only be innovating for people already into permaculture. If it works for you and you think its a better life then go for it, but that will not make any change on a global scale.

I know what I'm suggesting is a little cold and not hippy stuff, but its what we need. The only way to make cold stuff warm is to touch it gently and appeal for you to become it and it to become you. That requires you to understand something of it's nature.


I never really understood what 'hippy stuff' is. My city friends call me hippy because I have a garden and bake my own bread. I think that's just being practical. To me, maybe they are the hippies with the essential oils, yoga classes, protest marches to save the XYZ, with a visit to the coffee shop afterwards to buy the same stuff that killed XYZ to produce. If it's not putting food on the table (and I don't see how yoga class does that for anyone but the yoga instructor) then it's not for me.

...


I like the idea of having a central hub where people who live a city life can go and buy food, experience permaculture, take classes, entertainments, and be a one-stop destination for most of the necessities in life. One that is built on permaculture values would be a wonderful step towards healing the world. Having things produced on site is a great idea, having skilled people living there, and offering their services/goods, for a price that they set, would bring more and more people in. Have you seen the way repair cafes and fix-it gatherings are taking off? Mend and make do values are growing rappidly among the general public. Artisans with repair skills and goods built to last would be very popular. A nice setting, pick your own hugelkulture beds, &c. The list is endless of what it could include.

For it to actually be permaculture, it needs to respect permaculture values. It needs to be sustainable, resilient, respectful, follow the three ethics, and I just don't see how the place you are describing can fulfill that. I'm not saying it cannot - I'm saying I don't see how it can. There's a huge difference. If you think it will work, go and do it, prove me wrong.

If you don't know how take your vision and run with it, have a look at Paul Wheaton (the hoast of this site) and the projects he has going on. Paul has a vision, one that many, many, countlessly many people said could never work, ever, in the history of time and space, it will never happen, you'll die sad and lonely, you failure you. I'm paraphrasing. Paul (I imagined) said to himself, I think it will work. I'll try it and see. He tries it, it works. He has one of the, if not THE largest permaculture website, land full of people practicing permaculture, and all sorts of amazing things.

Just because I say I don't think your idea will work, dosen't mean it won't. I'm just not seeing how it matches with permaculture.


 
cliff jones
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Once the steamship was built and seriously deployed, it was only a matter of time before it set the standard, because it's hard to argue when you're in a wooden ship getting sodomized by a metal ship! That doesn't mean I'm saying metal ships are sustainable technologies. But it does demonstrate a principal in nature. The cool thing about permaculture is that not only is it sustainable, it's more productive. And because of that, with a few tweaks we can use this principal I just talked about to replace unsustainable stuff with sustainable stuff.

Once my system is tried, if it works as a moneymaker then there will be more and more of them. I think businessmen are more practical than you are giving them credit for. If you have the numbers, you'll have ears. And if you don't you'll have nothing.

Now if the show you are recommending presents another logic, maybe you can explain it, but for now I'd say "yes, and Da Vinci had a cool diagram for helicopters, it doesn't tell a story of how people were biased and that's why we had to wait for the helicopter". Lots of big tech is theorized years before all the pieces are there to implement the design. Maybe a steamship would've cost 200,000x as much to build at the time these technologies you speak of were brought out. I don't see how this applies to anything I'm saying. You saying things that do new better work and make new better money don't spread because people are biased? I don't believe that. Why should I?

I don't mean to say what is "hippy stuff" as a negative, not my interest. Anyone on here including me is a hippy to someone in some form or fashion, and I don't care one way or the other. But there is a perception that I have noticed in people, that money and capitalism are poisonous to society, so don't even suggest that these are actually tools and natural systems we can use to improve society and shape our future! And that's wrong, so I'm critical of it. All the nice things we take for granted are the side product of someone making money at our "expense". Like ballpoint pens. Say what you want, they're cheap, they write, and I can lose one. And I don't pay 1 dollar per pen I steal them from the bank like a normal person. And if I'm a bank I buy 1 dollar pens in bulk for 4 cents to lure suckers to make bank accounts and think they're hustling me by stealing my pens!

How is what I'm suggesting anything other than permaculture? All I suggest is using permaculture in a sustainable business model tailored to it's strengths and weaknesses!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Maybe the idea isn't fleshed out enough for us to see it as a permaculture design. Permaculture is a design system based on a set of ethics. I guess what maybe we're missing is how this idea is based on permaculture design principles and ethics.

