• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Miles Flansburg
garden masters:
  • Dan Boone
  • Dave Burton
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Mike Barkley

Permie Profitability

 
Posts: 6
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My permaculture is not profitable.  I spend $6k/yr on water alone.  I spend $12k/yr on misc.  I now have found people to trade plants and seeds.  I had a 3 acre farm in Northern New Mexico which I worked for 12 years.  I still own the land.  I never made money on it.  I did learn a lot about no-till farming, ponds, irrigation systems, tractors, welders, etc.I still lose money on it, and I don't sell it because I have 60 ft giant sequoias I raised from seedlings, a pond with beavers, ducks and water lilies.  I started a food forest on a piece of property in Santa Barbara where my property taxes are more than my mortgage, utilities and property taxes in New Mexico.  If I worked at my job as many hours as I work on my land I would more than  double my income.  If I were to count everything I have eaten by the pound, I am sure the cost would be about $500-1k per pound, if I don't count pumpkins, cost of the land or property taxes.  I certainly don't spend more on my hobby than my friend spends on his airplane.  What do I get for my investment?  I get to experiment with living things.  With plants I get to play with genetics, environments, harmony, aesthetics, recycling, composting, all at a very low risk level.  At work I deal with people at a very high risk level.  The attitudes/philosophies that I develop gardening become a permanent part of my being everywhere I go.  I don't care if I lose money because I am part of a group of people that are experimenting.  When I look back at what I could find on permaculture in the 80's versus now, wow.  That is the thing about science.  You slave for years to discover one fact, one piece of the puzzle, that people then learn in 2 minutes.  (Just like the Zen story of the man who spends his whole life digging a tunnel through a mountain to save people's lives.  When done, people walk through the tunnel in mere minutes.)  The alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, started the modern science of chemistry.  100 years from now, people may look back at what we have done and see it as foolish.  Maybe the only way for mankind to survive this technology is to become cyborgs.  Sounds far out, but that is one solution to competing against groups of people with access to massive quantities of privatized data and computing power.  I do think that Frank Herbert really fleshed out some of the various options for survival in Dune.  Whether those survival models are the ones that will materialize isn't relevant.  What is relevant is painting your life the way you want, and putting your shoulder to the wheel in the way that you enjoy or think you can contribute.  For me, the permie movement a logical outgrowth of the hippie movement, but instead of centering around ideologies and art/music, it centers around the concept of sustainability.  But this is just one group of humans idea of survival.  

As a physician, I started out studying herbs, TCM, naturopathy, yoga, meditation, diet.  What I found is people on all sides drawing hard lines, fanatics I would call them.  I met a prominent permie suffering from congestive heart failure that could have benefited from some of my western medical knowledge.  A motto I believe is "Alternative and dead is not a victory".  With plants, sure you can be a fanatic with alternatives and you just lose some plants.  With people, you can lose lives and friends.  I think what the question of economic viability brings forth, is questions about reality, imagination and fanaticism.  When I went to medical school I asked in our cardiology block, "what about Dean Ornish's work on cholesterol and heart disease?"  The teacher led the class laughter as I was the obvious alternative student.  Once there was a profitable anti-cholesterol drug, the 'pro' research just poured in.  The desired LDL level changed by 2 standard deviations and finally a study was published stating that 6 months of lipitor at 80 mg/day was the same as stenting or bypass.  This process took 15 years.  In the mean time, driving across country as a vegetarian became easier.  Friends who started health foods and products became millionaires (some failed on the way) and had their products bought by mainstream food and household manufacturers.  Does alternative medicine really work?  This question is much the same as the permie profitability question.  Certainly, healthy food, clean water, restful sleep, rewarding relationships and jobs all play a part in health and when all of those are optimized, then you run into genetics.  Genetics are like the soil you grow you crops in.  Changing genetics is not something we know much about.  What will work?   What will be successful?  It will take a lot of time, money and effort to solve this problem.  But in the mean time, I was talking with a friend who is working on the climate change problem about the concepts of permaculture, and he decided it would be useful to try to develop deep ocean permaculture with kelp.  Now a whole new area of science has opened up.  Will it become profitable?  We will see.  For now, like most people playing with permaculture, the dream is there, but the reality is not.  The only way I can see permaculture working for a vegetarian is to either breed fish, like koi, as part of an aquaculture project, raise collectible or sellable animals or plants, 4 crop with solar or wind energy or have a gig like yurts or bed and breakfast.  Remember, when you are competing against the big boys, you are competing against cheap foreign labor and 'energy slaves' (cheap petroleum/coal/nuclear energy) and an industry that has been government subsidized for over 100 years.  

If you want to get some idea of what will happen to permaculture in the near future, watch what happens with the culture of marijuana as it becomes legalized.  You will get to see what happens to an alternative/underground science when money, education and talent move in.  Do I think this is all bad?  Not at all.  Because the marijuana counter-culture demands organic cultivation, and the profit curve is there, you will also see a huge growth in production organic techniques.  There are people that think you can cure any illness with diet and traditional techniques.  I would remind you that pesticides are really a post-WWII development so if eating organically solved our medical problems, we would have solved our medical issues 100's or 1,000's of years ago when everyone ate organic, there was no acid rain, etc.  Clearly, if it didn't work then, it won't work now.  But that does not mean there aren't many things that we can do to influence the expression of our genotype.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, CA
222
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur urban
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you income is less than your outflow,
then your upkeep will be your downfall.

Santa Barbara is a difficult place to make farming work.

May I gently suggest that you edit your post with a few paragraphs?  That will make it much easier to read.  Thank you.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I understand your frustration very much, and when I retired and went into full-time farming two years ago the two things I failed to take into account was:

Property Taxes doubling
Health issues

No one can foresee the future, but one thing I have realized is, I need to keep writing my farming book. I actually started one because there was NONE out there. Oh there was plenty of books on starting a farm, but NONE on how to take a farm from beginner to full time status. So I got half-way through, and got discouraged because things were falling apart. However, because I have managed to hold on, it is EXACTLY the reason I need to finish the book, I need to tell others how they can pull through the tough times.

On another thread on compact tractors we are discussing this very issue: that farm life is not a couple of cows, an apple tree and a picnic in the back forty. It is VERY stressful, in fact the most stressful occupation there is. Statistics back it up, farmers being twice as likely to commit suicide over that of Veterans. Even then, the numbers are underreported because it can be hard to determine if it was a farm accident or suicide.

