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The Prime Goal of Permaculture

Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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     The great proponent of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, stated in his treatise “The aim to create systems that are ecologically sound and Economically Viable” as the prime goal of Permaculture.
Many people have taken this to mean that we should only be looking to feed ourselves and so have created what are defined by (Webster, Funk & Wagnalls and even the Oxford) dictionaries as “Hobby Farm”.
Almost no where do you find a group of people discussing or promoting the use of Permaculture, which is a term that is short for Permanent Agriculture, as a method for providing food for the masses.
Yet this is exactly what Mr. Mollison was referring to with his definition (above). Economically Viable means profitable income from an ecologically sound system of agriculture.
Yet, it is very difficult to find any writings, courses, or other method of teaching permaculture that actually addresses this prime goal.
The main focus I've seen (everywhere I've looked) of  people practicing “permaculture” seems to be within the definition of “Hobby Farm”.
Just a few have adapted some of the principles into a real, production oriented, commercial farming situation, Joel Salatin style.
It is my goal to give some real life help along the lines of how to use permaculture on an actual working commercial farm.

In all the years I've been working in the agricultural field I have never been identified as a permaculturist.
Instead, colleagues have referred to me as either a restorative soil scientist or an ecological soil scientist.
I am currently a member of the Center for Ecolonomic Excellence & Development's Ecolonomic Action Team, a group that is working to promote using ecologically sound, methods to make the planet better and make a little money at the same time. 
I state this as a sort of introduction about my agricultural background  as well as my knowledge baseline. 

Since 2012 I have been working to build my own farm.
The goals were originally to build a “hobby farm” defined as a farm that concentrates on feeding just the farm family or feeding the farm family with a little extra to sell at a farmer's market to off-set some of the expenses of the hobby farm.
This goal was set because I was planning to retire at age 66 and the farm was to keep me occupied so death by boredom would not occur to me or my spouse.

Events tend to change our objectives (adaptation is a tool of mother nature), since this is the way of life, and these happened to us this year in a big way.
Now we are re-evaluating our prime goals for Buzzard's Roost Farm, which initially was going to be a nice hobby farm where we raised most of our own food along with American Guinea Hogs for both meat for us and animals to sell.
Our grand plan has changed (drastically) as a result of the events that have happened to us this year.
Our current situation has prompted changing from our original goal to a commercial farm goal.
We are currently trying to decide if we are even going to keep the hog operation going.
Since it would take much more acreage than we have to make it a viable commercial operation, it is likely that should we keep any of our current hogs, it would be cut to one boar and one sow, with babies either being sold at twelve to fourteen weeks or butchered for the freezer.

One of the biggest hurdles, the one that seems to also be the largest negative in the eyes of most main stream farmers, involves the use of tilling.
Permaculture enthusiast seem to disallow the use of tillage as a tool for building a permaculture farm or site.
Many also seem to want to start with building the soil instead of concentrating on getting a solid infrastructure in place first.
If you don't have the flow of water over your land taken care of, along with a road for ingress/ egress, a place to live, electricity, sewage, and all the rest that allows you to live on a piece of land, how are you going to build the soil in an effective way?
There is a line of “natural progression” Mother nature uses it, and so should we.
Where water runs at the mercy of gravity, erosion results in most places.
This makes Water control the prime objective, since without water, there is no life and with too much water, life is washed down hill.
Keyline designing is a very effective method to control the flow of water on a piece of land.
However, one must remember that this method, introduced by Ken Yeomans, was developed in Australia and so is more valid in dry landscape areas that match the conditions found in Australia.
If you use the method by sticking to his book, in a temperate climate or in a rainforest type climate, you will be in for some rude awakenings.
Adaptation is required, with a large dose of observation (Mollison's first principle) you will be able to design a hydrologically sound plan for water control that will work for your situation.
Failure to do this will most assuredly end in a lot of extra work or in the worst case, total disaster.
Paper and pencil or pen, photos, topo-maps, all are your friends for developing a plan that will work best so you don't spend any energy fixing mistakes later.

Once you have the water spreading over the land and soaking in, it is time to start planting some trees.
It is sound methodology to use trees that are already thriving in your area as a base.
However, what if these are not food producers? In that case, you will need to do a little research on species that thrive in other places on earth where the normal conditions are very similar to yours.
By doing so you might find that there are many food producing trees (fruits, nuts, berries) that even though they are not naturally occuring where you live, they would infact grow quite well for you.
If, for instance, you live in south Florida, you can grow avocados, mangos, papaya, even coffee, quite well, even though these aren't usually thought of as trees that grow in Florida. 
There is a lot of data (in the form of charts and maps) out there that will show you; what type of area you live in and the many matching areas around the world.
The USDA web site is a decent place to start looking for such information.

We now have our water issues taken care of and we know which food trees are best for our area.
Next is planting these trees in a polycultural way, using clumps of single species or alternating species, depending on how the pollenators are wanted to travel, leaving alley strips open for soil improvement and crop plants like vegetables.
When we use an alley system of tree plantings we end up with a very nice savanna like growing area.
If we have our land properly water managed, trees planted along the adapted keylines we have established for proper water control and soaking in, then we have alleys for planting all the other food stuffs we might want to grow.
We will, at the same time, have diminished the amount of work required to keep these systems growing and working for us producing food stuffs.
This is part of the constant, utter neglect idea that is part of permaculture.

One of the strange things to me is the “food forest” it seems strange mostly because the definition of  Forest does not sound like a place you could actually grow food.
A forest is an area of closed canopy woody trees, this means an area of not much, if any sunlight able to strike the soil beneath the trees.
A savanna on the other hand, sound like a perfect place to grow food since it has open spaces with clumps of trees here and there for those plantings that want some shade along with some sun.
Once again this is simple observation followed by implimentation of systems found all around the planet.
Utter neglect is Nature's method, but it is not her only tool, she also uses disruption via earthquake, flood, highspeed straight line winds, lightening strikes, wild fires and every other “natural disaster event you can think of.
When disruption occurs there is a “reset” of natural progression which may or maynot result in some previously non-dominant species becoming the dominant species.
We can use the tool disruption to help those species we desire to be dominant to become so.
For us that could be a bulldozer, backhoe, chainsaw, or something else.
As an example, if we have a closed canopy situation and the dominant species is hickory and we have no use for the nuts of that particular species of hickory.
We might decide we want to grow hazel nuts, pecans, walnuts or perhaps we want fruit trees to dominate.
We can disrupt the current natural progression by getting rid of or heavily thinning of those hickory trees and coming back planting our desired species heavily.
Those plantings will either thrive, die or be spindly depending on how well suited they are to their surroundings.
Under these, we can plant other, low growing or lower growing items such as blueberries, huckleberries or saskatoons.
We then allow two or three years to pass, doing absolutely nothing to this area.
When we do come back we will find that some of each species will have claimed spaces as the dominant species.
If we then decied we want those species, we only have to thin out the dead and the weak.
This means we have used very little in the way of fuel, or other expense creating manipulations so we are looking at a 100% profit from those plantings.
The culled items can become firewood or something else that we might sell to gain even more profit from the little effort we have put in over those last few years.
This is how I see permaculture actually working to our advantage and it is a great way to show those practicing “standard agriculture” that there is a better way that will cost them far less year after year.

