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Industrial scale permaculture?

 
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Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Given the many possibilities of management,how could it be democratic on a large scale?The second people percieve a top down force constraining their relationship an anamosity whould develop.If the corporation or coop becomes a de facto government than advantages can be found in theft of time and recources so it wouldnt be all bad for the individual.My own relationship is enhanced by freedom in management and not having a need for profit.Many of my forest products will be mature in 100+yrs.My nut production in 20-40yrs and the initial investment is 20yrs of my time and energy.Would a profit oriented instatution be able to weather an entire generation of costs?Is it fair to expect a more immediate return from a depleted landscape?When will we start giving back to the future and paying for the choices of the past?Profit is a quest in the opposite direction and a further denial of our resposibilities.
 
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permaculturecoop wrote:
for the record, I know nothing about this million acre pulp wood plantation

this thread seems to contain a number of sub-topics

I am talking about democratic industrial ecology and that would involve worker-owners pooling resources to work together on some levels and work in smaller teams on others



I have been referring to permieobserver's proposal, not to Mondragon Cooperative.

 
                  
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Perhaps what I'm talking about is not permaculture as you would have it defined, but I would disagree. If a piece of land is designed using keyline plows, keyline design, dams that doulbe as acquacuture, sustainable horticultural techniques, alley cropping, kugelkultur beds, etc., is it not at least somewhat permaculture? At which point does it go from being not permaculture to actual permaculture? How many techniques, tools and knowledge must I incorporate from your personal permaculture "canon" to qualify as being a true believer?


In my opinion, ethics are a very important aspect of permaculture design and cannot be overlooked without moving away from the concept of permaculture. For example there was some small discussion about yields earlier. One must be very clear about what constitutes a yield and the ethics of conservation and respect for nature are guiding principals in this regard. As tel jetson suggested, I don't think any permie would necessarily object to the widespread application of permaculture but again, the ethics ARE important.

Thank you for this, and I agree that we are on the verge of upheavals that will fundamentally change our unsustainable lifestyle. To me, that sounds like a fantastic business opportunity, and being out in front of the curve with a sustainable business premised on and inspired by permaculture is a fantastic way to capitalize on this.


This statement (for example) makes me uneasy. Maybe it's just the choice of words but a capitalistic implementation of permaculture technique (in my mind) must at some point violate the ethical pricipals of permaculture that make it one of the few best hopes for  sustainable civilization. The ROI in a permaculture project is that the humans involved get to subsist off the land in question for generations upon generations while only advancing the material wealth of their society in accordance with the constraints of a sustainable yield. I don't know many MBAs but the few that I do would probably view a business plan like this very narrowly.
As I said earlier, I just don't believe permaculture can be used to salvage the present status quo while still calling it permaculture. There are just to many people in the world and many of those consider it a birth-right to consume their share a thousand-fold or more. My guess is you'd end up using permaculture technique simply as a more efficient means of producing consumable biomass while never attaining sustainability. That's just my opinion though.
 
                                      
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edit: in the mean time old hammy said what i wanted to say but shorter...

I think i will continue on a certain discussion that keeps going in circles. If trying to define permaculture, with all of its plural and diverse identities and ways of doing it, the core, the unchangeable parts are the three ethical principles, from which the design principles have been derived. they cant be seen apart from each other.

the lower part of the pyramid below, the techniques and methods you are reffering to, differ from situation to situation. depending on climate, local circumstances, slope or soil condition, human needs etc. are derived from the design and ethical principles, which stay invariable. the principles ánd techniques together can be seen as the permaculture toolbox, i tend to agree with ludi on that you cant discuss them apart from each other.



Applying a technique like keyline design or swales, or mulching methods (both, like most existing techniques and methods in the toolbox, are not unique to permaculture: they existed before) does not really reflect permaculture designing. Permaculture designing is about making integrated self reliant systems. Those are build by making sure that a number of design principles is applied in a way that all elements in the system are part of it and contribute to it, making a renewable system, from the surplus of it people can live, but geografical distances should be made as small as possible (part of the principle of effective enrgy design, which are usually concretized as zoning, but also part of the principle of relative placement).

Dismissing the underlaying principles makes it very hard to discuss the viability of industrial agriculture on itself,
left alone on the scale you are talking about, and in the context of convincing a multi millionaire that permaculture would be a profitable bussiness model...

A way to measure and/or improve how perma(nent) your (agri)culture is, is by testing how much they reflect the principles and trying to apply them better/more, check which ones are taken care of or not.
-----------------------------
this is where my concerns are. i would doubt that there would be interesting enough profit in a true permacultural system, since they aim on feeding the people and other beings in the system. And the flow of input and output is reduced as much as possible. Like i said permaculture systems design to provide for human and nature needs, as in food, biodiversity, continuancy. Not for profit of a multi millionaire, or corporations ...