Hang in there. The middle of a project is always the most daunting because you look back at what you have done and it seems like so much work, but then you look at how much you must do, and it is all overwhelming. That is just how it is in the middle. Push through, its always better in the end.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 10945
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
574
cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Only about 50% of new businesses survive for 5 years, and that's all businesses.  I don't know the statistics for farming; I imagine the failure rate for start-up farms is even higher.  I think if one approaches permaculture from the position of commercial farming, one needs to take into account the high chance of it failing to be profitable.  Not everyone is cut out to be a farmer*, and farming using the methods and philosophy of permaculture to make a profit might be even more difficult.  I believe it is possible, because people are doing it, but they aren't doing it everywhere, and the people who are succeeding at it are extraordinary people.

* by "farmer" in this context I mean someone who makes their primary income from farming. I don't think of permaculture primarily as a method of farming, but as a method of design which can be used to design a farm. Simply using permaculture as a basis for farming doesn't guarantee the farm's profitability; permaculture is not a business model, in my opinion.
 
              
Posts: 54
Location: Virginia
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

siri atma khalsa wrote:My permaculture is not profitable.  I spend $6k/yr on water alone.  I spend $12k/yr on misc.  I now have found people to trade plants and seeds.  I had a 3 acre farm in Northern New Mexico which I worked for 12 years.  I still own the land.  I never made money on it.  I did learn a lot about no-till farming, ponds, irrigation systems, tractors, welders, etc.I still lose money on it, and I don't sell it because I have 60 ft giant sequoias I raised from seedlings, a pond with beavers, ducks and water lilies.  I started a food forest on a piece of property in Santa Barbara where my property taxes are more than my mortgage, utilities and property taxes in New Mexico.  If I worked at my job as many hours as I work on my land I would more than  double my income.  If I were to count everything I have eaten by the pound, I am sure the cost would be about $500-1k per pound, if I don't count pumpkins, cost of the land or property taxes.  I certainly don't spend more on my hobby than my friend spends on his airplane.  What do I get for my investment?  I get to experiment with living things.  With plants I get to play with genetics, environments, harmony, aesthetics, recycling, composting, all at a very low risk level.  At work I deal with people at a very high risk level.  The attitudes/philosophies that I develop gardening become a permanent part of my being everywhere I go.  I don't care if I lose money because I am part of a group of people that are experimenting.  When I look back at what I could find on permaculture in the 80's versus now, wow.  That is the thing about science.  You slave for years to discover one fact, one piece of the puzzle, that people then learn in 2 minutes.  (Just like the Zen story of the man who spends his whole life digging a tunnel through a mountain to save people's lives.  When done, people walk through the tunnel in mere minutes.)  The alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, started the modern science of chemistry.  100 years from now, people may look back at what we have done and see it as foolish.  Maybe the only way for mankind to survive this technology is to become cyborgs.  Sounds far out, but that is one solution to competing against groups of people with access to massive quantities of privatized data and computing power.  I do think that Frank Herbert really fleshed out some of the various options for survival in Dune.  Whether those survival models are the ones that will materialize isn't relevant.  What is relevant is painting your life the way you want, and putting your shoulder to the wheel in the way that you enjoy or think you can contribute.  For me, the permie movement a logical outgrowth of the hippie movement, but instead of centering around ideologies and art/music, it centers around the concept of sustainability.  But this is just one group of humans idea of survival.  
As a physician, I started out studying herbs, TCM, naturopathy, yoga, meditation, diet.  What I found is people on all sides drawing hard lines, fanatics I would call them.  I met a prominent permie suffering from congestive heart failure that could have benefited from some of my western medical knowledge.  A motto I believe is "Alternative and dead is not a victory".  With plants, sure you can be a fanatic with alternatives and you just lose some plants.  With people, you can lose lives and friends.  I think what the question of economic viability brings forth, is questions about reality, imagination and fanaticism.  When I went to medical school I asked in our cardiology block, "what about Dean Ornish's work on cholesterol and heart disease?"  The teacher led the class laughter as I was the obvious alternative student.  Once there was a profitable anti-cholesterol drug, the 'pro' research just poured in.  The desired LDL level changed by 2 standard deviations and finally a study was published stating that 6 months of lipitor at 80 mg/day was the same as stenting or bypass.  This process took 15 years.  In the mean time, driving across country as a vegetarian became easier.  Friends who started health foods and products became millionaires (some failed on the way) and had their products bought by mainstream food and household manufacturers.  Does alternative medicine really work?  This question is much the same as the permie profitability question.  Certainly, healthy food, clean water, restful sleep, rewarding relationships and jobs all play a part in health and when all of those are optimized, then you run into genetics.  Genetics are like the soil you grow you crops in.  Changing genetics is not something we know much about.  What will work?   What will be successful?  It will take a lot of time, money and effort to solve this problem.  But in the mean time, I was talking with a friend who is working on the climate change problem about the concepts of permaculture, and he decided it would be useful to try to develop deep ocean permaculture with kelp.  Now a whole new area of science has opened up.  Will it become profitable?  We will see.  For now, like most people playing with permaculture, the dream is there, but the reality is not.  The only way I can see permaculture working for a vegetarian is to either breed fish, like koi, as part of an aquaculture project, raise collectible or sellable animals or plants, 4 crop with solar or wind energy or have a gig like yurts or bed and breakfast.  Remember, when you are competing against the big boys, you are competing against cheap foreign labor and 'energy slaves' (cheap petroleum/coal/nuclear energy) and an industry that has been government subsidized for over 100 years.  
If you want to get some idea of what will happen to permaculture in the near future, watch what happens with the culture of marijuana as it becomes legalized.  You will get to see what happens to an alternative/underground science when money, education and talent move in.  Do I think this is all bad?  Not at all.  Because the marijuana counter-culture demands organic cultivation, and the profit curve is there, you will also see a huge growth in production organic techniques.  There are people that think you can cure any illness with diet and traditional techniques.  I would remind you that pesticides are really a post-WWII development so if eating organically solved our medical problems, we would have solved our medical issues 100's or 1,000's of years ago when everyone ate organic, there was no acid rain, etc.  Clearly, if it didn't work then, it won't work now.  But that does not mean there aren't many things that we can do to influence the expression of our genotype.  



