• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Burra Maluca
  • Miles Flansburg
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Anne Miller
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Mike Jay
gardeners:
  • Bill Crim
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Greg Martin

permaculture v. organic  RSS feed

 
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
paul wheaton believes that switching to permaculture can lead to untold riches for more conventional farmers.  I sort of want that to be true, but I'm skeptical.  so I want to explore that idea.

I'll go into some details concerning a farm I'm familiar with.  this could get tedious, but I think it's important to think about a real place in order to move this away from purely hypothetical and into something more concrete.  if any of you think you are familiar with the specific farm I'm describing, I ask you to not mention the name of the farm so as to respect the privacy of the folks there.

the property is 103 acres, much of which is left alone because it is swamp, river buffer, or pleasant second-growth forest.  this farm isn't certified organic, but organic practices are followed.

crops include:
around two acres of most of the boring grocery store vegetables and a few oddballs.
tomatoes grown in two 95'x20' polyethylene and galvanized steel hoop houses.
maybe three-quarters of an acre of potatoes.
half an acre of winter squash.
between half and two acres of sweet corn, depending on weather at planting time.
maybe 30 acres of grass cut for silage and hay.
between 10 and 15 acres of pumpkins, some culinary varieties, but mostly for Jack-o'-lanterns.
honey.
Christmas trees.
trout.
broilers and chicken eggs.
cattle (live animals, very limited)

other products not grown on site but sold:
fresh apple juice pressed from apples bought 100 miles away.
donuts.
group events (weddings, parties, meetings, school field trips)

two large-ish tractors are used extensively: for plowing, discing, spring-tooth harrowing, roto-tilling, bush-hogging, cutting and baling hay, sowing seed, spreading manure.  one tractor is a 1950s John Deere that needs minor repairs a couple of times each year, and a major repair maybe once each year.  the other is a 2002 Massey Ferguson that isn't aging well.  most tractor repair is done in-house.  my guess is $500 in parts and 40 hours of labor between the two of them annually.

two folks manage the farm and live there.  I can't speak to their incomes.  they employ between two and five folks full-time during the main growing season: June-September.  up to fourteen people are employed weekends in October.  one to three people are employed weekends in December, and part-time March-May.  wages start at $8.50 and typically increase annually.  the wages of one typical employee were around $12,000 in a year, with payroll taxes likely doubling that figure.

fertility is maintained largely with chicken manure composted with wood chips.  this is purchased for the price of transportation, typically in the range of $400 for a 40-cubic yard truckload.  four or five loads of that size are purchased annually.  a much smaller amount of bagged, organic-approved, chicken waste-based (feathers, bones, shit, and maybe some seaweed) 2-4-4 fertilizer is used as well, mostly for pumpkins, corn, and tomatoes.  cal-pril provides calcium, an element notoriously deficient locally.

with the exception of the veggie patch and tomato houses, other crops are rotated and alternated with grass for hay.  at the end of the growing season, most crops are disced and fields are planted in common or hairy vetch and cereal rye for winter cover.  buckwheat and Sudan grass are used for summer cover.

customers: four restaurant accounts order twice weekly

some challenges:
-market saturation.  while a lot of produce is sold, much of it remains in the ground.  there are quite a few farms of similar scale locally that sell via CSAs and farmers markets.  a handful of 200- to 400-acre organic farms in the region drive the wholesale price for local produce down.  increased production alone won't help.

-flooding.  floods occur an average of twice each year.  USDA regulations currently prohibit the sale of produce that has been inundated by flood waterperennials are problematic.

-mechanization has proved economical.  for example, a $3000 potato digger purchased several years ago saved more in labor costs in three years than the purchase price.  it will last many years longer.

-market resistance.  customers have shown extremely limited interest in unfamiliar produce.

-pumpkins.  nobody involved is passionate about growing porch decorations for homogeneous yuppies, but that one crop subsidizes most of the food grown.

so, how could this farm transition to making more money practicing permaculture?  I'll answer as many questions about this particular farm as I can, and maybe we can work out a reasonable idea of whether or not permaculture could be more profitable, at least in this one instance.  this exercise may fail miserably, but I think it's worth a shot.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The first item I see is that the ornamental pumpkins (perhaps, also, the winter squash) could be transitioned to organic no-till methods of the sort that Ron Morse has developed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gspMfZMbZK4

An interesting variation on this method is to sow vetch simultaneously with the pumpkins, allowing it to undergo a seamless transition from companion plant to cover crop.

A black soldier fly (or other microlivestock) system might reduce the cost of producing poultry, eggs, and trout, potentially improving quality as well.

If the woods need any thinning, and there's demand for wood, the hoop house can be used as a kiln over the summer. On the other hand, they might produce mushrooms from the wood on site, and dry it for sale farther away.

Some of the chicken manure might be replaced by altering pasture management or the vegetation at the borders of the forest and/or pasture, to encourage more legume growth.

It sounds like it might be possible to produce some excellent pork there, especially if the forest includes some oaks. This would also be a good way to dispose of produce that would not be sold.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like those ideas.

no-till pumpkins
I think this could work, though no-till trials in Western Washington haven't been promising so far.  not sure exactly what the issues have been, apart from slugs.  I don't think a successful no-till system here would look like Ron Morse's methods.

spring in parts of Western Washington isn't usually a period of real fast growth like I suspect it is in Virginia.  the vetch and rye would probably have to be sown in November of the previous year to achieve the maturity Ron was getting planting in April.

rats and birds are also a problem: direct sown pumpkin seeds last about 48 hours before being eaten, which means transplanting is necessary.  transplanting through that crop residue would be substantially more time consuming than bare dirt.

