View Full Version : What do you do for a living?
Douglas J.E. Barnes
30-05-2006, 02:48 AM
Those of you who have taken courses with Geoff will know of how he describes stepping into the new (permaculture) life. It is unnerving stuff jumping into the water when you don't know what's in it or what temperature it is.
I'm on the verge of plunging in but I want to know what I'm getting into before I do it. So, I have a few of questions that I hope you all can help me with:
Do you make your living with permaculture?
If you do, how is it you make money? What makes the most money?
Are you doing ok, or sinking into debt?
Are you working to death, or do you have enough moments to rest?
If you could do it all over again, would you do the same thing? What would you do differently?
What permaculture opportunities do you see?
I am very cautious and tend to be a worrier, especially with financial matters. I am really attracted to this life, but worried at the same time. I'm not out to become a rich man (I'd be busy building permaculture research institutes everywhere if I were rich). I just want a secure life. I need to pay off land and a home, keep a sensible vehicle running, pay medical bills and pay (overblown) taxes. No need for a 50" plasma screen tv and $5000 stereo, etc, etc. Just a simple life will do, thanks.
I look forward to your input to help this nervous and confusesd permie.
Richard on Maui
30-05-2006, 03:28 AM
I think most of the problems that humans cause stem from this desire for a "secure life"/ Life is pretty insecure by definition I reckon. Part of how Permaculture can save the world I think, is by giving people some sense of security by providing their basic needs. YOu know, maybe people won't feel the need to be so grasping, if they can see where their food and shelter are coming from...
Anyway, how do I make a living? Well, I am working on implementing a Permaculture design on a 14 acre property owned by a relatively rich absentee landowner. My family lives here in comfortable, "secure" accomodation and we have our basic living expenses taken care of in exchange for my services. Although, I'm sorry to say there ain't no health insurance involved!
Extra to that, I recently took the International Society of Aboriculture certification course, and started working for one of my costudents who is a long time tree trimmer. He pays me a decent hourly rate, and more often than not gives me a load of woodchips to take back to the farm. It works out well, since it would cost me a lot in terms of labor and equipment to produce the same amount of mulch on the farm, and yet, this way, I can get paid for it too... But it is terribly ironic sometimes. The other day we cut down a beautiful young black sapote for a guy who didn't want it crowding out his royal palm... Sheesh. So, I brought the wpoodchips home from that to mulch a uh, black sapote!
I have a friend who has a little nursery in Northern NSW that has been providing a small but satisfying income for him and his partner for a few years now. They grow vegetable seedlings, and have a few market gardeners who do regular orders, and they also go around to the various local markets in their region.
More better in my opinion to try to make money in Permaculture actually doing stuff. Consultants are wankers.
Douglas J.E. Barnes
30-05-2006, 04:54 AM
I know what you are saying about security. Unfortunately, there are bills that need paying no matter what. I have some property now that is costing me $4000 in property taxes. (Since I'm half owner, I pay that every other year, but it's still a lot.) Any home I get will require shelling out the shake down of the local council.
A nursury is something I have thought of. It could be incorporated into another business (eg. organic farm), I think.
Getting an ISA certificate would be a really good idea, too. I'll get on that.
Thanks for your thoughts, Richard.
I very eagerly await the responses of others.
30-05-2006, 09:18 AM
I manage an NGO dedicated to fostering food security through biodiversity. I work in agriculture and development, training farmers in agroforestry (and permaculture, but seldom use that term as it leads to further questions). We also host university groups.
Um, I also do consultancy work, in solar, agroforestry and cacao. I am usually paid pretty well for my work, but my work outside of the project (MMRF) is pretty spotty. I got hired for a three day consultancy last month for an agroforestry project that may (probably won't) happen next year on 100 acres of land adjacent to a banana plantation. It paid the princely sum of USD225. So, um, perhaps I am a spotty wanker,and can be forgiven as I get paid so little, Richard? :lol:
I design, sell and install renewable energy systems, which pays lots of bills, but it is irregular, too.
Our NGO hosts training, had a PDC last year, hosts student groups (just had a really good bunch from Truman State University), and provide a venue for training for other NGOs.