Once we have our farm set up so that our trees are in place and growing all on their own, we can direct attention to those alley ways we have created by not planting trees.
This is where we can grow vegetables as a cash crop and at the same time it is where we will direct some effort into soil building without the need of importing materials, which will also keep costs down to the minimum.
How much money can you save if instead of spending time to locate, transport and spread mulching materials, you simply grew them right where you wanted them? 
If I want a 6 inch deep straw mulch, I can spend money and buy the straw (not knowing what if anything it has been treated with) or I could plant cereal rye, wheat or barley right where I want that straw, at the same time I could broadcast something like yellow sweet clover as an understory planting.
Now I have options;
I can let the straw plants grow to full fruit then harvest the seed as a cash crop,
I can let it grow to seed heads and bring in animals to graze it and the understory along with any volunteer grasses,
I can let it grow to seed heads and either use a crimp roller or simply use a front end loader bucket to press the straw plants down, then let the understory plants take over.
Any of these will be of benefit to my farming operation.
If I harvest the seeds, I have cash flow to the plus side.
If I graze animals, I get stomped down straw plus manure to build the soil.
If I crimp roll or otherwise press the straw down, I get my 6 inches of mulch right where I want it and I get nitrogen fixer plants growing up now that they can get the sun they need to grow and form seeds.
I also get flowers that attract the pollenators back to the alleyway.
All this time those trees are growing happily along, maturing to give me fruit and nuts to sell.
Once the alley has been growing for aroiund 12 months it should be time to plant some vegetable crop, say acorn or butternut squash.
I can now run a harrow to turn under alternating rows, leaving an equal space growing as is between the harrowed rows and in those harrowed rows I can plant my squash.
Now I am still building soil by decomposing straw, worm activity, nitrogen fixation and wild animal poop.
At the same time I am growing a cash crop that will bring in profit, since very little is being spent to produce that crop.
If I do this year after year, in as little as 3 years I will have carbon rich soil around 18 inches deep  in my alley ways.
Trees that are mature enough to provide income from their fruits and nuts along with berries from the tree way understory.
My inputs will be few and my profit margin will be large.
I will be practicing real permaculture and I can advertise tours of my farm and charge money to show people how to do this and I can show them that there is real profit to be made by farming this way.

Do I believe that permaculture is the way of the future of farming? You bet I do and I am working hard to prove it to those who don't believe.

This is the first installment of a little series on how to make money with permaculture.

Tyler Ludens
Posts: 8899
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:     The great proponent of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, stated in his treatise “The aim to create systems that are ecologically sound and Economically Viable” as the prime goal of Permaculture.

"As will be clear in other chapters of this book, the end result of the adoption of permaculture strategies in any country or region will be to dramatically reduce the area of the agricultural environment needed by the households and the settlements of people, and to release much of the landscape for the sole use of wildlife and for re-occupation by endemic flora. Respect for all life forms is a basic, and in fact essential, ethic for all people." Bill Mollison, Permaculture A Designers Manual, page 9

The prime goal of permaculture, as I interpret Bill's words, is not economical, but biological - to restore and return the majority of the planet to wild nature. As a means to that end - but not the end itself - is the need for economically viable permaculture systems.
Steve Taylor
Posts: 37
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As usual well said.  I agree with you about your belief and goals for permaculture being the future of agriculture.

To play devil's advocate I would counter with the following arguments/hurdles for success implementation in the USA.

One main issue is subsidized agriculture for  mainstream farming.   Until permaculture is subsidized it will be an uphill battle.  Grants are possible and a method I see for progressing the movement. 

Another is the amount of physical labor required being counter cultural.

Last point to make today is that the Majority of people undervalue the work involved with Permaculture.   Residual yields are a tough sell to a population used to instant gratification.  They don't know the real cost of boots on the ground farming.  

Roberto pokachinni
Posts: 703
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Very well done, Bryant.

As is quite often the case, Tyler has brought up a very poignant subject to further contemplate (and incorporate) in our projects, and I also appreciate the Devil's advocate work of Steve, which should push you and others reading this to understand that thinking outside the box might still require boxing within the ring.  For your part, Bryant, I think that your ideas are very achievable in practice.  There are obvious hurdles and labor issues that will have to be addressed but I have a feeling that you are largely aware of them already.

I'm simply going to encourage you, not only to get on this project, but to utilize your hogs.  They can be your tillage machines.  You could plant your straw and legume crop a little less dense, and then before rolling your straw, for instance, you could throw out pig forage crop seeds, and then allow them to come up through the rolled less dense mulch.  After that, the pigs come in to dine and dig, incorporating some of your carbon mulch as collateral 'damage' in their feeding on the roots and greens.  After that maybe a chicken or turkey run, and then plant  another cover / mulch crop.  At this point the Earth has been tilled, fertilized, cleaned many insects, and has gained a huge blast of biomass from the plant roots that remain and from those that have been tilled in by the rooting hogs.  If you are brief with the passing of the critters, then the impact is limited and more can take hold.  As happens with much of hog food, self seeding of annual crops (not foraged) take hold as a natural progression... succeeds.  Beets, turnips, kales, chards and other's begin to be a part of your hay system, thus utilizing less grain seed.   In the places where hogs or chickens et cetera did consume or root to utter disturbance (bare open earth), plant squash, corn, or whatever market crops you please.  The more you left, the more wood feed the hogs the next time around, and thus the less you need to plant.  Although this would require some fencing to keep the critters in the alleys and out of your fruit shrubs and trees, I think the ends (deep fertile soil) would justify the means.  Birds could be chicken tractored, so that they are not so free to damage things and readily moved in the alley, and not require additional fencing (which would be moved with the hogs).

One note of caution/advice.  Although the STUN (sheer total utter neglect) principle is a pattern that should be focused on (to save labor and produce more a more resilient perennial crop) , in my experience and from what I understand is the practice by Shepard, it is best to nurture the crop trees for the first few seasons for them to be established, and then stun them.  My experience with some trees that I stunned from the start was that this was more than a bit too harsh.  After they get some roots in the ground and start to develop some new upper growth, then stun them.  You will still weed out the week, or know who to cull, and you will have MUCH more success.    