I believe specialized equipment may also be necessary.  a method similar to Ron's was actually tried.  a mature field of rye was knocked over with a drag bar so that it was all laying the same direction.  a week later some stems were standing back up and new stems were growing.  planting into that mess would have been extremely onerous.

in that system, how is the ground prepared for the vetch and rye?  I believe there are drills that will plant through that much residue, but that's yet another expensive piece of specialized equipment.

vetch and pumpkins
I think this one has real merit.  I've actually been pushing variations on that one for years.  I think the biggest problem is that pumpkin planting time (late May through early July, depending on weather), is a period of rapid growth for summer annual weeds.  vetch grows quickly, but I don't know that it could become thick enough to smother the millets, amaranths, lambs quarters, bindweeds, et cetera that would be racing it to keep the pumpkins company.

one solution to that could be planting the vetch (or clover, or buckwheat) a bit earlier than the pumpkins, then transplanting the pumpkins in.  disturbance from pumpkin transplanting might set the cover back a little bit.  either way, if the annual weeds did get the upper hand, controlling them would be much more difficult with a cover crop in place.

black soldier flies
the poultry, eggs, and trout are all pretty small operations and didn't cost much previously, though the broilers will likely be expanded in the future.  the trout are in a nice pond that folks pay to fish in.  there's a little bit of fish food involved, but that's mostly to see all the fish jump and turn over rather than to actually feed them.

soldier flies are exciting.  I don't know all the details, but I would expect there would need to be a pretty substantial input of garbage to make enough soldier fly pre-pupae to put a dent in the feed of a 50-bird flock.  I'm not sure where that would come from.  shit from three cattle and a donkey are available on the farm for the price of moving it from one part to another.  does manure make good soldier fly food?

a good bin would need to be built or purchased.  the pre-pupae could be collected and taken to the birds, as they're moved around frequently.

thinning woods
the dominant trees aren't good timber.  there's a lot of black cottonwood.  and the hoop houses are full of tomatoes in the summer.  sounds crazy, but it keeps the blights away.

the mushroom idea has been talked about, but never got off the ground.  the flooding is a big issue for that.  there really aren't any places where logs could hang around for a year or more without being washed away.  while mushrooms can fruit in under a year, I think they might have to fruit more than once to be profitable.  not sure what demand would be.

replacing chicken manure with legumes
lots of legumes growing already.  in the hay fields, there are red and white clovers and the wild stuff that I don't know the name of.  vetch is planted frequently enough that it's sort of naturalized as well.

pork
pork has been produced previously, though it wasn't in the forest.  no oaks.  no mast crops at all.  plenty of underbrush and some wild tubers that pigs would probably love, though they wouldn't likely end up so delicious as in other parts of the world.  biggest issue, again, is flooding: several animals have been lost in frequent years.  more animal experiments have also been discouraged due to repeated escapes.  regulation for slaughter of pigs is also somewhat more onerous than for poultry in the county in question, which increases the cost of production substantially.


anyhow, good ideas, Joel.  I don't think any of them are entirely out of the question.  I also don't think any of them would even come close to the income the pumpkins generate.  or even the doughnuts, for that matter.


looks like I didn't finish describing the customers in that first post: in addition to the four restaurant accounts, there's also a weekly e-mail buyers club for a good chunk of the growing season.  there's a store in the barn that opens in September and October.  u-pick pumpkin patches open in October.  October weekends are crazy.  30,000 pounds of pumpkins is not unusual for an October weekend.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:no-till trials in Western Washington haven't been promising so far.  not sure exactly what the issues have been, apart from slugs.  I don't think a successful no-till system here would look like Ron Morse's methods.

spring in parts of Western Washington isn't usually a period of real fast growth like I suspect it is in Virginia.  the vetch and rye would probably have to be sown in November of the previous year to achieve the maturity Ron was getting planting in April.

rats and birds are also a problem: direct sown pumpkin seeds last about 48 hours before being eaten, which means transplanting is necessary.  transplanting through that crop residue would be substantially more time consuming than bare dirt.

I believe specialized equipment may also be necessary.  a method similar to Ron's was actually tried.  a mature field of rye was knocked over with a drag bar so that it was all laying the same direction.  a week later some stems were standing back up and new stems were growing.  planting into that mess would have been extremely onerous.

in that system, how is the ground prepared for the vetch and rye?  I believe there are drills that will plant through that much residue, but that's yet another expensive piece of specialized equipment.



A piece of specialized equipment he doesn't mention is the roller-crimper.

As opposed to the drag bar, it crimps the stems every couple feet, which prevents plants from sprouting after they are knocked down. This method only works reliably if the timing is correct: the grassy species should have flowered, but not yet set seed. His original roller-crimper had orthogonal crimping teeth, but his new one has them spiral (clockwise on the left half of the roller, counter-clockwise on the right half) so that there's always a constant length of crimper tooth touching the ground.

IIRC, the rye was broadcast and the vetch was drilled. I think a raised bed might be built and seeded with vetch, rye sown at the sides of it, and the top of the raised beds scraped off after the cover crop is crimped but prior to transplanting. Scraping residue off of the raised portion should allow for transplanting without so much specialized equipment.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if this one thing worked, labor to grow the pumpkins would be dramatically reduced.  the current practice involves several cultivations with spring-tooth harrows and one or more passes hoeing by hand.  I believe that reducing labor in this case would not lead to less employment, but would free up labor to work on other projects.

