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Paul wrote a post as a reaction to an article in the Huffington Post about permaculture. It is the story of Gert and Ferd. Ferd commutes to work, buys all his food, buys all his entertainment and has little disposable income. Gert is living the permaculture dream; she is not rich, but she would not know what to do with more money. She is, by definition, living the life of a millionaire. She represents a type of person living a permaculture path that do not necessarily share their experience in writing or through other media. It is just one scenario, one way to live a permaculture way. There are many ways.
After Paul telling the story, the discussion moves onto other topics such as land access, financial strategy, community, how living wage is a relative concept, chem ag vs. permaculture, and much more.
the story of Gert thread
Huffington Post article about permaculture
deep roots - an alternative to buying land at wheaton labs
financial strategy forum
permaculture bootcamp - boots-to-roots
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I like how you describe Gert and elaborate a bit on her story. I also love how her way of life re-defines 'living wage'.
What was especially interesting was your discussion on getting land. I agree, sitting in a coffee shop isn't going to get you free land. It's almost as if the first step to getting land is to learn how to care for it. There are stories all over about people who did good deeds and learned to steward the land, then suddenly they had land of their own. Hoping Fred makes it to the finished line and earns his Deep Roots. He comes across as a pretty darn awesome guy!
Paul's place offers an opportunity to earn land - I wonder if there are other places in the world that have a system in place like this? So many communities seem to want a financial investment from new members. You mention a place in WA state. I wonder if there are other places in the world where a person can earn their place?
Ps. How can I spell fef-fer-ness - so I can search the recipe? Sounds amazing! I would love to bake my own Batchelor Chow!
Think dorm rooms or barracks.
Oh, and about the land... I'm still working out a nice way to say this.
Land seems to fall into two categories. Too expensive and not worth what they are asking. ( welcome to the real estate market )
The land one wants is too expensive. The land one can afford is too far away and sucks.
.... Goto http://www.landsofamerica.com/Nevada/all-land/500-10000/sort-acre-high/
50 acres, ~ $9,900 USD.
goto : http://www.landsofamerica.com/Nevada/all-land/500-100000/sort-acre-high/
674.4 acres , ~ 99,900 USD Over a square mile. several of them.
Land is cheap. Land you want where you want, with all the stuff you want... well... that might not be so cheap if you try pricing retail.
Also, a bit of scale of reality.
The Number of acres in the USA is 2,260,419,500 ( yes yes, it's the CIA, shut your pie hole : https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html )
The Number of people in the USA is 323,995,528 ( same )
If it were to all be divied up fair and even like... that would be 7 acres per person. Minus some state parks and some rather huge western military reservations... that'd drop down a bit, call it half.
50 acres somewhere is 14 citizens worth of area... I'm not sure I rate 14 citizens of area and responsibility, though it's kinda neat thinking about buying 50 acres at about $10k USD. Or about a years minimum wages or about the same amount of money the average American has in credit card debt.
... makes one think a bit....
The land one wants is too expensive. The land one can afford is too far away and sucks.
This is an interesting idea. I've often felt that way. Lately, I've seen a few things to change my mind.
Expencive implies that we are paying money for our land. I would like share a few examples of why this isn't always the case
There is a gardener and seed man who lives on the next island over from us named Dan. Over 30 years ago he got a job running a kitchen garden for a retreat - growing the food for the kitchen to cook for the guests. He was frustrated that good seeds that thrive in organic conditions were difficult to find, so he started saving his own seeds. He had extra seed, so he started offering some for sale. He didn't own his own land, he didn't even have optimal land to work with, but through sheer persistence, he developed one of the best organic, GMO free, seed companies in Canada. People liked what he did so they gave him 2 acres of prime land in one of the most expensive places of Canada - probably worth close to $750,000 at today's prices. More if you count the improvements he made.
His first step wasn't to buy land, it was to learn how to care for it. He saw something lacking the world (quality, organic seeds) and he worked hard to make it happen and spread awareness of it. For more on his story and values, check out his book saving seeds as if our lives depend on it.
Paul Wheaton is another wonderful example that you don't need money to have land of your own. He's offering land to people who show their interest in permaculture and are willing to work hard for it.