We are hoping to create a vanilla project here, working with women and womens groups as vanilla is an excellent and empowering crop for women here.
We have been so broke that having one dollar was incredible. We went for years on the edge of financial survival, but I lucked out in a job working for an organic chocolate company (since sold out to Cadbury's).... which paved the wway to what we do now...
What I do have is regular amounts of excess food. Even when we were really flat broke, we ate really, really well. Our diets are varied, based on seasonal things, and almost none of what we eat is processed. This buffers our boom to bust to boom cycles as we never grow hungry!
Richard, I love the benefits of work like getting wood chips... that is a form of extra payment that I love....
Douglas, if you can find something that you can sell from your farm, or a service you can provide, that would be good, otherwise, find a job near your ppplace... which can be hard!
Douglas J.E. Barnes
30-05-2006, 11:22 AM
Thanks, Christopher. I have been thinking of stacking business - doing different things for different people at different times.
One of my brother's friends made a fortune with cut flowers (people won't pay as much for food as flowers). Organically grown is a possibility.
Is there anyone out there doing CSA?
30-05-2006, 02:02 PM
I was a travel agent that owned [me & the bank] a virgin block with a dwelling on it. It and I were going nowhere as I neither had time nor money. So I walked out on the travel agency and put a manager in.
That solved the time issue. I had 3 years at home playing around. Interestingly, I had time to think [and garden, babysit, cook, race pigeons etc etc] and my income took off. I started a cleaning business which gave me kid/animal/family/garden time. All it really did was take up my evening telly time. My income went from survival to being able to make decent financial decisions.
After a natural disaster, loss of best friend, 3 businesses indutated etc my wife wanted a change. So we are 800kms away from 'home'.
I am well out of the travel industry and now run a cleaning business which has grown into waste management too & a security business. All means to an end.. I should be home in about 14 months with no mortgages and enough cash to build a new home & outbuildings etc.
Having achieved that our needs will be minimal. I can spend time then developing a permie income [which need not be cash based, you can swap a lot which I did before].
A lot of Permaculture philosophy is incorporated in my business and because I can discuss issues like clean, green, sustainable, environmental impacts etc in my sleep. Decision makers are very assured that by entrusting you with their site/job/ project that the results they want will be achieved.
Every council and government department in australia wants green and sustainable solutions to their every need. Permie thinking, which may seem perfectly normal to us, can often be seen as holistic and lateral by non-permies.
I hope Bill doesnt hit me for a tithe but the largest section of my business generates $500k per annum and whilst I lacked a number of skills I was considered suitable 'cos of the permaculture elements and attitudes I incorporated into the proposal. I dont want to go into much more detail than that as it is commercially valuable.
Now, 3 cheers for the cleaning industry. It is lucrative, great exercise, you start and finsih every day. I do like that. No one around to bother you. In the travel industry files could be open for months, you never seemed to have anything finished. It was real treadmill stuff.
If anyone wants to get into the cleaning industry or buy a cleaning business [not mine] there are formulae available. These are extremely commercially valuable so I am not going to post them but will respond to a PM from known posters..
Good luck Doug.
Richard on Maui
30-05-2006, 04:13 PM
Oh, Christopher, I never said anything about you being spotty... :lol:
Seriously, I have respect for people who have a lot of practical experience actually doing Permaculture and then go consulting, but there is a bit of a phenomenon of these wankers going around pretending to be experts when they couldn't grow a tomato to save themselves.
Obviously, I would put you in the former rather than the latter category Christopher, mate, and I hope you put that $225 to good use!
Floot, your business acumen sounds wonderful. Reminds me of Maxwell Smart, "If only they'd used their powers for good, instead of evil...". Sounds like you actually are! :D
30-05-2006, 04:27 PM
Hahahah, Richard! I understood what you meant. IO have met a few experts, too, good o self promoting but don't seem to know that much about farming....
The $225 was well spent!
30-05-2006, 04:44 PM
Richard ... thanks for the business acumen compliment... I should have pointed out I spent 20 years previously doing things that didnt work.
Hear hear on the experts... ''Those that can, do; those that can't, teach,"
30-05-2006, 04:51 PM
DJEB.....excellent question....my advice....feel the fear and do it anyway.....I am.