Best of luck and looking forward to future installments.
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Installment 2.  This time I'm going to talk about why we have to show profitability in permaculture.

Thank you to those who have responded in positive ways to this little series of articles.

In 1970 I was just finishing my BS in chemistry and began working with a soil laboratory while continuing my education in Biology and Horticulture.
I was soon leaving the soil lab job behind, one of my professors wanted me to work for him on a government funded project. This seemed a better educational opportunity.
His funding allowed me the opportunity for my masters degree so I jumped into a biologically oriented agriculture thesis program. The focus of my thesis was improving the soil biology in farm fields thus reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Since the project was under a USDA grant, I had access to the equipment needed to do all the testing and checking of progress on my test 250 acres. The project was a great success and led to a job offer by a commercial hops farm Located in Sacramento.
It was during this journey of education that I became friends with several vegetable farmers in the Middle California farm belt. They were unhappy with the profit margins they were seeing and they asked for my help with their farms.
Since I was still in college, gaining all the knowledge I could, I talked to one of my professors to get advice on if I should work with these farmers. He thought it a great idea and offered to let me use this experience as a thesis.
Over the next year and a half I worked with the hops farm, a lettuce farm and one that grew squash, onion and broccoli. In each case they were practicing monoculture row cropping. My function was to reduce the dollars of input and increase the cash receipts so their margins went into the black.
I am happy to be able to say that I was able to live up to their expectations, after lots of discussions on why they should change their methods. At the time I had not yet understood that water control should be first on the list.
I was into soil and that was where I focused my energies. The results were great, larger crops with less money spent on fertilizers and insecticides resulted in more money going into their pockets, the result they all wanted. 
After my time working with these real farmers and understanding that farming is more business than anything else.
I read a book that had been written in 1929 by J. Russell Smith, the title of this book was Tree Crops the subtitle “A permanent Agriculture” didn't really hit home for several more years, but later in my life the book became significant to how I think about everything on mother earth.

The ideas put forth in this book were not only timely when first published but have become even more important since agriculture has continued on the destructive path it became with the invention of the tractor.
Since farming is business, those who grow crops, do so for money first, it is fallacy that they farm to grow food for others, they farm those crops that will bring the most money.
This is why in the past 20 years corn has become the primary crop in states like Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, southern Minnesota and even South Dakota. Ethanol is the latest big cash crop and that means corn is the new king of the rows.
Food crops are not the primary crops grown in the United States, just like Manufacturing has gone away to other countries, so food crops are going.
We are at a cross roads yet again and sadly the way “Big Ag.” thinks is that money is all that matters. This is going to end up yet another great disaster for the US as fuel becomes even more necessary to get food to the big cities, prices for that food goes up and up and up.
The Government says we are in a “recovery” but if you check prices at your super markets, we are in a recession and truly headed to depression the likes of which we have never experienced, not even the “Great Depression” will compare.
This is why I am working to build a Permaculture style farm that will make money growing food in quantities that allow me to sell it to Markets.
Anyone can take a few acres and grow food stuffs, sell them at farmer's markets and make a little money. This is great, but to build the future of farming it has to be done on the large scale profitably.
Only then will today's farmers give it a try. The majority of farmers are not “progressive thinking” folks, they are stuck in the traditions practiced by their fathers and grand fathers.
That way of thinking, promoted by the Agriculture and Ag. Chemical companies since the 1930's has to be shown to be not only out of date but not profitable.
Even though you can show them these facts, they will stubbornly stick with “what they know” because “it worked for my dad, my grandfather and great grandfather”.
I've been told this so many times that I don't even bother to ask why they continue the road to bankruptcy anymore. Instead, when I consult now, it is all about how I can increase their bottom line by reducing the money spent to get the crop in the field, reducing the money spent while the crop is growing.
I then talk about introducing multiple crops instead of row cropping.
This is more uphill since they need a way to harvest with their machines and that (in their minds) means mono-cropping.
Machines require certain things in order to work best, this is what has driven the farming methodology since the invention of mechanized farming.

Our mission, is to show the conventional farmer a better way to do what they do now.  Spouting verse and verbiage from some book or books is not going to impress the very people we need to convince  to change.
It will, in fact, tick them off so much that they will close their ears tight enough to be water tight. I know this well, I've seen it happen many times. They become even less interested if you start talking about “putting more land aside for nature”.
Sound like their idea of a “tree hugger” and you can get in your car and head home.
However, if you can show them a working farm, using techniques that cost very little to implement, need far less irrigation and produce bigger, better quality crops that people will pay for, then you can get their attention.
Thus the new direction for Buzzard's Roost Farm into being a “show and tell” profit farm. I know the people in my state that farm up to 1 million acres, have earned their respect over the last 35 years, and they seem to be willing to try things I suggest.
Once I can invite them to my "working permaculture farm", I should be able to not only gain their interest in trialing my methods but I might even get paid to help them build their farms into what they can become. Large Scale Permaculture Farms operating in the black from profits made.

It should be no surprise, or perhaps it is a shock, that most farms in the US operate in the RED.
The average large farm looses approximately $1.50 for ever dollar of input.
Subsidies are how they survive, without government money, we would have no farms.


next time I will lay out the new plan for Buzzard's Roost Farm.
David Livingston
Posts: 2501
Location: Anjou ,France
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The money question is really important and if anyone wants an example of how to talk to farmers Gebe browns talks hit the nail and the $ on the head
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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David Livingston wrote:The money question is really important and if anyone wants an example of how to talk to farmers Gebe browns talks hit the nail and the $ on the head

Gabe is one of the few that are showing new methods that work. but he will tell you he isn't permaculture oriented but rather restoration agriculture or Holistic farming oriented.

This is the norm for most of those currently doing good things for our earth mother. People like Gabe Brown, Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard are all leaders in the movement to heal the earth mother.
They all promote and teach by doing the work of farming. This is the way to effectively change thinking.
But none of them term what they are doing as Permaculture they all use other terminology so as to be precise in their methodology, but all are working towards the same end goal.
Sustainable agriculture with less or no inputs from outside the farm. Carbon sequestration through soil building. Using Animals as part of the process and doing so in naturally occurring ways.
All are pieces of the pie, Permanent Agriculture popularized as Permaculture.
If you were to go study the few areas of old prairie left in the US, you would see land that could also be easily defined as:
"ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrub-lands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type.
Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay as well as the steppes of Eurasia."  

