Episode-900- Paul Wheaton and Jack Spirko on the Sepp Holzer Seminar

Today I have the pleasure of  doing a face to face podcast with my good friend Paul Wheaton of Permies.com and Richsoil.com.  We will cover some of the many highlights of the Sepp Holzer seminar so far.

Excuse the brevity of the show notes, as Paul and I must head back to the location to listen to Sepp quite literally right now.

53 Responses to Episode-900- Paul Wheaton and Jack Spirko on the Sepp Holzer Seminar

  1. Roundabouts

    So very exciting! So can’t wait to see pics and videos.

  2. Jack and Paul,

    It really sounds like you folks are enjoying yourselves (and learning a few things too.) Thanks for sharing with us. I preferred that quick “shout out” to an old episode, and while it may not have been too educational, it was certainly entertaining!

    I hope you folks enjoy the rest of the experience, and I wish you and your wife safe travels back to Arkansas, Jack!

  3. Jack,

    i found at least 6 books that Sepp has written. What book of Sepp’s books would you recommend reading first and which one’s are a must read? I’m guessing that the practical guide to small-scale gardening is the place to start, but my assumptions are sometimes wrong.

    Thanks,
    Ted

    • Modern Survival

      @Ted if your gut says that do so. Personally though the best one I have read is “Sepp Holzers Permaculture” he has a new one that is only in German until later this summer. It is so awesome I almost bought it in German for the pictures alone but decided to wait for the English version.

  4. Every class has someone who talks too much, asks dumb questions or otherwise wastes everyone’s time. I’m going through 2 nights a week of it myself.

    Safe travels home man.

  5. rancher1school

    There is some much more that I have to learn and I am so excited. these rocket mass heaters look awesome.

  6. Hey Jack

    I’m not sure if you can but could you try and get that ground bone recipe that keeps animals away from the trees? I heard about it in a previous episode? I hope you’re having fun.

  7. Backwoods Engineer

    Jack, DUDE, your voice sounds shot! You must be really talking a lot with Paul and Sepp and the others at the conference. Thanks for much for giving us an update. Paul is one of my favorite guests, along with Steve Harris.

  8. Thanks for the update and I really enjoyed the hugelcultur talk. It’s Permies porn!

    Look forward to you talking about it.

  9. Paul -
    I can’t believe that you, Sepp’s #1 disciple(!), have yet to learn the masters language!

    How can you spread the true words of the master while relying on 2nd hand translations!

    ;-)

  10. I’m calling a tentative and qualified BS on Sepp’s economic claims. IF he says his farm pays nearly $500k in taxes per year, AND Austria’s corporate tax rate (assuming its organized as a corp.) is 25% AND there are no deduction at all, that would put his top line at $2,000,000USD. Apparently his operation is around 120 acres. That works out to $16,500/acre per annum top line. For reference Joel Salatin clearly stated in the film “Fresh” that his operation generates $3,000/acre per annum. That would mean Sepp, with primarily fruits and vegetables as I understand it, some fish I guess is generating 550%(!!) more top line revenue per acre than is Salatin with a primarily (exclusively?) animal product operation.

    Possible explanations.
    - Shit translation? He meant $50k in taxes ($200k+ top line) NOT $500k. That’s very plausible.
    - Things in Europe are generally more expensive for consumption, so he really is generating that kind of top line (But he’s also probably paying a lot more for everything else.)

    Anyway, I’d like to see some zero BS numbers with backup coming out of these kinds of operations for fully rational comparisons.

    • No data. But in my limited experience, European food prices are much more ‘real’ than US food prices. Also, Sepp is producing foods ‘out of season’, including tropicals, which would sell for a considerable premium (think summer tomatoes vs. winter tomatoes). But yes, I’d LOVE to see the data on Sepp’s farm.

    • Modern Survival

      @Vettezuki, well

      1. Sepp’s production carries a huge premium and is sold over a year in advance of its production.

      2. I am sure the figure is all taxes including property.

      3. A one day tour of his farm is 190 euros and if you want to go those are booked a year out or more with large groups going each day.

      Salatin is awesome but money wise he can’t run with Holzer.

      So I am calling BS on your BS claim, LOL

      • Data bro, I need data. ;)

        And here’s the rub. Pujols recently signed a 250 million dollar contract for ten years. True. But telling kids if they get real good at baseball they’ll be signing 1/4 billion dollar baseball contracts is slightly misleading. Holzer appears to be in a league of one . . . . Salatin, a superstar in this world by any standard is trailing by multiples if we take this implicit scenario at face value.

        Absolutely people should get into these markets and find the niches where the money is at (out of season, exotics, gucci stuff, whatever.) Here’s the deal with a proper economy people should be aware of; it drives profits to zero as new producers move in. This isn’t bad of course, because it means increasing abundance and low costs for consumers of X, but potential producers need to have their head screwed on straight and I can easily imagine people hearing stuff like this and getting a very distorted picture of what is practical/likely for them.

        A zero BS anonymous data collection from current producers would be very enlightening. If people can find way to just make a good “middle class” living out of it, they will continue to enter.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezki,

          Darby Simpson did over 100K on far less land last year, listen to his episode and frankly believe what ever you choose to, then go price pastured pork and beef.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettzki, also while I despise them over the urban homestead thing we also know the Dervaes family is doing about 25K off one tenth of an acre. Limited thinking equals limited incomes.