I think part of the reason why some people flock to homesteading, organic farming, permaculture etc. is because of its perceived LOW barrier to entry. These days you need certifications, degrees, advanced degrees, bar exams, so on and so on, in order to practice some profession. You also need a huge investment in education (costs a lot and creates debt slaves from the start AND it takes years off your working lifetime) only to face legislative obstacles (restrictive laws designed to protect your customers) but also the threat of being sued for everything under the sun. Most people get put off by it all and they naturally seek a domain they (think they!) can control. Of course, once they get into homesteading or even try to farm for profit, they realize that control is the last thing they have haha

Now, you say that we would have solved all our health ills a 100+ years ago if it was only up to organics. Well, my feeling is that the older generations were healthier in general. Cardio vascular disease today is mostly a matter of lifestyle and diet. Yes, there are the genetically "unfortunate" but for most people it is a combination of sedentary lifestyle, rat-race fight for survival induced stress and a poor diet (maybe also an auto-immune component or inflammatory component as well?). Especially in United States we have a climate where there is existential stress - lose a job and you have no health insurance. Heck, even with a job your health insurance can be so bad, you might as well not have it. So, you live under the constant stress of getting ill and ending up in the gutter and losing everything you worked for. Not exactly a healthy place to be, no? To add to it all, many jobs have left the country, the income gap has gotten wider, people are more violent, drugs are everywhere, you worry sending your kids to school - who are they hanging out with, what are they doing, so on and so on. At the same time the environmental destruction continues unabated and the government is not protecting you, it is protecting the highest bidder. If you want to see the government's response - look no further than the pipelines being put into the ground, like the Dakota Access one or even the one like MVP being forced down people's throats here in my county in Virginia (and WV and NC etc.). The state police apparatus and private corporate security goons employ tactics designed to scare, deter and ultimately imprison people whose land is being taken under eminent domain for the benefit of a corporate CEO or a shareholder, under the pretext of job creation (which is temporary). So, in a climate like that people are highly stressed, worried about the future of their land and surroundings but also the planet in general. All you can see around is stress, stress, stress. To top it all off, the looming threat of climate change will put a much higher strain on the economy, damages caused by bigger wildfires, more and bigger hurricanes, more and intense flooding, the aridification of land etc. etc. will have to be paid by someone (!). At the end these costs will be socialized just like the cost of 2008 crisis was. Regardless of who pays for it, this kind of widespread change can impoverish even a wealthy society such as ours.

Yes, our grandparents and their grandparents went through wars, even world ones but the destruction of life in those wars was immediate. The health consequences of those wars were results of exposure to different toxins, mental health issues etc. For some reason though, these wars did not result in an increase in cardio vascular disease. Perhaps because the stress was immediate and was dealt with within a reasonable time frame? After the war was over, people went back to rebuilding things, invigorated by the prospects of peace and possible development of economies etc.

The introduction of sanitation did wonders for the expected lifespan of a person. So did the discovery of antibiotics. So did the reduction in global, systematic violence/war caused by the balance of power during the Cold War after the 1940s. All of these, as well as constant improvement in delivery of medicine, development of medications, imaging devices etc. continue to improve your outcome. It has kind of come to the point where the things that used to kill swaths of people, like pneumonia or typhus or malaria or tuberculosis or polio or whatever, were eradicated by the introduction of a few classes of drugs - antibiotics and vaccines. Modern medicine today mostly has problems with auto-immune diseases, corner cases like motor-neuron disease, sudden things like coronaries and ruptured aortas etc. etc. Unfortunately, more and more people in the Western world seem to suffer from these - leading everyone to believe lifestyle is the culprit - food, prolonged exposure to low or mid levels of stress, "something in the water", pesticides in your diet, micro-plastics in your diet, industrial pollution, exposure to chemicals in your home, you name it. Modern medicine and science simply do not have the tools to measure or understand the systemic effects of all of these, especially when they intersect in a single human body. Just diagnosing these is an issue. Even understanding some numbers is tough - for example, why is gallbladder surgery one of the most commonly performed procedures in modern American medicine? Why do we have an epidemic of diabetes? Why is GERD and now LPR (laryngo pharyngeal reflux) such a common ailment? Could the prevalence of GERD/LPR have simply to do with the fact that preservatives like citric acid have become ubiquitous in our diet? In the race to make food last longer on the shelf (and be safer at the same time), we have acidified most of the food supply. Could it be THAT simple? And what about the epidemic of food allergies and food sensitivities? A whole another topic.

One thing is obvious, however - countries where medicine is socialized and available to everyone, seem to have much better health outcomes (at lower prices) than United States. Does this simply have something to with general availability of medicine or is it the reduction of the general stress by knowing that no matter what, you will be taken care of if you get sick?

Most people do not think about the above in so many words. They INNATELY feel that something is wrong with the world and their response is to find a direction that hopefully simply by-passes a lot of the ills mentioned above. Food is the problem? You make your own! Don't like the stress of the city? Move into the country, Do not like buying something that was made in China and that will break down six months from now? Go back a hundred years or make your own. The thought is to gain control of your life at the simplest level and make the stress go away, thus healing yourself.

What is working against you is the fact that land is a finite resource, mortgages require jobs (in town), good land is expensive and by sheer statistics/chance, most of us are born in the city (only 2% of the population of United States farms so your chances of being born on a farm are 2 in 100). Most people want so desperately out of the rat race that they will buy land on mortgage and start a homestead but they need a job in town to pay for it all. Now they have two jobs (!) and both jobs are hard and full-time. Same people will quickly jump to adding animals (most require shelter, care, fencing, they get sick) and then they need tractors, implements, there are physically demanding projects, so on and so on. Since mortgages are expensive, it is a constant race to stay above and a lot of people actually shorted their lifespans by doing two jobs at once, at the end. Only the financially prepared should go back to the land and only these folks benefit from going back to the land fully, as they have all the time in the world to "play" on the farm, try stuff and not worry if the crops fail. Here is the kicker: most books, magazine articles etc. about going back to the land have been/are written by these latter types. Debating what's better - a $30,000 Yanmar or a $30,000 Kubota is for the few folks who can afford the luxury of buying a $30,000 tractor to run a (hobby?) market garden that makes at best $4,000/year to start with.

