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Residual income is the reason for farming  RSS feed

 
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My main goal in farming is to have an income generating price of land. I choose permaculture because I was raised to feel guilty for my sins. I choose the tropics cuz it's where I'm born and it provides a great environment for lots of growth year round. 

And here comes reality.  It's taking a long time to developer one acre by my lonesome with very low investment money.  

I decided to start a lawn bussiness at the same time as my farm because the lawns being in money and no one wants to invest in someone else's farm.  Well not my parents, so if they don't support me who else will, right?!  Anyway...

First year I spent planning dreaming clearing and building my lawn company, and buying tools that will be used on the farm and for lawns. Then I realize the lawn bussiness takes a lot of attention and I need to learn more and more and well.. more.  And get bigger tools

Second year was nice. I had some tools to help streamline clearing and soil building. To be clear soil building sounds wonderful in theory but is extreamly hard, nor rewarding and takes a lot of time when your soil is alfisol.  So much of my energy was put into a 20x20 space where I grew bananas and papaya and other kinds of fruit trees i gathered.  More clearing. Propagation papaya plants and taking in dozens of loads of woodchips.  Maybe around 500 yards.  Also I purchased 20 yards of organic soil that spread way too slow and way to thin.    Also we got hit by a hurricane so that slowed progress but largely contributed to the overall design and understanding of wind during a storm.
I bought a cargo container for about half of what the companies want and about twice as much as I'd like to pay.

Thrid year(current year). I notice in the dry season I don't have enough water, soil fertility or plants.  I do have bunnies squirrels and cutworms. So the struggle continues.   I get chickens to add manure and eat bugs.  I make a large compost pile for woodchips to breakdown.  I decide that bananas papaya and dragon fruit will be my focus for the next few years while I spread my plants acrross our acre, without cutting away our visual buffer.    I have about 20 table bananas and 30+ cooking bananas. I figure I'd get 2-4 pups off a banana plant each year. So by my 5th year I should have several hundred banana plants and bringing in some money to support larger ideas.

All in all I cut down as little trees as I can.  Practice no kill pest management( let them eat my greens and replicate till something eats them all) and use as little resources to develop a farm as possible.

It's tiresome and difficult. Time is not a factor unless you live among other humans. And then their 9-5 lifestyle poisons you.  I live off my seasons. And I'm finding it very difficult to continue.  I've had a struggle with personal relationships and am close to selling and moving toward not owning land and farming with other older people.  I want to give up but the turning of the season is soon and lawn season will bring money in again.  I'll have more banana pups in no time and my existing plants will keep growing.   Food bills will continue to drop and my peace in the forest will grow.  But I can't seem to find peace in between the abundant moments.  I don't see anyone around me caring like I do about organic or permaculture like I do.  We host wwoofers and mostly they are in it for themselves. To eat fresh food, be on a farm or to "learn". I wish their was a higher Wwofer objective. A collective of people who really really help bring organic food to Local communities. 


Baby awakes. I'll be back to edit and get to my point.
 
pollinator
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Location: Morongo Valley
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Can you share where you are?  There are a lot of knowledgeable people in this group, and they might have some ideas worth looking at for you.  I've noticed people tend to come up with better ideas if they have an understanding of the location.  Permaculture is very localized, after all.

Sorry about the hurricane.  I can't fathom living with that challenge.  wow.  And sorry about the lack of a community feel.  That sucks, certainly.  People feel that in a lot of regions, but some more than others, for sure.  I'm living in a desert community that is mostly retired people and then also a lot of tourists.  Not a ton of like-minded people living in this region.  But being a pioneer has it's benefits, it seems like how to do that effectively is always the big question...

 
Daniel Palacios
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Hey I'm in Palm Beach County Florida. In an area called The Acreage.  
 
pollinator
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It is perfectly acceptable to be overwhelmed by farming. A lot of people think that farming will be great; strolling across the land hand in hand with the spouse, kids playing, animals grazing and picnics in the back forty while barefoot. The reality is far more harsh, livestock that turns into deadstock, bill upon bill to pay for everything, and lots of stress. In fact, while Veteran's get a lot of attention for suicide rates, Farmer's actually out number Veteran Suicide rates by almost 2 to 1. I know, this past winter I almost toted my shotgun to my farthest field and pulled the trigger.

For me, cancer (thyroid, liver and prostate) has zapped my energy levels, literally taking 2 years off my life, while failing to calculate in the increasing cost of property taxes put me in a financial bind. Property taxes alone have doubled here, going to the point where I am spending $10,200 a year on just property taxes alone! We ended up selling off some recourses we really did not want too, which enabled us to get to a spot where my wife could return to the workforce after farming full-time for the last 7 years. It sucks, but that is just farming.