      • I pull a six figure top line in a side business I started with my wife crossing break even in under thirty months in the worst economy I’ve ever experienced. Within my near family there are three multi-million dollar top line businesses. I work for a multi-billion dollar international that has been profitable for the vast majority if its >100 year history for a day gig where error in numbers and backup is . . . let’s say frowned upon. I’m not rich by any means, but doing fine and growing. My point is that I’m trained and experienced reasonably well to tell the difference between opportunity and wishful thinking as much as the latter can be objectively identified. We’re not talking about a brand new area of tech or even businesses that haven’t be tried where there are no data points. There should be plenty to reference.

        I’m just trying to sus out what the reality is here. As far as I’m concerned the numbers are few, scattered and vauge. In the podcast you and Paul were not even clear if the *maybe* $500k was a gross revenue or tax bill and if tax bill if it was all in, or just income, etc.

        Some may be excited by the romance of the idea. That’s fine and if you’re young and on your own in particular, you can take some hard knocks and afford swinging for the fences. But the rest should remember they can’t put romance in their child’s stomach when he’s crying from hunger. At least in this case you’ll have your own food. :)

        In the case of Holzer, maybe, but how many premium brand advantages does he have that the vast majority, and quite possibly all listening to him can essentially forget about? Can you charge $250 a head to tour your place? How about Paul? Salatin can’t. He’s cancelled his personal tours because people were flaking and breaking his balls.

        For Darby: $100k on much less. How much less? What are his costs? How many years? What market? What’s the niche? What are the barriers to entry from competitors? On and on and on. If people can’t even think to ask these (VERY SIMPLE) questions when considering a business, their fate will be a matter of luck because they aren’t thinking. You’ve mentioned Rich Dad Poor Dad a number of times as a good educational resource. I agree! He HAMMERS on competent reading of income statements and balance sheets and completing due diligence check lists.

        There’s money to be made no doubt. I personally expect that with competent effort there could be some return to a (modernized) small family ranch/farm that makes a decent sustainable living. But it’s tiring and sad to see how many people end up broken spirits because they entered businesses all starry eyed not having done their basic homework.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezuki, I LOVE it when someone defeats their own debate with their own words, it is even better when they do so with their lead off sentence. You stated,

          “I pull a six figure top line in a side business I started with my wife crossing break even in under thirty months in the worst economy I’ve ever experienced.”

          Every single objection relating to the failure many for each agricultural success is easily countered by your own statement, which ironically serves only that purpose in your response. Honestly what other point could you have been making? For each person like you or me in the small business space who succeeds likely 100 will fail, for each person that really blows it up like say GaryV, it will take 100 like you and I. Does that mean that we should not use Gary as an example of what can be done?

          Now Paul can’t prove anything because he hasn’t built it, he doesn’t even own land. This is about Sepp not Paul. I likely could make tons of money if I were the guy marketing for Salatin, trust me demand isn’t his problem management and marketing is. You say Sepp is “one of a kind” but the truth is he has documented and provided information on the exact how to. Anyone who would get off their ass, trust his success and DO IT can replicate it. Climate doesn’t matter he has done it in the deserts of Spain, the plains of Siberia and the tropics of Columbia.

          Also the book you cite Rich Dad Poor Dad isn’t a good place to look for in regard to FACTS, the entire thing is bullshit. Good for learning how to think, but take nothing in it literally. Frankly Robert’s dad is living quite well and there is no “rich dad”. Robert made up Rich Dad and seriously downplayed his own father’s success. In fact Robert really owes his success to ONE line in his first book that made Amway drones market it for him. Seriously. I do admire him as a marketer but not as what he claims to be or the past he created out of thin air.

          All I can say is you have NO IDEA the production possible form a Holzer design, I thought I did before this, I was fing clueless to the scale and scope of things, the polyculture alone boggles even my mind at this point. I was like wow this is cool on the first planting, was impressed by the seeding and plating in phase two, then the “fine seeds” were added and I just stood there thinking, wow.

          Now your allusion to “hero worship” (my word not yours) is valid, there were people there that if Holzer had kicked a baby bunny and peed on a nun they still would have applauded and said he was the second coming or some such drool. I have to say that as a teacher Holzer was a big letdown. I didn’t even really like him as a person from the time I got to speak to him, but that may have been the environment, who knows. I think the man has a very hard time answering a question directly and I can’t blame “the translation” for all of it.

          The point was simply that 500K on 100 acres isn’t just doable it is something he would consider under performing. That comes out to 5K an acre. As to your question Darby has about 80 acres if I remember but I think he is currently managing less than 10. Yes he has expenses (like any business) but right now he is only actively working 4-6 if I remember correctly, so I imagine many of those “expenses” are investment in land that isn’t yet producing. I will get you hard acre numbers from him though.

          My entire life I have dealt with people saying “X isn’t possible”, 99 times out of 100 I or someone else eventually proved the converse to be true.

