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anyone here make money from permaculture?

Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Does anyone here make money? This is a very blunt question, but let me be more specific. Does anyone here make enough money on their agriculture (permaculture) sales to support themselves (pay bills, mortgage, clothing, electric, etc).

I know there are designers and consultants making money teaching people permaculture, selling books, etc. However, I have searched this board over and have not really found anyone who said that they themselves made enough income from their homesteading/farming operation to support themselves throughout the year. People mention sepp holzer, but no one seems to know how much he makes and his income is clearly supported by his book sales and tour fees.

I have read many of the things that Paul Wheaton has written, watched EVERY youtube video, and listened to some of his podcasts. I agree with him that to make this work you have to make money. Otherwise you become just another failed farmer without a farm.

I believe that farming is going to be one of the most important careers, and quite a lucrative as well, in the future. Food shortages are just one step away from where we are today. The prices at the grocery store are already out of control. Portion sizes have decreased significantly in an attempt to falsely keep prices from skyrocketing.

Can permaculture be the farming of the future? From all I have read and the production claims people have made you would thing the answer is yes. If all this is true why isn't anyone making any money? Is anyones net income from sales of food, medicinal plants, animals greater than $50,000? $100,000?

Why am I asking? I want to believe that permaculture can be as great as it sounds, but I have not seen any evidence that it has worked for more than possibly one man (Sepp Holzer). If the production is as great as people say, than we should be able to make a good living without the government subsidies that other farmers rely upon to survive.

I am a potential investor in permaculture. I make a significant annual income. I am not independently wealthy. I work very hard for every dollar I earn, but it is enough to easily support my family and a permaculture farm for some years while it is in it's infancy until it can start producing enough to become profitable. The question is if I did so, would I ever get my money back? Would I ever make any money. The problem that many permaculturists have is that they cannot get banks to loan them the money for a full scale piece of property. The answer to that is an investor/partner who is willing to take a financial risk for a potential reward. But is there a reward or just all risk? Are there more financially rewarding investments out there? Of course, but I want to support something I believe in. I want to support something that makes a difference. If i cannot retire till later, fine, as long as I can retire before I cannot work anymore.

Honestly, I was disappointed when I came to this board and failed to find evidence of financial success.

Maybe permaculture is great on a small scale to help individuals and families to be more independent and to eat better food. Maybe it cannot work on a larger scale. Please prove my impression wrong.

Diego
Alder Burns
pollinator

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 958
Location: northern California
    
  31
I know for myself, and likely for a lot of people aspiring to permaculture, the economic side of it starts with downsizing, simplifying. For me, only transitioning from one location to another has succeeded in making me need $50K in one year, much less more than that? I don't think I could blow $100K in a year if someone handed it to me, except for farm startup. My values are just that strong toward DIY and not needing so much....contentment.....


Alder Burns (adiantum)
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 876
Location: Burlington, NC, USA - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  28
Diego de la Vega wrote:Honestly, I was disappointed when I came to this board and failed to find evidence of financial success.


There is a group of people who initially look into permaculture purely at the financial end. I believe this is normal reaction for people trying to transition from the "rat race" as it is the culture which puts so much emphasis on the price tag, the bottom line, making it to the black. To use math in an attempt to describe the value of success would be difficult because not everything can be measured so tangibly. I suspect your value system is still developing because your interested in the sustainable is scratching at your conscience and you appear to be a forward or "future oriented" individual because of the repeated notion of investing and building onto something.

Let me warn you ahead of time, if you are chasing the next derivative or stock option you may be disappointed. Success in permaculture is weighted on building a sustainable and sufficient system. It is not based on linear projections which ultimately are unsustainable because everything has a bubble, or maximum carrying capacity. With this said, yes, you can make a decent living. Because a "decent living" is relative, to describe the emotional constraint I would say that no, you will not afford the mega-yacht with permaculture. But to add, I will also say that yes, you can facilitate a life of fullness, balance and spiritual well being as well as provide a reasonable surplus (including economic) to you and your family. The rat race is yours to choose.....

The Rat Race (analogy)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_race


Those who hammer their swords into plows will plow for those who don't!
Patrick Mann


Joined: Dec 06, 2011
Posts: 242
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
As far as I can tell, the agro-forestry folks seem to be the most successful in terms of running a self-supporting business.


http://thirteenvegetables.wordpress.com
Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 2510
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  68
Howdy Diego, welcome to permies.
Here is one example.

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

And another.

http://www.permacultureportal.com/

I am sure there are others. And yes both of these operations help support themselves through classes etc.

If you are looking at investing in a farm, that I believe will have a nice return, you might want to see if you could help Paul buy his place in Montana.
chrissy bauman


Joined: Sep 11, 2012
Posts: 123
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
make money? i'm more interested in the smaller steps it will take to feed the family really good food sustainably. money will probably come after that, if there is a lot of abundance.
there's quite a bit about making money with farming at the homesteading today forum.