Im afraid the amount of land you are talking about also really is going to need more people then a few families....
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree, the ethics and principles of permaculture can not be discarded and the process still called "permaculture."  To do so is a perversion of the concept of permaculture.

 
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From reading all the previous comments and some of Mollison's lectures as well as sitting down and writing things out for myself, I have come to the following conclusions:

The corporation owns the land being discussed. Owning the land means owning the right to use that land in any way it pleases. It owns all the "rights of production" on that land.

Of those rights of production, it is currently using only one: the right to produce pulp. There are many other rights of production available (see my previous post, way back in the conversation), all owned by the company but not being exercised despite the company's tremendous resources. This is because "exercising a right of production", i.e. producing something, requires investment of capital (which is not lacking) and labour (which is).

What permieobserver wants to do is convince this company to use as many of these rights of production as possible. I will discuss this in a context where mechanical energy is not cheap. This is not that far ahead and only about 250 years back.

This is not permaculture as I understand it but it comes close. I am not letting that put me off: what follows is a presentation of different steps that can be taken in the right direction.

In the current case, capital is not lacking. The main problem then, is a lack of people on the land to fill all the niches of productivity. This void can be filled in three ways, all of which have historical precedents: employment, tenancy and ownership. The company can employ workers to exercise its rights of production. Alternatively, it can rent these rights out or sell them. Up until relatively recently, a fourth way existed in the form of slavery. Each of these models has benefits, drawbacks and raises a number of sociological issues.

Employment model
    The employment model is the one that is currently widespread in the world. Companies own large tracts of land and employ people to exploit the rights of production on that land. The company owns everything except the workers themselves.
    The main benefit of this model is that the company has complete control over what happens over the entire property. This allows large-scale, monolithic and coherent plans to be developed and implemented:

Also, this is is one of the advantages to being a multi-million dollar company - you can afford to put the 7 or 8 permie "superstars" into the same room for an extended period of time. Given carte blanche, I have no doubt that what would come out of that room would be amazing. And, while I certainly agree that it will be an ever-evolving process (I think of the Toyota philoposhy of constant improvement), there is going to need to be an initial "master plan" groundwork laid, with all the details customized and filled in around that framework as time goes on.
--permieobserver

This is what permieobserver envisages and it is relatively easy to implement. The approach is very similar to convential land-use models except that methods developed by whole-system land stewards are applied. Also, since the company's profits are closely linked to the quality of its soils and other resources, it will theoretically try to avoid degrading them.
    There are however, significant technical disadvantages associated with this model. The design is limited by the amount of resources the company is willing to put into it. No matter how good the designers may be, they are neither immortal nor omniscient. At one point they will die and before they do that, being human, they will make mistakes. The system will be sub-optimal. Employees are not directly interested in how productive the system they are working with is. They will have neither the time nor the necessary interest to suggest improvements. The inefficient Russian state farms would be an example of this. Although permaculture techniques would avoid a great deal of inefficiency, the lack of relationship employees have with the land they work on would eventually take its toll.
    This leads me to the societal issues associated with large landwork projects. The farms of South America of the nineteenth century are described in Allende's "The House of the Spirits" (I know, I know, I need better references, this is the first one that came to mind). Since the "employees" of that time were unable to travel back and forth to work, they lived right on the land they were working with. Tel Jetson hopes this could eventually work out for the good:

other folks have objected to using labor that isn't intimately involved with the land.  solve that objection with one or several company towns.  that concept has a fairly sordid past, but it doesn't have to be negative.  basically: employees live on the land.  supposing they're treated well, they'll be more likely to stick with the company and they'll become very familiar with the land over time.  after an initial shakedown, you'll have a whole crowd of Mt.goats that are motivated by their deep connection to the land they live and work on.  by the time the second generation of employees grows up to take over, that land will be deep in their bones.

Given the historical precedents, I doubt that this will ever be the case. The second-generation employees may well have that land deep in their bones but they actually have very little interest in maintaining it in its functioning state at all. Their concern is to meet their basic needs, not to keep multi-layered biological systems ticking to produce something that will be exported from the property. Their common sense would tell them to grow their own food rather than working for a company to get company money to buy food from the very same company. This misalignment between the employee's interests and the company's interest will not only cause the Russian State Farm-like inefficiencies I mentioned above but will eventually cause South American style revolutions as described in Isabel Allende's book.