      • << Every single objection relating to the failure many for each agricultural success is easily countered by your own statement, which ironically serves only that purpose in your response. Honestly what other point could you have been making? For each person like you or me in the small business space who succeeds likely 100 will fail, for each person that really blows it up like say GaryV, it will take 100 like you and I. Does that mean that we should not use Gary as an example of what can be done?

        No. It means you should study hard what they're doing in some detail and evaluate if it fits you at all, AND if you're entering a business with somewhat more knowable parameters like ag, do your due diligence. The people who fail often fail precisely because they don't do their home work, not that they couldn't have made money, but that they made mistakes that could have been avoided through some basic study and cold calculation. That's about it. I can't imagine talking against this elemental point.

        As for Rich Dad Poor Dad, it's not possible to be more irrelevant than to point out the fictional nature of a literary device. I didn't refer to the importance of his tear jerker stories, I referred to income statements, balance sheets and due diligence check lists. These are tools professionals use. Only amateurs and failures ignore them. If you're a baller, you have "people" who do this for you and bring their analysis. I'm guessing most permaculture ag start ups will be boot strapping and pretty DIY on most everything.

        It sort of reminds me of something Beethoven said about being a great composer, "one must have the heart of a gypsy, and the mind of a soldier."

        I think it's the same for being an entrepreneur. In start up businesses plenty get the heart of a gypsy part right, but are oblivious to the mind of a soldier part with predictable consequences.

        But you know what? Never mind this is kind of silly and I might even be talking against my own interests. I know how to make my paper reasonably well. Moreover I love people who go head long into business without a clue. Creates a lot of opportunity for others with cooler heads. Peace. :)

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezuki Yea I know what you mean I mean I went out and found someone pulling six figures with podcasting about self sufficiency to model TSP on right? I then made spreadsheets, analyzed demographic data, etc, right? Actually no of course as far as I know there were no true podcasters (like only podcasters not nationally syndicated radio hosts with a cast) making that kind of money. There also were no podcasts on self sufficiency at all. So if I told you I could turn a 35 dollar recorder and a headset into a full time income in 2 years back in June of 2008, what would you have told me?

          In any event I talked to Darby his figure per acre of revenue is about 5K per acre, so well, that goes right back to 500K on 100 acres, given that he in his own words, “has no idea how Sepp does what he does” and is actually modeling his work on Salatin’s the numbers on a real world American farm seem to jive quite well.

          Now look yes if you are about to plunk down 250K on land, invest in 50K worth of eartworks, 100K into plants and seeds, you better damn well have a plan, know what you are growing, where you will sell it, how much it will command, etc. However to argue about what isn’t possible while some people are already doing it, well, that doesn’t show a “cooler head”, what it shows is limited thinking.

      • << @Vettezuki Yea I know what you mean I mean I went out and found someone pulling six figures with podcasting about self sufficiency to model TSP on right? I then made spreadsheets, analyzed demographic data, etc, right?

        What exactly were the capital requirements of starting a self-employed social media business? As far business goes, I'll call absolutely nothing but your time. It's not comparable. AT ALL.

        << There also were no podcasts on self sufficiency at all. So if I told you I could turn a 35 dollar recorder and a headset into a full time income in 2 years back in June of 2008, what would you have told me?

        I would have asked what your experience and knowledge in the field was to try to sus out of he had a product to bring to market (your knowledge and ability). Given your background, I would have said GO FOR IT. Why? What's the calculation for loss if your podcast didn't go anywhere? Some time. That's about it. You kept your day gig when you started to keep bringing in the scratch and trasnitioned as it was DEFENSIBLY RATIONAL.
        |
        I'd say the same to anybody thinking of doing a self-employed social media venture. The costs are effectively nothing, so try some things. Watch Five Minutes with Jack and learn about that business domain.

        << In any event I talked to Darby his figure per acre of revenue is about 5K per acre, so well, that goes right back to 500K on 100 acres, given that he in his own words, “has no idea how Sepp does what he does” and is actually modeling his work on Salatin’s the numbers on a real world American farm seem to jive quite well.

        There's a hell of a difference between $5k/acre, which I can imagine for poultry (based on market unit cost for organic birds and number of birds per acre – see, calculation, and he ain't running 100 acres of birds) and $16.5k/acre (estimate based on comment he was referring to tax bill of $500k NOT top line) for mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, saplings, some fish and crawfish. But Holzer is also pulling in a premium for seminars, tours, etc., which is not something most people can expect until maybe they build up a real brand for education. So if we backed out these extras to show only what he is getting for produce, we probably end up with a very different number. Now I did a little more research and the only thing I could find is that his produce is selling for 18-20x commercial equivalents. That's what we call an astronomical brand premium. In the United States, my impression (note qualification because I don't have hard support) is that organics range up to maybe 300% more than mass market equivalent meat and produce. IOQ, now 1,800-2,000%. See what I'm doing? I'm not being a "downer", I'm just trying to get a rational picture of what's reasonably expected.

        << Now look yes if you are about to plunk down 250K on land, invest in 50K worth of eartworks, 100K into plants and seeds, you better damn well have a plan, know what you are growing, where you will sell it, how much it will command, etc.

        You do understand what I'm saying! Think of it this way Jack. Go ahead and write a buisness plan/proposal to take to an investor/banker . . leave out the part where you defend expected revenues. Enjoy the laughter.

