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Old 08-13-2011, 09:31 PM
Location: Interior AK
4,729 posts, read 8,737,353 times
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A lot also depends on what you define as profitable. I mean, if you have a paid-for place and can supply most of your own food, how much more do you need to sell to make your farm "profitable" by your definition? Does that mean you make enough cash sales on surplus to pay property tax, utilities, medical, insurance, equipment & repairs? Or is just self-sufficiency enough to consider yourself "profitable" since it would drastically reduce any hours of wage work you'd need to do to manage those expenses? Or do you want to be self-sufficient, pay all expenses and have some left over to squirrel away as well?
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Old 08-13-2011, 10:01 PM
Location: Somewhere in America
12,304 posts, read 11,060,022 times
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Originally Posted by forest beekeeper View Post

Watch a turkey fight off a fox, it happens.
Sounds like something from Pay Per View! Interesting. I've never heard of this, but I have seen turkeys lose their minds and fight. It can get UGLY.
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Old 08-13-2011, 10:24 PM
Location: Forests of Maine
31,147 posts, read 50,323,277 times
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We have a few wild turkeys roaming here.

My domesticated chickens and turkeys are easily eaten by fox or weasel, but these turkeys are not so easily killed.

I have spoken with the state's Turkey biologist about their behavior, and I have watched the behavior of my own poultry.

Poultry can easily feed themselves in the forest, but you will rarely find their eggs. And if they were domestically raised they will not be smart enough to survive the predators.

I have poultry in coops, and I market their eggs. The annual cost of feed can rarely be covered by the sell of their eggs.

I have tried commercial 'layer feed', I have tried local grain mixes, and I have tried free-ranging in the summer. Ideally somewhere there is a balance that can be profitable without Federal subsidy.

There is no way to recoup your expenses on coops or cages.

No way that you will ever get a penny per hour for your time this way.

You could buy 500 day-old chicks for $3/each, brood them to 10-weeks old and have them butchered. It takes a lot of temp controlled brooding area, medicated feed, vitamin-enriched water and shoveling their poop. You may slide by with only spending $5/each on their feed. Butchering and inspections stickers will only run your $3/each plus 50cents/pound.

Sell them out of a van in a parking lot for $12/each. You may sell 10/day or 40/day. But either way baby-sitting a parking lot is boring. $1/bird profit to cover for 10-weeks of labor, plus hauling them to butcher, home from the butcher, freezing them, then the days at market, and of course all the expenses of brooding them. You may only be $5/bird in the hole.

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Old 08-16-2011, 04:59 PM
Location: North Western NJ
6,591 posts, read 21,272,224 times
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cortinux quail is a good simple meat and egg source, easy to raise and keep, small and easy, quiet. but quail meat tneds ot be a finniky market, its delicious but its small and tend to be "specialty" great if your in an area with some nice "fancy" resturaunts that want local meat
same goes for rabbit.

otherwise, im told many flower farms are doing quite comfortably, that might be a nice nich...
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Old 08-16-2011, 05:13 PM
Location: Forests of Maine
31,147 posts, read 50,323,277 times
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I know two families that are both doing artisan cheeses.

According to what fruit is in season they each make goat / cow cheese with fruits in them. Their products are fairly expensive, they sell out every week at market.
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Old 08-16-2011, 06:49 PM
373 posts, read 555,940 times
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Default Free range chickens

Originally Posted by forest beekeeper View Post
Poultry hatched in an electric incubator and brooded in an electric brooder; have never been taught how to be mothers [lets call them foster-poultry]. Once they grow to maturity and begin laying eggs, they may, or may not have any instincts about brooding. Often with many breeds any brooding instinct has been bred out of them by our modern poultry industry.

They grow up without parental guidance and they commonly turn to pecking on each other. A weaker chicken may be stripped of feathers and killed in an hour, by such chickens. I have observed this behavior. 12-week old chicks are yet too young to be laying, but yet you can not mix in with them 1-week old chicks, the young chicks will be killed.

Poultry brooded and raised by a hen, do not do exhibit this behavior.