Tenancy model
    In the tenancy model that I envisage as the second way of working on land, the company takes a step back and rents out the rights of production to individuals, families or larger groups interested in exercising these rights. The company decides which rights are available, i.e. what products should be produced, in what quantities. The tenants decide how to produce them to be able to pay the rent.
    This model has several advantages over the previous one. The first one is that the company needs to invest less in detailed design and can concentrate on large-scale decisions, thereby reducing the risk of overlooking key details. Secondly, the tenants themselves should theoretically find the most efficient way of producing whatever it is they have the rights to produce. There should be very little waste of effort on the part of the tenants. Thirdly, there is no need for a huge master plan at the beginning. The company can identify rights of production as they become available through the work of current tenants. For example, through the work of a group coppiceing black locust and other fast-growing trees with large flowers, a niche for honey production appears. What the company is responsible for is identifying the niches and renting them out. Another advantage for the company is that it does not need to pay for labour. The tenants are working on their own account; the harder and more efficiently they work, the better off they can be.
    There are, however a few disadvantages associated with this model too. Firstly, since there is no master plan, large-scale design aspects may be overlooked. This would impact the productivity of all the tenants working the land and make it harder for them to earn a living. Next, there are new legal issues that the company would have to deal with. Figuring out what a tenant is allowed to do to produce something and at what point he is curtailing another tenant's productivity become very real concerns and must be dealt with by the company. Imagine the cattle farmer's cows accidentally (or not) breaking free of their pasture to chew on the tender leaves of the fruit trees.
    There are some severe societal issues with this model as well. One needs only to look back to Feudal Europe to get a taste of the tenancy model gone bad. The peasants worked the land under the lords in a very similar system. Originally, it may even have been identical to my idea. They rented the right to produce whatever they could on the land and had to pay either in coins, labour or produce. However, they could not protest or opt out of the scheme once the lords started raising the rent without losing everything they had invested in the land. Feudalism only ended once the first cheap energy sources hit the world market: slaves, coal and eventually oil. If it weren't for those, I believe that agriculture would still be operated along feudalistic lines. I want to try to avoid going back to that.

What follows is an introduction to the idea behind the third land-use model I have identified:
Continuous growth is generally accepted to be unsustainable. I beg to disagree. The current idea of growth is based upon an ever-faster cycling of resources within a system. The faster we can get trees to grow, the faster we can cut the trees down and start again; the faster we can make people buy houses, the quicker they'll be able to sell them again and buy another. The frictions inherent in a system increase as the speed of the resource flows increases so that ever-greater pressure is needed to keep the system growing. Herbicides are sprayed. Mortgage rates keep hitting new lows. This is not sustainable. What is sustainable is to keep finding adding niches, new curls and squiggles in the resource flows. This increasing intricacy, as David Holmgren asserts (if I understand him correctly) somewhere in his 12 principles, in a biological system is actually unlimited. Biological system of ever-increasing complexity and diversity are the only perpetually sustainable engines of continuous growth. The current diversity of life on earth proves my point. Economic or financial systems are limited by what our brains can handle and can not continue to become more complex without showing signs of stress and eventually collapsing to revert to a more manageable state.


Ownership model
   The ownership model is actually what Bill Mollison envisages in his "Permaculture for Millionaires". Each right of production is owned forever by the person exercising it until it is sold to someone else. I seriously doubt the practicality of this idea in the current sociopoliticolegal context. However, it represents to me what a permaculture farm could be and it may even be possible to implement now by this company. What I am basing this on is the permaculture idea of overyielding. A company could sell rights of production for the niches available on their land continuously: As each new right of production is excercised, new, previously unavailable opportunities present themselves. The resource and energy flows would become increasingly intricate and at each turn, someone would be making a living. The company would be profiting from the growth of the whole system.
    Based on what I claim above, this model may be just as or even more capable of providing a continuous source of income to the company than either of the two previous models. It has other benefits as well. Again, the plan is developed gradually as and when opportunities become available. What the company must do is make sure things happen in the right order by selling the rights of production that have the most impact on the shape of the land and the availability of resources such as water and soil first. A huge advantage is a gain in security from the workers' point of view: the own the right to produce something completely until they decide to sell it. They can therefore invest themselves fully into the land they are working on without fearing a rent increase.
    This is not a utopian vision and I must therefore mention some of the disadvantages associated with this system. Again, large-scale design aspects may be overlooked and because rights of production are sold forever this may cause some serious problems later on as large projects need to be implemented that impact many of the people working the land. Also, even more than in the previous model, legal frameworks for the buying and selling of rights of production as well as to define those rights need to be put in place before the company starts selling any rights so that disputes may be settled when they arise. Legal issues would also become increasingly complex as the system becomes more complex.
    As far as I can tell, this model has no comparable precedents in Europe and colonial America. It may very well be that a model incorporating patchworks of production existed in societies previous to contact with Europeans; no example comes to mind right now. Thus, the societal issues are hard to predict and evaluate. The company, as the owner of the land on which all this is happening as well as all the unsold rights of production would still have a lot of power. The differences in prosperity and standard of living between the various groups working the land would also give rise to tensions that may curtail the effectiveness of the systems although the fact that they all depend on each other would provide a measure of social cohesion. Any other issues would probably be similar to the issues societies have faced since the dawn of group living.

