Skot Colacicco

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since Oct 23, 2015
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Fey witch, pagan Minister, no-till farmer, permaculture obsessed.
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Auburn, California. Zone 9
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Recent posts by Skot Colacicco

@Pete Host

I love this! There are three things you said I want to highlight, and comment on.

pete host wrote:
My short answer is : there are none,.....At least, I haven't met one in my own country, and I've been working with farmers for almost 30 years.

This is a huge thing to know, and perhaps even be relieved about, because knowing this will keep you from reviewing the same road that others have failed on.

Right now, in any modern country, Labor (including your own) is just too valuable. In developing countries Labor is inexpensive and available, while Commodity goods are expensive and difficult to find. This means that homesteading and growing your own food makes economic sense.

In the USA and other "1st world countries" the opposite is true. Labor is expensive and Commodities are cheap. Why? Because they are all subsidized by an Imperial regime we collectively call "The West". Until this changes. Until our labor is valued. Until we stop subsidizing corn, wheat, and soy, and start subsidizing small farmers again, there will be no room for Permaculture, or any small mixed perennial system, to stand up to market forces.

The second thing you said:

pete host wrote: "But given the current status of the world, and given our benevolent leaders don't lead us into some totalitarian dystopia, profitability even on small scale could come faster than most think. So I'm a strong advocate of : If you can afford it, farm some, even on a thenth of an acre. Or become friends and give some of your working time to people who farm.

This is huge because it highlights the real value of homesteading. The market forces I laid out in the paragraph above are unimportant in face of real change.

The skills you gain are more important and valuable than anything you are able to sell at market.

The skills ALONE make this whole thing worthwhile, as our society appears to be reaching a breaking point (see 'totalitarian dystopia').

Whenever this has historically happened the people with skills and friends tend to do the best.

And your third point:

pete host wrote:  Now there are farmers like Fortier, who live correctly from their enterprise, but he works his ass off, on a very rationalized veggie farm, and he has tons of street smarts. This model works. There are other legit small scale farmers who publish here and there on the internets, but most of the time, they're busy farming.

This is my experience as well. Farming is possible as a life-blood business.

Anyone (in theory) can do this, from an economic standpoint, if you are willing to abandon all pretense of permaculture and simply focus on good soil management, good farm management, and good economic/business principles.

Collectively I would call these three things "Hard Work".

Worth it though! Keep at it! =)
1 year ago
What an incredibly complex topic! Finances and farming go hand in hand. With money being number one. But that doesn't mean it also can't feel good and be good for the planet. I work and live on two different farms, of which I will give examples and number$ for you.

Business first, Farmer second. Anything else is called Gardening.

I think the only people making the best profit margin in Permaculture are Designers and Consultants. Any service based skill is going to be valued highly.

The profitible farms that I work on and know of are all doing something permaculture-esque, and most without perennial systems. Why? A lot of reasons, which may be a topic for another post. But mostly because there is a ton of money selling people what they want through Farmers Markets in any semi-affluent community in the United states. Thee good money and lower overhead to startup and grow annual vegetables as a business in most markets is very tempting. It's also very difficult and complex to maintain a healthy system of annuals. Not impossible, but a Farmer must behave artfully and skillfully or a pest outbreak is imminent. Nature doesn't like infinite annuals, but She'll allow it.

I live on a farm called Shared Abundance, run by an amazing woman who is turning 75 years in a few months. The farm is 25 years old. It has been increasingly profitable for 25 years, the first 5 years being very very difficult, as for most start-up's. I live in the 14' yurt. I do not work for this farm, I only live here.

Album for Shared Abundance Farms:[/img]

From 14 acres of wild permaculture neglect, she grosses about $150k per year (didn't ask her Net). She sells about $100k in kiwi, and the other $50k in berries, grapes, mixed veg and propagated starts of rare herbs and tomatoes. This is not a lot of money farming, at least where we live in the Sacramento region. She has four employees. One bad year and it's usually toast for small farms like hers. But when she was younger, she only needed one employee, as she did the rest. She is facing a very big problem in America: The problem of Aging Farmers.

There is seems to be no current way to sustain oneself in modern America by trying to compete with the mainstream market (ie, where most of the money is).
I believe that most of us are willing to simply drop out of the system if there was a concrete viable way to do so.
Truth is, each person makes their own way.
We must be the Farmer, and then do the Market maybe twice per week, also hire people, and be a good boss for others.

Some people eat it up and love being farmers. I count myself one of them and I know I'm not alone.
There are some freaky wonderful plant people everywhere making money to make end meet and living good enough lives financially but mostly are just happy.