It is wrong to get hung up on what term is used for what we do, the end goals are all the same and everyone of these pioneers use techniques which are in accordance with nature and natural progression.
When put into practice, terms only help convey methods used. Results are the proof of the methods.
For me, Getting hung up on terminology is for those who only read how to do it, instead of getting soil under the finger nails.
Once you are out there doing the work of farming, results are what matters, books, at that point become for reference use since Nature takes over the role of teacher.

Steve Taylor
Posts: 37
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Bryant, your work and insights are very much appreciated.  If you can help transition California's farms into more Earth friendly practices, then my hat's off to you!

If I could trouble you to share more about the techniques you recommend to mechanized farmers to achieve regenerative agriculture.  Any details on the gray areas of converting monoculture into permaculture with the equipment the farmers already own?  It sounds like you have had success in that endeavor.

I agree that profitability is the fastest way to transform our counties farming practices into Earth friendly ones.  
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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hau Steve,

The Farmers I work with are first convinced that instead of laying a field fallow (doing nothing to it) they instead plant a multi crop such as a tall grain, along with red and yellow clovers.
This way they can come in and high combine, leaving lots of stalk in the field to crimp down so it will rot and allow the clovers sun so they start growing and fixing nitrogen.
When I show them that they don't have to leave a field unproductive, ever, they start listening.
Once I have their attention and confidence in my proposals, we can start getting them to multi crop all their fields in this manner so they are not only getting a crop but building their soil which reduces their per field costs for fertilizer.
When they see that money saved is money earned, they sit up and want more ways to stop spending, this is when I can start showing them how to turn a huge monocrop field into a multi crop field all the while building their soil.
We do this by strip planting, it could also be called alley cropping but I prefer to use the alley description as space between tree rows and strip planting simply as alternating two or three combine header widths strips of plantings.
They have to understand that their fields will be producing at least two crops at the same time but the harvest will not be an all at once affair.
Wheat or Barley or Rye can be planted with the understory of clovers,  they can even have options of doing a full field planting of these then do the high setting harvest of the grain, crimp roll and let the clovers continue if they want to do so, it will build the soil of the whole field.
They could plant the whole field as above then harvest the grain, then crimp roll the stalks and disk alternate strips to plant second crops as well, still building soil in the left in the crimp state alternate strips.
They will still make a profit larger than what they are used to since they are not spending money for fertilizer, If they will run cattle through the field after the harvest of the grain, they will help build the fertility even faster.

In Arkansas I have one farmer that has gone the alley method, planting pecan trees in strips along the main line system which also manages his water better.
He uses his alleys to grow winter wheat mixed with clovers, he high set harvests the wheat which is less wear and tear on his equipment, his trees help break the winds so he has far less wind damage to his wheat and those pecan trees will be a second income that will continue beyond his grand children.
He was very resistant and it took several years to get him to even entertain the ideas but then his wife got sick and his kids wanted to help run the farm, he suddenly wanted to know his land would stay in the family for more generations.
That thought happened by several of his neighbors farms went to auction from bankruptcy. He liked pecans, even had a mono orchard of them near his house so it was easy to point out that he could use more of these trees since he already had a market for the nuts.
His farm land had been ravaged by the abuse that conventional farming does, for three generations the land had been in constant disturbance and he was willing to use 1,000 of his acres to test out the methods I was proposing.
I even told him that if he didn't see major soil improvement in water useage, fertilizer independence, crop growth rates, after the second year of the  trial he would not owe me my consultation fees and I would help him put that land back the way it was before the trial.
After the first six months, he was seeing improvements he didn't think possible and those observations led to a second thousand acres going into the trial.
At the end of the first harvest of soft red winter wheat, he saw that his bottom line was in the black, it was the first time he had ever made money without including the subsidy money he gets.
He remarked that "I think you are really onto something here" when he told me about these first results.

This farmer has taken on the roll of evangelist in his area and he teaches his fellow farmers what he has learned. (I still get to lay out the water management for new converts, so I do get a little money from that consultation).
He doesn't charge the farmers, just brings them to his farm and walks them around, pointing out how he does things now and that he doesn't buy fertilizer or herbicides anymore because he doesn't need to.
His soil has improved greatly and the top soil goes down around 24 inches deep, everywhere. Rains don't wash away his soil or rut up his fields (His fields, like the whole area, are slightly rolling hill type).

I consider these farms a good compromise, they are not true permaculture but they are holistic land management that is restoring fertility. A great first step forward to a new methodology.
These farmers have formed a sort of co-op for cattle, none of them wanted to get into the cattle business so they all own part of the one herd and they move them through all the fields after the harvest is in and before they move to the second crop planting period.
They usually have a first of winter slaughter event where every farmer gets his grass fed beef for the freezer. (They came up with that idea all on their own, that it would be cheaper to share a herd since all their farms interconnect, it is easy to move the herd through in a two day progression).

In California there is one Avocado grower that harvest squash and broccoli from between his trees. The left overs are "chopped and dropped" from the vegetable harvesting.
I've known this man since 1963, His son was a class mate of mine and now runs the orchards, it was pretty easy to get Sammy to give the alley concept a good trial.
His dad is in his late 80's now but is still going strong (avocadoes are truly a super food).


The California farmer really needs to get involved with water management, just like everywhere else, that will be the only way they can survive this super draught they are experiencing right now.
My friend with the avocado orchards has not needed to use even half his allotment water over the last four years, instead he sells his surplus water for extra income. We did main line water management works
in the orchards back in 1971, a year before I moved to Arkansas, we had to go around the trees since most were near 60 years old then, it was a long process since we didn't want to harm any of the roots of those trees but it works very well.
When they do get a rain, all the water that falls on his land soaks in and the water that flows to his land from other places around him also is spread out and it soaks into his soil.
His topsoil depth is almost 5 feet and the biome in it is fantastic.
Steve Taylor
Posts: 37
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Thanks, those are some great details I was hoping for!
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Installment 3,

         As I have previously mentioned, the goals of Buzzard's Roost Farm are undergoing major changes due to life changing events that occurred this year.
Previously we were going in the direction of Homestead style living where we would grow most of our own foods, vegetables, fruits, berries, grapes, and we were going to produce our own meats, pork, chickens, ducks, geese were all in the lineup and being procured.
We have guinea hogs, a heritage lard hog breed that suits our land size quite well. Then Wakantanka decided to test us once again to see just how firm our resolve is.
The illness of my wife, Wolf, has been handled and she is recovering well. But, she has decided that she would like to be able to take trips away from the farm that last more than half a day.
There is much of this country she wants to see, and I want to show her as many of our natural wonders as I can.
She also wants to attend more Pow Wows and ceremonies. To do these trips we will need the ability to be away from the farm for more than one or two days on occasion.
This means that animals that require daily interaction need to either go away or we need to find a “baby sitter” for those times we are going to be away for extended periods of time.