Conclusion and evaluation
   I have identified three models under which a company may utilise the rights of production it owns on a piece of land in a situation where mechanical enery is not cheap. In the Employment model, labourers would be hired to exploit the available niches. In the Tenancy model, the available niches would be rented out to individuals, families or larger groups. In the Ownership model, the company would sell the rights of production rather than renting them out. I have discussed many of the implications of each model above.
    I would like to add that most of the problems I have identified stem from the fact that the company owns the land on which all this is happening. This is of course a given in the context we are talking about. Disregard what follows if your focus is purely commercial  . If the land is not owned by the company but rather by the group of owners identified in the Ownership model then the system that results is about as close as you can practically get to fulfilling the three permaculture ethics of Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fairshare. All of the owners of a right of production deeply care about the health of the living systems they depend on. They also care for the other owners on whose activities they depend. In a world where fossil fuels and other cheap energies would not be available, people would only be able to own the rights to as much as they can work on, this would make the distribution of the rights of production about as fair as anything ever gets. The only way I can think of to get closer to those three ideals is to have no one own the land. Given what happened to the Amerindians, I don't think that's wise...

 
                        
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Your ownership model seems to be very similar to the concept of marketting boards which are or have been- common in Canada at least.  They have a lot of benefits but also downsides..although made up of producers, marketting boards tend to take on a life of their own and take over the role of corporate owner of production.

There are pros and cons to these; one is that the owners have a secure market and they dont have to worry about selling or processing their products, only production. Many (most?) producers have no knowlege of or interest in marketting so they are happy to have somebody take that on for them.  The downside is that then they are tied to whatever the marketting board decides it needs to run the  board and its endeavors and what it can then spare to pay the producers.  They also tend quickly to infringe on the rights of others not belonging to the board (and it decides if it needs more producers and will allow more members) to produce their own products. For example, the number of chickens  raised or eggs produced by anyone without a quota is determined by LAW and anyone who goes over (I think it is 100 chickens across most  or all of Canada) is liable for prosecution.


For the last few years there has been an ongoing battle with the Wheat Board in Canada; some (many) producers want it to continue, other producers (and the gov't) don't. The reason for both sides  is the same; the Wheat board, by speaking for the producers, has a LOT of clout., much more than any individual producer, so it can find and secure markets that no individual producer could. By the same token, it decides how much of the selling  price reverts to the farmers by charging a levy on the grain going through the board to support the board and its activities. Some producers want to go outside the board, find their own markets and not pay this. Others prefer to pay the levy and have the board do all that.  It is difficult to see how these can be reconciled as ambitious producers can find and skim off the lucrative niche markets and leave only the lower paying bulk markets for the board producers, which is naturally going to make their members unhappy.

I have some knowlege of this scenario, my father used to grow potatoes which he sold through the marketting board. He got unhappy at the price difference between what he was getting from the marketting board and what he saw the potatoes being sold for by the board. So he started selling directly  to fish/chip shops, who were delighted to get our potatoes, they paid less and we made more and the potatoes, they claimed , were of better, more consistent quality than otherwise they had been able to get. So everyone but the marketting board was happy and eventually my father went to jail for two weeks for illegally selling 9 sacks of potatoes, that is to say, not through the marketting board. I believe more recently, several grain farmers were fined heavilly for doing the same with their grain. This is in Canada.

I tend to think that this model is the best but unsure how to make it so the boards themselve are powerful enough to do the job but not so much that a) they become vehicles for the board members to benefit unduly from their positions. (Like any other politics, this is clearly an opportunity to do so, and human nature is what it is)and b) they infringe on the rights of producers to "opt out". Boards tend to say, with some justification, that they need to be able to control  the production in order to make optimum plans for marketting it.
 
                    
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hi pam

on an organisational level we prefer worker-cooperatives that use a stakeholder model of governance i.e. a hybrid that does not privilidge shareholders over other stakeholders such as customers, community, future generations or the environment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker_cooperative
http://permaculture.tv/?s=worker+cooperative

we are not suggesting state-capitalist controlled commodity markets like the Wheat Board

the Mondragon Cooperative was started by a Catholic priest in an economically depressed and politically oppressed region of Francoist (read crypto-fascist) Spain.. the Basque people of Arrasate organised themselves economically into the Mondragon Cooperative to control their own work-lives

it was not something done to them by the state or oustide of the market, it was and is, them organising themselves so they better control their own lives and future
http://permaculture.tv/?s=mondragon

happy labor day
 
                        
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The point is the Wheat board is NOT state-capitalist controlled; it is run by the producers. Your comment is an odd thing to say since I even mention in the post that the government would prefer it didn't exist. This is true of ALL the Marketting Boards in Canada, they are sanctioned by the government but outside its direct control.

That 's one of the reasons the present federal government has been campaigning vigorously for several years to  force it to close. A few producers do not wish to be involved with it as they can do their own marketting and as a result avoid the tariffs the wheat board must charge to pay their expenses. These are the ones the government is promoting in their effort to close the Wheat Board down and thus break the amount of power the Wheat board producers have.