        << However to argue about what isn’t possible while some people are already doing it, well, that doesn’t show a “cooler head”, what it shows is limited thinking.

        Oi vey. One more time, from the top, with feeling. I didn't say it wasn't possible. My very first statement was I'm calling a *tentative* and *qualified* BS on the extremely high number implied by the statements in the Podcast. This is what people in business do all the time to sort through the noise. The next rational step for an entreprenur is to look at themselves and see what they can do within their SPECIFIC SITUATION to emulate the principles and maximize their personal reality. "Hey that guy made a lot of money, therefore so can I" might be true at a primitive level, but is missing a whole of important bits and pieces between who he is and what is situation is, and where you probably are.

        This probably bears repeating/emphasis. What I'm talking about is important/critical for any capital intensive business, of which ag certainly is one. It's not really even an issue for social media related businesses, especially if it's just you doing your thing. I suggest one is begging for trouble if they approach the former as though it were the latter.

      • The only thing I’m limiting is the “dumb”, an ever present and expanding commodity in the world, not my thinking. My thinking brings home the bacon. More and more of it all the time. I’m not terribly conservative or afraid to take risks by any means. What I do do (as any professional entrepreneur does) is learn everything they can about what they think they would like to try. This does NOT mean do nothing until you’re 100% sure, that’ll never happen. It means eliminate as many unknowns as possibles and work from there. This isn’t limiting, this is discovering current reality, IOW, knowing what you’re doing. Estimations of probability of changes in that reality need to be logically defensible, or you are, by definition, just dreaming. Perhaps there’s nothing inherently wrong with that per se, just realize people wake up from dreams to be confronted with reality.

        I think you actually know what I’m getting at, but are being stubborn for some fairly inexplicable reason. If you want to indulge the fantasy that complex capital intensive business with land, employees, products to sell into a market, government regulations, insurances, on and on, presents the same concerns as a social media venture with NONE of those things, be my guest. In reality it fails on its face. In reality people lose their ass on capital intensive businesses all the time because of errors in planning, something you even acknowledged in principle. What would you have lost if TSP didn’t work out? What was the real risk? This matters when taking risks. If the potential loss is minimal to nothing, who the hell cares, try it. Want to start a ranch/farm , maybe it’s just me and my effective real world training with results, but I’d pay a little more attention to details.

        Actually, I think I understand why we’re butting heads on this. I don’t believe you’ve ever started a business that required heavy capital outlay, but have worked in a world where the drain on your cash flow, and liabilities on your balance sheet were, well, essentially zero by comparison. My training and background is R&D and manufacturing, big costs, long development cycles; RADICALLY more complex as far as coordinating scarce resources is concerned. Relatively small mistakes can be exceptionally expensive, to fatal.

      • << I don’t believe you’ve ever started a business that required heavy capital outlay,

        Or let me ask it this way. You, Jack, are going to start a a large scale Permaculture Operation. Are you seriously telling me you're going to do it WITHOUT asking about or calculating:

        - what you are going to produce and what it's currently selling for in your selected market.
        - if you're going to produce something currently not sold in market (i.e., no comps) estimating ranges
        - how much capital you have to start with
        - land costs
        - labor costs (don't forget availability of the labor you'll need and the laws governing how you can use human resources)
        - seed and sapling costs
        - feed costs (if any buy-in for animals)
        - regulatory costs (permits, etc.)
        - irrigation costs
        - taxes (depending on where you live, these can be far more numerous than you might expect, e.g., inventory taxes)
        - equipment costs
        - insurance costs
        - marketing costs
        - time to develop grounds to different stages of production, yields per category of good
        - your personal living cost baseline, cuz you gotta live too

        If someone starts off tiny, like out of their backyard or something as a part time job, then these aren't going to matter much or at all. If your operation is small enough to run entirely yourself, like a half acre CSA or something, probably still not such a big deal to work out. Gonna go full-time, especially on something in the 100+ acre range and not look HARD at all these and more? That person is an idiot and I'm confident you're not an idiot. You'd be looking at these or at least hire someone who doesn't have ADD to look at them for you. Lol.

        I skeptically questioned one (1) thing. In researching I found Sepp is getting up to a 20x premium. So a rational question for some to ask entering this area would be like, "I want to sell X as an out of season organic in say Misoula Wyoming Farmer's Markets, can I fetch 20x premium, that would be like a $20 avocado . . . one avocado."

        As for me, I wouldn't "bet the farm" on something like that. If you based the income side of your income statement on that kind of ESTIMATION as an offset to your FIXED expenses, you could be, likely would be, in for a world of hurt as your cash flow has it's throat slit."

        • Modern Survival

          You stated,

          “I don’t believe you’ve ever started a business that required heavy capital outlay,”

          Really? Okay companies I have been a principal/partner/investor/owner in,

          DataWorkForce – Annual turn over 12 million, employees 12, contractors several dozen on regular contracts hundreds on the pool. Sector – Technical Recruiting

          Cerion Inc. – Annual turn over 4-6 million, employees over 20. Sector – Wireless Telecommunications Consulting and Software.

          Franklin Spirko Media – Annual turn over about 1.2 million, employees 6, customers included Donald Trump, Sector – Internet Marketing Consulting and Product Marketing.