'Foster-poultry' [hens raised in a group-home setting without parental guidance] when they do reach the age of laying will often eat their own eggs. Sometimes they may have some slight level of mothering instinct in them, which may cause them to set for a week, until they get board of setting, at which time they will eat their own eggs.

Hens who were raised by a mother hen, will themselves automatically tend to be good mother hens.

Similar behaviors are seen in a yard when predators are nearby. Foster-poultry are seemingly unaware of predators; they have no 'instinct' to be watchful, they have no idea of where to run, and they have no 'instinct' to fight a predator.

Hens raised by a mother hen and free-ranged are different. They are watchful of predators, they will immediately go up to roost away from predator reach, and some of them may decide to fight.

Watch a turkey fight off a fox, it happens.
A nieghbor had alot of free range chickens, some turkeys, geese, ducks.
They had been around many decades.

The chickens where wise but I had never thought of how they had got that way. Some where kept in coops where eggs where easy to get.

Some of the chickens even would often roost in trees at night. In the area I had rarely seen a raccoon and never a fox. But they did exist. They were fed grain from time to time but mostly foraged except in the winter. They were the best tasting chickens I have ever had. They were semi wild and very healthy.

The only bird that served limited purposes was Buzzard in a huge cage, that ate rotten eggs, and donations of road kill.

Once in awhile would encounter a reall wild turkey, those things were fast and shrewd. Franklin wanted them to be the national bird.
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Old 08-16-2011, 07:08 PM
Location: SW Missouri
15,853 posts, read 30,803,493 times
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Originally Posted by ognend View Post
First off, it's possible and it is not complicated. Contrary to what folks have told you in this thread, it is doable and you dont have to spend a fortune. All the cry-me-a-river stories of small farms come from folks who are used to plowing 100+ acres - they just can't accept the reality that you can be WAY more productive per acre in a small acreage. Check out SPIN farming SPIN-Farming - How to farm commercially on under an acre and also check out the Urban Homestead Urban Homestead ® - Path to Freedom - the latter will refute all the bull***t spread around about how difficult it is to farm a small spread.

Most important thing is to believe in whatever process you choose and not to listen to nay-sayers.
My $.02
The system would not let me give you a rep for this one!

Anyway, you are 100 percent spot on. It is the naysayers that will kill your dreams if you let them.

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Old 11-08-2012, 09:09 PM
8 posts, read 33,414 times
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Default Quality of Life: Priceless

There is a side effect of growing food for yourself, above and beyond What you can "Make" from it monetarily.

Your idea of Profit is imperative whether you are successful or not. If you are healthy, happy and full of energy while you do what you do while making a living, you are wealthy. Check out the link What is the most profitable type of small scale farming?

If you are stressed, burdened and miserable but have many "things", and are important to those who expect much from you, Tell me if you are wealthy.

What makes you successful will not make others feel the same. We have grown small gardens and large crops and beef, chickens and other animals and harvested berries that grow wild on our land.

The best part is for us any way: We will be debt free soon this year, and we still enjoy our day.

Choose a lifestyle and then live it. Farm your life, and harvest the fruits of your labor and you will always be profitable.
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Old 11-08-2012, 09:32 PM
Location: Prepperland
14,111 posts, read 10,129,552 times
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=>>> NOTE: this Excerpt is a 'small portion' of a long thread from:
number of people per acre - Permaculture - tribe.net
It can also be found here:
Food and Permaculture by David Blume
It appears to be in the public domain.

Food and Permaculture
by David Blume

I wrote this in response to post to the bioregional listserve from a woman at ATTRA who said something like "Of course you couldn't feed the world with such a hippy dippy hunter-gatherer landscape system like permaculture." Well that got me a little steamed so this is what I wrote.

Dear Folks,

I would like to inject some real world experience into this otherwise abstract discussion of food and permaculture.

