Hi everyone, this is my first post here. Like many of you reading this topic, I'm considering how to make a decent amount of income on a permaculture farm. I live in San Francisco right no, but possibly have some access to a couple properties out in the country.
Living down here, and observing the growing popularity in "raw" and "super" foods, it seems there may be a potential to earn revenue by supplying these forms of food locally and sustainably, which I think the buyers of these types of products would be willing to pay a little extra for. Just from a rough overview of the possibilities, it appears that Mulberries and Goji berries could be good options, as both sell for well over $10/pound (I've seen Mulberries higher, and Gojis in the upper $20s range). From what I've read, both can grow well in temperate climates, and don't seem to have too many specific problems.
I'm wondering if anyone has some information on how viable either of these two trees are for providing a good chunk (not all, of course) of the farm's diversified income? Thanks,
are those prices for fresh berries or dried/freeze-dried?
I don't think you would have much trouble growing either of those in most of California. the best varieties might take some experimentation, and you'll certainly have a lag between planting and production. they're both great, multi-use plants.
a lot will depend on the specifics of the land you have access to. if you'll have to pay a mortgage on them, I think you'll have trouble. if you'll be leasing, your odds are better, but you've still got that lag in production to deal with. faster crops could probably fill in that gap and help nurse your mulberries and gojis into maturity. if, somehow, you won't have to pay for the land at all, well, what are you waiting for?
your expenses for actually planting the trees and bushes shouldn't be too bad, but the return on fresh berries isn't going to make you a mint, either. I really hate the term, but some sort of "value added" product would probably work well, especially before your plants are in full production and you've got limited quantities of berries.
delivery by bicycle or donkey cart ought to earn you a premium price with the sustainability nuts. and who doesn't want a donkey and cart?
at any rate, I think you should probably go for it. chickens (and probably other fowl) and mulberries mix very well, by the way. so do mulberries and ponds. silk worms?
those were prices for dried berries I saw in the store. Does anyone know what might be necessary to dry the berries on a scale efficient enough to sell? In other words, what type of machinery might be necessary to dry goji or mulberries?
Very doubtful that we will mortgage, but I have thought about how to make money in the interm. I realize trees and shrubs will be several years before they are up and running. What might you suggest in terms of value added products for a farm?
I've been tossing around various ideas about how to make initial income. Goat milk or cheese, organic eggs, vegetables at the farmer's market, and herbs are all some ideas I've thought of so far.
Goji is the craze of late. Yes, upwards of $20lb for dried goji... that will fall in the next few years, as more and more places start growing it and growth in demand slows down, but I am sure it will still be profitable for years to come.
The dried fruits are a good source of viable seed, but I guess that's a bit of a wild card in terms of whether the variety will work well in your area.
Remember that the fruits are not the only edible parts. The leaves can be eaten raw. I like the idea of selling the berries and subsisting off the leaves, but it appears there is a market for the leaves themselves. I saw goji leaf tea for $10 a box today. I didn't check how many tea bags per box, but I am guessing two dozen at the most. Insane.
a solar dehydrator would work well, though I would design one that didn't expose the material to be dried to the sun. a solar air heater feeding warm air into an old freezer or refrigerator has worked well for many folks.
berry products could be juice or jam or syrup or tea, as yukkuri_kame mentioned. maybe baked goods. give it a little brainstorm and I'm sure you could think of a few more. young mulberry leaves have a lot of protein in them, so maybe something along the lines of a protein drink. keep in mind that selling processed food will likely require a licensed kitchen, unless you'll be selling through less official channels. commercial kitchens can be rented in many places, though.
milk and cheese could work well. again, there will be some extra equipment and licensing costs. eggs are easy, and chickens/ducks/et cetera would be great complements for your fruit production. herbs and vegetables would be great, too, if you're clever about it. the labor involved will likely depend on the condition of the dirt you end up with.
you might connect with some experienced permaculturists and teachers to host design courses on your land. might not be much income, but you would have the advantage of multiple perspectives and extra hands while you're getting established. there are plenty of other ideas for income in this farm income forum, too.
as long as you're on the "superfoods" track, you might try growing chia (Salvia hispanica), too. you could give maca (Lepidum meyenii) a try as well, though that might be more of a crap shoot. supposing they crop, both of those are annuals and would potentially yield your first year.