I have just started up a "permie" business doing consulting, design, training and just about anything else that comes along. It's a bit slow at the moment but building up better and as spring time comes in I'm sure I will have my hands full. I'm mainly getting garden restoration and maintenace work regularly, but have had a couple of designs as well. I am going to start up a permie training school with 2 other permie teachers here in the very near future... I think you have to start off doing a lot of the small jobs first to enable you to get to the better well paying ones later, especially as your reputation grows...
As I live in a rural NSW town, my main clients are the ordinary suburban backyarders looking for help with many issues. Water,soil, animal systems etc are all covered when I get to a persons place...giving my opinion in which way the yard could work better. This is my main income now.There are so many avenues you could take. Lots of permies I know tend to have a particular part of permaculture that they are better at. I want permies I can turn to who are knowledgable in many areas....water tank installation, earthworkers, builders, farming specific animal systems, teaching, facilitating, artworkers, etc.
In my opinion everyone can be a permie no matter what they are doing in life....the ethics and principles of permaculture can be applied to every job on the planet I reckon.
Go forth young man and do what you need to do.
When I have a break in permi work I get seasonal fruit picking, factory work, being an artists model, I even walked dogs....you gotta do what ya gotta do....but I am a permie now and forever. Thankyou Bill and David and all those who've paved this path.
Jump off the cliff and fly.....
30-05-2006, 09:52 PM
do it! the universe will reward you!
only when living fully, taking risks and remaining open to possibility can you see those possibilities arise and be ready to jump on them..
Douglas J.E. Barnes
30-05-2006, 11:01 PM
Wow. Thanks for the latest replies. I've got more and more ideas swirling around my head now.
I asked Danial Lawton and his advice was teaching (I'm not ready to be a PDC teacher yet - need my own stories to tell first) and being a wanker. :wink: Mind you, he stressed the importance of professionalism particularly with being a wan... er, consultant.
Organic cut flowers are starting to look really good, too. A friend of my brother made himself a very rich man with greenhouses raising flowers. People won't pay nearly as much for food as they will for flowers. That might make a good base to go on to CSA and a permaculture centre for Ontario, Canada.
The very long term goal is something like the PRI for Canada. I had originally thought of the Permaculture Research Institute of Canada until I realised that would be PRIC. :cry: :lol:
30-05-2006, 11:45 PM
DJEB, I guess you've seen the thread through these answers that people are having two or more jobs to make ends meet, or having projects that may or may not keep happening.
I've been self-employed as a paralegal for 20 years. It is what pays the bills. I have a farm where I grow fruits, vegetables and flowers to sell in the summer. It is hard, dirty, tiring labor. I have to work on holidays and weekends. I work whether it's raining, windy, or cold. I have to work until I run out of light, or if something goes wrong I work by the headlights of the truck. I have to maintain my own equipment, usually when I need the mower/tiller/chainsaw most, they've got something that needs adjusting or fixing when there isn't time for it. I have to think 3 to 4 months ahead of time about what will be needed. The mice, rats, ticks, snakes, bees, etc., are cruel co-workers. I have to understand plant diseases, and bug populations, soil biology and how weather is going to affect the availability of a crop. I might need it one week, but it won't be ready until the next week, so I chase around for substitutes.
Working with people who want a big bang for their buck is not easy. Pleasing them after having spent my days working hard is a balancing act that takes a lot of patience. They have no idea what it takes to produce food or flowers, they want it perfect and cheap. You have to be a very calm people person, and be willing to say they are right and you are wrong (because the customer is always right!), and that's not always easy.
Running a CSA is a people job. People sign up with high hopes, and many many cannot keep up the pace. It's a difficult commitment that is not what they expect. You would also have to help everyone be successful, know what to do to produce large amounts of produce, despite setbacks. You need to have a track record so people will be confident you have experience before they sign up. Do research and talk to people doing it, so you understand all the levels of committment it takes.
I think permaculture is a philosophy that can be applied to the way one does a job, whether it's landscape design, agriculture or architecture. The foundational occupation is what is crucial, then the permaculture gets applied to it.