I'm checking on prices for the monosem no-till planters.  the crimper could probably be built on site.

no-till pumpkins would be a step toward lower impact practices, but still fall short of whole hog permaculture.

what else?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:no-till pumpkins would be a step toward lower impact practices, but still fall short of whole hog permaculture.

what else?



IMOO, big rocks first.

But I love to talk about this sort of thing, so, at the risk of it becoming a distraction:

Experiment with producing gourds as containers. Bottle gourds, bushel gourds, nest-egg gourds, etc. They're inedible to begin with, so flooding won't invoke any sort of legislation. And containers add a lot of value, particularly for the sort of consumer who drives out to the country to shop for ornamental pumpkins.

If you're good at producing containers, you might possibly be positioned to enter the markets for dry seasonings (garlic powder?), personal care products (herbal salt scrub/soak? horse chestnut-based SLS-free cleanser?) , gift "baskets" (no weaving involved), whatever seems promising.

Put in a small apple orchard, if possible.

Attempt to partner with a local chef, hosting an event at the farm which showcases your products. If possible, plan far enough in advance that you can choose seeds based on the chef's input. Similarly, and potentially part of the same event: if a chef aspires to be on TV, consider producing an instructional video on how to use some exotic produce, which the live audience can take home for their own use.

Figure out ways that animals might help to clean the fields, potentially including the vegetable patch as several paddocks (others in the pasture & at the edges of the wild spaces) in a paddock-shift poultry/swine rotation.

Subdivide the property using productive hedge species. The hedge might go in as part of a swale system, to better control water. It's possible that hazelnut-fed meat would command a premium price.

If the property slopes significantly, work through The Keyline Plan to the extent it seems worthwhile. For all I know, building a few small dams uphill from the vegetable patch would solve the flooding problem and provide free, gravity-fed irrigation through the dry season as a side-effect.

Tweak the mix of vegetation in marginal spaces, to increase the number of bees the property can support.

Find ways to meet the needs of employees directly.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm going to call this place FARM because things are getting grammatically awkward for me.

gourds:
gourds are already grown in pretty substantial numbers, which I forgot when I posted initially.  the climate makes them hard to dry effectively on all but pretty small scales.  they sell well fresh, though.

containers of stuff:
hmm...

small apple orchard:
there are a couple small orchards of dwarf apples.  forgot to mention those.  beavers have been eating them sporadically over the last few years.  the apples are sold fresh or pressed into juice.  more tree crops are possible, but the flooding does make them more difficult to establish.

chef partnership:
there's an excellent chef/caterer that gets recommended for events at FARM.  he uses produce from FARM when possible.  other farms locally have done events like you suggest that were reported to have gone well.  the FARM folks are a little bit inclined to be annoyed by the sort of folks that come to events like that.  local chefs have had private parties at FARM and cooked for their friends using FARM produce.  I like that idea, and it's come up a few times.  I think that might not fit real well with the personalities involved.

hedges:
doable, but again, flooding complicates things.  any more-or-less solid line of trees would be quickly snapped in an average flood unless it followed the flow of the water, which isn't consistent from year to year.  in the flood plain in question, it is extremely difficult to obtain permits for any sort of earthworks, let alone earthworks that would impact the river in any way.  and un-permitted work is quickly reported by neighbors.  one person at FARM has a bias against nut trees because squirrels are extremely undesirable.  I don't think that's an insurmountable bias.  the FARMers are also approaching retirement age, and crops with a long lag time to production are more difficult for them to get excited about.

slopes/Keyline:
there's maybe a six-foot difference in elevation from the highest to lowest points on the 103 acres.

bees:
a lot more bees could be supported already.  the chap who keeps hives there is a long time friend of the FARM and progressing into a degenerative disease.  he is unlikely to keep more hives than he does now, and he's got say so about bees there.  another one of those quirks that is hard to account for.

meet needs of employees:
the employees have access to all produce of FARM, within reason.  housing isn't an option because of, again, permitting issues.  the need for company to drink with is already covered pretty well.  what other needs am I overlooking?


this is going well with just you, Joel, but I hope other folks join, too.  when I find out the price of the no-till planter, I'll try to run some real numbers on that one.  if I find myself with enthusiasm for it, I may run some numbers for some of the other ideas, too.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

what other needs am I overlooking?



There are probably several good ways to find out, if you have overlooked any.

I bet transportation is a medium-to-large budget item for them. It might be possible to offer a company bicycle (cargo bike?), shop space for car maintenance, biofuel, help in coordinating a carpool..?

Health care is often a huge cost. Perhaps an herbalist would be willing to collaborate, providing some consultation to employees in exchange for important plants or the rental of (maintained) garden space? I'm thinking the "lodge practice" business model of medicine, but outside the auspices of the AMA. If no one can do this locally, perhaps videoconferencing could be done in exchange for parcels of ag products. (BTW, do elderberries grow well in that climate?)

Most employers overlook the need for autonomy in work. The 15% of time that Google lets its employees set their own agenda, is time when those employees put in more effort, and sometimes pro-actively address problems that would otherwise have blindsided management.

any more-or-less solid line of trees would be quickly snapped in an average flood unless it followed the flow of the water



That complicates things a lot. I would guess earthworks could help, and species could be chosen for low water drag and/or a tolerance for damage, but the idea might not be worth the hassle. Maybe the original line of plants should be very squat and sparse, filling in and increasing in height gradually as their strength increases. Traditional hedges can include a large proportion of stone, but I don't know if that's a good option.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:the climate makes them hard to dry effectively on all but pretty small scales.