The clear majority of the producers want it to continue in some form. Some want it to stay exactly as it is, some say there needs to be some change but they aren't sure what and some want it to be optional. The Board claims, with some justification, that it can't really operate or be effective without knowing where the production is coming from and how much of it they will have to deal with.  Some producers want it to be there when they need it and NOT there when they can get a better price without it. Clearly that won't work.

Not trying to be difficult but you can't really count on a system moving from one culture to another seamlessly. The Basques have a totally different culture and history than is found in North America. If you recognise that and see how the differences play out you are better equipped to deal what needs to be adjusted.
 
                        
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One thing that should be made clear is that the way most boards operate is by in effect limiting the competition and controlling the production. THis guarrantees a good return to the producers as they then can to a large degree control the price that the products get; particularly in regard to very perishable items like eggs and milk.  Thus there are quotas, which producers can buy or sell, and which in some cases are worth massive amounts of money. Producers who are above or below quotas are penalized..if consistently above they either need to buy more quota or take a significantly lower price for their overage (if it will be taken at all) , and if consistently under, they may lose part of their quota.

The quotas are a way to level out the market so that producers aren't getting a feast or famine situation with people making pots of money one year so everyone gets into whatever it is and the next year the market is glutted and everyone loses money.  It seems pork producers dont have quotas and so that is precisely the scenario over the past dozen years, which, when coupled with the advent of industrial size pork producers with big bankrolls to ride out the storm, has pushed into bankruptcy a large number of family farms. Once only the industrial producers are left, they can and do ask for gov't help in future times of market glut. So they are being supported at such times by the tax dollars of the families they forced into bankruptcy. AND  then they can also set the prices, which invariably go up whenever there is a monopoly. Thus I am uneasy about ANY idea of industrial size arrangements in regard to food production..as far as I can see their record has never been good for anyone but the shareholders.

OTOH if you are talking about nonfood items I have little to say.
 
                    
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hi Pam, looking at the wikipedia entry, its history is a case-study in state-capitalism, with some elements of state-socialism in fact. I know nowadays there is a lot of pressure to deregulate, demutualise etc these kinds of institiutions from our globalising neoliberal masters...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Wheat_Board

The Canadian Wheat Board was established by the Parliament of Canada in 1935 as a producer marketing system for wheat and barley. It is headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Note that although it is often incorrectly called a monopoly, it is actually instead a monopsony since it is the only buyer of wheat and barley.
It is governed by a 15-person Board of Directors. Ten of the directors are elected by grain farmers in the western Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of British Columbia. Four of the directors are appointed by Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board[1]. The President of the Board is appointed by the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board with certain restrictions including that the CWB must be consulted on the recommended candidate.[2].

 
                            
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This is a fantastic thread and one voicing what must be the dream of many permaculturists which is that some visionary would enact a massive size garden of Eden, to take what is now a niche ecological idea into the mainstream. Unfortunately, and as has been stated on here already, it would take real genius to bring these two schools together. Mainstream agriculture relies on monoculture for reasons of automation, processing and so on, and bringing large quantities of a particular food stuff to those cut off from the systems of production themselves. When you've got 500 crops all harvesting at different times and closely planted, this kind of system is going to be impossible. The blessing and the curse of permaculture is that is requires community cooperation, close interaction with the living environment, and supports local harvest rather than commercial. Put simply, it's not easy to make money from it...
 
Joshua Msika
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Put simply, it's not easy to make money from it...



Precisely. Permaculture designs systems you can live from, not make money from.
 
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joshthewhistler wrote:
Precisely. Permaculture designs systems you can live from, not make money from.



tell that to paul "permaculture-is-going-to-make-me-boatloads-of-cash" wheaton.  I suspect that you, joshthewhistler, are closer to the truth, though the greedy part of me hopes that paul wheaton is.
 
                        
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Permaculturecoop's "fantastic profits" phrase was where alarm bells started to go off for me. If it is touted at making boatloads of money  and then doesn't by the very nature of the beast, the whole idea will suffer more of a setback than it otherwise would, as then people are less likely to incorporate at least some of the ideas in their future endeavors.

If people cannot make ANY money from it  then that's a different sort of problem and you can forget about many people getting involved except as a hobby. Most people don't want to go back to preindustrial living, we enjoy our phones and computers and the vehicles which give us options.  Property taxes aren't waived because someone is doing good things on their land. All of these things require funding.

Making money from utilizing the principles needs to be practical and possible, it's just that expectations may need to be scaled down from the concept of monetary wealth to that of comfortable living in a highly satisfying, healthy and productive  lifestyle choice.