 
John Saltveit
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I think the entrepreneurial spirit that Cliff is bringing is highly useful and can help permaculture. Let's make sure, though, that we're not just greenwashing permaculture. I think having a center, which is a farm, and maybe a restaurant, etc, is a great idea. 25 years ago, people thought fancy coffee was some kind of a snob thing. Now most people won't drink "regular" coffee. The question about apples is an interesting one. The corporate ideology says that an apple is an apple. I obsessively listen to a lot of health podcasts as well as permaculture. What all the nutrition based doctors are saying is that an apple is not just an apple. It is a source of information. 80% of doctors won't buy synthetic pesticide apples for their families. There is a message that is moving through the soil, through the farm, from the farmer to the consumer. I care about the earth. I care about the food I grow. I want it to have good flavor and healthy nutrition. If you buy better stuff, you won't have to eat so much and get so fat. We are spreading obesity, cancer and diabetes across the world right now. Mexico has just surpassed us in obesity. I think we can go a better and different way. Fancy restaurants make a lot of money because a lot of care is put into that product to make it just right. We can afford that quality because we grow permaculture style and we learn how to cook. Most people can't afford to eat as well as we can. It's not money, it's care in the process. We can make and support quality businesses throughout the economy. I grew up in a family of no gardeners. I had to learn how to garden and how to cook to have the high quality/low income lifestyle that I currently enjoy. We are building ladders to a better society. Everyone is at a different place in their journey. We can go and support places that are pathways onto a journey that is positive for our families, our communities, and yes our culture. This is the opportunity that awaits it. I call it permaculture.
John S
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cliff jones
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beyond the elements we all understand of a permaculture site here are the main tenets of how my design incorporates elements of permaculture

STACKING:When a new store is opened on the site it functions as a store, trading products for money. This happens by providing things people want. So the place where the store is becomes a place people goto to get the things they want. So you have the strong "I" of the store that sells the right product at the right price, and the strong I makes the site a stronger 'WE" because now people go there to satisfy all sorts of needs at once. Once the place expands enough, there will be a customer base populating the site. If you have done this you have created a light form of expensive commercial real estate, on cheap rural land. If it all goes right with each modular expansion there is no limit. You can start buying neighboring land, building and selling houses.

DIVERSITY:The more different "strong I" stores, the more different needs people are having served in one place, increasing the attractive force of the place overall. Also having a single food cook-up counter on site allows you to maximally use the diverse crop yield of permaculture. People come in expecting not "apples" but "a good bite" and they get a consistent product. If you have a good cooking staff, and they have good ingredients, then you have a consistent product year round. And people will be enjoying the surprise factor, as long as they are never disappointed.

CATCHING ENERGY:The idea is to saddle up near, but not in a consumer base. This allows you to buy land priced out of commercial real estate range, but near enough to get people to drive out. Which they would only do for this system. Then you create this system and get people to regularly drive out. By doing this you catch the economic energy of the commercial space you are near, and you can store it. Not just talking about money, but the fact that people come out and spend time in your place is a potential energy. You can say to a guy who might set up shop on your place as one of your "strong Is", "look at all the people walking around here, that's customers for you if you can sell them". Then you are charging rent to a vendor you pick out, being paid for them saving you from having to do everything yourself.

 
r ranson
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Thanks for clarifying your view cliff.

If you get a chance, have a read (and a watch) of the stuff I mentioned. I think you would be surprised by what's in there. The progress focused understanding of technology is really hard to shake; however, I think those authors say it better than I could. Your local library should have those books, and if not, then they should have them and feel free to tell them I said so. One idea I would take the opportunity to plant in your mind, is what makes a technology better than a different technology? We don't need to discuss it, but maybe next time you pick up a pen, wonder... what is it that makes you feel this is better than all the other writing implements available to you.

But getting back to your vision. I like the idea of a central location, a farm or village or something where the general public can go and shop. I'm just not seeing how to make it in a way that fits with permaculture values (the three ethics). I think perhaps if one were to cultivate artisans and people with crafts, give them a place to live, and resources to work with, then they will create excess that can be sold. Your idea seems a bit different than this, so I'm having trouble understanding how it fits with permaculture.
 
John Saltveit
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A real advantage of this kind of place is that people not doing permaculture will think of it as a fun day in the country with their family.

I would make a section where parents could play with kids. This could kill in the fall if you had a pumpkin patch. More importantly, do educational centers that people can check out or tours or shows, like about mason bees, honey bees, livestock, petting zoos, soil food web, grafting, etc.

In my neighborhood, I have a food forest, and people can ask me about that if they want to. However, most people don't have a food forest in their back yard. One spouse who works a zillion high pressure hours in high tech and another with a normal job probably won't have a food forest. But they can come and check out yours. When they retire or decide they're fed up, they can transition if they understand what it is and are willing to try.