Hopefully you will find what you love to do....not just like to do, but love, and if it's raising and selling flowers, which includes arranging them, finding supplies (even if you grow your own, you'll have crop failures), understanding the local customers and what kind of flowers and arrangements they want, running the economic end of the business, it would be a good idea to take a couple classes at the local night school.
I do a lot of things differently because I think about how permaculture could do it better. It's a LOT of working setting up a permaculture system, and you save work after it gets going. You don't want to spend a couple years setting up a system that you really don't like working in. :)
Douglas J.E. Barnes
31-05-2006, 12:06 AM
Thanks, sweetpea. Am I reading something into your response that isn't there? It sounds like you don't like the farming. I can understand and do hard work and would expect to run into snags. But I wouldn't expect drudgery.
At any rate, there are a few farmers in Ontario doing CSA and I'd like to hear how successful it is for them.
On finding something I love, this is it. To be able to enhance environmental systems instead of harm them is something I've dreamed about since I was a kid.
My profession is teaching, but after more than a decade in the very stressful and polluted city of Tokyo, I cannot stay healthy for more than a few weeks at a time - until I moved out. Perhaps an ESL permacultre school... :)
31-05-2006, 12:52 AM
I am not sure Sweetpea is saying she doesn't like farming. I can't speak for her, but I know I love farming, coaxing food from the soil, planting trees that take 5-8 years to flower, eating the fruit of my labour, but....... making money from farming is really, really hard work, and can be extremely stressful. The years we were dependent on farming for all of our income were years of hard work, good living, ingenuity, stress and poverty. We ate really well.
Additionally, focusing on accessing markets makes you limit what crops you can devote attention to. We have well over 300 species of plants here, and only a few of them are of marketable quantities to access foreign markets, like cacao. Others, banana, plantain, we have lots of, but the local market is saturated, and we don't have enough to export up to Belize City.
We are working on vanilla as a crop because it is extremely high value, and occurs here naturally. It also lends itself to being another component in an existing stacked polyculture....
Our situation is a bit different. We live in a developing country with lots of farmers, so the markets are often flooded when our crop comes in: mango season its hard to sell mangos. Pineapple season its hard to give them away (of course jamming them up in jars for Christmas season gives us a marketable when the market is more advantageous).
In the developed world you might access a premium market for locally produced food, or organic certified, etc..... and access to those markets could be a way to make farming viable.
Organic cut flowers sound brilliant!
Most broad acre farmers, corn and soy, that I know in the US (wifes family are midwestern farmers) keep a job or two on the side, own some rental properties, etc, to make it, altho one, Dawns wonderful Aunt Joyce, produces hybrid corn seed for a small seed company, and runs a soil lab in the barn, which makes enough money for her to keep the farm afloat.
For 7 years I ran an extension program for cacao, and we had several "experts" brought in by development agencies, all of whom were not good at information transfer to the various ethnicities (American English and Costa Rican Spanish speaker using halting English to Kekchi and Mopan Maya farmers, there were bound to be some communication issues). We found that farmer to farmer exchanges, or training involving site visits was wonderful for the farmers, and information transfer was more likely to occur seeing working models than in classroom settings! So I am on the same page regarding the relative value of "experts".
MMRF has lots of examples of plant guilds that work, and we are able to run trials on things that may work, or might not, since we can afford to take risks. Most farmers, everywhere, are risk adverse, so by being a risk taking generalist/teacher (not an expert! hahahah), we can be of use to others and make a modest living from it......
I do a lot of things differently because I think about how permaculture could do it better. It's a LOT of working setting up a permaculture system, and you save work after it gets going. You don't want to spend a couple years setting up a system that you really don't like working in. Smile This is a very valuable bit of info.....
I think you should go for it. Like having kids, if you wait until you are "ready", you'll never do it....
Douglas J.E. Barnes
31-05-2006, 01:23 AM
I owe your guys big time. This information is great!
Christopher, the flowers route might be the way to go with other things (consulting, designing, etc.) around it.
31-05-2006, 08:56 AM
I dunno about Canadian law but from my experience it is very similar to aussie law in so many respects. Under australian law there is no minimum size for a flower grower to claim all sorts of primary producer exemptions and deductions.