It's too bad that everything needs to be extreme..unless something at the top of the heap it isn't given any value; i.e a failure, seems to be the common perception, which is of course nonsense. Just because someone will never  win gold at the Olympics doesn't mean that he or she shouldn't bother getting any exercise or enjoy the sport on whatever level. Just because permaculture would appear (to me at least) highly unlikely to give anyone a Bill Gates lifestyle doesn't mean it isn't worth looking at as a way to make a decent living and to help the planet. If it can't do that it is simply a fad for the chosen few who are in a position to indulge, and I don't believe that.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Pam wrote:
  Just because permaculture would appear (to me at least) highly unlikely to give anyone a Bill Gates lifestyle doesn't mean it isn't worth looking at as a way to make a decent living and to help the planet. If it can't do that it is simply a fad for the chosen few who are in a position to indulge, and I don't believe that.



Even if it doesn't earn a dime it can still produce food and other benefits for the household.  I'm not sure everything we do in our lives has to make money.    That doesn't mean it needs to be a fad or an indulgence.
 
                        
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no of course not, that wasn't what I meant at all. I thought the discussion was whether it was possible to make money using permaculture. To say not reminds me of comments I've heard saying precisely the same thing about organic farming.."It's impossible to make a living farming organically".  Clearly some people ARE making a living farming organically, and I am simply saying 1) I believe the same could be true for people taking the next step of using  permaculture principles and 2) to have any really meaningful effect on a global scale it had better show up to the uninitiated as a viable way to make a living.

It was when it got out of backyards and succeeded in  the rough and tumble of the "real world" that organic practices started to gain credibility and get taken more seriously; and lord knows there is still a l o n g  way to go. People still stubbornly come up with the statement that organic practices cannot feed the world.

We live in a culture of instant results..instant relief from pain, instant food etc and people dont want to wait; so slower and more earth sympathetic systems have a hard enough sell without suggesting that they can't ever make any money.


 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm sorry, Pam, I didn't mean to sound snippy or anything! 

I agree some people always put up barriers to change in the form of "it can't compete with x" or "you can't make a living from it"  Maybe we need to change some of our ideas of what "a living" means. 
 
Joshua Msika
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Maybe we need to change some of our ideas of what "a living" means.



That's exactly it. A permaculture designed environment provides for some of our needs; we can obtain the other things we need from neighbours or people a bit further afield. Boatloads of cash are completely irrelevant if you have everything you need to live and enjoy life.

Money is something you can buy other things with, in and of itself it has no value. If you can produce those things or trade for them then you don't need the money any more.
 
                                                                    
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I like the points Pam makes about being extreme.
That needs to be said.

The fact is that permaculture adds value on many fronts.
It lowers maintenance, creates food, creates health benefits and adds value to the soil.

So it should be a profitable endeavor at any scale.

The lack of intellectual property associated with it and the community spirit will not attract the get rich quick types.  For that we can all be greatful.

I would like to see ambitious people try to make big business of it because that may help the entire community.  But Pam's point that it could deal a set back is also possible.  I do not see how we could be in worse shape than relying on mono-cropping as the general population does.

 
                          
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Permaculture makes money already--by offering Permaculture courses.

"Property taxes aren't waived because someone is doing good things on their land."

I really think if there's something Permaculture should do at the level of government, it's update land trusts so that you get a tax break for food forests on the basis that it has (or ultimately will have) equal ecosystemic value to conservation land.

 
                                      
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i think we are really getting somewhere.

(re?)defining "value" and "yield" is IMO an important step when setting up permaculture systems.

for me, and maybe some others posting here, thís can be a barrier for achieving the plans of permieobserver.

i think nobody is contesting that permaculture is possible on a large scale (or on a large surface to put it a bit more precise), or that it is possible to make a living (whether with money involved or just produce).

i think what people (me) can see as problematic, is convincing a very rich man to redefine "yield" and "added value". Obviously this man(?) currently values money as his most important yield.

While in a permaculture system things like the contribution to wildlife, the soil, next generations. the stability of a secure harvest, even if parts of the system fail, are seen as yield as well.

Its like it is with the polyculture side of pc.
A conventional organic fruit grower sees the currants that are on the north side of our pear tree and sees currant bushes that will produce less than when in full sun, and a pear tree that will produce less than when not surrounded by (slightly?) competing plants. Every plant in the system could probably produce more yield (in produce) per plant when "properly" spaced and put in neatly accessible rows. But all of them together yield more. If not in kilo's then in added value like the stability in: resistance against outbreaks of disease or pest, variety of crops, the fact that your building soil for the future in stead of breaking it down.

So i guess i would say that if going to do a pitch with this guy one of the first things I would do is exploring his flexibility to stretch his idea of yield and value. I think it all depends on if he seems to be open to more yields, maybe even filantrophic yields, not even of his own benefit but for the benefit of those living in and around it, other species ánd future generations.

That said, even this benefit of other species is in the end in our benefit, if even for  the ability to enjoy the magnificence of nature. And i would presume that the reputation someone gets when baldy investing in these kind of charity projects would also be of economical profit (look at someone like bill gates)...

I do think that permaculture systems work really good in meeting the needs of as many of the elements that interact with it. The people (including neighbors and neighboring villages) as well as the animals and plants around.

these are values in themselves.
But it will take a visionary to invest in them.
 