Don't get me wrong, we need these books and articles but for the most part - the first thing you need to ask yourself when you read one is - where did this person start in their life and is it comparable to my position? For example, Joel Salatin is great but his Daddy owned 500 acres of land in Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. At today's prices we are talking $$$ millions to get into that kind of land.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For the most part I disagree. When you ask people about the old days, it is human nature to forget the bad and only remember the good. I saw it all the time with foster kids, despite horrific living conditions, they would remember me scolding them for not doing their homework last week, and remember the happy birthday parents at their birth parents homes. I will not go farther with that because the reality is today, physical abuse for foster children is rare...they are removed from a home for a more sickening reason. After about a year though, they would want to go home. And when they did, in about 2 months they wanted to come back.

And so it is with remembering what it was like in 'the old days". No one liked going out to the outhouse at 3 AM with the drizzlies, or #3 as we call diareah here. So too with hauling water from a hand pump, or shoveling door yards of snow by hand. I had a great uncle who died of a burst appendix. He was told a Dr in Portland could fix him, but he would be dead before he could get there...three days by steamer. Today the trip takes 1.5 hours. As my 80 year old Grandmother-In-Law says, "there was nothing good about the good ole days!"

Society today was the same as it was yesterday, full of swindlers, health problems, hard work and stress.

Tyler was right on every level, but the average farm failure is 3 years not five. And farmers only make up 1/2 a percent of the population. The government considers "farmers" to be cooks, waitresses, wbusboys, truck drivers, etc. If it touches food, they are considered a farmer. I was told it is because they did not want a hungry nation to know that one person in this country feeds the other 200.

Dying from brain cancer due most likely to Agent orange, I have suddenly become a fan of organic food. BUT as a farmer with (5) farms in the family who are all conventional, I know it is not easy to grow. That is why I LOVE homesteaders, they quickly learn how hard farming is. They might still hate big agriculture...and perhaps should...but I know why my family farms the way they do. Just take a look at a field of organic corn, and then a field of conventional corn. We have grown some incredible crops on my farm itself...not in a very good way, but it was abundant.

farming is tough. I know, I have farmed for 44 years...in Maine.


 
              
Posts: 54
Location: Virginia
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Johnson wrote:
Society today was the same as it was yesterday, full of swindlers, health problems, hard work and stress.



Of course, studies dispute this with numbers. We get more sophisticated at measuring things; one measure, for example, is "upward mobility" - the ability to move higher in society. American dream is basically an "older" definition of "upward mobility", the idea that you can work hard and make it. By all measurements, countries like Canada now have higher upward mobility than United States, we are actually going lower and lower in that sense.

With that the sense of "hope" is dwindling. It used to be that a single family could survive on a single income, now it takes two and people are still struggling. If you do not have higher education, all studies point, your income will suffer throughout life. But higher education costs money and creates debt slaves in USA - the 2nd largest debt market is student loans. Healthcare has become prohibitively expensive for most (this is what may bankrupt the whole system at the end), employment benefits have dwindled, wage gap has increased as has gap between rich and poor. The environment has degraded, we have a cumulative effect of decades of pesticides and chemicals, strip mining, water table pollution, so on and so on - things that our grandparents didn't have to deal with. Food has become increasingly loaded with toxins as well, the food system has acidified the food supply in the desire to store things longer on the shelves. I have not even mentioned climate change and the costs of it as well as what it will do to the food production "system". At the same time all the laws surrounding most of our lives have become more restrictive. Barriers to entry are higher. To have a farm you need land but land is expensive. Try starting a cable internet company (and compete with Comcast). Et cetera...

Hope is one measure of faith into the future. I think, for example, after World War 2 there was a lot of hope. Rebuilding, working on basics, every industry was on the rise, from basic steel production to energy production to, you name it. 80 years later, we are looking for ways to make money out of nothing, everyone survives by reselling things and not making them, people are big and lazy and unmotivated, cell phone is everyone's best friend and everyone is under surveillance, be it by Facebook or Google or who knows what else. You cannot even tell what is true and what is false with all the "fake news" stuff pervasive to online tech.

Stress used to be hit or miss and things used to be tangible. Today to understand any one issue you need a degree. For example, how many people actually read the climate science scientific journal papers (and how many have the education apparatus to do so?) as opposed to how many people read New York Times or Fox News interpretation of said papers? Interpretations driven by agendas, of course.

Life was tough in the past, no doubt. No time period is better than another. Or is it? What about time periods where something reaches a breaking point? Is living in those different? Better? Worse?

I was born in a place that disappeared in a bloody civil war. I was 16 when it happened. My life was amazing before that. Clearly, my parents and I can remember a time when life was better prior to a certain point than after it :)
 
Posts: 50
Location: The Balkans, Sofia
7
forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have very simple philosophy when it comes to my garden, if machines can produce it, then I dont bother(annuals), it will be too cheap to waste my time with it, its because I work and I dont have too much time, my philosophy also is that my job in the garden is to provide water and to prune back the growth sometimes(preventing something to take over too much, more than I can consume).
This means I have planted mainly berries, trees and herbs, also plants for tea. (Luckily enough these things cost the most here)
My watering technique is almost automated and dont take me lots of time, so the production I get doesnt take much of my time, and is very high quality. If I am to estimate how much does that cost taking into account the time I have invested it still wort it.
But even if it wasnt profitable it would still worth doing it, just because of the joy and meaning this gives to me.
If we are to judge everything based solely on money, then this means money are the ultimate meaning there is, and for some people this may be the case, but not for me. To me getting joy from spending money is very empty and artificial experience.
Also if I am to share my experience in the garden it hardly can be explained with words, it is strange combination of some knowledge and something else, the second part is the magic of having a garden.
Now it comes to my mind what Fukuoka have said, its more about feeding your spirit, no money or artificial modern pleasures can substitute the real things humans have evolved for, and that is having that intimate connection with the rest of the living things on that Planet. At least thats how I see it, it may not be true for lots of other people.
(Ofc for me permaculture was never about making money, I can understand the disappointment of someone relying on permaculture for making money(I can only admire if someone try that), I dont want to sound obnoxious)
 
pollinator
Posts: 316
Location: Virginia
86
books chicken cooking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First of all, welcome Siri! 😀 Your land with the pond and giant sequoias sounds beautiful.

When I first started with gardening and raising chickens, it was before I heard of permaculture.  The more I have learned, the more my costs have gone done. I find I want less in my life, which helps reduce costs.  Also, once the basic infrastructure costs like garden and coop fencing (in my case) were in place, my costs evened out.  Money I used to spend eating out or on "convenience" foods goes instead towards seeds and such.  I have just started with some seed saving, so hopefully that will lessen too. Amendments to the garden are no longer bought.