A solar-thermal drying shed might be worth building, if you factor in all the other possibilities it might open up. I'm thinking you could encourage some condensation at the air intake (e.g. by keeping that intake at ground temperature)(this step optional), route the air through a solar collector of some sort, then pass it through the shed, and use a solar chimney to vent it. If it's often cloudy, it might be worth designing some provision to drive the same system with a wood burner of some sort, and/or allow it to coast via thermal mass. For a scenario where this takes a minimum of investment, I'm picturing an existing building outfitted with some shelves inside; a frame on its south side to hold a sheet of black plastic a few inches from the wall,  trapping a column of hot air; and a chimney made from a salvaged length of HVAC duct, darkened with soot on its southeast and southwest faces.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:a lot more bees could be supported already.  the chap who keeps hives there is a long time friend of the FARM and progressing into a degenerative disease.  he is unlikely to keep more hives than he does now, and he's got say so about bees there. 



It might be worth doing the legwork to find him an apprentice, if he feels like taking one on.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Health care is often a huge cost. Perhaps an herbalist would be willing to collaborate, providing some consultation to employees in exchange for important plants or the rental of (maintained) garden space? I'm thinking the "lodge practice" business model of medicine, but outside the auspices of the AMA. If no one can do this locally, perhaps videoconferencing could be done in exchange for parcels of ag products. (BTW, do elderberries grow well in that climate?)



I like that one.  and elderberries grow very well.  at least, the local species, which isn't the official one.

earthworks:
permitting issues would likely be insurmountable.

autonomy:
I like this, but the folks who like to work there could make that difficult.  there tends to be one or two folks in their twenties and several high school students.  there is some of this already with long-time employees.  experiments with other employees have not turned out well.

transportation:
several employees have commuted on bicycles.  most tend to live very close by.  one commuted by bus using a forged bus pass.  nobody has mentioned this as a significant problem, though one employee was dropped off and picked up by her boyfriend every day.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
It might be worth doing the legwork to find him an apprentice, if he feels like taking one on.



his son and wife help him.  I don't think he's got it in him to work with an apprentice at this point.  time will come when somebody else will be keeping bees there, unfortunate as that is, so more bees could be an option at some point.
 
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been thinking about the periodic flooding... What about growing crops that could fair better in that situation. Would a fukuoka rice system work? (wild or otherwise). I think he only floods his rice for a short time each year instead of most of the season like conventional farmers do. What about cranberry? elderberry entioned, and it likes wet feet. That could be processed into jam or wine, either on farm or sold to a processor.

Not sure the rise level of the flood but what about some massive hugelkultur beds; four to six feet high? You could orient them so that they are parallel with the general direction of the flood so that they flow through. This could also make use of some of the forest thinnings. The microclimate effect of these raised hugelbeets with flood waters may allow you to grow crops that normally won't grow in that climate. Unless your competitors pull similar tricks, they won't be able to flood the market with the same crop.

If thats not feasible, how about building some makeshift structures that could grow crops on a green roof? There are loopholes in many building codes such as not having walls, making them under 109 square feet (yet connecting each building via open air roof? Strawberries make a worthy crop in these systems I hear.

What about ducks? they'd be more likely to survive flooding, and can fetch a high price if you grow the right kind and get set up with a swanky banquet all or country club. The ducks might be able to be incorporated into the no-till pumpkin or rice system as weeders/fertilizers
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
flooding:
this isn't gentle flooding.  this is tear structures apart, wash animals away, scour 15-foot deep and 8-acres wide holes in the ground flooding.  there are some blueberries established on some of the high ground now, but it took several years and a lot of replacements to get a hundred or so plants to survive.

complicating things a little bit more is that almost the entire property is extremely sandy.  so during the growing season when the water table is much lower, things can dry out quickly.  moisture is retained longer where the dirt has been improved, but apart from the swampy parts that are protected wetlands, there aren't really any places where plants can have "wet feet" without irrigation outside of the wet months between November and May.

big hugelkultur:
not a terrible idea, but again, earthworks are pretty much a no-go in the floodplain.

green roofs:
the county wouldn't go for it.  they're very protective of their floodplain.

ducks:
could work.  it's come up before.  the trout pond would be a great place for a few ducks, in my opinion.  it's not a big pond, but it could be used much more effectively than it is now.  the duck idea was rejected previously because of potential for mess and noise.  the pond is right next to where weddings are held, and the price to rent the place for a wedding could trump the price of quite a few duck carcasses.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
grasping at straws here maybe but what about hugelkulture with no trench dug? Pile the wood on top of existing ground, and then cover with  leaves/hay/straw, and/or manure, and then soil from the paths (or some other source) on top of that. You could get away with not using much soil if you had enough manure sourced.

That got me thinking, would starting up a worm compost facility somewhere on the property be feasible? I've seen it done in hoop houses, so you could double it as a food producing greenhouse.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Philp wrote:
grasping at straws here maybe but what about hugelkulture with no trench dug? Pile the wood on top of existing ground, and then cover with  leaves/hay/straw, and/or manure, and then soil from the paths (or some other source) on top of that. You could get away with not using much soil if you had enough manure sourced.

That got me thinking, would starting up a worm compost facility somewhere on the property be feasible? I've seen it done in hoop houses, so you could double it as a food producing greenhouse.



both those could potentially work.

a fairly large worm composter was started last year, though I don't think it every got finished.  it's not so large that I would call it a facility.