Farming is a long term investment though, the average farmer making really good money 1 out of seven years, just getting by 2 more out of those 7 years. Breaking even 3 more of those seven years, and then one of those 7 years really being in the red. The point on those sour numbers is to realize that IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, and thus when a great year comes, plan for the ensuing bad years. Some farmers, they just incorrectly assume that the great years will continue to come. It is false security.

Should a farmer quit?

I really cannot answer that, I am a 9th generational farmer here so I do not have that option, but others might. I do know that my farm is hardly perfect, as it is in Maine, has a very short growing season, has good, but thin soil, and is on a North facing slope, but I have to work with what I have. I still have hope, I still have a long term farm plan, and even after 10 years, looking back I see a lot of it has come to fruition. My method has just been to take one big project per year and complete it. Yes, maybe some little ones too, but just one big one and get it done. Over years of doing this, significant changes have occured and I have not gotten burned out doing so.

But the overall point here is, don't feel like it is just you; it is just the nature of farming. It is incredibly stressful.
 
Daniel Palacios
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My edited post. I could not edit the original, so that's fun! Right?

Daniel Palacios wrote:My main goal in farming is to have an income generating price of land. I choose permaculture because I was raised to feel guilty for my sins. I choose the tropics cuz it's where I'm born and it provides a great environment for lots of growth year round. 

And here comes reality.  It's taking a long time to developer one acre by my lonesome with very low investment money.  

I decided to start a lawn bussiness at the same time as my farm because the lawns being in money and no one wants to invest in someone else's farm.  Well not my parents, so if they don't support me who else will, right?!  Anyway...

The first year I cleared, sketched designs, day dreamed on site, some more clearing.  The farm started with the knowledge of my son to be born.  I started the farm enterprise at the same time as a lawn company, which helped me acquire tools, tools that will be used on the "farm". Really focusing on the lawns this year was mostly clearing, planning, and observing/learning, and gathering plants.  I had about 12-18 trees and plants for the property very soon after. Grafted Mango, coconut palms gathered from canals and other rare tropical I needed to have immediately.

Second year was nice. I had some tools to help streamline clearing. Lot said of soil building, and spreading of wood chips. To be clear soil building sounds wonderful but is extreamly hard, nor rewarding and takes a lot of time when your soil is alfisol(leached sand) with clay horizon a few feet down.the first area cleared was a 20x20 space where I focused my energy and planted a few trees.  Jackfruit, noni, key lime, lemon, some non grafted annons and black sapotes(2),banana,papaya and lots of a special mint plant called Cuban Oregano..  lots of clearing and mulching and clearing and mulching. Lots of time was spent moving woodchips and soil and burning stumps and moving logs and wood around. I purchased 20 yards of organic soil that spread out slowly in and around the banana beds and planted with vegetable seeds and leafy green seeds. One week after the first set of seeds went in the ground we were in pre hurricane Irma weather and so much energy and focus was diverted. So that slowed progress but largely contributed to understanding flow patterns and the natural hurricane and wind event. Soon after I invested in a cargo container for a barn.  I payed about half of what the local container companies wanted and about twice as much as I wanted to pay. 

Thrid year(current year).started slow with lots of carrots tomatoes leafy greens but came to a slow as dry season came on.  I intended to do a "dry farming" practice where I wouldn't water my plants and it would encourage deep root growth when it did rain.  But that only lasted from September -December.  January -April (current) has been super dry. Realizing I don't have enough deep rich soil I can't do dry farming at the moment. Sold my Jeep Cherokee and bought irrigation supplies..     I got chickens for eggs and to add manure/eat bugs.  I made a large compost pile for woodchips to breakdown..  Ive decided to invest in bananas papaya and dragon fruit and focus on growing my banana plant population.    I have about 50 banana plants at the moment maybe more.  I figure I'd get 2-4 pups off a banana plant each year. So by my 5th year I should have several hundred banana plants and bringing in some money

All in all I cut down as little trees as I can.  Practice no kill pest management( let them eat my greens and replicate till something eats them all) and use as little resources to develop a farm as possible.  Tools are mostly lawn tools powered by gas engines and a bunch of hand tools like takes and shovels.  Very little big machine work has been done. We had a guy clear a bit for a half day.  Most of the work is done with hand carts or plastic pots. 7 gallon pots are very handy for moving multch and 3 gallon for soil.  I've considered buying an old tractor or fixing up an old mower into some kind of pulling tractor.  But I usually use my mowers for dragging the big logs around.  I use a winch and toe straps for moving other large objects around.