Initially we were going to raise the hogs to help the breed survive long term. This meant that we would be breeding and selling registered baby hogs and raising enough of them to also provide some restaurants with their meat and organs.
This has now changed and I plan to only keep the boar and one sow. The others we have right now will be slaughtered and put in the freezer.
This frees us from having to many hogs on the land to be able to leave on two to three day trips. Our neighbor will be the baby sitter during those times and we will reciprocate for him.
This development means my original plan is out the proverbial window and a new long term plan needs to be created.

Since I have spent two years observing our land, noting what is here, how it got here and the direction the succession is headed right now, how the rain water flows (erodes in places) and our main line.
We are still installing the water management since it is hard going with only hand tools, swale and berms take a while to dig, shape and then the connecting ponds have to be hand dug.
A long process that is rewarding when one run is completed. With our steep grade, I'm not sure machinery would work for most of our land, but it would be nice to be able to get more done at a faster pace.

I have come to some conclusions that will work very well for us and they will fit into our overall forest agriculture design.
When we started this journey the first goal was to find the right land, this took three years and it was Wakantanka that brought us to it.
That first year we would come and set out folding chairs, build a little fire and sit. We cooked on the fire, eventually brought up our little travel trailer and began our first disruption process.
This land was overgrown with sour black berries and sumac trees, the first stages of reclamation by the earth mother had been growing for seven years.
This first disruption cleared out almost all the blackberry vines and crowns and we dug and pulled most of the sumac since neither were what we wanted where they were growing.
Once this was finished the grass that had laid dormant got enough sun to sprout and grow. We found the remnants of the house foundation, just the footing remained.
The house had burned and the remains were scraped into one huge pile and two smaller piles, these were found at both sides of the property.
We decided to leave these alone since it would take large machinery to even begin to move them, and we didn't know what had taken up residence within these mounds of metal and rubble.

Since permanent agriculture is all about observing and then working with the earth mother, it was good that we only had hand tools to do this work with.
It creates the situation of thinking through before you break a sweat since you don't want to bite off more than you can chew and digest on a weekend.
It forces you to go slowly, which allows your mind to process more than if you jumped on a big tractor or other machine to do the work.
It also builds muscles and creates sore backs, eventually you get stronger and the aches are smaller but you also get the feel of your land.
You get to know how it breathes and drinks and eats, then you start to hear what it is saying to you and you stop to listen well. For us this land is sacred, we were drawn to it and now we must nurture it so it will provide our needs.
This is what our people have always done, regardless of how we got food, we are caretakers first.
This is how I see permaculture.

The beginning of this year, 2016, was to be the year we really got things going.
We had already planted two each of pear, plum and mulberry trees. We got two Arkansas Black Apple trees and one Macintosh as the cross pollinator.
These first trees are in our backyard space for easy access. The land gives us wild grapes and Muscadine along with Passion fruit and Persimmons.
Just as we were getting ready to finally put up our perimeter fence, Wolf was found to have Cancer and that has put our works in a state of maintenance only since February.
Now in October, it is looking like we will be getting back to building around the first of the year.
This pause was good, it has made us see a different direction than the one we started on, this new direction will be better for the land and for us.
Wakantanka has always looked after us, even though sometimes it is hard to understand the reasons things go the way they do, if we just stop and watch, listen and keep open minds and ears, we eventually learn the lesson being taught.

My first application of water management was along a key-line, it ended just shy of catastrophic since our land does not fit the assumptions of the key-line methodology.
The resultant water plume occurred in a really bad spot for us and I had to undo 6 months of work to save our road.
The Main-line technique (promoted and taught by Mark Shepard, fits our land better than the key-line method), fits our 18% to 35% grade much better so a complete redo is in order.
We have also decided that I have to have a tractor do be able to do the amount of work there is to do.
That machine will be purchased after the first of the year.
For now I will be laying out the lines using a laser level to set a 1% grade to move the water along, bringing it where it can soak in instead of creating a spring or just rushing down the hill sides and leaving us only rocks.
With our house on the ridge it will look fantastic once all the swales, berms and ponds are made.
If you ever think that water management isn't the first thing to take care of, go stand on a mountain top during a major rain event, it will change your mind quickly.
Our land will end up with terraces going down both the north facing and south facing slopes, the design shows it will look a lot like an Inca landscape but with wider terraces in places.
Since the land is so steep, we will also be building rock retaining wall features to hold the berms in place.

We use our hogs as plows and they do a great job since I refuse to ring them and if we leave them in a space for a full week, they get rid of all the vegetation that we don't want, leave loads of manure and lift lots of the rocks up to the surface.
I am also going to use them to help with building the swale and berm structures, I've observed that they will root along any line I start with my pickaxe.
Their help will save a lot of my back now that I know they like to help out just for grubs and worms and so on. 
Once they have worked through an area. We go in and broadcasts a seed mix to sprout and establish good root systems, this mix is loaded with protein producing plants as well as nitrogen fixers and tubers.
The hogs (and fowl) will be chowing down on all these goodies once they are well established.

Our land is dominated by Bitternut Hickory trees with White Oaks as the secondary trees.
I will be using my chain saw to severely thin the hickory stands so light will get to the soil surface.
This will act as a coppice area since the hickories will send out sucker shoots from the stumps.
Once that starts I'll have to go through and pull the root systems of the ones that I don't want as coppice firewood trees.

Once I have created the clearings, pasture mix seeds will be broadcasts and then fruit trees will be planted in groups so that there will still be clearings for the pasture mix to flourish.
We will perimeter fence our land so that we can use electric tape fences to move the few hogs we will keep around, they are pasture eaters and only root once they have eaten all the pasture mix of greens.
Putting them in a larger area will allow us up to 4 days travel time when needed, other wise they will be moved every two days.
As I have already mentioned, we have a neighbor that will tend our animals when we make trips.

Chickens will be fully free range over the whole farm, (chickens don't really travel that far unless they are raised with guinea fowl who do travel widely and chickens will follow the guinea fowl they are raised with).
We already have one 8' x8' x7' coop built and I will be building a second, larger coop.
The current coop will be able to house all the chickens and guinea fowl we plant to start with.
I will be putting up a large (10900 sq. ft.) covered run around the coop.
This will use 1/2” rabbit type hardware cloth for the walls and 2” x4” fence wire for the roof cover, necessary because of raccoons and hawks that live on our land.
Automatic doors and feeders will be used along with a constant flow water nipple setup to meet the needs of the fowl.
This area will be opened when we are home but is also large enough to allow us to lock the gate and not worry about being gone for a few days at a time.