I'm excited about hugelkultur.  at FARM, there's cheap access to plenty of irrigation on the occasions when it is needed, and cover crop/green manure rotations chopped in with tractors are an important part of the fertility management.  I think hugelkultur could work well for them, but they've got a system that has worked well for them for 20 years or more.  they're not super conservative about trying out new ideas, but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" might be applied to their vegetable gardens.  anyhow, it's a good idea, and definitely not out of the question.

I'm just not sure it would save a whole lot of money, though it would certainly be better for the dirt.  and the first large flood would probably wash it all away.


and I got some prices on some no-till planters.  looks like between $15,000 and $20,000 for a four row planter, depending on options.  that's a pretty serious chunk of change.  it would probably pay for itself in time if it's built well, but it might be a while.
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
6 feet is a lot of drop to set up a system to slow water run off with some small and inconspicuously connected swale formations. it could help handle some of the flooding. There are grasses that can be planted to prevent erosion runoff when it rains or floods. some trees may help too, (willows). There are ways of moving moisture up hill like a sponge.

Sounds like overall, you have to change some minds. Maybe ask them if you can use some of the land they are not doing anything with, their wasteland, and make it profitable for them, in addition to everything else you are doing for them.

Sounds like a lot of issues going on there. If you know your stuff, you can probably convince some people to leave you alone, just based on the fact that you are reducing their issues through proper management. (ie, flooding, soil conservation, water...). Subtle changes can make huge impacts.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
that's 6 feet of elevation change over 100 acres, and most of that is one hump that the barns are located on.  I do think swales could be effective there, but again: earthworks are difficult in this particular flood plain.

during the growing season, unlike the flood season, moisture isn't usually an issue most years.  crops were only irrigated one year out of the ten I spent there, even though it's mostly very well-drained sandy dirt.  high water table and decent organic content in the soil would be my guess at the cause.  which is to say that moving moisture uphill isn't of dire import.

erosion also isn't a big problem, apart from one notable disaster.  care is generally taken to keep soil vegetated during the flood season.  that's usually in the form of a vetch and cereal rye cover if the land has been cultivated the previous growing season.  fields spend time as pasture for cutting hay and silage between growing other crops.

I won't be taking on any big projects at this particular place, as I moved 200 miles away last year.  but I'm still in frequent contact with my friends there and I do some work for them from time to time.  you're sort of right about changing minds.  I don't think the farmers are exactly skeptical of my ideas, but they've been doing things their way for a good long while now and it's worked fine for them.  shaking everything up and learning a new approach isn't easy when habits and skills and equipment have been collecting for many years.  and, regardless of how many other folks have been successful with these strategies, it's still a risk to change from a familiar strategy, particular on a fairly touchy piece of ground.

anyhow, this was mostly intended as a thought experiment to look at the economics of two approaches.  I wasn't convinced, and I'm still not, that applying a permaculture mentality on this particular farm would lead to more revenue given current economic conditions.  would it improve soil, the quality of the produce, and the enjoyability (clumsy word, couldn't think of anything better) of the work?  yes, I think it would after a couple seasons to settle down.  I would still like to be convinced that these changes could be recommended on their economic merits alone, so don't give up.
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Flooding can be reduced by catching and using more water close to where it falls.

Thought permaculture gives you better and more produce with lower inputs. More time spent designing, less time spent doing.

In a flood plane, you have an additional design element for fluid dynamics. Depending on the quality of suspended particles coming down stream, you design to keep it or leave it. If you keep it, it's free material to the top of the land.

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dr_Temp wrote:
Flooding can be reduced by catching and using more water close to where it falls.



these floods start miles upriver with rain and snow-melt.  increased impervious surfaces over the last twenty years also aren't improving things, and that trend doesn't seem to be slowing.  there are many ways that flooding could be reduced in this particular valley, and roughly none of them are really feasible given current attitudes in the region.

Dr_Temp wrote:
Thought permaculture gives you better and more produce with lower inputs. More time spent designing, less time spent doing.



came up earlier in the thread, but more produce probably wouldn't be such an advantage in this instance.  there's a lot of agriculture in the valley oriented toward local markets, so there isn't a whole lot of room left for selling more produce.  reducing inputs is great.  and the less time doing would be true after and initial period of a lot more time doing.

Dr_Temp wrote:
In a flood plane, you have an additional design element for fluid dynamics. Depending on the quality of suspended particles coming down stream, you design to keep it or leave it. If you keep it, it's free material to the top of the land.



what you're saying is true, but it almost doesn't matter because the county is very, very picky about what it allows to go on in the flood plain.  and the county is a fairly ubiquitous presence, so flying under the radar really isn't an option.

it probably seems like I'm shooting down perfectly good ideas.  and I guess I am.  but only because I'm very familiar with this particular place so I know why a lot of this stuff just won't work on this one farm.  a lot of good solid ideas won't fly because of economic, political, bureaucratic, and geographical conditions.  that's too bad, but it's the reality we're saddled with right now.
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
you can shoot down ideas, you would know what you could get by with better than i would. all they are are ideas . was suggesting instead of bringing in earth movers, make some subtle plant diversity changes through border perennials etc. overtime, changing things on the property for the better. Maybe drive the tractor a different way through the field. Plant some small trees or bushes on contour with the land.

Another idea: from what I hear, better quality produce moves about 2 to 1 that of normal/average produce. That might help strike up some conversations and open things up for discussion and change.
 
master steward
Posts: 26395
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Some ideas:

2201)  grow all food in polycultures that include trees and at least two dozen species.  Then work that into your marketing.  Make brochures that talk about the potential health benefits of polyculture food over organic.  The brochure should mention how these techniques meet the vegan/vegetarian evolved ethic of not killing thousands of times better than industrial organic practices.  Then start charging more per pound.

