[permaculture] A small-scale farm report. Was: Large scale farming - sustainable? Profitable?

deston denniston abundancepc at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 01:38:18 EST 2009


I'm going through this right now, - and seeing a thread above about 'what
not to do' - so Ill tack a few comments on the board.

I own 16 acres in a temperate climate, and Ill have made it
sustainable in ??? years and profitable in 10 years.  I would do this
by encouraging the existing trees to grow and planting up food forests
with perennial polycrops for food, fiber, plant feed and
and fodder all around them....  I would use almost all hand tools + a
few battery powered tools equipment have interns.

When I moved onto my land I figured 2-3 years. but it was the first
time I'd done this kind of project...let me offer some
'dont do this' since I cant say what will work...

I'm going to skip all the stuff about water and soil, etc. cause I
figure most people that get this list already have thought
of that.

Especially if you are rural, a good vehicle that you can either wrench
yourself or can afford to get wrenched is extremely
important. after I bought my land I blew through four trucks in 3
years. any 'profit' I would have made went right to the
very problem I was trying to address and be liberated from. I still
don't have a running vehicle...and that leads to  item #2.

Make sure you get land with adequate shelter. cause if you don't have
adequate shelter and your stuck in inclement weather, your
going to spend allot of time getting to know the most insufferable
bastard you ever met. And that can be liberating for the soul,
but it doesn't get the farm started. you don't get much work done when
its 34 f , pouring rain and 6 hours of twilight a day.
especially if your huddled in a drafty, leaky barn trying to stay warm
with a toxic propane tank powered heater.

Don't pick a site with major competing capital projects if you can
avoid it. I picked keeping a truck running vs. building a house. Its
difficult to do either if you must do both.

Six years in and Ive almost (this summer will do it) got a livable
building on the site.

I picked my site when I had flush pockets, got a good price and
bought- but it took all I had, i didn't leave a pad to land on-

allways strive to keep something in reserve! you never know when you
will throw out your back or break a few fingers, and you
be glad you gave yourslef a cushion to fall on when that happens. you
will inevitable miss a season due to injury or illnes,
whether yours or a loved ones, and keeping that cushion to land on is
essential to maintaining the project when you have
 to take than unanticipated break.

Ive got about 20 fruit trees, 16 acres of mixed alder and fir, and
water out the wazoo- 90 gallons a minute at 50#
 pressure on my well. I could, according to county code, put 8 houses
on the well provided I had a holding tank of -
 I think- 1200 gallons. anyhow, I fell in love with the site, but
bought too much- I would have been better off, in the short
run- to buy fewer acres (lower mortgage) and used the money for a more
reliable truck and perhaps some mechanics
classes at the community college... btw, 16 acres- I am looking for
land partners. its true. and that sanother thing that
I suspect will make difference- pooling resources with freinds.

Sad to say, but now, after 6 years with about 3 of it on and off
without a vehicle, I *almost* don't need a truck anymore,
a little jeep with a trailer would do it. But moving building
materials in and out, as well as ballast for foundations,
not to mention animal cages, etc...but I think I can get away with a
small trailer after this year.

the one thing I did do right: plant all the trees you can get your
hands on and learn to propagate. while Ive made a lot of
mistakes, my trees haven't. they get bigger and produce more every
year. I have been building guilds under the existing trees,
 and after three years I can a difference in their health and the
quality of the fruit. Suspect this year, year 7, Ill break even.

I worked real estate for awhile. if a project breaks even on year
seven, its a money maker. If it breaks even by year ten,
its still profitable. So depite the sweat ive put into the project, im
not sweating it, so to speak.

plant trees if you can,a dn all that you can. Skeeter mentions he cant
get the tractor in most places after 3 years.
that's the right schedule and leads to great production. I got
2#-3#/sf out of about 600sf of my 4000sf 'protected' garden -
(fenced from deer, etc). its got several  trees/shrubs around it and
in it now - David Blume says that he got MINIMUMS of
3#/sf at his silicon valley project . So i have a long way to go
before i can talk much about what _to_ do. Im still beating
USDA yeilds for most of my produce though.

But I would certainly say avoid the above mistakes.

and invite friends to the land. the earth longs for us to dance, play,
sing, and touch it. so encourage that. I'm a fair scientist,
but perhaps a better human. And I suspect that's what we really need
to get this whole thing figured out - be good neighbors,
to all beings, and to be good humans.

good luck and keep us posted!

Deston Denniston, M.S., C.P.I.
Principal, Abundance Consulting LLC
(360) 673-2124

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