Http://oldescrubland.blogspot.com
Shelley Smith


Joined: Feb 20, 2013
Posts: 1
Decent question to ask I suppose. I'm in a situation of being a single mom who has no desire to be a part of the rat race. I also want to be able to feed myself and my daughter in the healthiest way possible which has lead me to the Weston A Price Foundation and just now learning about permaculture. It's a lifestyle I would love to have but I really have no money so trying to figure out the best way to go about turning my passion into something lucrative. I have no desire to be rich (as far as money goes). I do a good job now of providing plenty of healthy food and hand me down clothes for us but I do need some money. Trying to figure it all out!
Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Amedean Messan wrote:

Let me warn you ahead of time, if you are chasing the next derivative or stock option you may be disappointed...you will not afford the mega-yacht with permaculture. But to add, I will also say that yes, you can facilitate a life of fullness, balance and spiritual well being as well as provide a reasonable surplus (including economic) to you and your family. The rat race is yours to choose.....



I think you misunderstand me. I am not talking about wealth or riches. I am talking about making ends meet. I am talking about making sure that the wolf is not always at the door. Simple survival can be a rat race if your margins are always as thin as a razor's edge, or worse, you are operating a homestead in the red.

In order to live your dream, and build something that can last, you have to make it profitable. Otherwise you will quickly loose the precious land you worked so hard to build into productivity. A farm is a business. Either the farm is profitable and self sustaining, or unprofitable and eventually liquidates. If you have another income stream that allows you to support an unprofitable farm, than you can keep it going. But that is a loosing proposition that will eventually exhaust you.

Again, I am not wondering who here can afford expensive things. Like I mentioned in the original post, I want to know if anyone is able to make ends meet through the sale of food, medicinal plants, or animals (as opposed to supporting their farming with alternate income streams). If you cannot at least support yourself and your family with your operation, the dream will not last long before you have to wake up and choose a different rat race;o)

Diego

PS I hate mega yachts for one simple reason...I cannot afford any of them ;o)
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 236
    
    7
If you want to make money then your farm is a business.
There are also those who see it as a lifestyle choice.
Do people make money yes

Think wood lots for veneer lumber. The difference is the mixture of trees and the density of trees.
Think nuts, again there are tree farms and there are mixed use nuts harvested.
Think gginseng, again you have natural growth the pays more per pound and field grown.
Think mushrooms, they are now getting good at producing a number of different types.
Think culinary herbs like ramps, some native foods are specialty items.
Think pigs, some of the worlds most expensive pork is forage forest feed in spain.
Think native plant seeds, there is a market for some plants.
Think farm tourisim, would you pay to stay at a mega farm corn field?
Think event farm, real corn mazes, pick your own pumkin, value added items, etc.

Is this mega agro, no. Can you put together a business, yes.
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 876
Location: Burlington, NC, USA - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  28
Diego de la Vega wrote:Honestly, I was disappointed when I came to this board and failed to find evidence of financial success.


I was just surprised that out of around 50,000 posts by various users you failed to find evidence of financial success. My immediate hypothesis was that your desire for tangible gain was much higher than the average permie or you did some curious browsing and prematurely formed a definitive opinion.

It is fine, you are human like myself and I view you no less a person. I understand my interests are not universal and the pursuit of happiness treads different paths but my experience and biased opinion tells me when someone becomes closer to nature they themselves become more complete. The lives we live today are alien to the natural human state.
Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Wyomiles Hogan wrote:Howdy Diego, welcome to permies.
Here is one example.

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

And another.

http://www.permacultureportal.com/

I am sure there are others. And yes both of these operations help support themselves through classes etc.

If you are looking at investing in a farm, that I believe will have a nice return, you might want to see if you could help Paul buy his place in Montana.


Thanks for the links. I have heard of polyface farm before, but had not really looked into it much. I love there philosophy and how they are completely transparent in all they do. I will have to make visit sometime soon.

As for investing with Paul, he seems like a very enterprising guy who would want to minimize partners and control his own destiny. I am sure he already has financing in place for the farm or a good plan on how to get it. Also, I believe he wants to buy something like 200 acres which I could not do at this point. It will take me years to have enough for something that big.

Diego
Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Amedean Messan wrote:
Diego de la Vega wrote:Honestly, I was disappointed when I came to this board and failed to find evidence of financial success.


I was just surprised that out of around 50,000 posts by various users you failed to find evidence of financial success. My immediate hypothesis was that your desire for tangible gain was much higher than the average permie or you did some curious browsing and prematurely formed a definitive opinion.

It is fine, you are human like myself and I view you no less a person. I understand my interests are not universal and the pursuit of happiness treads different paths but my experience and biased opinion tells me when someone becomes closer to nature they themselves become more complete. The lives we live today are alien to the natural human state.


Lol! I love your response. It is true, I am human ;o)

Here is how my thought process went (over the course of several years):

1. Permaculture is too cool for school. I love the idea and want to be part of it. I want to live it.

2. Hey maybe after years of saving money, buying land, and working hard on that land I can become a "permaculture farmer"/homesteader (like my grandfather before me) and quit my current job.