          Those are the large ones, there are more small concerns of course running anywhere from 100K to just under a million dollars a year.

          As a manager in other companies I have managed business units ranging from 5-65 million dollars.

          No one certainly not me ever said to ignore the rules of business, you are keying in on that now but you started this entire thread with the following,

          “I’m calling a tentative and qualified BS on Sepp’s economic claims”

          That set the tone, simply put you are wrong and your thinking along this entire path has been severely limited. Now believe what you want but leave others alone to KNOW what is possible and prove it.

      • I stand fully corrected on your experience with capital intensive business. Then surely you know exactly what I’m talking about as the other side of the “have a dream” coin when your own big money is at stake. If not you, then one of your partners must have run considerable numbers in establishing those businesses and I think they’re a far better comparison overall to starting a Permculture Farm/Ranch than other low entry businesses.

        << No one certainly not me ever said to ignore the rules of business, you are keying in on that now but you started this entire thread with the following,

        “I’m calling a tentative and qualified BS on Sepp’s economic claims"

        My fault for phrasing, and I accept responsibility for setting a downer tone, but it's the "rules of business"part that I thought I was emphasizing from very early on. It seemed way out of whack (and in fact he is at this time a radical outlier). I also said right there at the beginning "tentative and qualified." The truth is not up to me and the world of business is filled with smoke and mirrors BS that people get hurt (for real) by not thinking their way through. Combine with my background in R&D and manufacturing which is particularly hardcore about data and analysis, and that's where I'm coming from.

        We may not disagree hardly all that much all said and done, perhaps we just emphasize different parts of the process because of backgrounds.

        Peace out.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettzuki, what we disagree about is the repeatability of what Holzer has done. It is as repeatable as a pepperoni pizza if anyone wants to do it. On the expense side when they brought in 2 extra 30 ton excavators and Katerina was concerned with the expense he summed it up this way, “the excavators we have for 3 days, the water we will have forever”.

          Now can anyone who repeats what Holzer does book tours of their farm solid? Well likely the first dozen or so in the US with enough brains to market it can. If 500 farms do it then the novelty of a tour drops as does the demand and price.

          Have you ever listened to my business podcast, specifically about selling to a want vs. a need? Most farmers are broke because they sell to a need, food. Holzer and many others are doing very well, wealthy or even rich because they sell to a want. Holzer is not in the “food business”, he is in the “beyond organic food business”.

          http://www.jackspirko.com/only-two-types-of-products

      • I certainly understand the additional opportunities for added income streams you are talking about and the distinction between want and need. My side business is a private music school, purely want category.

        The point I’d raise about reproducibility and the tourism aspect is that it’s reproducible by by those farmers/ranchers who in addition to the primary function of their business have a knack for effectively promoting a category of eco-tourism, by your estimation maybe the first 12 of them or so in the United States. IOW, quite limited run “reproducibility.” You are absolutely correct to point this out as a window of opportunity, my “objection” to this point is that that opportunity while great is by no means a core part of an emerging permaculture farm/ranch industry if there is to be one, which would have something on the order of 10s of thousands of small to medium operations in my mind. That’s where my head is at, I’m thinking in industrial terms as a competitive offering to currently commercially produced food. You’re right to point it out as an entrepreneurial opportunity, simply my focus/interest lies elsewhere.

        I absolutely agree on the reproducibility of the production system itself. That part is not magic. My broader curiosity is in applying the productive capacity of a permaculture systems to standard business questions of producing a good for market: where these systems should be located (e.g., proximity to city centers with foodie/eco cultures), what they should be producing, how labor capital is used, and so on, and out of this, what the defensible potential income is. No doubt some of these questions will be case by case, but there should also be some pretty clear, reproducible patterns. In short, what is the path to farmers not being broke producing to a need? Jack, that question has to be answered or this really ain’t going anywhere at industry scale.

        The example of Sepp and Katerina with excavators is an example of a typical biz discussion about investment into “plant and equipment.” Do you throw down big bucks now, for longer run returns? It’s a question of time preferences and what other things the same limited money could be doing. But in any event, as far the business is concerned, still has to be defended in terms of contribution to the money generating system because it is still money out. I’d certainly agree this is an area where entrepreneurs, particularly newer ones perhaps, hurt themselves not by spending too much, but “cheaping out,” but that’s a whole other discussion.

      • << In short, what is the path to farmers not being broke producing to a need?

        Small clarification. By need here I mean the food production aspect of the farm/ranch, as opposed to the potential ancillary activities. As for the "want" componenent of this "need" good, that's where the upsale and command premium for a special good (exotic, out of season, exceptional quality, eco-conscience, etc.) is. Here we probably pretty much agree.

    • Last year we produced the following on about 15 acres:

      2,800 broilers
      125 turkeys
      80 laying hens
      60 pigs
      12 cattle (four of this group have not yet been butchered, finished 8)

      Our sales data was roughly $90k, but we donated 10% of the chicken we raised as well as some pork to some local shelters, missions, etc. totaling roughly $10k. Our “production” was about $100k/15acres = $6,700/acre. We direct market everything at farmers markets and charge more than Salatin (who is my mentor). We do very little with restaurants/buying clubs (read: wholesale pricing). 2011 was technically my 5th year in business, but really more like my 4th major year. I went full time into farming by default (job loss) in April of 2010. We have reinvested nearly every dime we have taken in, 2012 will be our first profitable year. I’m still learning so much everyday, but I know we will greatly improve on the dollars per acre. Also, I think Salatin’s $3k/acre is profit, not income but I could be wrong. $16k/acre is so very doable, especially with the crop Sepp is producing. Small fruits are uber expensive, as is range pork the way he does it. I’m sure it’s double to triple what ours costs, because they take so long to raise without grain.