For instance, to be a cattle farmer I think the minimum is 50 cattle. To be a mango farmer the minimum is, I think, 200 trees. Chook farmers 500 layers etc etc
I know Subway have a policy of sourcing a lot of their stuff locally here. I was invited to supply my local subway with hydroponic lettuce at supermarket prices [not wholesale]. A good way to get your feet wet, so to speak and lettuce are a bit more forgiving than flowers. Perfection is everything with flowers so the wastage factor is huge. Producing lettuce is all about continuity.
I am not a permaculturist, I have no 'ticket'. If I were, however, and in your situation I would be approaching town/city/provincial planners and having a talk to them. In any area there are daggy, unused bits of land that no-one is quite sure what to do with. Tell them you have a plan or proposal and wish to put it to them. Get in front of the decision makers and attach a spreadsheet with your costs. This doesnt have to be cheap, just effective.
Probably, as far as income generation goes, the primary model was to get a block of land. Set up a permaculture farm and invite people to do a permie course at your place and charge them. Whilst there will always be demand for this type of place there are other things we should be doing - like forcing Permaculture into mainstream urban planning. I believe Permaculture has a huge role to fill there with great economic outcomes for Permies.
Douglas J.E. Barnes
31-05-2006, 11:06 AM
Hooray for tax breaks. It's good news if it applies for flowers here. I don't know the minimum number of mango trees you need in Ontario to get such discounts. Either way, the people from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs would be surprised to see them. Joking aside, it would be fun to grow mangoes and other tropicals in greenhouses here. There'd be no money in it as long as you can pick up a dozen mangoes in Toronto for $5 (as compared to Tokyo where one good mango goes for $5).
I like the land idea. I've heard Geoff's strategies for getting free city land for permaculture city farms. I'm not sure I understand your suggestion, though. Are you saying that I might be able to get land from the city to run a private enterprise? If so, that would be perfect.
When I get the PRIC :lol: (see above) set up, I'm having a big party for all you guys. Thanks.
31-05-2006, 12:34 PM
DJEB, I was trying to give a reality check, just to be helpful, because I really don't want anyone to put all the effort into something that they haven't tried and may not know what to expect. :)
It is very easy to imagine sitting at a cute stand selling pretty vegetables and flowers to happy people. That is the final moment, that is the frosting. How those vegetables got there is what I described before. I'm trying to wipe every piece of dust and dirt off of everything so no one will remember that what they are about to put in their mouths was just in cow poop. They show up and expect something above and beyond what the grocery store offers, and what the local farmer's market offers, which of course, rarely happens. We can do variations, but we all tend to do very similar variations.
I guess there are two issues. If one hasn't already done farming, one doesn't know if it suits how one wants to live their life. Farming is hard work, it's not glamorous, it's not easy, it involves amazing amounts of scientific knowledge. If you screw up, you have to wait a year to get another crop in most cases. I planted 300 tomatoes one year, in one month the gophers pulled down 100. That was June. I had to try to provide tomatoes until the end of October. Suddenly it was too late to start more tomatoes, so I had to start driving around buying them wholesale, if they were available. I thought I was going to grow them, but suddenly it all changed.
Secondly, just because one *can* grow something, doesn't mean it will sell. There must be a market for it. If even 5 other local people are already selling it, there won't be a market.
I love farming, but it is very hard work. These things didn't happen to me because I did it wrong. That's what farming is. I "am" a farmer. I come from a long line of farmers. It works for me, because I can see dirt as a magical substance, not as something dirty. I want to combine water, bacteria, soil, amendments and plants in ways that do wonderful things, but I am sweating and tired, my feet hurt, my butt gets stung by bees 20 at a time, my fingers get stabbed with thistle stickers. Sometimes when the chain drive falls off the mower for the third time, and the sleeve that holds the master link on flies off in the dirt, which is the same color as it is, the sun is going down, the wind is picking up, I'm cold and hungry, but I have to get the chain back together to put away my very expensive and invaluable field mower, so I grovel around in the dirt, and struggle with it until it gets done. I could go on and on.
I think it is important to be realistic. Holding a tomato or a beautiful flower in your hand is the tip of the iceberg, it is the end of the line. It is not where you spend your time, effort, knowledge and digging deep within yourself to figure out the next crisis Mother Nature throws at you.
