My question is whether it is possible to combine a monocrop agricultural system with permaculture system. It's just me on 75 acres or so, and while I plan to have a biologically diverse "kitchen garden" for myself, my first reaction to cultivating the remaining 74 acres is to plant a single crop. Reasons being simplicity, work load, etc. I've never farmed on this scale before and my original reason was to maintain my agricultural zoning. Obviously, I'd also like to make a few extra bucks in the process if possible.
I've been doing a decent amount of reading/listening to permaculture resources and know there's lots of smart permies out there, so please feel free to offer any advise that could help me achieve my ultimate goal of a simple, productive acreage. By the way, crop I'm interested in planting is Quinoa, so any thoughts on that are welcome as well. Thanks.
Monocropping and permacutlure are directly opposed. permaculture's etymology being "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture", which certainly cannot be applied to conventional monocrop agriculture. One is sustainable-even beneficial, and the other is not.
A miss conception with permaculture is that it requires more time consuming work than convention agriculture. However, this is not so. Generally with a good system set up, a permaculture farmer generally only has to harvest.
hey Ian, kudos to you for investigating what options you might have. It may be that permaculture farms eventually get to the point of pretty much only having to harvest but it can be one hell of a lot of work to get to that stage, especially if you are on your own. Just one example..planting a tree is work! I can't wrap my mind around one person trying to plant 75 acres of food forest by himself.
75 acres is a big chunk of land to deal with on your own. The idea of strip cropping that Brice suggested might be a really good way to compromise between getting swamped, doing nothing, or simply retreating back to a monocrop.
ideologically permaculture and monoculture are opposed, but there are positive ways to grow food in large areas that promote permanence by building soil, organic matter, nutrients and retaining water etc...
I personally don't see the issue in combining two healthy systems if there are no other choices. Permaculture is not a religion thats perfect in every way, it's a set of (very important) tools that can be used on different areas to varying degrees of 'perfection'.
I have a 20acre yard with a permaculture system full of veggies, fruits, nuts, animals and forest... but I also have 600 acres of land that I simply cannot do full permaculture on. BUT, through no-till, intercropping, rotation with grazing, green and compost manuring, and no use of chemicals I am able to make a Positive contribution to an otherwise negative situation. If I could set aside an area to grow vegetables just for oil/fuel that would be even better!
Joined: Dec 20, 2009
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
davidpitman wrote: A miss conception with permaculture is that it requires more time consuming work than convention agriculture. However, this is not so. Generally with a good system set up, a permaculture farmer generally only has to harvest.
Could you provide us with some names of some permaculture farmers in the USA who only have to harvest? Thanks.
Why not convert some of your 75 acres into mixed fruit and nut orchards including perhaps some sweet chestnuts. They'll provide a nice crop of carbs/proteins down the track, like a perennial grain crop. Once established they will be pretty low maintenance. Strip cropping between rows of orchard trees perhaps? I see no reason not to plant a cash crop or three while you're mulling over possibilities. Another possibility, long term of course, would be divide up your acres into smaller fields by planting hedegrows of perennial edibles. Lot's of options to explore.
The first thing I'd consider would be a mixed-species grazing operation. With some cattle, sheep, chickens, and possibly pigs, you can immediately start improving your land and soil food web (look into Holistic Planned Grazing or some of Joel Salatin's stuff if you haven't already). The time commitment for keeping pastured animals in a regenerative grazing system is pretty low, especially if you're focused on summer stockers. If you don't have much capital for initial cash outlay, you could consider doing "custom grazing", which means you would offer your services as a grazier to make grass-finished animals for someone else who actually owns and sells them. There's a guy in Missouri who has done incredibly well with that model on leased land (extremely low overhead).
Starting out that way would allow you to start experimenting with gradually adding islands of forest gardens and ponds to increase diversity and edge, as well as increasing the number of marketable products you make. This is something I'm doing on my ground, though I only have about 15 acres to work with in this way.
I think that livestock are a little under-represented in most of the permaculture literature that I've read -- animals are an important part of sustainable ecosystems, and with a place of the size you're talking about it seems like it would be a great match.
Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Location: Central Florida
permacaper wrote: The first thing I'd consider would be a mixed-species grazing operation. With some cattle, sheep, chickens, and possibly pigs, you can immediately start improving your land and soil food web (look into Holistic Planned Grazing or some of Joel Salatin's stuff if you haven't already).
I love this idea.
I would say that a monoculture is probably the worst thing you can do for your land and your soil. I am no expert but I do know that raising only one crop can lead to devastating consequences especially if you are not accustomed to growing on such a large scale. The issue with having one crop is that one disease, insect, or climatic condition could devastate your harvest. My main aim is maintaining and increasing the bio diversity of land. With monocultures you tend to be pushed towards depending on many different chemicals to prevent disease, pests, and weeds. These can come at a high cost.
On another note. Have you checked the regulations in your area state/county to be kept as ag land? Have you talked to your local agricultural extension office about your land and the possibilities? I am in Florida and here there are many loopholes that you can look into to maintain your agricultural tax exemptions without using the entirety of your land. Here many people who have large properties will plant pines on a area of their land which then turns into a forest but they use the rest of their land for whatever purpose they desire. I am sure its not quite so open and shut but I do know many people who dont 'farm' at all; they just have 10 acres of pines.
Just remember that 75 acres can be a lot of work if you have not looked into all your options and planned thoroughly you could end up biting off WAY more than you can chew.
Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
I like the idea of leasing the land for mixed grazing while slowly expanding a food forest. You could bring in WWOOFers to help with planting. Clones can be had for free from your neighbors if you learn to take cuttings. Good luck, it sounds like you have an amazing situation.