In addition to being an ecological biologist, a permaculture production food farmer for 9 years, and an expert on biomass fuels, I have also been teaching permaculture since 1997 and have worked in many countries on food/energy production design issues. I have certified more than 400 people in permaculture design since 1997. For more info on this see my site at Permaculture & Alcohol Can Be A Gas

So in light of my experience I have a couple of things to say. Let us dispense, for the moment only, with the talk of hunter-gatherer models since, to return to that state or to imitate it with design would meet limited acceptance. This is not the core design goal of permaculture although some of our small scale subsistence agriculture designs vaguely look like a hunter-gatherer paradise (i.e. it never existed like this in nature.) The issue of private property as we now define it also complicates that model. We are living in an agricultural age and permaculture offers huge benefits to both production and subsistence agriculture.

As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres-- half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope--I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.

I did this for almost nine years until I lost the lease to my rented land. My yields were often 8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot. My soil fertility increased dramatically each year so I was not achieving my yields by mining my soil. On the contrary I built my soil from cement-hard adobe clay to its impressive state from scratch. By the end I was at over 22% organic matter with a cation exchange capacity (CEC) of over 25. CEC is an indirect measure of soil humus or the ability of the soil to hold nutrients available to crops. The higher the number the more nutrients are stored and available. For reference, most Class I commercial agricultural soil is lucky to hit 2% organic matter--the dividing line between a living and dead soil--with a CEC around 5.

At most times I had no more than half of my land under production with the rest in various stages of cover cropping. And I was only producing at a fraction of what would have been possible if I had owned the land and could have justified the investment into an overstory of integrated tree, berry, flower and nut crops along with the various vegetable and fruit crops. The farm produced so much income that I was routinely in the top 15% of organic farms in California (which has over 2000 organic farms) in most years on a fraction of the land that my colleagues were using. I grew over 45 different kinds of crops so my financial success cannot be attributed to growing a few high value crops like Yuppie Chow (salad mix).

Unlike other organic farmers, I almost never used even organic pesticides on my farm. The permaculture ecosystem I designed was so self-managing and self-maintaining with natural controls such as carnivorous insects, toads, lizards, snakes, owls, bats, and other allies, that it was rare that I needed to intervene (I can count the times on one hand that I intervened over 9 years). On the few occasions I did, I used coffee solution made from waste café coffee. You didn't think plants made caffeine to get you high did you? Caffeine is an extremely effective natural insecticide, which degrades in the sunlight or air in about 24 hours after use.

On the subsistence agriculture level, we permies regularly have designed productions systems around the world, which feed everyone living in a given house within a 50-foot radius of the house. This rule of thumb holds pretty well because the more folks who live there, the bigger the house, the larger the surface area, so no more than 50 feet is really necessary.

The math is easy. With a polyculture, yields of 3-10 pounds of food per square foot are easy to come up with in most climates. For comparison, commercial agriculture in California , which is way inefficient, routinely runs about 1.5-2.5 pounds per square foot per year across a wide variety of crops. People need to eat about two pounds of mixed food a day if active, or around 750 pounds a year. In a good but somewhat sloppy design, you need about 500 square feet per person MAXIMUM. In a very good design, 200 square feet will do the job. If your diet is heavy on grain you'll need more space but not an astronomical amount. Utilize a greenhouse to extend seasons and exchange air rich in carbon dioxide from chicken houses or human houses, which otherwise would go to waste, and yields ratchet up even more. Take a little more space and include ducks and aquaculture into the mix and the yields become quite diverse and substantial. This sort of system is typical in Vietnam now and there is no longer any measurable hunger there. Wouldn't it be nice if the US could do that with its "superior" first world agricultural system?

Can't do this on a commercial scale? Tell that to Archer Daniels Midland who operates many acres of greenhouses in Decatur using partially integrated production of fish, lettuce and other vegetables using waste carbon dioxide, grain by-products and other by-products from its 100-million gallon per year alcohol fuel production facility, while delivering these profitable agricultural products in trucks running on biodiesel (made from the corn and soybeans they process). This qualifies as commercial scale, very rudimentary permaculture that is wildly profitable and productive.