Reading about it is lovely, seeing the magazines and their 3-column descriptions that cover 12 months of work are very nice, but they are not reality. Reading how permaculture works is not the same as putting it in place. If you gave 12 successful farmers free reign to implement permaculture on their farms, they would all be slightly different, because they know how they work, and how to fit it into what they already do.
I guess I just hear the phrase "doing permaculture" as too vague to be of help to anyone. The actual job is something like farming, raising animals, designing landscapes, designing houses, workplaces or community settlements, architecture, running a recycle business, etc. Those are all very straightforward careers. One can then apply permaculture to them.
I worry when I see people on boards say, "Go for it!" and "You can do it!" when the reality is that people have mortgages to pay, families to care for, and can't just "go for it." It is devastating when it doesn't work. No one tells you that part.
I think the other gardeners/farmers here can relate to what I'm saying, and we all kind of grin when we say it, because it is being in the trenches. Do you know how disgusting manure tea smells, or alfalfa tea smells? It's like the plague, and you carry it in buckets, slopping on your fingers and boots, pouring it on the plants. The plants respond so amazingly well, you keep doing it, but it's gross!
If any of this seems appealing, then it may suit you as well. It's just the realities of what the job actually entails, and committment to those realities that lets you know that you can co-exist with it so it does support your lifestyle and your soul :)
Douglas J.E. Barnes
31-05-2006, 01:26 PM
Thanks for the great advice, sweetpea. As you say, it's the time when doesn't work that I am worried about. A lot, maybe most of businesses fail which is why I want to know what other people are doing and how successful it is.
I have a professional manager mentoring me through everything that I am doing and giving me lots of advice, but a lot of it is a little too positive. If it can work, great. If not, then I'm screwed. Any way I slice it, I've got at least one year of losing money before things start picking up. That's if it doesn't go bankrupt.
I have a lot of reservations about food farming here right now. People in North America have no respect for food - they can't say boo about whether it's genetically mutilated or not, unlike Europe or Japan, and they care about what's cheap, not what's good. If I wanted to live out my days in Japan (no thanks), I wouldn't be asking these questions. I'd be busy farming and pulling in a lawyer's salary doing so. But this ain't Japan.
31-05-2006, 02:52 PM
You certainly asked a great question.
Sweetpea is right.
I failed to mention that my enthusiasm for going into a permi business was seriously thought out with market research, a business plan and help from a small business group that helps people to set up businesses down here.
If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail as the old business motto goes.
Do your research into what works out your way, talk to others doing exactly the same thing in your area....maybe you will discover a niche somewhere. I have 2 other "permi businesses" to contend with here in my small area but neither of these guys wants to do small backyard projects or do any labour towards building gardens...and I can do that...hence my niche. These guys are also older than me and may not be around much longer.....(two heart attacks and one bypass already between them!)
I'm going down that track of working in a field that is my passion, therefore it's not really work it's a love.
If it doesn't make money it's a hobby...as soon as it starts making money it's a business....another business enterprise motto.
We have a big cut flower market happening in our area with plants mainly going to the Japan market. But it's seasonal....what can you do to diversify. I know of a guy who has organic wines, potatoes, lamb and wool products coming off his farm...very diverse and aways bringng in an income...but like sweetpea says...he works very hard and loves that kind of lifestyle.
31-05-2006, 03:51 PM
Just wanted to put my two cents worth in!
I am a 30 year old receptionist and my hubby is a 33 year old factory supervisor - both unglamorous, full-time jobs, but as some people have already mentioned - 'a means to an end'!
Over the last 5 years we have turned 50 acres of almost complete bush into a livable, beautiful sanctury! Solar-powered house, 45 fruit trees, huge garden, glasshouses, chookshed, workshop, dams, etc. This was done working every spare weekend, holiday and after-work time we could manage! I look back now and realise how far we've come already (with a looong way to go), and i would never go through it again, but that's the joy of being niave (and young!) i think! We are at a stage in our lives where we have paid off our small mortage, have one decent car (and one 'not so decent' car!), been on holiday a couple times over the last two years and now deciding how we can quit our jobs, but still live and pay bills!