I guess for me, its not about the profitability in terms of money, but an improved way of living.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I whole heartedly disagree, because a lot of things being discussed are PERCEPTIONS...

I say that with conviction because in 2008 the US Government gave everyone a $600 stimulus payout, and I took that money, bought four sheep and some fencing and started. I had one house, no barns, and 3.5 acres of land. Now in 2018, 11 years later, I have (3) houses, reached a height of 150 sheep, and own hundreds of acres. I did it by securing grants, low interest loans, clearing land, and working really hard. I even did it through a nasty divorce in 2010! The farm is family land, but I am proud to say I was the first ever in my family to buy it; it was not inherited, allowing my parents money for retirement; the first time in 9 generations on this farm.

I am not the only one that can do this, and saying it cannot, erodes the hopes and dreams of others.

To wit…expensive land? Hardly!! I am living in a house now that I offered to 10 people or so, and none wanted it. It took some work to fix up, but had 30 acres of land and a farmhouse. NO ONE WANTED IT and it was a free deal; fix the house up in leu of rent. In the end I moved my family in here for $1800 and 5 weeks of work.

I am not the only one who has available farm land like this, but no one asks. They peruse the internet where land is SOLD, and at expensive rates. Driving around and asking about abandoned houses will net a person great results. Sure, they will have to knock on a lot of doors, and get a lot of no’s, but if they do not have any money, what is the other choice…losing their dream? Landowners want their farmland farmed, it is just that people wanting to get into farming want perfect houses and idyllic fields. It just is not going to happen...but I propose that buying your way into farming is not a great idea anyway.



 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Oddo Da wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
Society today was the same as it was yesterday, full of swindlers, health problems, hard work and stress.



Of course, studies dispute this with numbers. We get more sophisticated at measuring things; one measure, for example, is "upward mobility" - the ability to move higher in society. American dream is basically an "older" definition of "upward mobility", the idea that you can work hard and make it. By all measurements, countries like Canada now have higher upward mobility than United States, we are actually going lower and lower in that sense.

With that the sense of "hope" is dwindling. It used to be that a single family could survive on a single income, now it takes two and people are still struggling. If you do not have higher education, all studies point, your income will suffer throughout life. But higher education costs money and creates debt slaves in USA - the 2nd largest debt market is student loans. Healthcare has become prohibitively expensive for most (this is what may bankrupt the whole system at the end), employment benefits have dwindled, wage gap has increased as has gap between rich and poor. The environment has degraded, we have a cumulative effect of decades of pesticides and chemicals, strip mining, water table pollution, so on and so on - things that our grandparents didn't have to deal with. Food has become increasingly loaded with toxins as well, the food system has acidified the food supply in the desire to store things longer on the shelves. I have not even mentioned climate change and the costs of it as well as what it will do to the food production "system". At the same time all the laws surrounding most of our lives have become more restrictive. Barriers to entry are higher. To have a farm you need land but land is expensive. Try starting a cable internet company (and compete with Comcast). Et cetera...

Hope is one measure of faith into the future. I think, for example, after World War 2 there was a lot of hope. Rebuilding, working on basics, every industry was on the rise, from basic steel production to energy production to, you name it. 80 years later, we are looking for ways to make money out of nothing, everyone survives by reselling things and not making them, people are big and lazy and unmotivated, cell phone is everyone's best friend and everyone is under surveillance, be it by Facebook or Google or who knows what else. You cannot even tell what is true and what is false with all the "fake news" stuff pervasive to online tech.

Stress used to be hit or miss and things used to be tangible. Today to understand any one issue you need a degree. For example, how many people actually read the climate science scientific journal papers (and how many have the education apparatus to do so?) as opposed to how many people read New York Times or Fox News interpretation of said papers? Interpretations driven by agendas, of course.

Life was tough in the past, no doubt. No time period is better than another. Or is it? What about time periods where something reaches a breaking point? Is living in those different? Better? Worse?

I was born in a place that disappeared in a bloody civil war. I was 16 when it happened. My life was amazing before that. Clearly, my parents and I can remember a time when life was better prior to a certain point than after it :)



Today we live in an information age and people are constantly being told what to think. Things are not all that bad! A poor health insurance plan in 1930 meant a family did not have the cash to pay the Doctor to help his 9 year old survive a fever, because if you could not pay, the Dr did not show up. Forget trading 9 bushels of oats, the Dr had 100 families that were poor and already owed him money. That was a poor health insurance plan. Today we are told we have poor health insurance and should worry about it, but that is coming from a society that can call an ambulance and be carted off to an emergency room where by law we have to be treated. It really is not that bad when we compare where we have been.

We stress, because we are told to stress.

I feel I have a right to stress. I had cancer and now reoccurring cancer. I cannot do any amount of physical labor without sheer exhaustion, and if I do…like today…I am going to pay for it for three days. I had to have my wood lot logged off to pay my property taxes…which the logger stole. Yes, 70 acres of clear cut, 75 tractor trailer loads of wood. The fall out from that has been (3) different court proceedings that are still being dealt with, not to mention being on a first name basis with the district attorneys office, the sheriff’s office, and county commissioner’s office. But because the man did not pay, and I had to pay my property taxes, I sold off my flock of sheep, and I am now selling two of my other houses. But as if I do not have enough to sell already, the logger left a skidder behind and I am in hopes to sell that in the next thirty days when my next round of property taxes are due. Add in a wife and four daughters 5-14) and I think I have some stress.

But it is no different than my Great-Great Grandfather who was murdered when he had Timber-Trespass done on him…in 1898. Or My Great-Grandmother whose husband died and had to raise (5) daughters through the great depression on her own. Or my father who did (2) tours of duty in Vietnam.

All a person can do today is put out the fires that are before them today, because there will inevitably be more tomorrow. I do not need CNN, a smartphone, or someone with a political agenda to tell me about additional things I need to stress about. But it is no different then it was 100 years ago…or 2000 years ago…

 
pioneer
Posts: 208
Location: The Arkansas Ozarks
24
building cat dog forest garden homestead rabbit rocket stoves solar wood heat woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Marco Banks wrote:If you income is less than your outflow,
then your upkeep will be your downfall.

Santa Barbara is a difficult place to make farming work.

May I gently suggest that you edit your post with a few paragraphs?  That will make it much easier to read.  Thank you.