There will be expanded vegetable garden spaces on the north slope which will allow us to grow Chef desired vegetables so we can make some cash by selling excess produce to restaurants.
Wolf has developed an intolerance to high gluten wheat products so we will be getting einkorn and a couple of other old world wheat seeds to grow our own and produce flour she can tolerate.
Neither of us eat corn except after it has been ground or turned into hominy, this being the normal way our people have always used corn.
And that about does it for the new plan for Buzzard's Roost Farm at this point.
When things change I'll post those changes with the why they came and how we will address the resulting adjustments to our little patch of the earth mother.

If you have any questions, or would like me to go over some thing in greater detail, post those questions and requests here and I will do my best to answer them.


Next time I'll go over how observation is the key to being able to really do as little work as possible and still make money farming.

Dylan Mulder
Posts: 38
Location: North Carolina
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Ever since I first heard of permaculture, it became very confusing to me that there was not a single for profit permaculture farm selling at any of the local markets*. I used to do farm work, and have sold at markets, and I'm not saying that to show off - what I observed was that a for profit permaculture farm could certainly work as a business.

In the spirit of this thread, I'd like to run through some of the biggest reasons that I see farm businesses fail. I'm not just being morbid. I want to see people succeed. I want to see permaculture farms. All too often, the failure has NOTHING to do with farming. It doesn't matter if it's a conventional farm, an organic farm, a permaculture farm, or a bunny wool farm, all farm businesses adhere to the same rule that,

1) A good business needs good business management. When businesses fail (and many do), this the first and usual suspect. Whenever I see a farm fail, it's usually not the fault of the farmer, but the fault of the farmer as business manager. You simply have to run the numbers - it doesn't matter if you don't like it or you aren't good at it. Run the numbers. Learn basic accounting principles. Keep a balance sheet. Keep an income statement. You can learn it all on the internet for free, and it's not only some of the best business management knowledge you can learn, but it can make a huge difference in your personal life. It sure did in my life. These are great tools, and you can use them to identify weak points in your business. If turnips are only netting a $26 profit at the end of the year after the expense of growing them is deducted, then it's time to make a change. I've seen too many small farmers getting trapped into growing a crop that they lose money on. Then they do it year after year, because they either didn't run the numbers or they are sentimental, which brings me to,

2) Animal hoarding. This is a phenomena I've seen that's specific to farms and small farms. People decide they want to farm,  and for whatever reason they suddenly and rapidly acquire a great number of different animals - with no clear business goal or strategy in mind. They then hemorrhage cash on the very real expense of keeping living things alive, and keep doing it until they're broke and frustrated. What the fuck? Sometimes the best animal to keep on the farm is simply the Human animal. However, it isn't exclusive to animals as the same thing happens with plants. Hoarding acres of unsellable perennials is only going to tank a business. Unfortunately, some of the ideas and projects we'd like to be profitable, simply never will be. While it's a harsh reality, we can design functioning permaculture systems that are profitable, but only if we observe and let economy influence the ecology. Speaking of Human animals, I've seen a lot of,

3) Working to death. Failure to prioritize tasks and manage labor is another huge slayer of businesses. As business manager, you have to identify the activities that will yield the most 'fruit'. QUICK QUESTION: Should we spend six hours digging hugel beds, six hours handpicking squash bugs, or six hours harvesting 500$ of mushrooms? THINK FAST! Which is best for the business? Maybe we should pick bugs for two hours, or not at all? Don't we need to pick the ripe berries before it's toO LATE OH MY GOD WE'RE TOO LATE. We're working 12 hour shifts! There's so much work, and so little time!

The point I'm trying to...crudely illustrate, is that farm work can rapidly pile up to an extreme. Unfortunately, the kind of driven people who actually go out and make businesses will often fall into this trap, precisely because they are so driven. They'll rack up huge hour counts, working very hard, on tasks that yield little or no 'fruit'. Labor is an expense. They burn themselves out, and they burn their pocket out, and they throw in the sweaty towel broke and frustrated.
Identify the projects that are barely or less than profitable, and drop them. We'll pick the mushrooms and the berries, sell them both, and dig that hugel next month...but only if its going to yield 'fruit'.

4) Keep personal and business finances separate.  Keep personal and business finances separate.  and...Keep personal and business finances separate. The business MUST pay for itself, or it isn't sustainable and the whole farm ecology collapses. You MUST pay yourself for the time you put in. It's sickening, how many farmers I've seen who are NOT PAYING themselves. Absolutely, vomit inducing, utter stinking bullshit. If you fund your farm business, you MUST be paid back your initial investment. The farm business is not you - it's effectively it's own artifical entity. A massive super organism if you will, composed of fruit trees, flowers, puppies, and shit. And. It. Owes. You. Money.

The farm business needs its own bank account. It pays its own taxes. It has its own name. Why? Because it's not you. Because, if the farm business keels over and dies, you don't want to BE the farm business. If someone, heavens forbid, sues the business, you really don't want it to be you.

I know people, good people, who live in a bizzare state of self slavery to their farm entities. They don't pay themselves. They cover extra business expenses out of pocket, with no repayment. They have never, and will never, be repaid their initial investment. What a fucking tragedy. Don't let it be you.

In conclusion, I think a permaculture farm could be a fantastic enterprise. Did you know that current small farmers, of the organic smallholding market garden sort, blow great sums of cash on very expensive rock fertilizers and fancy biocides? Did you know that they import most, if not all of their animal feed from offsite? Permaculture systems can reduce, if not entirely eliminate, expenses like these. That's a pretty awesome advantage.

* Unfortuantely, the only permaculture farmer I know, went out of business. He's a great farmer, super knowledgeable, and a horrible businessman. Whoops.
Merry Bolling
Posts: 9
Location: USA, Arkansas, zone 7b
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This is one of my favorite threads ever! My husband & I retired to start a small hobby farm with no economic goals in mind, just utilizing permaculture as a way of growing wholesome food with less work later on as we aged. We, too, have had changes in our lives and are now considering what plants & animals to raise that would be profitable and yet keep the land fertile. We feel a strong responsibility to the land and the life within it to return the blessings it provides to us.

To be a really long-term steward of the earth, you must be profitable enough to be able to pass it on to others who understand & honor that responsibility and yet they and their children can afford to stay on it. Economic profitability is essential for both the people living on it and the health of the land!