      If you want harder data than that, go knock on a farmers door and ask. A word of advice however: Pack the kevlar.

      • Excellent. This is a toe into the water of what I’m asking about. If I were considering doing this myself I’d ask you to your favorite restaurant and probe dozens if not hundreds of follow-on questions, many of them cost related to depreciation of capital assets, land and labor costs, insurance, government interactions, and so.

        I am NOT trying to be a dick about this. Just trying to peal away the mysteries of the economics at the business level. Think of it this way perhaps, if this can be packaged, presented, and marketed with “blueprints” that really cover inputs/outputs, marketing, defensible gross revenues, gross and net margins, it would go a looooonnnng way to getting more people into this because then it’s not *only* a mission or a personal passion project that you hope to make a living out of, but a viable entrepreneurial business. The key to understand here is that there is all the difference in the world between the information being “out there” and having “turn key” solutions. Guess what people with ready investment capital are looking for? Imagine getting to a level where people with investment capital, instead of plopping down $500k for a McDonald’s, plop down $500k for a Permaculture operation? Many would if they were convinced of the ROI. In fact, wonder if there’s an opportunity for a kind of “franchise” system, where the firm handles land location, system design, seeds, marketing, etc? Mmmmm . . . Could be fully integrated into the emerging AgriTrue standards.

      • @Vettizuki:

        For some reason I can’t reply to your posts…..

        Anyhow to answer your question, Salatin has basically done just what you asked about in his books. As for investors, I personally don’t see it working. Never say never, but…..ROI. Seriously? You are kidding right? This is farming! Man you are in the freaking elements, crap goes wrong – everyday. It does not matter how much you plan, how many spreadsheets you generate, how hard you work, stuff just flat blows up in your face. I can’t imagine having the pressure I have now in addition to an investor looking over my shoulder asking questions about ROI. For instance: It’s May. We should be getting drenched with rains right now. We have not had a good rain in over three weeks here, my front 12 acre pasture is going dormant, my 18 acre pasture I just planted isn’t growing. Now I’m going to have to buy more portable/temporary equipment, graze some areas that really aren’t up to snuff, have lower weight gains, more labor, more expenses, etc. My ROI just got flushed down the toilet. I don’t think an investor worth his salt would have the stomach for farming. You do this because it is a passion, because you are called to do it. You don’t do it for the money, that’s for darn sure. Can you make money at this? Yes. Is there room for capitol investment? Yes, on a small scale. You have to understand that what Sepp built, he built because he is driven and he now has a brand market all his own. It’s a unique situation. And with some smart planning, there is no reason we can’t follow Salatin’s model, make some decent money and “build” a business. For me, there is no way I would be willing to do all the work and share the profit. Now if I didn’t have any land, had the inclination and had an investor, maybe…..but personally I think it’s a recipe for disaster.

        • @Vettizuki
          What you’re describing/looking for is ‘factory farming’.. the goal of which is to remove all of the variables of weather/soil/method etc. to maximize profitability and minimize risk (think factory chicken house or pig production).

          To create anything ‘turn key’ requires any differences in water, climate, soil, plants and animals to be eliminated to ‘guarantee’ an expected return.

          A ‘turn key’ business is a ‘science’ in the sense that all you ‘need to know’ to be successful is contained in your McDonald’s binder.

          A true farmer IMHO, is not a ‘scientist’ but an ‘artist’ as Farming is something he DOES to his farm. Someone running a chicken house isn’t an artist, they’re an assembly line worker.. a completely replaceable cog.

          Holzer is a great artist, Salatin is an artist, Mollison is an artist.. this is why their work inspires.

        • Science – Something to know
          Art – Something to do

          To ‘know about’ something you hear it or read it (science). To ‘know’ it you practice it (art).

          All great practices contain elements of both (something to know, and something to do). You can teach the science, mastery/knowing (art) comes only with practice.

        • @Vettizuki -
          Discussions are good. Just presenting arguments clarifies thought.

          I agree that to successfully engage in ‘commerce’ you must be a business person as well as an artist. As evidenced by the ‘starving artist’ syndrome, many artists don’t have the commercial chops, and fail to find someone to partner with who does.

          My point is simply that farming is a business fully engaged with the natural world, and therefore loaded with UNKNOWN complexities and risks. So a ‘cookie cutter’ approach won’t work.

          However, as far as investment, I can think of all sorts of ways to ‘financialize’ farms, and I personally would be delighted to have my investment monies invested in something I can believe in.

          The difference I am trying to point out between farming and ‘normal business’ is that ‘normal business’ takes place in a man made, sanitized, reductionist environment. If you’re not sure what I mean, use your McDonalds example, what can go wrong? Well barring TEOTWAWKI, recession could reduce your income. Everything else is covered by insurance. All the variables have been removed.