Sir,

I think you need to read a bit more carefully.  The Doctor stated in the first couple of lines that this was done in New Mexico.  Santa Barbara is likely where he lives and practices medicine.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1398
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
375
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I find some of the discussions to be quite interesting and thought provoking.

Not all farmers, be they conventional or not, be they large or small, be they full time or part time, are successful at making a profit. That's not to say the one system of farming is more profit generating than another. Profit depends upon a multitude of factors . To name a few...
... Location
... Market
... Cost of inputs
... Labor
... Weather
... Experience/skill/knowledge of the farmer
... Time invested
... Luck

Siri states that his/her permaculture effort has not been profitable. To extrapolate that to say permaculture endeavors are therefore non-profitable is faulty logic.

My own homestead farm provides food, housing, transportation, resource materials, and products to market. Even if I didn't have cash in my hand at the end of the year, the farm is still providing significantly to supporting us, since otherwise I'd need to pay non-farm cash for those items. What profit my farm makes is reinvested in the farm. So I don't have cash in the bank at the end of the year. But that's my own business choice, to reinvest. But to say that there's no profit is an inaccurate statement.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Su Ba wrote:I find some of the discussions to be quite interesting and thought provoking.

Not all farmers, be they conventional or not, be they large or small, be they full time or part time, are successful at making a profit. That's not to say the one system of farming is more profit generating than another. Profit depends upon a multitude of factors . To name a few...
... Location
... Market
... Cost of inputs
... Labor
... Weather
... Experience/skill/knowledge of the farmer
... Time invested
... Luck

Siri states that his/her permaculture effort has not been profitable. To extrapolate that to say permaculture endeavors are therefore non-profitable is faulty logic.

My own homestead farm provides food, housing, transportation, resource materials, and products to market. Even if I didn't have cash in my hand at the end of the year, the farm is still providing significantly to supporting us, since otherwise I'd need to pay non-farm cash for those items. What profit my farm makes is reinvested in the farm. So I don't have cash in the bank at the end of the year. But that's my own business choice, to reinvest. But to say that there's no profit is an inaccurate statement.



Very true:

That is why I tell people who are looking at getting into sheep farming when they ask if I make any money: "I have never lost any."

It is also why farming is the only business that does not need to make profit once in five years or it is automatically disqualified for being a business. The law states that a farmer must TRY to make at least $1000 profit per year.  That is there because in farming, everything is a long ways out. What I do today may not start seeing a return on investment for 7 years. A case in point is my clear cuts. I like to wait at least 5 years for the stumps to rot down before I start clearing the land with bulldozers and excavators. I have to pay property taxes on land that can be neither forest or farmland during that time, however by waiting, the stumps are smaller in size, I save soil and I can use smaller equipment to do the job.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 10945
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
574
cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Johnson wrote: I have to pay property taxes on land that can be neither forest or farmland during that time



Travis, have you looked into putting some of your land under "Open Space" valuation?  This Maine .gov website claims you can reduce your taxes by 95% if you put your land into certain categories of use: https://www.maine.gov/revenue/propertytax/propertytaxbenefits/current_use.htm

Here in Texas we reduced our total property tax bill 50% by putting our land into Wildlife Management.  Here we can still practice agriculture on the land as long as the agriculture doesn't conflict with the wildlife.  Not sure how it works in Maine.

 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tyler Ludens wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote: I have to pay property taxes on land that can be neither forest or farmland during that time



Travis, have you looked into putting some of your land under "Open Space" valuation?  This Maine .gov website claims you can reduce your taxes by 95% if you put your land into certain categories of use: https://www.maine.gov/revenue/propertytax/propertytaxbenefits/current_use.htm

Here in Texas we reduced our total property tax bill 50% by putting our land into Wildlife Management.  Here we can still practice agriculture on the land as long as the agriculture doesn't conflict with the wildlife.  Not sure how it works in Maine.



Yes, we have quite a bit of land in Open Space, as well as some other programs, some going back to my great grandfather days of the early 1900's. For instance we get a check every year for something. I don't know why. They don't know why, but yet it still comes, every October on the dot. I Think it has to do with the soil here being "Vital to the State of Maine Agriculture". In short, as long as it is farmed, they pay you. Sadly a person cannot increase the acreage allotted. It is set by the acreage amount in the 1930's.

We will not do "Tree Growth" however because of the heavy stipulations that program carried. They are there or a reason, but too stringent for us.
 
siri atma khalsa
Posts: 6
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I will try to be more clear.  I spent 20 years in NM working a small farm and serving as a physician in a poor, under served medical area.  I learned some basic permiculture principles.  I now live in Santa Barbara, work on building a .6 acre food forest, and work part-time as a physician.  It is much easier to farm in California.  Building soils is very easy, compared to northern NM at 6,000 ft.  You add compost and it goes into the soil.  In NM, the UV degrades the carbon so fast that no-till techniques work much better.  Using plants with large root structures that can decay underground makes much more sense than green manure crops.  I started with buckwheat (didn't grow well), moved to wheat and common vetch (common vetch got a virus), then to winter rye and hairy vetch (did this rotation for a decade), then finally decided to go with alfalfa and no-till.  

I had access to dump truck loads of free pine wood chips (no bark) in the form of shavings from making vigas.  I would lay them out in windrows and on the track around the property.  Driving over them with the tractor would help break them down.  I replaced the chips every five years, using the broken chips as mulch (the track was a about 1/3 mile around.  Still, after two decades I had changed the soil less in NM than I have changed the soil in 5.5 years in California.  I do not till, I use gophers for that (my land is sloped).  I am growing subtropicals, learning about plants to hopefully slow the action of the gophers, working with native nitrogen fixers like Ceanothus, currently working with Ashwaghanda (has chemicals similar to ginseng, thrives on poor, alkaline soil).  So far I have found using top composting in the 8 to 12 inch range that I can keep moisture in the soil from last rain in March until mid October.  Gophers and worms will work the soil to a depth of 2 feet (so far).  I am planning on trying some crops that grow well here (squash and pumpkin, beets) to take the soil quality deeper.  I am using arugala, collards, cilantro, borage, broccoli and field peas as ground covers for numerous benefits.  I have tentatively added some hairy vetch and I will be adding basil as a ground cover this spring.  I am hybridizing some passiflora, to develop fruits with ornamental value as well.  I have found that white sapote grows  faster and stronger than citrus.  Mango grows as fast but is less productive, so far, than citrus.  Fino de Jete and El Bumpo are fast, aggressive growing Cherimoyas, that taste much better than citrus, easily raised from seed.  The pollination problem with Cherimoya is improved by minimal pruning and using flies to help with pollination.