With long-term profitable stewardship as the most important goal, your land's geographic location to various markets and the cost to transport those goods to them must be a big part of what and how much you choose to grow. You need to remain flexible as well, keeping an eye on what is selling at a decent price now and your best guess for the future. 

From my less-than-experienced viewpoint, this will be particularly difficult with long-term crops we love like nut and timber trees. Our land is fairly far away from large cities and their many restaurants and grocery stores. Far enough away that we are considering selling our land and buying different land closer to a larger city. But we love this area and prefer to try and find crops that can pay for the added transportation cost from here.

Timber and cattle are the two main crops that most local farmers manage to stay in hereabouts, but their children grow up and leave for mainly economic reasons (of course, a few just have other gifts and interests than farming).

We're still figuring what to invest our labor and money into, so we'd greatly appreciate it, if this thread would address how to make these kinds of decisions (choosing profitable crops with an eye on transportation costs, as well as how to set up bio-diverse crops so the costs of harvesting are reasonable). Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Thank you so much, Redhawk, for starting this important topic! Permaculture needs to go mainstream and must be profitable to get traditional farmers attention. This will also allow the next generation to stay in place and make a living from the land they love. A win/win for both the earth and the lifeforms who live in & upon her!       
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Spot on Dylan ! Farming is a business as such it has to be profitable. Businesses need to have a solid business plan and books have to be kept.
It is bad business to hang on to something that is causing red marks in the books. Most of the "permaculture folks" I have met in person are not "in business".
Those that are, do not "Go by the Book" as much as they adapt the concepts to fit their needs and that is how they start turning a real profit.
There are times I recommend "no disturbing the soil" and there are times that disturbance is the best method. This is not "constant disturbance, like what most farms use now. 

Merry, thank you for asking.

     I am working on this very topic for you, and I will be posting that as an installment within the next two days.
Wolf and I are fortunate in that she went to chef school and is licensed, I apprenticed and was sous chef at two up scale French establishments.
This gives us a nice background for heading in our new direction, which is "Local Fresh Food" oriented to the Up Scale Chefs in the cities near us.
Local foods usually means within a 100 mile radius from either the restaurant or from the farm, depending on which one you are.
You will be able to read how we are going about becoming "main stream restaurant suppliers" in that installment.
I also plan on giving some suggestions on how to research what you have planned out before you expend energy on something that might not or just flat won't work.

Thanks again for asking the question.


Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Installment 4

So, let's say you already have your land and you too have found that you need to change directions as far as what your goals used to be for your piece of the earth mother. Perhaps, like us, you have found that to live a nice life after retirement you need to find a way to make a little money from your farm, or perhaps you want to make all your money from your farm. Since making this decision, your big question suddenly is; how do I do this?
Setting up a business is done in steps, just like building a farm, house or anything else that is built. First step is to find out what your market is and which part of that market has a gap that you can fill. This is basic research for all businesses and failure to do this first, means lots of extra work or down the road failure (it is the primary reason that so many start up businesses fail in their first years).

In our case, which I will  use as an example, we know there are 5 high end restaurants In the Capitol city of Little Rock. By calling and making an appointment with each of the Executive Chefs, we will be able to ask what they would want to use that they can't get now. This gives you the identity of the items you would want to produce to sell to them and you can find out their estimate of how much of each item they would want each week. Multiply those figures for each chef and add them up and you now know exactly what your production numbers have to be to be the filler of those orders. This is step one, you now know your market, the quantities needed and frequency of deliveries needed. This step is the same regardless of type of produce; vegetables (full grown or micro), pork, beef, lamb/mutton, etc.
You have the quantities so you can calculate, land mass needed, water needed, etc., to be able to fill those orders. You can also determine if you need high houses/ green houses and how many of them will be required. From this information you can build a business plan, build a delivery plan and calculate total expected costs and revenues. Those figures will show if this plan is economically feasible and don't be afraid to tell yourself the truth. If the figures aren't good, then don't jump in, if the figures are marginally good, decide if you really want to jump into this venue. For us we have some choices that will work pretty well.
      1.) we can go with our Heritage Guinea Hogs as long as we can meet the demand of 4 hogs per week, per chef. This really isn't an option for us at this time, we can build up to those numbers but that means we have to be present every day, month after month, this option isn't going to fit our new goal of being able to travel some. Our decision, this is out, at least for the next few years.
2.) The chefs would love to have a steady supply of fresh micro greens as well as fresh fully grown and baby vegetables. The micro greens will require either one large high house or one large green house, growing lights, and probably at least one hired worker to help us with seeding, growing, harvesting, packing. This is very doable for us but it means we have to build the growing house, buy and set up the lights and expect a higher electric bill every month along with heating costs in the winter months. This option is still under evaluation.
3.) The chefs would also like seasonable fruit items like Figs, Arkansas Black Apples, Pears and Plums.
This means we could build our land into strips of trees and alleys, the alleys can grow vegetable products and the tree strips will grow the fruits, little maintenance will be needed, the alleys can also build the soil even better than we have it now along with retaining more water in the soil, which the trees will want to have as well as the vegetable crops. We might need some seasonal helpers which we can find at our high school. We already have the beginnings of this avenue established and it can be scaled up pretty quickly to meet the chef's needs. The down side is it isn't a year round income supplier.
4.) We can go into chicken, duck, guinea fowl raising and provide eggs from the pasture raised chickens and ducks and we can provide guinea fowl meat as well. This option will take one year to have the numbers needed to provide all of these products in the quantities required and still have numbers needed to continue along without having to buy more stock.
5.) Our fifth option is to just raise everything for our own needs plus some extra that we can sell ourselves at some farmer's markets. (we have a good friend with a country store that will buy the surplus as long as we can provide the quantity he requires to consider us a producer.

       As you can see, we have done some homework on ways to fulfill our desires and still have a working farm that produces income.
There is also the option of setting up for more production of different items as the years go by which would increase probable income year by year.
It will be work but that is the nature of real world business and farming is very much a business.