As a reality check, I'd like to remind everyone that in the 1850's, prior to refrigerated transport, New York City supplied all its food for a population of over a million from within 7 miles of the borders of the city. (It wasn't worth the cost of horse feed and time to go further than 7 miles to export food into the city). No one would discount a system of community food security for one million people as non-commercial.

There are two main reasons known for the dramatically increased productivity of a polyculture—the benefit of mycorhyzzal symbiosis (which is destroyed in chemical agriculture) and less solar saturation. Solar saturation* is the point at which a plants' photosynthetic machinery is overwhelmed by excess sunlight and shut down. In practice, this means that most of our crop plants stop growing at about 10am and don't start again until about 4 in the afternoon. Various members of a polyculture shade each other, preventing solar saturation, so plants metabolize all day. Polyculture as we pursue in permaculture uses close to 100% of the sunlight falling on its mixed crops. Monoculture rarely can use more than 30% of the total sunlight received before saturation. How long could you run any business without external support at 30% efficiency? When you look at a simple Mexican permaculture example, growth of the three sisters of corn, beans and squash (not even counting the 200 vegetables of various sorts growing in the shade of the sisters) you get close to 90% solar efficiency. When you total up the pounds of food from a Mexican acre you get FAR MORE FOOD than the highest yielding nitrogen soaked Iowa cornfield. This is the myth of the green revolution; that the highest total food yields occur in chemical monoculture.

Enough of this. The argument that we don't have enough food to go around is specious anyway. We currently produce more than twice the amount of food we need to feed everyone, even with the extremely inefficient model of monoculture. What starving people lack is money to buy food which is not considered a right but a commodity. Even being able to buy the food isn't a guarantee of access. Midwesterners find it cheaper to burn 5 cent a pound corn in stoves for heat even though Mexican families are willing to pay up to $1 a pound for corn to feed their family.

So you say, "Well if you're such a wiseguy and you obviously would make so much more money from the greater yields of a simple three crop permaculture system, why don't corporations in the Midwest do it to make more money?" This gets to the core of the problemw--hich is not population/resources and/or biological models of overpopulation which typically apply to wild animals.

Capitalism is concerned with more than just making money. The reason why monocultures are favored by corporations EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE THE LEAST EFFICIENT WAY OF PRODUCING FOOD in pounds of food per acre is that it can be done with the least amount of labor. To harvest the three sisters you would need a digital harvester--i.e. two hands--not a combine. Even though the increased labor would be totally justified by the increased profit, corporations are totally allergic to dealing with labor. Labor is messy. It organizes, it wants a fair share of the profit, cities want tax money to pay for worker habitat infrastructure and other pesky things that corporations will avoid at all costs. Our current form of agribusiness is a textbook case of design maximizing the advantage of capital to the disadvantage of labor facilitated by the artificially low cost of energy.

The other reason is control of the market. It is now estimated that 80 percent of the world's arable (read European-style plowed) agricultural land is now in the hands of multi-nationals. It has served their needs to keep productivity low to make it possible to get a hold of as much of the means of production as possible. Farmers who are barely making a living sell their land for a fraction of those making a good profit. Midwest corn farmers generally net only about $50-75 per acre on corn on a gross income of $300 per acre.

My discussion above is not to be taken as a suggestion that population growth is not a problem, it is. So let me make a quick comment on population, from a designer's point of view, which is totally related to the structural issues above. I dare anyone to find an example in which population is stable yet there is no system for security in old age. It has been shown in countless studies that the ONLY consistent reason why population stabilizes is that people know they will have security in their old age. At that point they stop having excess children. Why? It has absolutely nothing to do with the biological resource-population relationships. We are not wild animals and have markedly different behavior. In a developing country, or any country for that matter, without a secure social security system for the aged, you need at least two kids to support each elderly adult. In virtually every case studied where stabilization of social systems occurred, women immediately find systems to end unwanted pregnancy. Herbal indigenous methods for ending fertility are known all over the world. In my own Italian heritage--hardly a herb-oriented aboriginal tribe, even into the 1900's, utilized ergot obtained from the local apothecary to end unwanted pregnancy.