I agree with the viewpoint that much that is written is not relevant, at least to me.  Whether this is because so few farms are in Sunset zone 24, or because many books all quote, and thus start, from a single source, I can not yet say.  I do know that SoCal has no winter.  Some crops grow in summer, some in winter.  Only if you try to grow European crops in CA do you end up with the 'winter' concept.  Growing crops in 3-D is my current interest, that and looking at soil disimpaction and mulching through root mass.  Whether permiculture will ever replace monoculture as a viable economic entity, I do not know.  I agree with prior comments that much profitability of current systems is from subsidy and uncalculated environmental/future costs.  I do see permie research occurring at a University level.  I also see permie goals and lifestyle as an 'across cultural' unifier.  And I do find that the philosophies developed in permaculture translate into other fields of research, changing the goals of the research.  I think this is very valuable.  Yvon Chouinard in his book, Let My People Go Surfing, The education of a reluctant businessman, calls those young people passionately developing a new sport or craft, dirt baggers, based on their willingness to accept poverty to accomplish their goal.  He also notes that his goal was not just to develop environmentally friendly products, but to develop a new business model.  Just so, I see the permie lifestyle as an attempt to develop a new life model.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the biggest problem with the whole concept of Permicultural Profitability is that it is backwards from most business models.

To wit; if a person has a sawmill, and they sawed out 10,000 board feet of lumber and sold it in 2017, but sold 20,000 board feet of lumber in 2018 and sold it; 2018 was probably a more profitably year. But it does not work that way with farming.

Myself, 2018 was my most profitable year ever farming, but as everyone knows, it was devastating financially. How can that be, it does sound like an oxy-moron???

Well it is all about cash flow. Because of health reasons, I was not able to actively farm, but being a full-time farmer, I still need income, so we sold off assets of the farm to get by. By taking stuff such as equipment, livestock, etc, we used the money to pay for gas, medical costs, etc. But because of that, I had Farm Sales and yet little Farm Deductions...in other words I liquidated a lot of farm assets. That made for a profitable year.

HOWEVER:

This is why a farmer should have two sets of books: one for farm decision making, and one for taxes. Immediately it generates the thought of "cooking the books", but that is not the case at all. Because a farm typically is comprised of long term assets (things that take a long time to sell like land, equipment, etc) and not short term assets (cash), a farmer has to constantly jockey around their resources to make paying the bills work. Figuring out just how to do that based on budgets should be done based on real world numbers and NOT all the potential tax deductions allowed.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3077
625
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The other aspect of this, is Economy of Scale.

I know I have run the numbers, and based on my operation, to be profitable I have to have 265 sheep.

For the original poster, the size of the operation is not profitable because the amount of production does not match the amount of property taxes. Yep...I can relate! Since increasing acreage only increases the cost of taxes, unless the economy of scale threshold is reached. it will not be a profitable operation.

In this case the original poster is continuing to maintain the farm by using short term cash (their job) to inject money into the farm. There is nothing wrong with that at all, and in fact most farms do to fill the void of immediate cash so the farm does not have to sell off intermediate assets (equipment) and long term assets (land). Yet many people think their farm is not profitable, or worse yet, not worth continuing, based on these factors. HOLD ON! It is not profitable as a stand alone farm, but only because it is not big enough to reach the economy of scale threshold.

Economy of scale is interesting, it can easily be manipulated. This is why it is IMPERATIVE that hobby and beginner farms carefully track all their farms sales and expenses!! Using this they can decide:

Do I want to stay the same size, under  the economy of scale, and fill-in the immediate cash flow gap with personal money from a job?
Do I want to grow to the point where the economy of scale is reached?

But just because a farm is not profitable as a stand alone operation, does not mean it is not a succesful farm.
 
pollinator
Posts: 290
Location: Southern Finland zone 5
86
books fungi goat homestead tiny house
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you Siri for starting an interesting discussion!

I think it is necessary to first define whether we are discussing homesteading (producing food for one's own consumption) or farming (producing food for others to earn money).


I think in the context of farming, Travis has excellent points.

I would like to add that I think different farming options  have different cash turn around times and they also differ in how dependant the profitability is on the scale of the operation.

For example, a quick crop like radishes, baby lettuce or pastured broilers has a quick cash turn around time.

Layers (egg production) and broilers and greens (lettuce, radish, salad turnips, spinach etc.) also are relatively size-neutral in profitability. You can get started without a huge capital investment, people have started at their city backyards with as little as USD 7000 investment costs.

Cows, sheep, bees and fruit trees are examples of businesses where the start-up capital needed can be quite big. But, as Travis says, when you reach the economy of scale threshold, you become profitable.

So, I think it's possibly too simplistic to just talk about profitability. The time factor needs to be considered. How much capital investment are you willing to make and how short should the pay back time be? I think it is worth calculating these things before starting a business, any business.


If we are talking about homesteading, it's a different matter. A homestead doesn't have to be profitable in the same sense, it can be a hobby that you spend money on. But if one does want a homestead to be profitable in the sense that one is saving money on groceries, then in my experience it means little or no investments. Food is so cheap in the grocery store that it just doesn't pay to invest much in infrastructure or seedlings. I do think that this is partly a temporary phenomenon and that food prices will increase in the future, possibly making home growing more "profitable". Although I'm not sure.
 
siri atma khalsa
Posts: 6
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis Johnson makes some excellent points re: business.  I always looked at cash flow like I look at blood in a patient.  Run out of blood, your business is dead, no matter how healthy the business is otherwise.  Capital outlays from other jobs are like blood transfusions.  Sometimes they are necessary, sometimes your business has a permanent problem and will always be anemic.  Nina Jay brings up the point of homesteading vs farming.  I am currently homesteading in California, that and developing a learning lab for experimentation.  I am close to retirement.  I use my mind for my current job and I work 7 to 10 12-hour days in a row.  I do not know how long I will be capable mentally and physically as a physician (I have a very real daily reminder of the aging process).  Plants require much less intelligence to work, therefore I expect I have at least 2 or more decades of work there.  By prepping the soil, learning the local climate cycles, and finding some niche products, I plan to be able to both homestead and farm this property.  By collecting rare bulb, plant and tree varieties, and creating some of my own, I should have small items with high cash value (small in consumption of space, water, pots, soil, etc).  My  fruit trees are planned and planted so I should have abundant fruit year round.  I learned as a young man that a largely fruit diet can be very healthy.  My goals will be to keep myself busy physically and mentally, but not so much that my body is injured, hopefully turn a positive cash flow so I don't touch my retirement savings (as long as possible), and provide food with a known purity.  This endeavor already provides me with social interaction, and if I need more, then I will sell at the farmers markets.  If all goes under, then I still have my rabbit hole, I sell my home in CA and return to my little farm in NM.  

