Good question, Diego (going back to your starter post).
I’d say I save a lot of money through permaculture, which of course doesn’t pay the bills but does help me have more money for them.
A friend of mine reckons I could easily make £100 from selling strawberry runners at our kids’ school’s next car boot sale. I had actually already though about selling them - just not at a school sale. However, there are probably other ways of making some money, if I had an entrepreneurial spirit.
In the long run, though, I think we need to see how society changes before we really know if permaculture can provide a living.
I wonder how many people become interested in permaculture as a way to make money?
I would have thought that the majority of people who get into permaculture aren't even thinking of making a living from it, any more than people who buy houses are thinking of making a living from owning a house.
I would think that the majority see permaculture as a way to enhance their lives (like owning a house or a car) in a sustainable way, rather than as a business. Perhaps I'm wrong.
I can envision whole communities where individuals own small lots used for zones 1 and 2, with shared community zones 3 and 4, with small towns surrounded by zone 5 areas. Wishful thinking, but still...
My opinions are barely worth the paper they are written on here, but hopefully they can spark some new ideas, or at least a different train of thought
I define permaculture more as a set of guiding principles, rather then a list of specific design items. So I am operating a market garden, selling at two local farmers markets (southern Michigan, USA), I raise chickens for eggs and for meat and raise pigs, next year I will add cattle for better grass management. I expect that over the next few years I will add 4-5% more organic matter to the pasture soil, while raising lots of meat and eggs to sell. I track all my costs and make sure I am selling everything at a price that creates a profit for the farm. Market garden includes permanent beds and woodchip mulched paths, perennial flowering plants for pollinators, and varius woody hedgerows and windbreaks. With everything I do my goal is to put in place systems that can operate on a 100 year timeframe, that is that they only maintain or improve the soil and farm ecosystem, rather then degrading it.
But it is a farm and I do intend to make a living doing this. My veg is running a deficit so far this year because of lots of startup and one-time expenses, the pigs make money ( I will go through 11 this year and at least 15 next. Eggs and meat chickens are about breakeven this year but will make money in the future. I believe you can make money by working permaculture ideas and principles into a farm/garden business.
So this is an old discussion - and I'm not sure that Diego will still be watching, but I thought I'd chime in as I had many of the same concerns that Diego had
We've got what is a pretty small block of land to do anything serious with (4Ha), but we'd still like to feed the family (as much as we can) and at the very least, supplement our income so I don't have to work as much.
Finding answers on how to do that has seemed like a challenge, because there's very little out there that I've been able to find on running it 'as a business' - and a lot of the replies here were more along the 'it's a lifestyle, it's about other things, it's about saving money, living frugally' etc.
Which is all great and fine - but doesn't help a lot with that question of "how do I make an income".
..that was until I found Ridgedale. We've just started their online course and while it's early days - I have to say, it's compelling and has a lot of really great info.
They have around 10 Ha of land, and make enough money from their permaculture farm to have 4 people on 60k-or-so euro incomes from it.
Get rich? Maybe not - but make a sustainable living? Certain seems feasible!
It is very complicated to make money from a homestead/permaculture/etc...Though this might not be the goal for many. Even conventional farmers mostly work 7/365 to make a living. Friends "produce" (their cows) about 500l of milk daily. Those animals need work every day. They feed as much as they can, usually 50% grass. They sell their raw milk local, with help of own small distribution automates and to local cheese producer. Otherwise they could hardly survive, as the milk industry pays very little per liter. Another friend (biological certified farmer) even has to transport his milk to the industry and gets just about 0.4 €/l, his milk will be then ruined through pasteurisation and sold for 4-5 times what he is getting. Non-Bio Milk is even just paid less for.
So even if you are a professional, making profit is quite hard. So it seems a little bit over the tops to ask mostly self educated people to make a living from their homestead. Which might not even the goal for many? And many are starting from scratch, have mortgage to pay and so on. Preparing for the upcoming crash, which is only a question of when not if, in our failure by design monetary system is another good reason. All that profit and money will not help to survive an inch, once the powers behind decide to pull the plug.
But self grown food, fresh eggs from your own chickens, own water supply, heating, cooking, hot water and so on from your own firewood and many other things are hard to count in money.