Where I work is different that where I live.

Album for Hillview Farms:

I am currently working on a profitable farm called Hillview Farms in the hills of Auburn, CA. Hillview is "Beyond-Organic" and CCOF. We are a wealthy community of the mostly Red persuasion. From here, I see the demand for fresh, beautiful organic food has risen to the point where even grumpy old men like my dad would go to a Farmers Market and happily spend money for vegetables. The awakening is truly upon us! :)

We are no-till, and we only grow annuals.

Mostly lettuce, carrots, and squash and tomatoes as 80% of our income. Then a mix of about 45 other vegetables, with the owner, Michael, really loving to experiment and be open to trying things out.

Growing all annual veg all year long is not very permaculture. I would say the only way we intentionally "incorporate animals" is by adding NPK from Chicken meal/bone. We are quick flip veg all year long, with short rest periods per bed. No cover crops because they drop the profit margin of the businesss to failure. I have yet to see a way it can be done in annual systems, but I'm keeping my eyes open to something we've overlooked. I'd love to hear how others have dealt with Annual production that follows through to a regular profitible customer base. I know it must be being done somewhere!

Yet we use no pesticide chemicals that aren't either 1 Made of plants (ie pyrethrins and Neem) or 2. Good bugs as our IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This earns us a special title in the CCOF as "Beyond Organic".

If you are wondering about labels, it's to make the point that they are simply marketing. It's a way to differentiate yourself at market and have a talking point. Other than that, you still need to farm hard and sell veg/fruit/meat/eggs/etc if you gonna make it as a business.

We still have most Supermarkets that won't play with a small Farmer so alternate markets need be found.

We do 2 Farmers Markets per week, and have wholesale customers in the region. Each is about 50% of the income for the property. Our beds are 100' X 2.5' with 1.5' walkways. We seek to earn $2000/bed/year, but the last few years have been wild weather and nothing is as it was post-covid. Since we have 220 beds we aim for about $200k a year in veggies which pays for farm overhead, 4 full time employees and 2 part time employees, and maybe the Farmer gets paid at the end.

The wholesale redistributors are about 50% of our sales, sometimes more, sometimes less.
For this model, seek first the vegetable hubs in the area that serve to the restaurants as middle men with a more diverse offering than your farm can.
Every city or region has one, and many will pay for "weird things" like duck eggs, or fresh single variety pork, or asparagus. As long as you can provide some kind of supply to them all year long. Most of them aren't going to buy from someone who just has a bunch of tomatoes once a year.
We work with The Food Hub and others that are paying us directly, at a wholesale cost in bulk.
Pro-tip: Set minimums for any order working with Wholesalers and set really good boundaries or you will eventually burn out and die.

From my experience farming/ranching in CA for only the last 5 or 6 years is that most successful, profitable Farmers/Ranchers have NO TIME AT ALL for Social Media.
Some of the better organized ones will hire a company, or they might have a young employee that can use one of the dang cell phone thingies to do some videos for marketing or to teach.

I always like watching  Stefan Sobkowiak videos. His teaching has brought me much joy. But while there are maybe dozens doing similar things, there are too few people like him. Willing to do so much running a business and also running an Orchard/Farm/Ranch etc.

Love to hear all your thoughts on this and more war stories from farmers please!

In kindness, Skot
2 years ago
Welcome, Eric!

Beautiful work you’ve done. Much more like this is needed.

I live in a small cattle town near Chico, CA that has about 2,000 people and 20,000 cattle. But most people have no idea how to raise a cow naturally! I see instances of mastitis and other inflammatory imbalances and wish more folks cared about the health of those cows as much asc they care about profit.

To be fair, there are quite a few great folks here who are running restorative grazing practices and are in tune with the natural balance of those herds that provide thier livelihood.

Have a great day and thanks for your work!
2 years ago
Welcome, Joseph!

I love the work you are doing with the landrace tomatoes. Received mine and excited for next season to try them out!
3 years ago
Welcome, Alan! (And Paul too, of course)

As always, I look forward to every PDC, workshop, or strange giveaway that Paul puts together, for we all end up benefiting from the knowledge.

Whether it's a product that comes out of the venture, a series of videos, or a boxed set of DVDs, every weird thing that happens creates a fun set of learning for the rest of us.

Who knows what'll happen next?!?!
5 years ago
Lookin' good! Got both emails, about 15 minutes apart, in my inbox proper.

Keep up the great work!