3. Wow permies.com has this really cool forum and they even have one devoted to "farm income."

4. Hold the phone, there are lots of questions about "is this viable," "how can I do more to pay my bills," etc.

5. Maybe it does not work as well as some claim or maybe it is really only good for feeding your family, but will not work for a full time job.

6. Hey, I can ask the nice people at permies.com if they are able to make this work financially as their sole source of income and they will tell me what I need to know.

7. Wow, that is weird, when I mention money some people seem to think that is all I care about. Now I know how Paul feels when he brings up money in a forum devoted to the discussion of money and gets judged for it. Or when he mentions Sepp Holzer and people attack Sepp for his business plan and income streams. Really, really weird. Almost as if people are watching the money board waiting for someone to post and then say, "Ha, I gotcha! Your a money lover!"

8. What is even stranger is the fact that not one person who has responded has said, "Hey I do permaculture for a living and we are able to pay our bills, feed our kids, love life, and we are not sinking further and further into debt."

Confessions of a moneylover: The most expensive item I ever purchased was a used Ford pickup truck with 139,000 miles on it. I love this truck. No, not more than my kids. I love them more. Oh, and I love my wife more too. But I really do love this truck.

Diego
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
If it appears that most of us are not profitable (in the sense of our lands paying for everything), I think we need to look at several factors.

Most of the people here have full time jobs somewhere else than our land. Most need to pay a mortgage, which means the land will cost 3X the asking price, plus lender mandated insurance. We also tend to buy 'marginal' land...few of us can afford prime real estate. For a permie, land not suitable for conventional agriculture is what we seek. This puts challenges in front of us...if it was too easy, it wouldn't be as rewarding.

By holding a city job, it limits how much time we can put into building the infrastructure needed for a self sustaining operation. While a commercial ag farm expects a crop or two per year to survive, we are hoping for enough annual veggies to feed our families until the fruits, nuts, and other perennials become mature enough to provide a surplus.

Permaculture is not a "turn-key" operation that will provide instant profit. It takes years of labor to develop soils, flora/fauna, and a balanced system. Each year until then will take an investment of seeds, plants, labor and etc. Money out, for a return in the future.

Permaculture is done for the love of the land, and a life choice, not the love of money.
Don't be surprised, or put off that many of us aren't looking to get rich. We have bigger fish to fry.

I see it as a 'movement' for environmentalists, survivalists, and safe food advocates, but with little interest from investors. The return on the buck is there, but it may be many years before you see it.

Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
John Polk wrote:If it appears that most of us are not profitable (in the sense of our lands paying for everything), I think we need to look at several factors.

Most of the people here have full time jobs somewhere else than our land. Most need to pay a mortgage, which means the land will cost 3X the asking price, plus lender mandated insurance. We also tend to buy 'marginal' land...few of us can afford prime real estate. For a permie, land not suitable for conventional agriculture is what we seek. This puts challenges in front of us...if it was too easy, it wouldn't be as rewarding.

By holding a city job, it limits how much time we can put into building the infrastructure needed for a self sustaining operation. While a commercial ag farm expects a crop or two per year to survive, we are hoping for enough annual veggies to feed our families until the fruits, nuts, and other perennials become mature enough to provide a surplus.

Permaculture is not a "turn-key" operation that will provide instant profit. It takes years of labor to develop soils, flora/fauna, and a balanced system. Each year until then will take an investment of seeds, plants, labor and etc. Money out, for a return in the future.

Permaculture is done for the love of the land, and a life choice, not the love of money.
Don't be surprised, or put off that many of us aren't looking to get rich. We have bigger fish to fry.

I see it as a 'movement' for environmentalists, survivalists, and safe food advocates, but with little interest from investors. The return on the buck is there, but it may be many years before you see it.



Thanks John. Great info.

This was the feeling I got as I have read the boards, that most if not all seem to have other careers that support their permaculture. Do you know of many who have arrived at the other side of things and now have that surplus? Has it started to give more than it takes for anyone? Those are who I am sure we would all love to hear from so that they can give us a pattern we can emulate.

Diego
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 876
Location: Burlington, NC, USA - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  28
It is a movement, myself included. The survivalist thing is getting to be a big industry all to itself and there is a renewed interest in being less dependent on an unstable system.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
Most of the successful ones I know of were amongst the early pioneers.
And, most of them do earn some of their money doing tours/lectures/classes.

A local example is http://www.permacultureportal.com/" target="_new" rel="nofollow"> Bullock Bros - Orcas Island

They also supplement their income with annual sales of bare root fruit trees.
Just as a permaculture farm is a mixture of many types of plants, their income also must come from a variety of sources.

I am certain that there are many profitable ones out there.
Perhaps they are too busy to hang around on the internet.
Or, perhaps they just want to fly under the radar. Many would prefer to remain unknown.

chrissy bauman


Joined: Sep 11, 2012
Posts: 123
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
Restoration Agriculture
Dan Cruickshank


Joined: Aug 18, 2012
Posts: 59
Location: Virginia
Diego,

Every now and again this discussion comes up on permies. It is a very reasonable and logical question to ask, and the discussion is important.