Holzer is another story, since I am among others fluently in German, I have read some stories about him. Of course you do not know how much is true, but that there seems (not said on his farm homepage) not even a small store on his frequently visited (paid tours) farm to sell his food, makes you thinking? He has quite some good ideas but I do not go d'accord with some of his ideas out of own experience. For example he advocates not to cut fruittrees at all. But there are tens of thousands of years growing experience/work in those trees, they need especially in the beginning some cutting just as other fruit plants to get them in a shape to provide lots of fruits and enable you to harvest without a helicopter!
A professional farmer told me one (he) would often plant trees for the next generation. Indeed some nuts tree take 30 or more years to provide its first nuts. While other are faster, even some apple trees take easily 10, 20 or more years to grow to a size to provide lots of fruits.
5 am get up...slap the shi* out of that stupid alarm clock, choke down coffee, take shower, get dressed
6 am head to work...realize i am out of gas...stop to get some...$30 ching ching...need more coffee 1.50 ching ching...need to pee...go to the public bathroom and smell that intolerable smell as i step over the overflow in the floor and wonder if i am going to get a disease from touching any thing...but, goodness i need to pee...and 30 more minutes till i arrive at work...
7 am made it to work...i am a teacher...already there are kids getting off of the bus...and my day begins...i work my heart out...teaching kids to march nicely to the sound of a drum beat i don't even believe in myself...how i wish i could just tell them the truth...as i know it...but i don't...cause...well....i'm a teacher
12 pm lunch time...ya know...teachers should get free lunches 5.00 ching ching
4 pm day over...time to go home...oooppsss need to pee...better do that before i get on the road
4:15...sure need a cup of coffee...ill get that now...pull over...1.50 ching ching...and i know i am trying to quit smoking...but, shi*...it has been a horrible day...6.00 ching ching...a little comfort food for the road? yep...5.00 ching ching...
4:45 need to stop by walmart and grab a gallon of milk and few groceries 150.00 ching ching
5:00 it is winter...getting dark...arriving home...feed the dogs (50.00 mth) ...feed the horses (200.00 mth) ching ching
5:30 cook for the family...crap...i forgot to get the olive oil...need it for tonight...so, in the dark...head back to town...olive oil $6 ching ching...anything else? oh yeah, i need some more toothpaste...and think ill try that new shampoo...$50 + gas...i live 5 miles out...ching ching
6:00 back to the dinner thing
7:30 dinner over...dishes cleaned...time for laundry...throw out the scraps...sweep the floor...break up a fight amongst the kiddos...fix broken things....always a daily chore...get kids ready for bed...shower tuck in etc
9:00 lights out...fall into bed
AND THAT IS A GOOD DAY!!!
once a month pay the mortgage on farm (40 acres of land that will never have anything done to it...I DON'T HAVE TIME AND CANT AFFORD IT!!!) and house (good thing i finished before i moved in) (600) ching
student loan (250)
insurance for the month (200)
car pymt (500)
insurance for car (175)
electricity (250) i have a well...so no water bill...ill just burn my trash...that'll save me 20 a month...ooopppss....there goes a new pile to burn...i WILL get to that someday...
repairs and maintenance on the place (250) one year i replaced the aircon/heat unit (8500.00) year before that the well pump needed replacing (1500) and year before that...i had to get the septic tank/fill lines replaced (4000)
yep...credit card payments (700) ching ching
clothes for work and for the kids (150 mth avg) ching ching
recreation (football games...gas...snacks...eating out...movies...proms...senior pictures...xboxes.....NO LIMIT!!!) JUST ADD THAT TO THE CREDIT CARD!!!
property tax (1500 yr)
sales tax (10% or more on EVERYTHING i buy)
interest to the banks...well...it all goes to interest...
50% of my paycheck goes toward, insurance, taxes and medicare
that is the tip of the iceburg....i lived rural...sweet country home not mortgaged out...as a matter of fact...only 50% was owed when i sold it after the boys left home...my life was considered 'simple' among many...i wore nicer clothes...i got my hair and nails done in a salon ( oh yea...150 mth....ching ching) was important though...had to keep up those appearances for all involved)...car was dependable...that was my life...