I would still want everyone else to do as much permaculture as they can. Many have never thought about it. They grew up in a condo, watch TV, go to Walmart, play video games, and have never imagined anywhere else being nearly as valuable as cyberspace. With many busy families, a tour of that place can be your starting point.
John S
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cliff jones
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I want to do all that stuff, especially use the place as a show piece for consultation work. Two other great permaculture principles embodied in such a place are

1.) People come and eat, wonder how it's all so cheap, and then you offer to service their place if they own some land. They are paying you to advertise to them in a medium more intimate than any tv ad.

and 2.) You get to operate a consultant op that does business in the same area over and over. That makes you able to work more efficiently, work faster and charge less.

I also think there's a place for regular events. John S brings up great examples. I also think it's not just about permaculture sploosh everywhere 24/7. That's not life. This is an event space, it's made to please and attract all manner of people, not just proselytize to them and try to educate them. So I'm thinking bomb-ass music concerts, that's my main thing. I would also serve unhealthy food. I'd fry the hell out of my food. People around me are looking for burgers, wings, ribs, and I'm going to give it to them. I want to be known first as a great soul food place. I'm not about eating the food I'm going to largely serve, but that's ok. I want not to give others what I want them to have, but to reap the result of what happens after I give them what they ask for in the best way possible.


So does it fulfill the ethics?

Earth: finances and acts out restorative agriculture using unfiltered permaculture techniques. Zero compromise. And not because I'm a good person.

People: employs people, gives people things they want more than what they give up to get that. Everyone's a winner.

Fair Share: Any fair trade by consenting adults represents fair share. Couldn't be more fair. Everyone who gives some gets some. If you feel it's unfair then no one is making you participate. I am not disturbing anyone (except IGfarbensanto). Actually that's fair share too. We're taking our fair share of the market. Which is 100% of the market. Provides opportunities for not only general employment, but actual regular permaculture work.






 
John Saltveit
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Sounds like a good plan, except for a couple of things. I have no idea who IGfarbensanto is. Also the fair share part has language like what large corporations say when they are bribing their Senators into allowing them to pollute and not pay taxes. It's obviously just my opinion, but it contains phrases that the powerful use to pretend to do fair share if they are people who don't want to do fair share in any way. I think if you have that on your mission statement, people will be suspicious. Other than that, I think it's a great plan.
John S
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Kyrt Ryder
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John Saltveit wrote:Sounds like a good plan, except for a couple of things. I have no idea who IGfarbensanto is.
Pretty sure it's related to Monsanto. Possibly an anagram intended to include them with a few other organizations.
 
cliff jones
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the fair share part has language like what large corporations say when they are bribing their Senators into allowing them to pollute and not pay taxes.


I think the language represents a universal truth that isn't always easy to accept. But it will never lead you to make a victim of yourself when you should be empowering yourself. We have serious problems, and when you look at issues like bribery and its consequences, it's not about what opportunists do, but much like what we say about the opportunistic weeds in our gardens, it's the gaps in a tight system we allow, that attract those creatures. We are not victims in an abstract sense. We give influence to people who aren't trustworthy. We create the system. So, it's all on us to get it right. If you design a system that fails to regulate, are the consequences of that failure natures fault or are they the designers fault?

It's like the classic fictional trope in Dante's Inferno, you are trapped in a place where everyone is suffering brutally, and all the energy tells you to run like hell for the exit...but that is the road to death and eternal misery. The only road to salvation is to press through the flames, in to the darkest depths where fire is frozen, and climb up the back of Satan himself to reach the Paradise. Can't run from this, slap a band-aid on the democracy, try to move forward half-cocked. Need full cock. I'd like to end on a more intellectual note (or at least I'm gonna act like I want to...yes I wrote a parenthetical of my inner monologue. and it's not too late to say i'd love to "flesh out" the idea more as a non sequitur. So worth editing five times) but I've seen people getting threads locked if this kind of stuff gets talked about. Don't really want that to happen.
 
Judith Browning
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
John Saltveit wrote:Sounds like a good plan, except for a couple of things. I have no idea who IGfarbensanto is.
Pretty sure it's related to Monsanto. Possibly an anagram intended to include them with a few other organizations.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IG_Farben

"IG Farben was founded on December 25, 1925, as a merger of the following six companies:[1]

BASF
Bayer
Hoechst (including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle)
Agfa
Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron
Chemische Fabrik vorm. Weiler Ter Meer"


"In 1951, IG Farben was split into its four largest original constituent companies, which remain some of the world's largest chemical and pharmaceutical companies. The current main successor companies are AGFA, BASF, Bayer and Sanofi."


...not a pretty history...the article goes on about trials and war crimes.....

 
John Saltveit
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Thanks Judith,
That makes sense. Good to hear from you.
John S
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Tyler Ludens
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So, how to move from vision to action?

I meant to post this link: http://www.permies.com/t/41892/md/dream-big
 
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