The last time I remember reading responses to questions similar to yours, it took some time for the answer to come back: those that are making money at permaculture tend not to be reading the forums 24/7. It may take a couple of days for them to chime in. However, there are several permies that share their experiences on the forums and do make a reasonable profit.

As for me, No, I am not making a profit at permaculture. At best, I am only a newbie, and at worst I am just sitting on the fence as you are: on the outside looking in. I am trying to put together my own business case analysis before convincing myself and my family to jump ship from the rat race, leave town, and buy some acres where agriculture activities are not considered nuisances.

There are some key aspects to the business case to consider:

- I live in an expensive house, in an expensive area, near a large city. Moving to the country (with cash, not loans) would cut my largest expense (housing) out of the budget--if I could find a reasonable place I could afford.

- My next biggest expense is at the grocery store and the dairy farmer who keeps our family filled with wholesome local milk. My wife and I have seven little ones, ranging from 14 (big stomach), to 2 (eats like a bird). Organic food is expensive. Chemically raised food is scary. If I could only raise food for my own family, that would eliminate my second greatest expense.

- My third largest expense is taxes. Anything I can make for myself, such as food that doesn't get counted by the tax man, almost doubles its value.

- As expensive as it is where I live, it costs to commute to my job. This cost is in both time (10 hrs per week), miles on the car, and gas in addition to the fact that I'm not making any money during that time.

- Power, heating and air conditioning make up the next largest expense. If I could, via wood heating, vines over the windows, and/or solar somethings, cut my power and gas bills, then my living expenses have just gone way down.

At this point, how much money do I need to make to be "comfortable"?

Dan


And the LORD God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. - Gen 2:15
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 236
    
    7
There seems to be an unspoken view that permaculture is a lifestyle more than an economic model. You see phrases like:

“you can facilitate a life of fullness, balance and spiritual wellbeing as well as provide a reasonable surplus (including economic) to you and your family”. Economic is included as an afterthought.
“make a reasonable profit.” The word reasonable profit appears many times but no one defines reasonable.
“As for making compromises for profit sake, well that’s just par for the profit course.” This speaks for itself.

“Either the farm is profitable and self-sustaining, or unprofitable and eventually liquidates.”

In America you do not own your own land. Just stop paying local, state, or federal taxes and see how long it takes to have your property slapped with a lean or put up for a sheriffs auction. Also, any permaculture system in America will have to function to some extend within a cash economy. One can reduce their interaction but it is almost impossible to eliminate it completely. A purpose of an economy is to decide what and how goods and services will be produced, and how they will be distributed to whom. Every society has systems the meet their basic needs or the society collapses. Now one can make a case that our current society in America is too materialistic. That we should factor success in terms other than monetary profit. I can respect that.

But one should also consider that accumulation of wealth is an important part of permaculture. Before you scream at me for this statement think about this. It requires land to do this. You have to somehow get enough resource to get the land to start or rent land that you may never own. Now I can show you countless examples that clearly show that people are much less likely to make improvements to land that they do not own. So means of ownership is important. Next comes improvements over time. Very likely it will require years of work growing trees and other woody material. As this grows value increases. So you spend a life time and make a lot of progress. Now land must pass to next generation. If estate taxes are high land may have to be sold to pay for it. This is very likely the end of this permaculture project. But if land can be passed then next generation can add value to the land. So it is very possible that each generation is creating wealth. I have seen this in real life where first generation starts a farm or business and several generations improve, expand, and build upon the work of the last generation. But this generally requires a sound business model and some type of sustainable profit.
Jeff McLeod


Joined: Nov 09, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
    
    2
Is Polyface really a 'premaculture' operation? IMHO they are simply following more traditional pre-industrial methods of farming/land stewardship. As most people have mentioned the bulk of people on the forum aren't full timers. Some of us (me included) are still on that endless search for land. For myself at least any venture I undertake and leave full time employment to pursue will have to pay - at least enough for health insurance, taxes etc.

Peace

Jeff
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
I don't think you WILL get many hits on folks making money on this site, because this is a site about "inputs".

The whole idea of permaculture is to set up a "downhill" inertia, where inputs come into and onto the land in the easiest possible manner.

The zen of lazy production.

To make "outputs", you are going to have to niche up. And those folks that have , are out on their "specialty" sites now, flogging their outputs.

specialty chickens, quail.
medicinal herbs
seeds
worms
mushrooms
fertilizers
etc.

It is hard to output even enough quantity to compete at the farmers markets, since they end up having to row crop to up their production.

This site is to open your eyes to set up land to give you easy outputs, but not overwhelming outputs, because those are a "waste" stream in a small holding.
Those overwhelming outputs, are also disease and pest vectors, drawing monoculture pests that can easily knock out an entire system, unless you "protect" it with pesticides.