It's tiresome and diffficult and at times I want to give up sell off the land and start over on a nest egg, build a tiny home and live with inlawns on their property and start over.  It's hard because everyone lives in this fictional timeloop. A Monday-Friday,friday-Monday 9-5,5-9 life .  I tend to live in longer pattern of time, by my seasons.  So just coming out of winter it feels extreamly unrewarsing and difficult to continue investing time, energy, money for something I don't feel hopeful will yield as I hope it will.  I've had some struggles with personal relationships and that also creates time complications.  A child is very time demanding and when I think I have an hour or two during nap time to get something done outside it in reality is me trying to re focus and get back into the projects here and there.  At times I've wanted to give up, but really it's just a feeling of low production and low income... hurricane and lawn season will bring money in again and soon I'll have dozens of new banana plants growing and maybe even fill the chest freezer with bags of bananas . Even without investing more money in bananas I'll have more banana pups in no time and my existing food bills will continue to drop and my peace in the forest will grow.  But I can't seem to find peace in between the abundant moments.  I don't see anyone around me caring like I do about organic or permaculture like I do.  We host wwoofers and mostly they are in it for themselves. To eat fresh food, be on a farm or to "learn". I wish their was a higher Wwofer objective. A collective of people who really really help bring organic food to Local communities.  Hoepeyfully as a society we will apreaciate nature more. Apreaciate the art of gardening and producing abundance on the edges  

so after my initial dreams of making enough money off this small plot of land I come to understand that's not viable at this time.  So I'm shifting focus towards banana plants as my pioneer plants. My residuial income until more money can be invested into grafted fruit trees and rare tropical fruits.  Which was one of my original visions. To have a food forest system that produces fruit to harvest everyday of the year


I still wish to see this place make $99k a year but until then I can settle for 30%food billes reinvested into my food security.  

 
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Short of water but growing banana and papaya plants? Is this because the short time to fruit and the price you can get make it worthwhile despite them being so thirsty? Bananas pretty cheap tho?
How about avocados? Fairly thirsty too if you want fruiting trees but if you produce and sell grafted trees rather than the fruits then you can make good money in less time with less water. Grow rootstock from seed and get one hass and one oro negro tree to take cuttings for scion wood. Would this work and be marketable where you are?
 
pollinator
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A lot of my brainstorming in this vein from my own end of things has yielded some insights that will shape my path forward.

Because the more land I get, the more I will need to plant, and because I want to use seed I save myself, or start from seed as opposed to buying plants from a nursery, one of the logical first steps is to put effort into my propagation and nursery space, such that even if I get a terrible turnout one year, I will have more than enough plants for myself, and in normal years, I will expect to sell live plants, marketing them as local heirlooms, and adapted to the local microclimate over time.

Some neighbours of friends of mine moved out of the city as a result of one of their residual income streams: honey. They worked out of their apartment, keeping hives around the city, and eventually had more honey than room to live, and so moved out to a farm. Whatever specific plans I carry out in whatever order, hyperpolyculturalisation and improvement of pasture and pollinator habitat will feature prominently, and so keeping hives is probably one of the single most lucrative and regenerative residual income streams available.

I have said this in other threads, but I think that, especially for those of us in urban areas or in close proximity to them, business models for converting grocery produce waste streams into soil and cashflow could be used to great effect by people to empower themselves and to free them from urban life.

I bring these last examples to attention because they have a commonality that lends itself to the concept of residual income: in both cases, worker organisms are nurtured to allow them to do optimally and easily what they are most naturally inclined to do. We aren't doing anything but maintaining natural systems and harvesting periodically. With the right management systems, personal attention would prove minimally necessary, freeing people to do more work on other things.

-CK
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:For me, cancer (thyroid, liver and prostate) has zapped my energy levels, literally taking 2 years off my life, while failing to calculate in the increasing cost of property taxes put me in a financial bind. Property taxes alone have doubled here, going to the point where I am spending $10,200 a year on just property taxes alone! We ended up selling off some recourses we really did not want too, which enabled us to get to a spot where my wife could return to the workforce after farming full-time for the last 7 years. It sucks, but that is just farming.



Travis, first I want to say just how much I admire how open you are with your struggles.

Second I am shocked to hear that you pay $10,200 on property taxes in a year! By the sounds of it you have a decent sized acreage but still this seems huge per acre. I pay less than $3 an acre per year in taxes on my land (admittedly not prime land or location and there is no house on the land yet). What do other people pay for property tax?
 
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