We are a little unsure how to go about this too, as i think we've fallen into such a routine, and now only dream about what we could achieve being home full-time! And the double income does come in handy, too!! I am envious of those 'hippy' permie type people who are able to stay home every day and never run out of money!
All i can say is good luck and go for it! I think i will!
Now, to find a part-time job that pays the bills . . . hmmm . . .
Richard on Maui
31-05-2006, 04:48 PM
At this point I can't help but throw in the old faithful comment that one great way to lower the bills is to reduce consumption...
(I think I'll switch off the computer now). :lol:
31-05-2006, 05:09 PM
Hope this is helpful DJEB.
I live on a quarter acre block in a relatively small town on the east coast of Australia. I work full time at the local hospital as a nurse and am the sole parent to two teenagers. I have been playing with permaculture in various places and different ways since I discovered it in the mid eighties. My long term dream when I moved here ten years ago was to set this place up as a showcase or a 'catalogue' for my permaculture design business. Circumstances have changed, dreams modified but the long term plan of making permaculture work for me continue. I continue to modify the old shack that we live in to be environmentally friendly.I continue to develop the garden to provide us with food. I preach the virtues of permaculture as much as I can without losing friends(in this somewhat redneck part of the world). I teach my children by example and in deed in the ways of permanent culture. I continue to do my best to leave the smallest footprints I can on this planet. One thing I have learnt is that no matter where you think you'll be in the future, circumstance has a way of taking part and altering your course. It's important then to make your decisions for the right reasons and be happy with what you have decided. Permaculture is as much about networking and society as it is about 'farming'. That is where I am at at the moment, working to bring up the kids and pay off the mortgage, working on the house and garden, promoting permaculture locally. I wish you well in whatever you do but where you start and where you think you'll end up are two totally different things, the starting point is the only known variable. The journey is what it is all about. Whatever you do it all comes down to what your prepared to put up with for what you want. :)
Douglas J.E. Barnes
01-06-2006, 12:50 AM
I thank you all again for the super input. Hearing what other people really helps and is a great source of ideas. And hearing about potential dangers helps with planning.
One way to go about this is to lay my cards on the table - know where I'm coming from and list my ideas. I'd love to hear why they may or may not be feasible. Without further ado:
I had a well-paid job teaching in Toyko. The city, however, is very stressful for me (already had one duodenal ulcer with a 10-day hospital stay) and it is so polluted it makes LA look clean. Furthermore, living in Tokyo means that you cannot help being destructive to the planet. I no longer want to do that.
Here are the ideas I've had:
:idea: Design and consulting business moving into more and more teaching until I feel I have the experience to run a really good PDC (I've been a teacher of this or that since 1990 and have the teaching bug.) A demonstration farm would be set up and teaching would be on location.
:idea: Design and conultation with organic flowers in greenhouses (and perhaps a nursury) as another income.
:idea: Buy old houses, retrofit them for enery efficiency - being completely passive solar, if possible - then selling them.
:idea: Getting government contracts to return old mines and gravel pits to their original (or better) condition.
:idea: Building an eductional retreat offering an place away from the city and teaching people how to deal with an energy-decent world.
:idea: Starting an organic farm based focusing on CSA.
:idea: Go into the energy business consulting and designing for efficiency and selling products - LED lamps, wind and solar systems, micro hydro, etc.
:idea: Running away and joining a straw bale building crew (starting to boom in Ontario) building homes in the summer and doing permaculture design and consultancy in the winter.
FWIW, I think you have the right idea in diversifying your earning activities Douglas. When you mention cut flowers being a better money spinner than food, I can't help thinking...'yes, but will it always be that way in years to come?'
Cut flowers are a luxury item, whereas your other ideas for food production, teaching/advice/consultancy, construction etc. are all essential to the coming era of energy descent. If I were you, I'd be wary of going too far into non-essential, luxury item production...there simply may be no market (or at least a greatly reduced one) in years to come.
Good luck with your decision and future endeavours.
Douglas J.E. Barnes
01-06-2006, 03:16 AM
Thanks, Jez. I was thinking that the flower end could help support the other things. And if the market changes, the infrastructure from flower production could be shifted over to food production.