Need to have a fence? think of planting belgian fences that output apples or nuts.
Need to fertilize? how to plant green fertilizers in one area that feed another without having to purchases outside inputs.

This is a learning site, to teach you to think, and how to observe.
If you want an output site, you need to niche up or specialize.

Lots of sites for that, and look at what they are selling on the sidebars. Niche products.

what they sell in permaculture is ideas and information.

Here, we share information.

On working to be lazy.

Get involved -Take away the standing of corporations MovetoAmmend.org
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Here are a few examples I can think of quickly of people who make money from permaculture (they may not call it "permaculture", they may call it "restoration agriculture" or some other name):

Micheal Pilarski http://www.richsoil.com/michael-pilarski.jsp

Mark Shepard http://restorationag.org/people/

Walter Jeffries http://sugarmtnfarm.com/

Purple Pear Farm http://www.purplepearfarm.com.au/

Many permaculture farms make money from multiple endeavors including teaching as well as raising food, so it may take a little searching to find those which do no teaching at all but only farm. Fortunately most seem to be interested in sharing information as well as making money farming.

Another place to look for examples: http://permacultureglobal.com/

Permaculture is a design system for human habitation, not just a system of farming. Farmers make up such a tiny percentage of the population in the developed world the vast majority of people practicing permaculture will not be farmers or otherwise making money practicing permaculture. My guess is most professional farmers don't hang out on messageboards, being far too busy actually farming.

(sorry if I've repeated what others may have said)




Idle dreamer

alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 236
    
    7

Morgan Morrigan does make an very good point. Those that have found the niche are likely not to have time to spend on this site.
I myself am at this site because I got it fixured out late in life and now do not have the health to ever go back to a permaculture existance.
I fondly remember the days on my grandparents homestead in Alaska. I got my masters in environmental quality science in the 90's. Wanted to save the world only to find the world did not want saving
Went back into computers and raised a family on a small farm in OHIO.
Did a ton of research on all types of different ways to make money off a small farm. But wife liked the security of a steady paycheck. Can not blame her.
Now the kids are grown and health is bad so I am using permies to get motivated to keep trying new things with the property this summer.
So yes it is very likely the people who are making a good living off their land will not be joining your dissussion.
Look not for the living among the dead
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Another example: Zaytuna Farm grows produce for 30,000 meals per year, but the produce is not sold, it is used on the farm, saving the cost of buying that much food. But that is saving money, not making it. http://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

30,000 meals per year, but I'm not sure it "counts."

alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 236
    
    7
Tyler, should the question first be define the lifestyle you wish to be able to live.
Then determine if I will have the resources to live that lifestyle as a permie?

It seems many people on the permies forum are seeking a certain lifestyle. Many have not reached it yet.
Lack of resouces to create sustainable conditions that would provide for said life style seems to be a major factor in not reaching it yet.
For many a income of some type is subsidizing the permie existance that they have been able to acheive so far.

This is something like buying a home. Many financial planners will tell you that homes are not a investment they are a lifestyle choice.
Over the long run they have kept pace with inflation. But that does not factor in maintance costs and improvements.

Maybe this is why many permies start out with food production being one of their first efforts for themselves in permaculture.
Producing one own food is as much lifestyle as economic.

There is also the cultural element. I do not see many permies imbracing the materialistic as much as average western society does.
Without the focus on the materialistic there is less economic demand and stress on the permie.
Do we factor in health advantages that may exist in a environment of lower stress and geater physical activity?

Money is just a tools. If I set a income level that I must have I am saying that to live in the style I have plan to become acustom I need X amount of money.
Or I am saying that to justify devoting Y amount of resources into my permie setup I expect to get Z amount of return. This is using only hard ROI and ignores all the soft ROI


Many of the things talked about so far would come under soft ROI if one was doing a real cost benifit analysis.
Alder Burns
pollinator

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 958
Location: northern California
    
  31
One poster mentioned the transfer of land and infrastructure from one generation to the next. This is crucial. As well as, I hate to mention it, some form of community. Maybe extended family will do. Something more than a couple and a couple of kids. Permaculture that is really successful, and profitable, will be a multi-generational community project. Many many questions of sustainability solve themselves by thinking in these terms....the challenge is how to get along with one another long enough to make it work and see the benefits as worth the work. Trees, especially, come to full production on a timescale often longer than a human lifetime and even a lot of perennials, and basic soil improvement, often take longer than the average modern American's tenure on a homesite. We need to learn to stay put, work together, and pass on the legacy. Black walnut is a very profitable timber. John Seymour, I think, says in his book that "it is fit to harvest after only 150 years, although 350 is better if you have the patience to wait for it!"
Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:Another example: Zaytuna Farm grows produce for 30,000 meals per year, but the produce is not sold, it is used on the farm, saving the cost of buying that much food. But that is saving money, not making it. http://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

30,000 meals per year, but I'm not sure it "counts."



I love this video. Especially when he is carting around his kid in the backpack. You can her here singing and saying "dad, dad, dad." My wife and I were laughing, and guessing that his wife was like, "I don't care if you are doing a video, I need a break so take her with you." He seems like a good father.