Since the subject line is "permaculture vs. organic" I'm gonna feel free to move beyond one particular farm and throw out ideas for any particular farm.

2202)  Have a building with nice rooms and a commercial kitchen and good sized dining area.  There are three meals a day coming out of the kitchen.  90%+ of all of the food comes off of the farm.  In season, some of the food was harvested just minutes before being served.   People can come for meals (eventually $40 to $100 per meal).  People can come and stay on-site for a week ($3000 per week, including meals and activities).  Advertise staying there makes no claims to cure cancer or anything else.  Have an on-site doctor (separate charge) that specializes in moving people from prescription medication to food-based health.

2203)  very expensive catering.

2204)  replace petroleum based tractor with electric tractor (electric is an excellent way to go for a tractor).

2205) do not import organic matter if you can possibly help it.  Grow your own organic matter.  

2206)  IMAAOO, Stop trying to compete with other organic operations.  Focus on having the highest prices in your area and the follow the techniques to justify the higher prices.

2207)  Foods grown in flood areas should not be able to get a premium price.  Further, I think permaculture works much better on sloped land than in flat land.  Permaculture farms should be located on sloped land.

2208)  I think a potato digger is not a permaculture tool.  It violates soil tilth and encourages monocrops.  

2209)  I think that permaculture does not have orchards.  To me, the word "orchard" implies monocrop.




 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I mentioned the potato digger as an obstacle to adopting better practices, not because I thought it was a good idea: on this place, buying that piece of equipment saved a whole lot more money on labor that it cost to buy it.  so that was a positive reinforcement to mechanizing operations instead of heading the other direction.
 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i like this thread.  i think it would be great to have similar threads like this one with other FARMS.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
Some ideas:

2201)  grow all food in polycultures that include trees and at least two dozen species.  Then work that into your marketing.  Make brochures that talk about the potential health benefits of polyculture food over organic.  The brochure should mention how these techniques meet the vegan/vegetarian evolved ethic of not killing thousands of times better than industrial organic practices.  Then start charging more per pound.



I really like this idea, and I've pitched similar ideas in the past.  once again, the flooding is an issue.  it's difficult to establish trees because they get tipped over or torn out in floods.  we have planted some trees, and some do make it through floods.  there are large areas that would be especially difficult to establish trees, and a few small areas where it would be relatively easier.

I'm not really sure about including vegan/vegetarian ethics in promotional material.  not because I don't think they're worth anything, but because it opens up a can of worms and seems mildly confrontational; two things that might be best avoided in promotional material.  of course, I've never been much for marketing, so I could be way off the mark.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
2201)  grow all food in polycultures that include trees and at least two dozen species.  Then work that into your marketing.  Make brochures that talk about the potential health benefits of polyculture food over organic.  The brochure should mention how these techniques meet the vegan/vegetarian evolved ethic of not killing thousands of times better than industrial organic practices.  Then start charging more per pound.



I also not sure I like charging more per pound.  if this stuff lives up to its reputation, it should be cheaper to produce.  for the sake of this discussion, I'll grant that charging more might work well.  I'm just not at all comfortable with the idea of charging as much as the market will bear.  taken in isolation, that probably seems like good economic sense, but I believe it has larger negative ramifications.  but, if we're just trying to figure out if permaculture can be more profitable, I suppose we should include that possibility.
 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if you are marketing vegetables permaculture style you are selling to early adopters.  if you can find them they will pay more for the reasons paul said.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 26395
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:
I mentioned the potato digger as an obstacle to adopting better practices, not because I thought it was a good idea: on this place, buying that piece of equipment saved a whole lot more money on labor that it cost to buy it.  so that was a positive reinforcement to mechanizing operations instead of heading the other direction.



Yup, you are right.  It saves a lot of money if you plant stuff in monocrop rows.

On the other hand, if you can sell you potatoes for ten times as much but they have to be hand dug, which way makes more money?


 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 26395
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:
I also not sure I like charging more per pound.  if this stuff lives up to its reputation, it should be cheaper to produce.  for the sake of this discussion, I'll grant that charging more might work well.  I'm just not at all comfortable with the idea of charging as much as the market will bear.  taken in isolation, that probably seems like good economic sense, but I believe it has larger negative ramifications.  but, if we're just trying to figure out if permaculture can be more profitable, I suppose we should include that possibility.



If you wanna sell it for less, go for it. 

In the very first post you said "paul wheaton believes that switching to permaculture can lead to untold riches for more conventional farmers.  I sort of want that to be true, but I'm skeptical."

It is easy to choose a path in the spectrum where the top is average-ish.  Further, when the law of supply and demand says that you cannot get more than a nickel a pound for what you grow, it isn't like all of those customers are gonna say "I'm still gonna pay YOU two dollars a pound."

If you want to talk about the big bucks, you make "supply and demand" work for you instead of you working for it.

If nothing else, I think you should shift from "skeptical" to "I can see it to be true, I'm just not sure if I'm comfortable with that path."

With your 103 miserably flat acres that get flooded every year, I think you will be very hard pressed to do much better than organic or even conventional folks.  Think about it:  all the toxic gick from other farms, and spilled waste and who-knows-what gets converted into one big slurry and spread evenly over all of the land, including yours.  You might find some way to call it "organic" but it is organic only in name, not in spirit.  I think that permaculture is about way beyond even the spirit of organic. 