        • @Modern Survival-

          You hit the nail on the head. The things I’m doing now, the infrastructure I’m building, it’s for the future. It’s for my kids, for my grandkids. If one of them wants to farm, then the business will be here. For instance, I’m spending the money required to put in a 50 year fence system. The only costs will be maintenance and a few parts that wear out after 20 years. Of course I’ll have a box of those sitting on the shelf as a prep.

          If we look at this as an outside investor, our capitalistic nature kicks in and we want to rape and pillage the profits as soon as possible. We want our return. An outside investor says use 20 year high tensile wire which will do the job just fine, I say use 40-50 year wire (which costs more). This saves money and labor in the long run, but our investor will (most likely) only care about the short term. Apply that to your forest and harvesting logs. Same thing.

          Again, this is a lifestyle. Could his idea work? Yes, but on a limited short term basis like my example above with calves.

          Really, want Vettezuki needs to do is buy the land, find the “blueprint” and hire an employee to be his farm manager. That’s the only way I see this working on a large scale. Now that can be done. Then you get to experience farming and working with nature. Buckle up for the ride!

      • There are investors for ANY level of risk. How about diving for ship wrecks for example? People will invest in ANYTHING if your pitch is right. Let me repeat, there is OPM for anything if you have the pitch right and find the right people. A Permaculture ranch/farm is fairly pedestrian compared to some things people throw big money at.

        About my only point was:

        think

        Now, why do you think so? From me, this is not ever an attack. It’s to tease out bits of truth and to put down myths, where possible. My questioning of an implicit claim, which BTW teased out factual disambiguation between income streams for the record, was part of that process.

        As for the artist bits I get it. My life has literally been spent in the arts, music to be precise. My side business I referred to is a private music school I started with one(1) student, now about 130. That’s something no one needs to live (unlike food) in the middle of an epically crap economy. But I sure as hell did my homework on things like selecting area, pricing structures and yes, literally building spreadsheets to figure out what requirements were. This was primarily because I had substantial initial costs and cash flow requirements for commercial property. Want to teach some lessons from home, you don’t need to concern yourself so much. I’m helping my brother start a custom design, fabrication and installation business for upper scale clientele and restaurants now. We’ve found a way to do this without big initial capital outlays, so “proving” potential income is not so important. I hope this point is clear. But believing in the art of things doesn’t mean you burn incenses and close your eyes 24/7. I take very seriously the Beethoven quote I cited, “the mind of a soldier and the heart of a gypsy” . . . Sepp has that in Spades.

        Holzer is an artist. He’s also a spectacularly shrewd businessman, something I’m getting more clear on in my own personal followups. He’s a natural artist/farmer perhaps . . he’s also and equally natural gifted entrepreneur, probably because he sees some of the inherent links between the continuous flux of farming and the reality that is entrepreneurship, that is developing new businesses.

        A tangent I was hammering on was about the nuts and bolts patterns that can be applied by the “working man” farmer, and they will need to have their shit together. A permaculture farm/ranch is not going to ever be, nor should it be a Mickey D’s style turn key, but there sure as hell are always elements that can be counted and when we’re talking about money . . ability to count tends to be useful.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezuki,

          You are getting there but the thinking is still limited. A permaculturist isn’t a farmer in my view, he is a sculptor and a trouble shooter. I have built TSP as a permaculture business in ways far to detailed to explain here. Agriculture is but one form of permaculture.

          Prime directive, three ethics, 12 principals. Those are the guidelines, you follow those you find success. Yet the nuts and bolts you are looking for are all but impossible to pin down. This is like asking a sculptor what he is going to sculpt before you tell him marble or granite or wood. Hell even if you tell him wood, he will want to see the wood first, think about it, in-vision it and then reveal what was already there.

          I do this in business and marketing all the time. I would get a request for a proposal from a company and tell them “no, I can’t propose a thing because I don’t really understand your company.” Generally they would say well I’ll explain it and we have our website, to which I would respond, “I need to sit down with your key staff and understand the soul of your company, if you already understood it and if your website accurately explained it you wouldn’t have contacted me in the first place.”

          Now I know when I go into this role I will do somethings like

          SEO
          Social Media
          Branding
          Etc.

          Yet I don’t know how I will apply them, what the results are going to be, etc until I see the material I have to work with. Some companies didn’t like this but those that allowed me in would end up with me able to say the core of who they were and what they did in a single word. This is what Saatchi and Saatchi call a “lovemark”.

          My partner Neil would always freak when a big meeting was upcoming I would do almost no research, have no plan, have no idea who the company key players were, no idea exactly what I would say, etc. I would always come away with the deal in the end though and when my plan was followed the company always got great results. Why? Well give a good painter canvas and paints and you get a great painting, it will often be better if you don’t try tell him how to do what you can’t do yourself right?

          When I work land I do it much the same way. I can get ideas from plots and contour maps and photos but I really need to go there. Further in agriculture we plant crops x y and z and pray to God they will grow. In permaculture we plant crops from a – zzzzzzzzz to the 4th power, then we let what ever dies die. We don’t care what dies, nature decides what lives and we run with that.