Diego
Diego de la Vega


Joined: Feb 15, 2013
Posts: 22
Location: Central Virginia, USA
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:Another example: Zaytuna Farm grows produce for 30,000 meals per year, but the produce is not sold, it is used on the farm, saving the cost of buying that much food. But that is saving money, not making it. http://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

30,000 meals per year, but I'm not sure it "counts."



That is a very developed system that is quite large and yet it only produces enough food to feed 27 people (30,000 meals/365 days per year/3 meals per person =27 people). Oce person eats 1095 meals a year (3 meals/day x 365 days). No question, what they have created is amazing, and it seems like they have a whole lot of food. I do not understand why they do not produce more meals than that. Are they distributing what they cannot eat? Is there more to this story that we are not getting or is it too optimistic to expect to produce more food than this on 66 acres in a sustainable way? Their system needs 2.44 acres per person to create enough food to sustain them (66 acres/27 people fed per year = 2.44 acres/person per year).

Diego
Marianne Cicala
volunteer

Joined: Aug 14, 2012
Posts: 441
Location: south central VA 7B
    
  37
hey Diego,
Your question should gather 100s of responses, with so many participants in as many different places in life. I am middle aged, "paid my dues" in corp. America for 27 years, saved etc. During the last decade of professionalism, we bought a piece of land deep in a forest in rural USA., bought and dismantled a couple 1800s log cabins, moved them and spent the next 2 years of week-ends and vacations building our current home. We then began clearing some of the land, installed an orchard, got cert. organic, then resigned from the "rat-race" as someone put it. We have been here full time for 4 years - bought a delapidated old nursery in a nearby town reno-ed it and now operate a brick/mortar garden center & organic food store. We just finished terracing another couple acres on the farm, building hugels. got a grant for 2 high hoop houses all of which will produce annual organic veggies & fruit. Already cut a deal with 2 near-by BIG city organic store, and a big supplier to college cafeteria food, to buy our produce. Yes we are going to be in the black and the numbers you threw out are probable. The thing to keep in mind, is that we were in a position to have money to invest in a host of businesses that are all related and basiclly feed into the other. We also have no debt which makes the necessary income far different from when we were making serious money and investing or saving for our current life style. I don't think I've ever worked as hard nor been as satisfied with life. It is a life style that allows minimum income when compared to city living or corporate living. Do we run a businesses for profit - you bet we do, but we also are in a position to give an enormous amount to our community in terms of organic veggie starts, food etc.
I do not believe we would have been able to comfortably attempt to make ends meet much less build these business and embrace a "permie-lite" lifestyle had we not spent over a quarter of a century preparing to do it. Are there still a lot of want to dos on our list - you bet!


Marianne

check us out on FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Twigs-Berries/193195140706301?ref=hl
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Diego de la Vega wrote:

That is a very developed system that is quite large and yet it only produces enough food to feed 27 people


The primary purpose of Zaytuna farm is education, not production.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Here's a thread where all this was previously discussed: http://www.permies.com/t/16557/permaculture/
Tom Kozak


Joined: Dec 09, 2012
Posts: 45
Location: Canada
thankyou Marianne Cooper , I can believe in the dream again!
andrew curr


Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 285
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
    
    1
Purple pears farm is probably the best example cited they do a really good CSA model
we make money here with large scale grazing sheep/cattle. Rotatiopnal grazing ,fodder trees etc
I changed women a few years ago (far more expensive than droughts, floods ,fires or other natural disasters)
Luckily my parents are subsidising me through that mess

Its hard to be green when your in the red ;ie keep your debt to a minimum!



I have room on my farm for a poultry farmer aka polyfacefarms great cottage;CANNOT get anyone to have a go!!
some people enjoy winging about being poor


we have to forest our farms and farm our forests
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think there are probably a lot of examples, they just don't spend time on these messageboards. Not being on these messageboards doesn't mean they don't exist!

Another one I thought of: http://www.chaffinfamilyorchards.com/

There's not a clearinghouse for permaculture farms that I know of (except the PRI network).
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2473
Location: FL
    
  79
Check out the EPA website showing farming statistics based on the 1997 Census of Agriculture.
2,064,700 farms in the US
82% of them earn less than $100k/yr, are retirement farms, limited resource and lifestyle farms. This leaves 17.8%, 367516 farms which produce the food.
Most people involved in farming don't earn much, if anything. If examples of financial success are what you are seeking, farming, in any form, might not be the best place to search.

I've made money growing vegetables, a couple hundred per week for a season. I'll do it again, and with much more success, but before I make another go of it I will get my ducks in a row. I've already eliminated all debt and the need for credit. I will be paying off the mortgage within the year, undertaking some construction and renovation projects, installing self sufficient water and energy systems, and getting my financial house in order. With these plans in place, my expenses will be miniscule. That couple hundred per week would be more than sufficient to cover my expenses. More importantly, when I am able to flush the job, I gain Time.