Thanks for the word of caution. I think the energy question is really important. Here in Ontario, electricity rates increased by an average of about 10%. Natural gas has peaked and prices have gone up. And there are warnings about gas reaching $1.30 a litre this hurricane season. Where we go from here no one can say with any accuracy other than to say that things will get more expensive over the long haul.
Business aside, I'd like to be somewhere quiet and clean where I produce most of my own food, live in a house of my design (if you want something done right...), and generate my own power. To get all that and not be sinking into debt is the personal goal. If I can make money improving the health of people and the planet, that would be awsome. (I could be making money doing the opposite, but won't.)
01-06-2006, 10:57 AM
Re: tax breaks. The production size for tax breaks formula is no longer used by the tax department. Their way of determining if you are a primary producer is by proportion of income. So in a financial year if the bulk of your income is from primary industry, you are a producer no matter how big or small you might be.
01-06-2006, 12:42 PM
Re The Question "what do you Do for a living"
After Living for 52 years and 3 months of exsisting on this planet,and taking into account all of the problems my fellow permies and I have discovered in our up to the minute lifetimes..I just realised that one of US, me or you lot :lol: .im not too sure anymore 8) Is Doing this all wrong :shock: :wink:
Why arnt I moaning and carrying on about, how hard it all is,How sore my blisters are,how hot/cold/wet/dry/funny/sad/good/bad?my life is...Im really paniking now as my life isnt like some of yours..Im dead green with envy.
I demand equal rights,I want your problems,I want your worries.,Does anyone give lessons on how to be like this?.Does anyone Do Correspondence courses? :(
Permaculture:- "Just Be It"
Douglas J.E. Barnes
01-06-2006, 12:52 PM
Yikes, Tezza. Sorry I started all this and caused you so much grief. :cry: :wink: :D
01-06-2006, 04:54 PM
Douglas, I was told a while ago to look into growing foliage for the floral industry. The flowers make more money, but foliage, the green stuff that is essential for flower arrangements, is cut from various shrubs, and is in high demand, so is pretty regular, and not such hard work to produce in sufficient volume. I was told it's a reliable second income, and I guess it would suit a multi-layered permaculture. Any one know much about this side of the business?
My situation is similar to yours, Douglas, but I think everyone agrees that Permaculture holds the key to the future, as crowded industrial cities become less and less sustainable.
01-06-2006, 06:03 PM
This fella here is unemployed... and has been for 2 years !!! Crazy, literally. Put the violin away because I wont bore anyone with the story.
What I am to do about this. I'll start by doing a PDC I will, and being unemployed I'm "considering" doing APT cert 4, tho I'm not sure considering I've had nearly no experience in the practical realm of permaculture.
Thanks to, and excuse me all you hardworking, tax paying people... sincerely.
02-06-2006, 07:12 AM
Andy.. no joy [or shame] in being unemployed. Ask your Job Network provider if they can fund a permie course.
If that doesnt work ask the instructor if you can 'help' and do the PDC real cheap. Permie Instructors have a living to make but by definition they are community spirited.
In 1989 I organised the Skillshare I ran [as president] to put 15 people thru a PDC - which we paid for. Damn shame I couldnt put myself through the course at that time but was too busy at work although every night I read all the stuff and quizzed the people on the course.
Douglas J.E. Barnes
21-07-2006, 04:34 AM
This JUST in: Ecoedge Design LTD is now a corporation registered and entitled to do business in the Province of Ontario.
Thanks to everyone who gave advice or even left a comment. It was an immense help. :D
21-07-2006, 08:19 AM
Go Douglas Go Good luck with your enterprise..
I hope you get everything you want out of your new venture....
21-07-2006, 09:45 AM
Hey, Douglas, that's great! Ya got a website yet? Hahahaha!
Tell me more about what your business aims to do, please. I am interestd.
Douglas J.E. Barnes
22-07-2006, 03:53 AM
I am hoping to do design, consultation and implementation for sites, and teaching. I want/need to set up a nursury and would like to set up green houses. Also, I am interested in mushroom cultivation.
The business is currently a corporation, but when it builts, I want to change that to a non-profit corporation. That will come in its due time.
The idea of creating or helping to create an ecovillage is also very appealing to me.
I wish I could tell you more, but things are just getting started, so I'll see were the future takes me.
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