So structural adjustment--the neoliberal formula the World Bank and IMF impose on the developing world--ensures population growth. By intentionally eliminating a secure social safety net as a condition of borrowing money, population growth--and therefore market growth for various consumer goods--continues to grow. Therein lies the rub. If population doesn't continue to grow, capitalists rapidly run out of customers. Can't let that happen now can we?

Permaculture design offers an alternative security for old age when the family has even a little land. In the Deccan desert of India , where there is huge success with permaculture turning hundreds of square miles of man-made desert back into productive designed rain forest, there is a saying: "Trees are better than sons". Sons might take care of you in your old age but income or trade from your productive trees (food, timber and fuel) definitely will. This approach offers families security to limit population growth and takes the supply of old age security back into the people's hands.

Restorative agriculture—which goes far beyond sustainable agriculture--depends on solar energy replacing fossil fuel use. Buckminster Fuller and I discussed this back in 1983 when he wrote the foreword for my book Alcohol Can Be A Gas!, which accompanied my ten part PBS television series at that time. (Alcohol is a virtually pollution free engine fuel which is superior in almost every way to gasoline.) World photosynthesis in its fully undesigned state, produces biomass in wasteful agriculture and in the wild which far exceeds human need. Our analysis shows that world biomass photosynthesis produces between 6 and 15 times what we used to power every human need every year, including food, electricity, transportation, and heat.

In a designed system, especially a permaculturally-designed system, we could increase the biomass produced by an order of magnitude and in so doing supply all our needs in a much smaller footprint. For instance, you only get about 200 gallons per acre of alcohol fuel from corn, but 1000 gallons from sugar beets, 1200 from Jerusalem Artichokes, 1500 gallons from annual sugar cane in southern states and a variety of other crops which, when properly designed for climate, might yield 2500 gallons per year from two crop cycles. This would be done while increasing soil fertility and providing all the animal food we need as a by-product (replacing the corn which largely goes for animal feed now) at a fraction of the energy cost of corn-soybean agribusiness. This is all possible right now without any new technology.

The Department of Energy-sponsored program to reduce the cost of cellulose-dissolving enzymes. Soon, yields based on that carbohydrate (cellulose) rather than the relatively scarce starch or sugar carbohydrate scenarios described above will ratchet up cost-effective yield another order of magnitude. (We could do it right now with current technology but the fuel would be about $1.65/gallon wholesale). Once again this is just scratching the surface.

I could go on for two weeks non-stop about this—my colleagues and I do so in my permaculture design courses. The point is that although humans are great at creating deserts and poverty, we also have the incredible capacity to design ecological systems that work for everyone--even some corporations. The argument that we can't produce enough ecologically is, at its source, promoted by corporations who benefit from a view of scarcity and limited resources which they control. Their constant cry is TINA "There Is No Alternative". Right, and the wizard says, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Around the world people are demonstrating that, not only are there alternatives, there are alternatives that allow us all to take care of each other and the rest of the species we live with, and to direct surpluses from our designs back to this care. These are the three main tenets of Permaculture design. We aren't waiting for governments, corporations, or bureaucracies to solve the world's problems. We will do it with or without their help. We are already doing it and no one can stop us because we can't be forced to buy what we don't need anymore. Since few of us in permaculture education are hired by anyone in business or government, we can't be fired or threatened.

I like to say, if you want to end transnational capitalism, (the very opposite of bioregionalism), then stop giving them your capital. To do that you need to start producing what you need--plus some surplus for others--bioregionally and I would respectfully suggest that permaculture design is a good tool to begin that process.

*Corroboration on the issue of "Solar Saturation":

" Photosynthesis is most efficient at low light intensities. It is already saturated at 20% of full sunlight and 80% of the light is not used."
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Old 11-08-2012, 09:38 PM
16,038 posts, read 20,205,691 times
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I think you should go work on a farm for a few months, then you'll know if it is what you want. My brother friend grows lavender as we as other fragrant herbs...only had 5 acres and did really well. Do some research.
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