Make no mistake, money is a handy thing. I've got some, I'd make good use of more. But in my view, money is not the end all, be all of human existence. Lifestyle has it's place. Control of my own destiny ranks up near the top. A high degree of self-sufficiency is a priceless asset. For me, it's about Freedom. I'm not subject to a person or a company or a government agency to meet my needs. I won't be answering to a timeclock or a project schedule. I don't expect to develop an ulcer because the garlic crop failed.

Permaculture is a new actor on the stage. Even though the methods can be traced back for centuries, the interaction of these methods is what makes up permaculture. We are studying, documenting, and discussing these methods with little support from mainstream society. Colleges, governments and corporations have not taken up the field because it is not yet developed into a clear, understandable, black and white procedure.

Permaculture certainly works on a small scale. Look to the Earth's ecosystem to decide if it works on a large scale.

The next element to consider is Faith. I believe it is possible to make a big sack of money using permaculture methods to grow food in sufficient quantity for market. I will be making a go of it. I fully expect to be able to handle what bills I have, pay my taxes, and improve my condition. Do your homework. Try some things out, get some worms, make some compost, expand your garden, build a solar oven then a rocket mass heater, build a little greenhouse, collect some rainwater, cook in cast iron until you are comfortable with it, raise some chicks. You'll find you can do all this with very little time involved. You get to keep your current job, all the while tweaking your little projects. Before you know it, you'll have permaculture systems set up all over the place. It is the attempt that will build faith. Each step you take down this path improves your condition. Nutritious homegrown food reduces your grocery bill and improves your health. Energy systems reduce your energy bills and increases the resilience of your home and family. Fresh air, exercise, and working with your hands clears your mind, body and soul. You can do all this without a large investment of time and money. It would be prudent to internalize these skills. Should you choose to make a large investment of time and money, you'll have a solid foundation upon which to make informed decisions. If you learn these skills and determine there is no money in it, you have sacrificed nothing, but have still improved your situation.



Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
Doug Mac


Joined: Jan 07, 2013
Posts: 79
Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
One problem is that permaculture is a set of philosophies and techniques, not a business plan. I think that sometimes we forget that without a business plan, it's easy to end up working for less than nothing. My old boss's brother had a small conventional dairy that he worked for six or seven years before he went bust. He said he never worked so hard but he had nothing to show for it because he had no business plan. Every business plan has to be tailored for the farm/ranch, the area, the local resources and the local markets AND it must evolve as the situation changes. I think I have found a niche in our local community. This year, I'm doing it small scale to see what my expenses, time and risks really are and whether scaling up will improve or erode my ability to make money. What are my investments and what is a reasonable time frame to amortize them over? If that works, I'll see what other agricultural work fits well with the central business plan. Are they cumulative or do they detract from production. Are there time conflicts. Do you need to harvest this when your animals need you to do something for them? Time is SO scarce.

At some point we have to talk about scale also. No matter how hard you work, no matter how clever you are, milking three cows is not going to earn you a living. Three cows, four goats, two sheep, five pigs, twenty potato plants, nine hazelnuts, four cherry trees - still is not going to get it. It'll be a hoot and make your life fun and rewarding, but you'll probably need an outside job. Nothing wrong with that. Thirty cows, forty goats, twenty sheep, two hundred potato plants, ninety hazelnuts, forty cherry trees - now you may have a chance.

Some folks, like Polyface and Vanguard Ranch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_Xw3SXrUx0) are vertically integrated. A part (large?) of their income stream comes from marketing products they grow. I have no real desire to be in sales. That's simply my personal choice. I wouldn't mind bringing added value to my product through branding, but i don't want to be out selling at farmer's markets, CSAs or county fairs. I would rather get my product into local groceries (chain, upscale and natural) with a recognized brand that brings added value.

These are just some of my thoughts. While I do this, my timber grows....
David Williams