I will point out though, in response to TJ's post, that profitability is not the only part of the equation, you also have to assess your assets.  If you sell off assets, you are not profitable, and even if you are profitable, if you don't increase your net worth (savings), then your year has just gone by.  I look at profitability as how much I save.  What are my expenses per year, what can I save.  My savings/expenses is the number I am interested in as this is the number that allows me to see if and when I will be able to retire.  In NM, people were land rich and cash poor.  When you saw someone with a new double wide (mobile home) or truck, you knew land had been sold.  Very few people were saving, most were slowly eating off their shelves.  Looking at retirement I also assess passive versus active income.  I use this viewpoint when I look at plants on my property or my investments.  What will be the maintenance costs, labor, etc.  I see the Food Forest project as attempting to move farming from active to passive income.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
125
forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think that having 1 or 2 or 3 house means that one is doing permaculture. It just means that you have bought alot of stuff possible on loan and thus there will be upkeep/taxes/bank payment.

Now if we remove the regular cost of owning alot of real estate and just focus on your food growing activities.
I feel that permaculture encourages us to do intensive 1.5acre food production
(Nuts+fruits+herbs+mushroom+honey bee+chicken+fish+vegetables and kitchen garden)
After the initial cost of establishing ongoing cost should be small.

If I were to buy 5 empty lots and build passive house (permie-houses) on them with 1 acre food forest and then said permaculture is expensive it has cost me half a million dollars. I don't understand why what I am doing is costing more than what it cost people in Thailand..... Idk.

You also hinted that your circle of friends have airplanes vs closer to '"poor hillbilly-immigrants like back to earth permie folks". I think that being around such affluent folks and trying to keep up with said rich jones makes it harder to do 'cheap permaculture'. All that said, I think that you will be able to get back alot of you invested money when you sell your house. So it isn't all a lost. It is possible that you are making alot of type 1 mistakes that you have to keep on fixing or redoing, if so observe more before implementing stuff, and look at examples that others are doing in books/youtube/in person/etc.

Growing hay on 3acres of perfect land will not net anyone alot of money. But growing 3acres of blacken garlic or 3acres of oyster mushroom on straw will net you alot of money. Finding a market for it might be hard thought.

But overall I think you are asking, how can a permie sell $50,000 on just 1-3acres of land with expenses running about $15,000. for a net of $36,000 aka $17/hr at 40hrs/wk.
The answer is it depends but it is 100% possible. Just don't grow corn or hay, instead niche market and high value (herbs/mushroom/value added products).
 
pollinator
Posts: 393
Location: Denmark 57N
68
food preservation fungi cooking trees foraging
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What profitability comes down too in the end is overheads, I started a tiny little box delivery scheme in my local village last year, I spent about $1k on seeds, two small pollytunnels, and insect netting. we already had hoes/spades etc. From that we provided ourselves with 6 months of vegetables and sold 2-3 boxes a week which brought in $1500 in sales my property taxes which I would have had to pay anyway come in at $312 for just under 2 acres (the bit the house stands on and the "garden" are taxed at a different rate) That means I did turn a profit, not just a cash profit but the pollytunnels and insect netting have at least another year of life. Reducing overheads is the way to go, if property taxes are eating everything then the only real option is to move, or you will just be fighting them and getting nowhere, same with water.  This year the plan is to either do 10 boxes here, or to have moved and have a road stand. either way it will make money, sure not as much as I could make flipping burgers, but that really isn't the point.
 
Nina Jay
pollinator
Posts: 290
Location: Southern Finland zone 5
86
books fungi goat homestead tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
At the moment we actually do something similar to Skandi, a mixture between homesteading and farming  We sell enough to get our own food free and pay for all the direct farm-related expenses, like bedding, chicken feed, hay for the cows, hand tools, electric fencing etc. We don't get a salary from our farm, so for our other money needs we need to work other jobs. But we have mostly been able to work from home so it fits quite well into our schedule. I must admit we don't make much money, our income is  "under poverty level" most years. Sometimes we try to make more, if we have to, like now when we have just had to build a new home to replace the old one that was too moldy to be worth renovating. But we eat very well for people living "under poverty level"!

I'm inclined to think now, after about 10 years of experience trying many things, that in the future it is best for me to concentrate on
- growing myself the things I enjoy growing, that grow well on our farm and that don't require expensive machinery
- buying things that I don't enjoy growing and that have too many pests or require heavy machinery
- selling mainly things that grow reliably, are easy to handle and store and have a relatively long shelf-life and high price per kg: garlic, honey, eggs
- all the other veggies (potatoes, salad greens, herbs, beets, carrots, brassicas etc.) I plan to sell directly from the farm as "I pick - you select, weigh and wash". I intend to put up a facebook or other internet group where I let people know every week what's available and then they can come to the farm on a certain day (say every Thursday evening) and choose from what I've harvested. I don't intend to wash the produce (that's the time consuming part) but will provide good washing and packing station with running water so they can wash if they want, to their standards. The customers will weigh or count what they took and pay in cash what they took, there will be a change box if for some reason I'm not nearby. This system will work for our neighbours just fine, they are honest people and if they make some mistakes in their payments, so what I don't expect to make oodles of money from this veggie scheme, but I won't have to work very hard either and I can continue to provide my neighbours with fresh organic vegetables and I really like that.

I might be able to make a decent salary from farming if I sold something like greens to restaurants and grocery stores and I've thought about that but... I think I'm not the right person for it. To handle enough produce would either require me to automate and I don't like that or to be someone who is fast at washing and packing. I'm not fast, I'm clumsy. I can make much more money per hour doing something like translating or writing, which I'm pretty fast at. Granted, there isn't that much market demand for translating or writing, but I can do what little work I can get my hands on and make a better salary in less time.



 
When it is used for evil, then watch out! When it is used for good, then things are much nicer. Like this tiny ad:
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
https://permies.com/t/95922/Intrinsic-Agriculture-Altered-Chaos
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!