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mos6507 wrote:
Permaculture makes money already--by offering Permaculture courses.

"Property taxes aren't waived because someone is doing good things on their land."

I really think if there's something Permaculture should do at the level of government, it's update land trusts so that you get a tax break for food forests on the basis that it has (or ultimately will have) equal ecosystemic value to conservation land.




Hi mos! 

Some of us (ok, me) think the idea of permaculture courses for money is kind of cheezy. It's always bugged me, a lot. (But that's just me  )

Re: property tax breaks for doing good things on your land - actually in Texas we do have such a thing - the Wildlife Management tax valuation.  But I agree there should be more tax breaks for things like watershed improvement or forest restoration even if not part of specific Wildlife Management practices.
 
                        
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Ludi: just curious: why should charging money for permaculture knowlege be any different from charging money to teach piano or organic chemistry? People are taking time from doing for themselves to teach others who wish to have their knowlege..dunno if bartering would be acceptable but knowlege is treasure, so don't really understand why it would be "cheesy" to sometimes arrange for getting some return for sharing it.

Seems to me that there is a whole lot of free sharing of knowlege on these forums which are set up and monitored for nothing (and for which I for one am grateful). No restrictions on anything remotely pertinent asked or answered.  If someone knowlegeable takes the time and makes the effort to organize everything into something cohesive and  structured, you really think it unreasonable to ask for some return? I know, a bit off topic, but I am curious as to the rationale for the objections.
 
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Pam wrote:



I love the free sharing.  Not sure anything else is necessary.  That's my main objection.  Charging for something which is already given away for free.

Probably not "rational" so there is no "rationale" - just the way I feel! 

 
                        
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Some people don't value anything they don't have to pay for 
 
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Also, the courses are too expensive for people of limited means to attend.

Also, there is the perception (not just me) that permaculture is a scam based on courses.

That it is a sort of "pyramid scheme" in which a person takes a course in order to teach courses, and not in order to practice permaculture.

 
                          
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There is this tension between the utopian ideals of permaculture and the reality of life in a world of money.  This tension plays itself out in the business plan of the permaculture designer who agrees to monetize his knowledge in order to keep his standard of living above that of a 3rd world subsistence farmer.

The only way permaculture can tell its adherents that they can have their cake and eat it too is if permaculture forever exists as a small subculture within the larger tableau of the industrial growth economy, since if (as the thread suggests) everyone followed suit (assuming there is enough land, which there isn't) then it would destroy the economy as we know it and render us all 3rd world subsistence farmers.  We may be well fed, sustainable subsistence farmers, but we'd probably also not have the internet any longer or much of anything else above the level of Amish technology.

Considering that I think we're headed for A World Made By Hand anyway because of limits to growth, I would see such a world has half full rather than half empty, but from the vantage point of permaculture as an ideology, it opens itself up to accusations of hypocrisy by selling itself on the basis of permaculture designer being a profitable career move.

I mean, I'm all for pragmatism, and I was close to taking the PDC over the summer.  I actually built a victory garden for one of my neighbors and have thought seriously about the idea of making a career out of edible landscaping.  But I am also painfully aware of the difference between pursuing profit in a capitalistic system and modeling a truly sustainable and equitable society, which would probably be more of a "gift" economy.

 
                        
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Ludi wrote:
Also, the courses are too expensive for people of limited means to attend.

Life is tough sometimes..people with money will always have more of these sorts of options than people without. So then the people who go come to forums like these to show off what they have learned.....

Ludi wrote:


Also, there is the perception (not just me) that permaculture is a scam based on courses.

That it is a sort of "pyramid scheme" in which a person takes a course in order to teach courses, and not in order to practice permaculture.


Well, seems to me if that were so and nobody found any value in them there would  be a)a whole lot of howling  going on from "believers" when they didnt get anything of value for their money, and b) pretty soon no more participants in the courses.  Not all people who are musicians or astronomers or agronomists actually practise their craft to any degree; some teach. If they didn't it would be far more difficult for neophytes to themselves learn and become experts in their field without each having to "reinvent the wheel".

Any field of endeavor has its charlatans; sites such as this one helps to expose them. It seems unfair to label everyone that way just because they run courses for money. I think rather stronger evidence is required...Someone who preaches permaculture but owns shares in Monsanto and drives a Hummer would make me raise an eyebrow or two.

Much of what is on the internet is nonsense; people are going to have to learn how to sift the gold from the pyrite. To say that everything in that bunch of ore-bearing rock is only rock without examining it closely may well miss some nuggets of the good stuff.

Anyway this seems like it really belongs on another thread..sorry  didnt mean to hijack this thread..Why not start a thread and ask what people who have been to these things think about them?
 