i sold the farm...the mortgage...the car...pretty much everything i owned...bought a little cabin and 10 acres on the mountain...not much to look at, but it has potential...but paid cash...and it has potential...(had been dreaming and researching AND experimenting for over 5 years) got me and old car to go to town in...an old truck and trailer for goin places with the horses if i want too...but, i haven't...plenty of space up here...national forest and all...everything else i barter for! oh yeah...got me a tiller, and hand tools for the shop...which was falling down...nothing a few trees couldn't fix ;)
electricity 100 mth
gas 50 mth
food 75 mth
WHO GIVES A CRAP WHAT I LOOK LIKE :) IF I MISSPELL A WORD...LOL...DO IT ON PURPOSE.....JUST CAUSE I CAN! :) I AM ALIVE :) work harder than i ever have...and it feels GREAT!!! can ya make money at it...i dunno...i guess if you are talking bout the green back kind...it is a trade--you would have to give up your solitude...your personal space...your life--never was much of any returns on those investments for me...could have just lived in a tent for a few years in the ditch and worked in the rat race for what return i got on that farm after uncle sam and creditors got a hold of their 'fair share' ...only thing i like trading for these days are things i need instead of things i want...
3 am...wake up...fix coffee...stoke the pot bellied stove...amazing smells fill the room...i sit down in my rocker in front...and soak in all of the wonderful things i have done to the cabin...just my own little space here on this earth...pull out my laptop and communicate with the world for a while...
5 am...back to bed for a nap
7 am...start my day...bacon, eggs and homemade bread this morning
8 am...fresh cup of coffee in tow...step out to feed animals...smell that clean country air....breathe...deep...for however long i want
8:30 all must to do morning chores over...and my time is my own...so...i play with my little yard critters...or i dig in the dirt....
12-1 lunch time
2-dark...play and dig...or go fishin....
ummmmm.....dinner...wine ( i make my own) or moonshine (lol...got from an unrevealed source) i dont really like killing things...and i would pretty much have to be starving before i did...so i barter for meat...
oh yeah...back to that monthly payment thing
property taxes 800 yr
food for animals (300 mth)
student loans (250 mth)
yep....that's about it...
LOL....there is not much more of a monthly payment thing...sure wish i had done this sooner!!! thing is...i don't want a MORE life any more...that takes marketing and time and energy and dealing with osha or epa or some crazy crap like that...usda...dah da dah da da....Lordie knows i don't wont employees who don't show up or give a crap about my losses...i no longer desire that big nice yukon or lq trailer...or 40 acres of NOTHINGNESS...i now have everything...the greenback does me no good up here...a doz eggs, a basket full of fresh veggies or berries...a horse riding lesson or two...manure...a few home made items...etc....whatever needs done...a little job...a sell or barter of whatever...now....that is my new monetary system...and it is REAL :) yep, i work...i work HARD when i work...do i make ends meet...you betcha...AND ALWAYS HAVE SOME LEFT OVER AT THE END OF THE MONTH...LOL...it is AMAZING...and even i dont know how i do it....sitting with an elderly person for a day...mowing a neighbors yard...bushhogging his pasture...feeding his cows...cleaning a house...etc...whatever...whenever...always available to do whatever...just no substitute teaching...lol
soooooo....ummmmm....i dunno...LOL...i suppose 'LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS'....even if it means a SOD HOUSE and homeschooling your children...should mean something here :) most folks don't get that...
opportunity cost comes to mind...or was that opportunity lost...LOL
For people looking to make a permacultre business plan i highly recommend this book "The Permaculture market garden: a visual guide to profitable whole systems farm business" by Geoff Loeks. The book blew away my expectation, owning many garden permacultre book I was presently surprised by how much this book helped me visualize a permaculture based business plan. He teaches about building guild business's 3-4 different elements that feed into each other and make up the total years income. His example way, CSA, Education, Garlic seed. They spread out throughout the year, each with their prime time of work. The book also covers the importance of Design in work flows from one production area to another...
This is certainly an intriguing conversation. I too have a goal of working on the farm full time. I've been considering different offerings to the community. Next year we getting more hens and growing more of the their food. We are relocating the composting pile to be nearer. We are also expanding our flower beds with a focus on themed beds. Edible flowers, pollinators, and dye plants. I really hope to be able to pay my mortgage with our land.
We all spend money, I think it's ok to discuss how to make a permacutlure farm profitable. Paul even mentions this several time in his new book. I'd really like to do something i really love. Something I am really passionate about. Farming, restoration and regenerative systems help lift my head and being from slumber.