From my example above, there is a lot to consider and a lot of preparation required to start a business and insure that you don't go broke right off the bat.
The more you prepare, remain objective, willing to believe the figures and not just go into any venture without knowing all the risks, pratfalls, and other curve balls that will be thrown at you.
The more likely you are to set yourself up for success instead of diving into failure. 
If you are selling something, you will always be looking for other people to buy your product (s) because Murphy's laws always come into play.
Even if you start out a success, the moment you decide you can slack off just a little bit, is the moment you have headed towards failure.
I have seen it happen many times.
A business starts up, goes along pretty well, building up customers, money starts coming in,
and then the person who worked so hard to get to this point decides they can take some extra salary or they decide they need to take an expensive vacation because they have earned a big reward,
even though they are still considered a start up business by the rest of the business world (5 years).
Poof, they suddenly are scrambling to keep their business alive, They start to flounder since they didn't wait till they were well established in their market,
with enough good employees that they were able to take some well earned time for themselves and their market share went to others.
This happens very rapidly in the restaurant business, perhaps more so than any other venue.
It happens to many farmers too.
They are chugging along, seeing their books go into the black and suddenly they want a new car, new tractor, new combine and then the next crop is not the bumper crop they thought they would have and they find that they can't meet their financial obligations.
The new car is repossessed, maybe even that tractor and combine then their house/farm mortgage goes into being late and suddenly, that is in receivership and being sold at auction.
In my area, just this year, 4 such occurrences have happened to people who believed they had it good.
Rule One of business bit them in the butt and now they are not just on the skids but out on the streets.

I am not saying it can't be done, I am saying to always be prepared and get set up for that worst case scenario.
Build slowly, get out and find the buyers for your market goods, and then go find more buyers and then go find more buyers, don't contract with all of them at once, but rather know who will buy from you as you build up and are able to provide your goods to more people.
Don't go deep into debt, build a “travesty” savings account that is separate from your bank accounts and never, ever think the business till is there for you to dip into, because it isn't.
You are not the farm and the farm should not be you.
An LLC is a good, inexpensive, way to protect your personal assets.
In the real world, sole proprietor or partnership are the two worst ways to be in business, no matter what that business is.
Both keep you personally responsible for any debt the business incurs and should the business fail, they those creditors are free to come after your personal bank accounts.
That is why there are Corporations, they are separate entities and no personal assets can come into play at court time.

      The steps you want to follow to build your farming business are;
Find the land, in that 100 mile radius for a farm fresh type business and buy it.
Find out what market or market niche you want to serve and determine the needs of that market.
Write out your business plan (this includes your farm layout plan) and keep several copies of it around to look at every day.
It is hard to ignore the written word, so use that to your advantage, it will keep you from deluding yourself and that is a good thing.
While there is a silver lining, it is for clouds, not for businesses.
Expect to back slide and prepare for worst case scenarios, they will happen but if your prepared for them, they won't shut you down.
Create some sort of Corporation, an LLC is the least expensive insurance you as an individual can have to protect your personal income and property.
Get into the habit of working at least 12 hours a day (that's half a day) it is your new, chosen work day.
Know you will succeed as long as you don't fool yourself with "pipe dreams", while they can be good, helping you have goals to achieve, this is the real world and it is just waiting to chew you up and spit you out.
Marketing is key to selling anything, doesn't matter what it is, it has to be sold and at a price high enough while at the same time, seeming like a good deal to those doing the buying.
Do not be afraid to ask for help, anytime, about anything. Somewhere out there in your area there are others, just like you, that are willing to offer advice from experience.
You may not know them, but they can be found by asking, at the feed store, church, farmer's markets, fairs, etc.
Be firm in your resolve to succeed and be ready and willing to do what it takes to have that success.
Always remember, nice guys can finish first, and they get more satisfaction out of it than those who cheat, lie and steal their way to first.
The trick to that is to not be suckered into not being smart first.
Spending money should be done wisely, not just to have that "latest Greatest" or "because I want it", while they can hurt personal finance, they can destroy business finance.
The best way to succeed is to not go into debt over 1/4 your lowest income year.
That way you can dig yourself out of that debt hole no matter what happens
It is easier to build a savings account than to pay of debt.

Maureen Atsali
Posts: 13
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Thanks for this fantastic thread.

I am an american ex-pat living in rural kenya.  The village we live in is deeply impoverished, and often suffers from hunger and even starvation when the weather is less than ideal.  I have spent the last five years developing my farm which I term "permaculture-ish" as I employ many permaculture concepts, but am not as hardcore and strict as other dedicated permie farmers.  The farm is coming along well... although its been a slow process to turn the dead, depleted, acidic eroded clay into something that could support life.  We have started to turn a small profit for the first time this year.  (Previously I suppose you could say it was more of a hobby farm, feeding the family.)

As I wrote in another thread... I would so much like to help the indigenous farmers in the area employ similar techniques so that they could also enjoy some food security and perhaps find an income from their small-holder farms.  Problem is, they hate new ideas.  Its a very conformist culture.  And, Monsanto has been here for a long time, graciously "training" farmers how to use chemicals to grow mansanto seeds.  They sponsor a charity that runs groups to train farmers in "modern methods."  They even offer "loans" to help poor farmers buy their chemicals.  If I had a shilling for every time I've been told "You're doing it wrong" in the last five years, I'd be a millionaire.  (Its become a private joke.  The slogan of my farm is now, "Doing it wrong since 2011.)  They are absolutely convinced that monocropping with chemical fertilizer is the only viable option, and it doesn't matter that they end up in debt, year after year.

I had an idea that I could create a similar type of self-help group, with a focus on permaculture, to "evangelize" the indigenous farmers and offer an alternative to the other group. But I am rather at a loss of how to get started. Certainly my farm can act as a sort of demonstration farm, although I'm not sure if its impressive enough to change anyone's mind at this point in time.  And I also have to admit, the casual observer on my farm will probably see that I am working twice as hard as the typical farmer, and call me stupid.  But they can't know that the extra work means I have almost NO overhead expenses.  I didn't need to buy any off-farm inputs this year, including animal feeds.

I'm trying to cram a lot of info into one post, but I'd be really interested to hear any ideas you may have about this.  Great work, can't wait to see how your farm will progress.

Maureen Atsali
ASF Farm, Kenya
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1737
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Maureen,  How well I know the problem with overcoming the tunnel vision that Monsanto, Dow Chemical and others have been spreading for decades.

Spread sheets are something that Monsanto teaches, so farmers can see how well the Monsanto products do for them.
These same spread sheets, worked up by you for your farm will show just how little input of money it takes you and then there will be bigger numbers in the credits lines.
Math works for all farmers the same. If there is red it is bad, if there is black it is good.

Try just inviting them, one at a time even, show them how you can actually build soil from clay to topsoil just by growing and pressing down grasses.
Show them how you don't need to buy fertilizer or herbicides or pesticides and still get a good crop. That means no money out for "stuff" and you get money in (that is profit for no expense).

Tell them you will help them do small test plots on their farms, then they can use their senses to tell them who is full of bunk and only after their dollars.

I'm here lots, so if you need other help, let me know. I have lots of methods for getting the narrow focus spread out like rain water in a well water managed field.

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