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Sepp Holzer - harvesting and labour

 
Rory Beck
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Hello to all the wonderful people here at permies.com

As you probably figured out, I'm wondering what everyone's thoughts are on the amount of labour required for harvesting in a theoretical 100-acre sepp holzer style farm? From what I can tell, he basically spends his days doing nothing but harvesting. I'm just curious if anyone has any idea.

Thanks, and I look forward to learning lots more from all the great minds here at Permies.
 
John Polk
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Even in the Sahara Desert, harvesting 100 acres would be more than a full time job for one person.  That said, in a true permaculture setup, different crops will be developing at different times throughout the year.  Late summer, the annual crops could be overwhelming, as would be the fruits in autumn.  There would be brief windows when nothing is harvestable, but that is when you utilize your time to take care of chores best done in the slow months.
 
Rory Beck
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Thanks John.

I certainly hope to be able to make 100 acres a fulltime job for more than one person - I want to quit my day job!!! My goal is to produce as much useful yield as possible in a temperate Edible Forest Garden/sepp holzer style polyculture/aquaculture system. But, the one question that keeps coming up is about how much harvesting labour will be needed?

I also appreciate your comments on seasonality of harvesting.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Rory Beck wrote:
But, the one question that keeps coming up is about how much harvesting labour will be needed?


I bet it entirely depends on what you're growing.  If you concentrate on a lot of annual vegetables, as you might want to do initially as other plantings mature, you'll need to harvest every day  during the growing season.  Same with berries during the picking season.  Stone fruits probably only a few months out of the year.  And so on.  For intensive annual vegetable production, farmer Eliot Coleman says about 2 acres is the most one person can manage and you still might need one or two people to help at the height of the season.  With 100 acres in diverse crops, you might need dozens of helpers.    And don't forget labor needed for marketing, packing, delivery (possibly) etc.  Labor will be your biggest expense on a permaculture farm, I reckon. 

 
Rory Beck
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I bet it entirely depends on what you're growing.  If you concentrate on a lot of annual vegetables, as you might want to do initially as other plantings mature, you'll need to harvest every day  during the growing season.  Same with berries during the picking season.  Stone fruits probably only a few months out of the year.  And so on.  For intensive annual vegetable production, farmer Eliot Coleman says about 2 acres is the most one person can manage and you still might need one or two people to help at the height of the season.  With 100 acres in diverse crops, you might need dozens of helpers.    And don't forget labor needed for marketing, packing, delivery (possibly) etc.  Labor will be your biggest expense on a permaculture farm, I reckon. 



Yes, there is no question that labour is going to be the major input on the farm. But, frankly, to my mind, if you can't afford to pick it and sell it, even when that is all there is to do, something is very flawed in the economics of the food market.

Thanks again for your insight, and I will definitely be planting annual crops "in the meantime"!
 
John Polk
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As far as the seasonality issue goes, for a crop of, let's say apples, rather than plant 20 of the same type tree, plant 7 each of three varieties: one early, one mid-season, and one late.  That way your labor is spread out over 3-4 months vs 3-4 weeks.

Same with tomatoes.  The determinate types all ripen at about the same time, which is great when you are putting up tomato sauce for the winter, but the indeterminate types will spread their harvest over several months...perfect for day-to-day salads.  Same goes here...some earlies, some mids, and some late harvest varieties will keep you (and your market) in fresh tomatoes all summer, rather than 20 bushels all at once.
 
Rory Beck
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John Polk wrote:
As far as the seasonality issue goes, for a crop of, let's say apples, rather than plant 20 of the same type tree, plant 7 each of three varieties: one early, one mid-season, and one late.  That way your labor is spread out over 3-4 months vs 3-4 weeks.

Same with tomatoes.  The determinate types all ripen at about the same time, which is great when you are putting up tomato sauce for the winter, but the indeterminate types will spread their harvest over several months...perfect for day-to-day salads.  Same goes here...some earlies, some mids, and some late harvest varieties will keep you (and your market) in fresh tomatoes all summer, rather than 20 bushels all at once.



Again, very, very good point about different blooming varieties. It seems to me that getting the proper genetics is quite important in this "game".
 
Nathalie Poulin
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Check out this video about Sepp's farm, it's incredible. In it, he mentions that it's just him (he?) and his wife who do the farm work. It's a long video, but it's really great one.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/930/The-Agro-Rebel
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Using apples for an example again, it would be a good idea to choose varieties with different bloom times as well as different maturity dates.  That way, if you have an unusually late hard frost, your late-blooming varieties may still produce something.  Also, having a variety of plants that like different soil moisture levels is a good idea -- that way, if you have a dry year or an exceptionally wet year, you have a chance of still having some production.

Kathleen
 
Travis Halverson
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@jaggednib:  Thanks for the link to that film.  Just watched it.  Inspiring.
 
Rory Beck
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jaggednib wrote:
Check out this video about Sepp's farm, it's incredible. In it, he mentions that it's just him (he?) and his wife who do the farm work. It's a long video, but it's really great one.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/930/The-Agro-Rebel



I watched this a month or so ago, but re-watching it today revealed even more info. Thanks for the link!
 
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