I once raised hogs.  And my passion for everything I did was way beyond organic.  I developed an ecellent market for hogs.  Several of my customers told me stories about how they would get deathly ill eating bacon - except my bacon.  I tried to tell them why but their response was "I don't want to hear about your hippie voodoo."  They thought it was some sort of fluke - or something outside their realm of what is reasonable.  The key is that they loved bacon and life without bacon wasn't worth living.  They would be willing to pay ten times the going price to be able to continue to eat bacon even if it is just once a month instead of every day. 

I don't think I could raise that kind of bacon on that 103 acres.  My customers were sensitive to things that would come to that land via the annual flooding. 

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
If nothing else, I think you should shift from "skeptical" to "I can see it to be true, I'm just not sure if I'm comfortable with that path."



I'm skeptical because I've never seen it happen.  I'm not denying that it's possible or plausible: I'm skeptical.  I'm convinced by my own experience that this stuff works apart from economic considerations, and I'm optimistic that I will make a fair living at it, but I'm careful about extreme claims because if they end up to be false or only partly true, then I'm disappointed and other folks are disillusioned and nobody feels good.  I'm not a booster.  I'm a practitioner who wants this thing to stand on it's own two feet.

this is a little bit different issue, but if we're working on the principle of supply-and-demand (which I have some objections to, but never mind that for now), then at some point the price for all this great stuff drops significantly when other folks see how great a price we get for such easy work.  which is a rough corollary to what christhamrin said, I think.  is there enough time to get rich in the mean time?  maybe.  I don't know.  seems like the odds improve if we keep it relatively quiet, instead of spreading the word far and wide.  and that seems to be at odds with one of the huge motivations for doing this stuff to begin with.

paul wheaton wrote:
On the other hand, if you can sell you potatoes for ten times as much but they have to be hand dug, which way makes more money?



hard to say for sure.  I know which one I would prefer, but I don't know which would make more money.  would folks really pay $12.50/lb. for potatoes, though?  I'm sure it was just a number that you threw out there and not really a reasonable price, but what is the premium that this stuff would fetch?  folks are willing to pay a premium for organic, so it seems reasonable that they would pay a premium for polycultured food, too, but how much?

paul wheaton wrote:
I once raised hogs.  And my passion for everything I did was way beyond organic.  I developed an ecellent market for hogs.  Several of my customers told me stories about how they would get deathly ill eating bacon - except my bacon.  I tried to tell them why but their response was "I don't want to hear about your hippie voodoo."  They thought it was some sort of fluke - or something outside their realm of what is reasonable.  The key is that they loved bacon and life without bacon wasn't worth living.  They would be willing to pay ten times the going price to be able to continue to eat bacon even if it is just once a month instead of every day.



I don't have any hard data to back this up, but I think meat is a whole other ball of wax than produce.  for some folks who eat meat, it holds a fairly exalted place compared to fruit and vegetables.  I don't believe the large premium a lot of folks willingly pay for pastured beef or poultry, or other thoughtfully-raised animal products, would fly for a potato or an apple, or even a medlar or a pile of crosne du japones or foraged fiddleheads.  I'm not sure why folks hold such a comparatively lowly opinion of plant food, but there it is.  that may be something that can change.  point is: your story reminds me that the easy place to get higher prices is with animal products.  which is great, but I can grow an awful lot more produce on most of the land I've seen in western Washington than I can animals.

wise livestock husbandry necessarily requires more room per animal than the confined industrial models, though likely less than how most ranchers operate.  back to this particular FARM and I can say that shifting toward livestock would likely mean a reduction in income relative to labor and total income, even with a price boost for wise practices.

paul wheaton wrote:
I don't think I could raise that kind of bacon on that 103 acres.  My customers were sensitive to things that would come to that land via the annual flooding.



that's a very real issue.  and it's a very real issue for an awful lot of farmers worldwide.  which is the group the claim seemed to be aimed at.  fortunately, there's little to no agriculture or other industry up river.  plenty of folks living up river and some of them are probably spraying ridiculous shit on their yards.  the volume of water that comes through in a flood is pretty incredible, though, and I'm not sure how big a problem it would actually be for this land.  I would be interested to find out, though.

if you're ruling out all flood plains as candidates for permaculture, I think you're putting quite a muzzle on this.  absolutely there are some extra issues to consider, but there is a huge amount of agricultural land that floods regularly.  writing it off because it's already polluted seems like dooming it to always be polluted.  maybe that's a whole other discussion.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
2202)  Have a building with nice rooms and a commercial kitchen and good sized dining area.  There are three meals a day coming out of the kitchen.  90%+ of all of the food comes off of the farm.  In season, some of the food was harvested just minutes before being served.   People can come for meals (eventually $40 to $100 per meal).  People can come and stay on-site for a week ($3000 per week, including meals and activities).  Advertise staying there makes no claims to cure cancer or anything else.  Have an on-site doctor (separate charge) that specializes in moving people from prescription medication to food-based health.



a new building is pretty much out of the question, because a building permit would be rejected.  renovating one of the barns might work, though, and we've talked about other renovations previously.  there would likely be some zoning issues, but maybe not insurmountable.  events are already a part of the operation there, but event permits aren't too much trouble.  I don't know much about it, but my feeling is that the barriers to entry into something like a Bed & Breakfast aren't too high, and this idea could have quite a bit in common with that.  as far as actually opening a restaurant, which the "people can come for meals" part sounds like, I think the zoning and county would make that very difficult to get going.  the farm meal in the field idea has been done in the valley with some success, but so far it's generally been a one-off thing as a fundraiser for one local food organization or another.

anyway, I think this idea has merit.  I think some money could probably be made this way.  I don't think that money would be roughly on the scale that the FARM is already operating on, though.  some careful market research might determine whether or not that's accurate.  and, just from an editorial standpoint, I really don't think I personally would want to cater to the sort of folks who would pay $3000 for a week on a cool farm.  I think I could handle it from time to time, but not if it was on a regular basis.  but that's just me.  and I probably shouldn't generalize about a disparate group like that.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

tel jetson wrote:

vetch and pumpkins
I think this one has real merit.  I've actually been pushing variations on that one for years. 