                        
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mos6507 wrote:
There is this tension between the utopian ideals of permaculture and the reality of life in a world of money. 
The only way permaculture can tell its adherents that they can have their cake and eat it too is if permaculture forever exists as a small subculture within the larger tableau of the industrial growth economy, since if (as the thread suggests) everyone followed suit (assuming there is enough land, which there isn't) then it would destroy the economy as we know it and render us all 3rd world subsistence farmers.  We may be well fed, sustainable subsistence farmers, but we'd probably also not have the internet any longer or much of anything else above the level of Amish technology.



This is the sort of thing that used to be said (and still is in some circles) about organic farming and it's rubbish. 3rd world subsistence farmers indeed. Do you actually know anything about the Amish? http://www.newscientist.com/blog/environment/2007/06/amish-are-surprise-embracers-of-solar.html
And the last report I read, admittedly a few years ago now but unlikely to have changed much, gave the Amish the highest per capita farm income of any in North America. To assume that farmingpeople who don't embrace the throwaway society baubles like Ipods and Detroit's latest behemoth must be living a 3rd world subsistence lifestyle  is absurd.

This is the sort of comment that Monsanto pays people  to salt  forums such as this with.
 
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Pam wrote:

Any field of endeavor has its charlatans; sites such as this one helps to expose them. It seems unfair to label everyone that way just because they run courses for money.



I certainly haven't labeled anyone a charlatan.  I have no reason to think people who give courses don't know what they're talking about, and that isn't what I've been saying. 

I hope that clarifies a bit. 

 
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mos6507 wrote:
modeling a truly sustainable and equitable society, which would probably be more of a "gift" economy.



That's the kind of economy I'm trying to model, which is why I spend a great deal of time (not necessarily here) helping people find information they're looking for, and sharing what experience and knowledge I may have.  Yes, it's idealistic. No, it's not practical in a capitalistic system. 
 
tel jetson
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Ludi wrote:
That's the kind of economy I'm trying to model, which is why I spend a great deal of time (not necessarily here) helping people find information they're looking for, and sharing what experience and knowledge I may have.  Yes, it's idealistic. No, it's not practical in a capitalistic system.   



I don't think it's unreasonable to work toward the sort of gift economy you're after, Ludi, while still earning a living in the capitalist economy.  it's possible to be pragmatic and make accommodations for current reality, while striving for and working toward something better.  formulating something like HMI's holistic goal and testing each decision against that goal is one way to make something like that work.

we have deviated substantially from the original post, but I think this turn in the discussion is still pertinent: a large scale permaculture project undertaken by a capitalist corporation may raise plenty of objections from permaculturists, but there's a good chance that such a project would bring us closer to where we really want to be, though it would leave plenty to be desired.
 
                          
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vfuCPFb8wk

Someone was looking for a large scale Permaculture project. This guy transformed 5000 acres into a sustainable profit model.
 
                        
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Absolutely wonderful. You have given me faith in humanity again.  There seems sometimes so much focus on greed , cynicism and corruption that  it's easy to imagine people of vision and integrity no longer exist.  It's superb what he has done. Thank you for bringing this to the forums.
 
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people talk as if greed was a question of wantign more objects, with objects comes respect it is hard to ge treated as a person if you dont earn money the vital conversation are about our life that could be gossip or it could be farming that feeds us and lots of other subjects. Without money you dont get a look into the more vital topics. Idealist want to deny that i tried to deny it but it went on being true.
    If you want people to want less youorganise for them all to be a part of things and the vocal part not just the menial part. there are lots of thigns that need talking about or because if you vote then you need to understand things or becauase things are  important at tnhe natioanl and at the local level we are like the stars we fly aprat from each other when we should fly together . you have to bare a bore or two that will maybe shape up later but if you bare each other then you will be a part of things if you ge tto the top too like if your a senator you will be part of things.
  i read that at first people wanted to be part of the mafia because then they became important, people asked their advice instead of ignoring them. I can understand people wanting lots of possessions if its the only way to ge tothers including you and to deny that people are very impresse by the fact that someone has managed to earn money is to live in cloud cuckoo land were people behave the nice sensible way not the sillier only the rich are clever way.  The rich can be clever they an also be stupid like other parts of society. agri rose macaskie.
 
Joshua Msika
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To bring the thread back to its original topic:

J Russell Smith's book Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture is probably the best book for this case. Russell Smith is not a permaculturist. His approach is eminently capitalistic and the ideas in the book are compelling. Given to the right person at the right time, this book could inspire amazing things.

Read it on google books (as a limited preview) or here: http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010175.tree%20crops.pdf
 
tel jetson
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Tree Crops is a great book for sure.  I would add to that some forestry books along the lines of Ben Law's The Woodland Way.  that book was a bit short on substance, but I bet there are more technical books that I just haven't come across yet.
 
                                      
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hmmm i was well disappointed after reading the woodland way. somebody lend be the book when i got really excited watching a documentary about ben law, but the book, like you said offers no practical stuff at all (i guess i felt a bit like paul did with the pictures and poetry presentations) I think the book is more inspirational, and for me the documentary was more inspiring than the book.
 
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