Joined: Feb 14, 2013
Posts: 131
i think wealth measured in $'s is not a sign of true wealth , although seems the 2nd most rated in western society ... the first is how much debt they will allow you.... this is the fiat finance delivered from the fractional bankers...... when the world as we know it ends, 2 people left alive, 1 with $1, the other with a pumpkin seed, who is the richer man ?
i used to work 105 hours/pw farming conventional farms for $30k a year, my expenses were high (food travel ect) i had a new family at that stage and had no time to be with them , thinking i was doing the right thing for them ..... then i injured my back and changed my life ... when my second born son came along i couldn't even support his weight teaching him to walk, the insurance companies whom had been paid for over a decade didn't honor their end of the agreement and i didn't have the money to fight it, the welfare system failed me as did the healthcare system.... 200k in taxes paid by myself and my partner all for naught (over the decade) i am now a stay at home dad and my g/f picks up the odd job housekeeping as she cant go back to nursing (due to my ailment) .... after a lot of soul searching i worked out an income stream ... and i choose those words carefully .... how is a dam made ? one of two ways...... put more water in and keep the outgoing the same, or restrict the outgoing and keeping the inputs the same... since i couldn't make more money at that stage i decided to spend less...... i started by going my own food, and using ornamental fish instead of food fish in aquaponics, being smart about my power usage and made some decent gains..... i then started selling those fish wholesale to pet shops for in-store credit... and then bartering the excess foodstuffs ..... i bought pricier fish and refined my techniques , widened my field of supply and started getting paid for the fish.....soon i hope to sell off the excess foods for more income , to reinvest it back into my production methods .... i still make 30k roughly ... i work 10-15 hours a week , and i have time for my family .... i'm paying off the house (suburban not an acreage) the food i eat is a lot more healthy, my kids have time with me now ... even tho i am physically 1/2 the man i was , i am now 2X as rich , simply because that's where i place my value ....and the tax man doesn't see a cent of it .... not going to pay for services that are never rendered...... if you are a smart person , who applies yourself , and makes a niche for yourself , you will succeed .... if your goals are financial success doing something you love , you don't work a day in your life, yes people do make money in permaculture and all of those who do have a passion for it .....
here is some simple math on $
Example 1 : (hypothetical)
buy a $33 fish at retail , but you sell it back to them at $11
this fish produces 2000 young every 2 weeks ....in 4 foot square you can make $22k every 2 weeks ....but you have to find a mating pair,there has to be a "want" for this type of fish , you have to raise a good percentage of the young ..... ^^ you wont reach those figures .....
Example 2: (actual +\-)
same fish $33 , produces 2000 young every 2 weeks , 1/2 die due to cannibalism/mold or bad parenting, you have feeding, electrical , travel and marketing costs... so your down to about 20k a month ....
to make this kind of $ , you work 2-5 hours a week (more when you first start off) and you have initial outlay costs of about $1000-2000
takes about 4X2 foot of space and requires some travel (selling, marketing)
most fish of these types can produce year round , so 100k+ a year
the trap is .... easy to flood the markets with one type of fish , so do several species, you make no money on fish you cant sell, so if the market dry's up you need to separate the fish.... you may not get successful pairing for a decent period ... this is just one example of one pot i have on the stove.... one of many , i don't like all my eggs in one basket , or in this case caviar
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 973
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
I consider much of what we do permaculture, do we make money? Yes, without a doubt. We are just starting to be profitable, and it is improving every month.

We have permanent forest, which produce lumber year by year. We started with fields and reforested it, 154,000+ trees planted in total, all lumber trees. Granted, a lot of the lumber trees also are wildlife trees. I also plant fruit trees, etc.

And the amount of earnings we are realizing in the near future makes 100K look like chicken feed, just so you know. Already, we are getting pretty comfortable.

Permaculture is a concept, forestry can be profitable, but it takes land. And by the way, I figured out how to have others help me buy 900 acres. So, you don't have to be wealthy to get started, just a good idea and being able to make it happen. (i.e. know how to go from an idea to something that works). The model that worked for us is there are many people who would like to own a cow, goats, plants, trees, but lack the land and expertise to do it. So, we sold them their own, with the cost of maintaining them. The cost also included the acquisition of the land. When their trees are gone, the land belongs to us. All the secondary products belong to us as well.

We are debt free, and enjoying life. I still do consulting, but in software (I am a consulting director for a company right now), mainly because it is a lot easier to pay someone to do the work I want them to do, than do it myself, when your salary is higher than theirs. Again, permaculture doesn't mean you do all the work. We currently have 15 employees, but we are growing back up to 50 to 100 in the next 4 years, if all goes as planned.

And yes, those living the dream often don't have a lot of time to post.

But regarding making money, isn't the question more can you make money, not can I? After all, making money means you know how to work with money, which is different than knowing how to make a keyhole bed, for example. Many people think if they just grow something, well life will be good. Nope, you have to know about markets, selling product, etc if you want to go from having something, to having money. To NOT minimize this part.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Marianne Cicala
volunteer

Joined: Aug 14, 2012
Posts: 441
Location: south central VA 7B
    
  37
Agree - if you want to make a living farming/perma/independantly you have to approach it as a business, wrapped in the satisfation of self-sufficiency. You have to consider possible spread of cost/time/loss vs market price. We have an orchard, farm, e-commerce business, brick & mortar store. Lots of moving parts, but the parts are the same, for example, we start seeds for the farm and also sell seed starts at the physical store. It's about taking your time and having a specific plan and knowing when to make a change. With summer being more profitable than winter, what can you do to fill in the holes when markets etc don't bring in money. Most colleges (especially in smaller communities) offer free business planning and help. It's taken 2 decades of deliberate actions to be able to be on the farm full time. It stops panic from being a part of decision making - and that is the key.
Sam White


Joined: Mar 08, 2011
Posts: 211
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
    
    1
Here's a study done by the Ecological Land Cooperative focusing upon the economic viability of smallholdings (10 acres or less). UK based study but you might find it interesting.


"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
 
 
subject: anyone here make money from permaculture?
 
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