I recently read somewhere that one should be careful planting pumpkins where alfalfa or other legumes have been - the idea was that the pumpkins are susceptible to nematodes, and legumes are likely to increase the number of nematodes. Perhaps it is less of a problem with a polyculture and a healthy soil high in organic matter, perhaps vetch is less susceptible than alfalfa. (??)
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jonathan Byron wrote:
I recently read somewhere that one should be careful planting pumpkins where alfalfa or other legumes have been - the idea was that the pumpkins are susceptible to nematodes, and legumes are likely to increase the number of nematodes. Perhaps it is less of a problem with a polyculture and a healthy soil high in organic matter, perhaps vetch is less susceptible than alfalfa. (??)



been doing it for 20 years with pumpkins following common and hairy vetch and a variety of clovers followed by pumpkins.  hasn't caused any trouble yet.  could be something about the climate keeping them under control.  could be the flooding kills nematodes.  I really don't know much about them because they've never been a problem.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 26395
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

if you're ruling out all flood plains as candidates for permaculture, I think you're putting quite a muzzle on this. 



I think you will make more money with permaculture.  But it won't be the freaky big bucks.

a new building is pretty much out of the question



Your first line in this thread was "paul wheaton believes that switching to permaculture can lead to untold riches". 

I can tell you how, and you are free to not do it.

Of course, if you want to talk about doubling your net, we can have that conversation too.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
I think you will make more money with permaculture.  But it won't be the freaky big bucks.

Your first line in this thread was "paul wheaton believes that switching to permaculture can lead to untold riches". 

I can tell you how, and you are free to not do it.

Of course, if you want to talk about doubling your net, we can have that conversation too.



it's out of the question not because I don't like the idea, but because the county will not allow a new building on the property.  if your path to increased income involves disregarding laws that are very actively enforced, I think you'll have trouble convincing folks.  I really don't think that's what you're suggesting, so I'm wondering where the misunderstanding is.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 26395
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you use permaculture on that flood plain, there are ways to increase your income. 

But yeah, don't build stuff there.  You can get better income there, but you cannot get huge income. 

You need property that has slope and is not in a flood plain. 

For the 103 acres, you "make the best of it".  And the best is not all that great.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In our municipality we're able to build without permits IF the building is under 109 square feet and doesn't have a kitchen. Thats small but big enough for a couple to sleep in. One could build several of these and have a central kitchen/bathroom facility, thereby only requiring one permit for several rental buildings. I know that this won't work in every region but it may be viable for some who didn't think about this way of getting around so many permits.

Just wanted to put that out there as a possibility.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Philp wrote:
In our municipality we're able to build without permits IF the building is under 109 square feet and doesn't have a kitchen. Thats small but big enough for a couple to sleep in. One could build several of these and have a central kitchen/bathroom facility, thereby only requiring one permit for several rental buildings. I know that this won't work in every region but it may be viable for some who didn't think about this way of getting around so many permits.

Just wanted to put that out there as a possibility.



I really like this solution to building.  that's my approach where I'm living now.  wouldn't work at FARM for a couple of reasons.  the county is really particular about their flood plain.  what would be no problem elsewhere is really out of the question there.  and in that county, if somebody is going to be sleeping in the building, it needs to be permitted even if it's under size limit.  if customers were staying there on a regular basis, it would be difficult to keep that under wraps.  a lot of what flies under the radar for private landowners doesn't work when an above board business is involved because of the added scrutiny.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul, I see some faults in the freaky big bucks plan that I wanted to mention. I think it can work well in some cases but...


Awareness around polycultures and the superiority to monoculture produce within the general public (around here at least) is fringe at best. And even among that fringe, only a percentage would be willing or able to pay a premium beyond organic. I have had many conversations with people and overwhelmingly I hear ' I want to buy organic as much as possible but its so expensive.'  There is a culture that is willing to pay the premiums but I don't think that crowd is big enough to support to many farmers.

With promotion, advertising, scientific evidence and such the public opinion could switch, and is slowly doing so I think but still, with people tightening their wallets and the age of convenience tightening its grip, I don't see polyculture premiums as a viable option for the majority of farmers.

And only a handful of farmers per region could swing the staycation angle.

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3410
Location: woodland, washington
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:
2203)  very expensive catering.



hmm.  I'm not sure just raising the price on a thing will make more money.  there are a lot of caterers in the region, so it's not exactly a wide-open niche.  plenty of them are high-end and using local produce and meat.  and like Travis mentioned, I don't know that "polyculture" carries enough cultural currency just yet to distinguish one catering outfit from another more affordable one.  and all the bits and bobs that are required to run catering are pretty expensive.  if a place is charging a lot, those compostable bamboo plates and silverware aren't going to cut it.  I guess this idea might work, but it would be tough.

FARM does partner with a really good caterer for events, though.
 
Of course, I found a very beautiful couch. Definitely. And this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!