In podcast 298, Paul continues his discussion with Jack Spirko, from The Survival Podcast, and Josiah Wallingford, from Brink of Freedom, about their latest project, PermaEthos. Jack and Josiah begin by talking about the opportunity to be an Element Partner with them on one of their farms. Basically, an element partner would find an element of the farm that they want to work with and come up with a business plan regarding that specific element. Then the partner would talk about it with Jack and Jo and if they approve, they will help you start up, develop, and establish your business. This doesn’t have to be a 20 page business plan but they are expecting the prospective partners to put a lot of thought into it. He gives the example of Michael, the bee guy who is going to start up a little bee products business at Elisha’s Farm.
The guys compare and contrast the element partners of PermaEthos to Joel Salatin’s Fiefdoms for quite a while. They then talk about the risks and challenges of having other people doing business on your land. Jack emphasizes how serious of a business man he is and how he expects his partners, even the element parters, to bring the same realistic mind-set to their farm.
The next thing the guys approach is ethics. Paul notes that this has been an ongoing argument between him and Jack for years. For the sake of keeping this summary less than twenty pages, we will just say Paul prefers to leave ethics out of the conversation. He believes this because he has seen that when you teach the permaculture techniques, ethics automatically come with it. On the opposing side Jack believes that you must teach ethics first and foremost because if they were practiced the way they were originally defined, they would develop the solutions for you.
Once they finish up their lengthy ethics discussion, Paul steers the conversation back to PermaEthos. He makes sure that his pod people know that anyone can find all of this information at permaethos.com if they are interested. The last big thing Jack and Jo have to announce is PermaEthos TV. They are super excited about this because they have an experienced, passionate tv producer who will be making an actually real reality show about permaculture and he is starting at Elisha’s Farms. He will simply document the real events that go on day to day and people can see the ins and outs of how a permaculture farm is designed and ran. You can subscribe to this very soon and if you sign up for the newsletter at permaethos.com they will definitely let you know when that will be available.
The guys talk a little bit about the hindrance the government has on positive changes in this country and then wrap up with a debate about kickstarter. Paul likes it. Jack doesn’t. You can hear the dirty details in the podcast.
First, I would like to remark on how much I enjoyed this series of two podcasts. I feel that these are among the best and most enjoyable of all of the richsoil podcasts, and we all know that there have been a LOT of podcasts with a LOT of quality content. But I was just psyched the whole time, being so impressed by the concept and ambition behind Permaethos and the velocity they have so quickly managed to achieve.
Top highlight of the whole podcast: Jack's description of the problem solving required to extemporize a solution to the missing water baffles and the lurch in which that left the permaethos crew, given that very expensive excavators were in danger of either leaving or burning up vast funds through idleness. When Jack characterized this as a good example of the need for keen and uncompromising business sense and the willingness to make hard business decisions in order to accomplish one's ethically-based permaculture objectives, and then paused to stress that the two concepts - business sense and ethics - are not mutually exclusive, I thought I might cream my shorts. (Not literally)
Bless you Jack! I truly believe that permaculture is going to save human civilization on this planet, if anything can, and to do that we are going to need hard-working and ambitious pragmatists like you, and lots of 'em.
Bless the purple-breathing, crazy-bearded dreamers too, but the fact is: they just aren't going to get it done.
Okay, I have a question for Jack, if he ever happens to read this. As a TSP member, I will try to post there too and perhaps be more likely to get a reply (though I've tried to post there before and been frustrated on technical grounds). Please explain your example of the hypothetical applicant proposing chinchilla farming for fur as an element partnership. I didn't get that part of the podcast. This was clearly meant to be a self-evidently absurd or inappropriate business plan, but I did not immediately understand why. What do you have against chinchilla farmers?
I have thought about it, and I can only assume that this example is meant to illustrate one of the following points:
1) "There is universal consensus among permaculturalists that raising livestock for fur should be avoided on ethical grounds." - If such a consensus exists, I wasn't aware of it, and I think I'd need some convincing. Plenty of permaculturalists I know raise domestic animals, eat meat, and wear leather. Further, I have listened to a lot of TSP and I've never before heard Jack come down against fur on principle. So, I am guessing this isn't the right answer (?)
2) "There are considerations of animal husbandry that make it obvious why raising chinchillas in large numbers is a poor choice for a steep, West Virginia farm." - I don't see why that would necessarily be a difficulty, based on the little I know about chinchillas. But could be.
3) "The very concept of a large-scale chinchilla fur operation immediately suggests an ill-informed and unrealistic business model based on a 'fad' product that may or may not actually have a market." - Could be, but I was not aware that this is the case. I actually thought there was a market for chinchilla fur. But I know even less about chinchilla fur than I know about chinchillas themselves.
D Graves wrote:Hey all, what has happened to the flagship permaethos farm/project? I checked the http://elishasspring.com/ website and it's pretty empty?! is it still going? and are there others in the pipeline?
I volunteered there for a weekend three years ago this coming Spring. I think that was when. It was alive and kicking at that point, although the owner had taken on a more hands-on role at that point, and the original permaculture designer named in the Permaethos podcast was no longer around.