You might want to have a look and see what the specialty restaurants are serving in your area. Maybe talk to some of them, find out what they wish they could get , or get more of or get more reliably. Perhaps you could supply them with whatever it is? It is always nice when starting out, especially if you are wanting to raise exotica, to know you do indeed have a market for it.
You might also consider having a more conventional crop as well as a sort of safety net backup. Raspberries, as an example, always command a good price (not $20 pound though) and can even be run as a pick your own quite successfully, which would save the significant expense of harvesting. Goji berries are rumored to be very delicate and tender when fresh so you might want to think about the handling questions quite thoroughly before you invest all your dreams in it.
These "superfoods" tend to follow the fad pattern of high prices>everyone gets into them > shrinking market once the initial "exclusiveness" has worn off. There will always be a core group of people who stay with them but I personally would find this a pattern worrisome if thinking to buy expensive special equipment and so forth..I think of the people who bought into emus or ostriches, llamas or alpaca some years ago, sometimes paying many thousands of dollars for an animal, and a few years later finding those animals selling in auctions for a couple of hundred or even much less. I am not trying to rain on your parade at all, I just think hedging your bets somewhat might be wise.
Thanks for all the replies folks, I'll be considering a lot of what you have told me. We definitely would be doing a diversified crop, I'm just thinking that at the present moment having gojis and mulberries in production would be the way to actually profit somewhat. There is much research to be done.
Great point about speaking with restaurants/stores locally to see what they want. Maybe our value added aspect could be a local/organic/sustainable/permaculture label. I know of cooperatives around northern california who would surely have customers willing to pay a little extra if they knew saw a label like that.
Does anyone have personal experience cultivating gojis or mulberries? I'm going to be doing some reading on them, but just that I'd ask. I've heard mulberries grow most places, but gojis I'm less sure about-they need to stay somewhat dry and get a good deal of sun I read somewhere....
http://www.gojijuices.net/growinggojiberries.html is one site I found recently..I started some from dried berries this spring and 4 have made it this far..2 of them are about 20 inches tall and the other two are about 6 inches tall and branched out..it's very weird. The leaf is the same and there is no chance they are not all goji berries. There is a possibility that two got dosed with water with runoff in it; only thing I can think of as I have to buy water so filled some jugs for the plants from an overflowing culvert this spring. Nothing else has reacted strangely though. If it was the runnoff water that caused the difference in growth pattern it surely indicates great care needs to be taken about what these plants get fed!
The leaves are VERY tender..one leaf got pressed accidentally against the rim of the pot when I was transplanting them..it first creased the leaf where it touched the rim and then lost it entirely.
I found they use quite a bit of water.. I have them in selfwatering pots and need to keep an eye on the water level . They would likely do well in wicking beds I would think.
They are offering plants for sale in Alberta but I intend to bring mine in in the winter..possibly depends on where your seeds come from i.e the flood plains of China or the Himalayas how hardy they will be. You shouldn't need to worry as far as that's concerned though. Good luck
on this forum www.homesteadingtoday.com there is someone that compiled a booklet that he is sharing free online on home money making adventures.. to to the forums, scroll down to the income ones and it is tagged at the top of the page
Bloom where you are planted.
I don't sell anything yet, but I can wax eloquent about mulberries and gojis all day long. I have started trading sugarless mulberry jam for mushroom logs though.
As I convert my quarter acre lot into something akin to a mini food forest, my philosophy with weed trees is that I leave them be until they get in my way. Because of this I have 13 mulberry trees that I didn't plant. After about three years they start to bear. I eat the young leaves as well.
Instead of pruning I'm using a technique in which I use twine to train branches to stay more horizontally in picking range. Once the trees get large enough I start running vines up the trees. It takes a little work, but I'm starting to realize my fantasy jungle. The volunteer mulberries have created enough shade for me to crank up my mushroom production.
I've started experimenting with Pakistani mulberry. Four inch long berries... No joke. Eventually, I'll try grafting some of the Pakistani's to the wild trees for a bit of fun.
I've been spitting goji seeds in new beds and have started getting sprouts. The dried berries from stores have seeds that usually will sprout. The mature plants propagate like willows it seems. When you've nibbled off all of the berries and leaves, chop a branch and jam it into the ground. There's a good chance you'll get a new plant.
Mulberries and gojis are great. Very successful and weedy, and I mean weedy in a good way.
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