Another shining example is Carol Deppe. She's one of the most amazing people when it comes to gardening (both small scale and large). Yet she owns no land. She rents and leases land, often in exchange for part of her harvest. With the work she does, it won't be long before someone gives her land. She's amazing.
A friend of mine with Gert-ish tendencies (let's call her Jay). Jay is a pensioner who makes well below minimum wage, rents her home, so there goes 60% of her income off the top. Because she knows how to garden and grow food, Jay's friend who has a large swath of land, has given Jay full access to the garden. Jay grows 95% of her food on that plot of land - well, I say 95%, she does a lot of swapping with other gardeners. In exchange, her friend gets the garden tended and some of the harvest. Sure, Jay doesn't own the land - but that makes no difference to her. She reaps all the benefits of having land (except housing). It's 20 minutes from the centre of town, by bicycle (Jay has no car).
I think this general theme fits with what Paul is saying in this podcast. Land doesn't always cost money.
Now the question of prime land.
Oh, how much of my life I've wanted prime land. Then suddenly one day, I looked at the marginal land I have to work with and noticed that areas of it are now prime.
Many of the techniques I've learned here at permies.com can transform marginal land into prime land. Actually, it's very satisfying to take land that no one wants and create a system that produces more food than others do on prime land using modern methods.
It's almost like we are trapped in one way of thinking about land. Like we need to own land first before we learn how to be Gerts. What's more, us would-be-Gerts think we need to own lot of land. We forget that learning how to grow things doesn't require owning land. Dan the seedman runs his operation on just a handful of acres, suppling seeds to gardeners and farmers across the country. If he can do all that, feed himself, feed the resort, and grow seeds for sale on such a small plot of land, why would we need so much more? Maybe the first step is to practice growing food in a small area like an allotment and see for ourselves how little land we actually need?
When I lived in the City, I had a tiny allotment garden. It cost $50 a year (the price of a nice dinner for two in a restaurant in our town). I started with a tiny plot with less than 1/2 an inch of depleted soil. In three years, by using compost from our kitchen and the organic matter left over from harvest, I had almost two feet of prime soil and was growing enough food for three families (minus staple crops). Given the same opportunity again, with what I know now, I could grow staple crops and improve the soil faster.
For a different view on living the Gert life without owning land, check out The Resillient Gardener.
I was lucky and was told a secret a bunch of years ago. Look for the worst land in the county, it'll be cheap. Then give it some time, space and help to get better. It's one tactic to get where you want to be.
One can translate the permiculture millionaire idea to land prices.
A 100% setup and running permaculture system that can support 1 person is in some ways monetarily equivalent to a lifetime of income. If everything is there, you don't need income after all. Arguably it's worth more due to not being used up at the end of the lifetime, or less due to taxes and such... Lets go with one for a moment. What is one life (income) worth? More than most people can pay in their lifetimes while holding down a job and all that other stuff. At minimum wage that's about $500k USD, per person. At average wage that's about twice that or more. And that's why we have to build it our selves. The maths don't work out to borrow for it. The maths don't work out to save for it. Time doesn't work out for it unless you only have one kid between a bunch of people and set them up with it when you go. So buying in isn't really an option in a market rate economy.
R Ranson wrote: What's more, us would-be-Gerts think we need to own lot of land. We forget that learning how to grow things doesn't require owning land.
I really like the Joel Salatin ideas of a fully road mobile farm. Then rent some land for a bit, make it better and move on with better lands and profit towards a permanent farm as results. In the olden times people use to do things like raise up a heard of cattle on the back pastures to pay for a kids nursing school the next year... that sounds a lot better than decades of student debt.
R Ranson wrote: Dan the seedman runs his operation on just a handful of acres, suppling seeds to gardeners and farmers across the country. If he can do all that, feed himself, feed the resort, and grow seeds for sale on such a small plot of land, why would we need so much more?
There are niches. The magic is in finding one. The niches don't scale up directly though. We only need one in a few thousand seed people to produce all the seed we need. And maybe one in a hundred to give us more variates than we can manage. Like with SPIN farming, or anything really, eventually the market becomes saturated and the economics become very hard.
Land I can live in, it's worth my life, hopefully I'll figure out a way to pay a little less.