          Further you are trying to make permaculture a business, which it can be but it isn’t one thing. In addition to business (revenue) it is an investment (capital appreciation). Give me even 20 acres,

          Zone One will be about 1/10th to 1/2 of an acre and be managed like a surburban back yard, very intense for daily use of my family.

          Zone Two will be for wood piles, chicken pens, a small food forest, animal forage crops, etc. It will likely only be 1-2 acres.

          Zone Three will be for main crops and the bulk of any operational revenue. I would like only take 5 acres for this.

          Zone Four and Five will get about 12 acres, more than half the land. Four and perhaps parts of five will include food, forage, fuel and timber forests. The food will add to the the revenue and out produce the main crops in revenue in about 5-7 years. The real “money” though is my timber forest. The first cuttings will not happen for 20-25 years but at that point I can cut a bit each year and never degrade my forest. Additionally this is very high quality expensive timber, not pine that only takes 15.

          The trees I am going to be harvesting at 30-40 years are even higher quality and more expensive. The business owner style farmer looks at that are goes, wow, that can’t work. The investor knows it is a better deal than his 401K.

          Now say I am 40 when I build the above, note at 20-25 years when I begin taking very expensive high quality timber and selling it I am about 60-65. Well, guess what isn’t that when I can start getting retirement investment savings. If a 20 year old snags onto this idea, imagine the retirement they create.

          Now you will tell me sure but the above doesn’t have the cash flow to make it 20 years, perhaps. I might need 50 acres to do that, I might not, I may be able to do it with less. What are my main crops? Who knows? What is the soil like, how much water did I put in, what kind of fish am I growing, is farming my full time job or am I just having fun with my own piece of land? etc. You are trying to fit 100 gallons of jelly into a 1 gallon jug, so you only are seeing the gallon that manages to get inside and some of what is sticking to the outside and to your hands.

      • looking at your pork page is making me salivate ;-)

        wish i lived closer.

      • @Insidious ~ Very well stated. Factory farming seeks to remove all the variables.
        @Vettezuki ~ I understand that people will invest in anything. FB proved that last week and people are losing their @$$! What I’m trying to say, and what you are not hearing, is that attempting to invest financially into a farm or permaculture enterprise for sole purpose of financial return is a recipe for disaster. There are too many variables, and frankly the return is too small. It would only frustrate 99% of investors. This is something you live and breath, it’s a lifestyle man – not a music lesson. If you are not personally vested in the operation with blood, sweat and tears (literally, all three) you will never be able to handle the ups and downs and huge failures that accompany farming.

        Now we could do some limited short term investments, like say you fund the purchase of some cattle and get a percentage of the return less all costs when they are fattened up. That’s not so bad, so long as you realize that you might get back half of what your expected profit is supposed to be, or maybe a couple of cows die or get injured and you loose money. But the idea of plopping down $500k and sitting back, watching and waiting for the money to roll in…..I just don’t see it.

      • I have a better appreciation for your more “holistic/synergistic” and expansive view of permaculture as a way of life (recalling your brief discussion of even applying the philosohpy to the “design” of a society itself).

        Yes, I was thinking in more narrow terms of the specific output of permaculture designs, the “product” into the market place. Everything you’re describing here is, from my view anyway, fully in line of what I’m attempting however poorly to communicate, which is thinking about what you really want to do, working your way through if you think it’s going to work or not; do the “ins and outs” match to your total selected ends and time preferences etc. Figuring out what others are doing well, while sorting through the hero worship and romantic mysticism is part of that process that’s all. Naturally you can’t pin everything down or anybody could be a good entrepreneur just by applying formulas; it takes some art to dance with the very specific realities of each person’s own context. I suppose I’m just emphasizing the “soldier” bit, and perhaps am guilty of applying the same impositions of the world I mostly work in into a world where things are inherently more amorphous/flexible.

        The funny bit for me in this whole line is that I am always playing your (Jack’s) role within the world I work. “How the hell am I supposed to know how to paramerize that and work it into a model? You want a number? Oh, how about 17. Always liked the number 17.” I’ve had conversations like this. BUT, I am also grateful for the intense discipline I’ve learned in figuring out the links between the logistical guts of operations and what they are intending to do. And even at the gross aggregate levels, this parameterized thinking can help you make effecient marginal choices. Combine with the “art and vision” and you can really have something. The blend of these elements is unique to each person and likewise evolves in them over time and experience. I’m also grateful for this thread because it is always good to have your framework shaken and disturbed. What settles will be better. Focus and discipline is good, but backing out and taking a wider view is good too.

        Anyways, just for fun I enjoy thinking of businesses to do whether I’m going to do them or not, and in the course of this conversation two distinct opportunities occurred to me around my personal interest of “greening the desert/permaculture technique.”

        1 – A sizable and appropriately ambitious operation located within commutable distance to Las Vegas could have at least two main things working for it: millions of people come to Vegas each year in the mood to spend. Even if only 1:1000 were inclined/persuaded to come out for $50-75 tour, you could be talking a couple hundred G. Throw in the fact Vegas even now, has ever more increasing world class restaurants and some eschelon of wealthy folks, the “product” could possibly be sold into an upscale market for a premium.

        2 – There is now the world’s first and still only 3 Mihcelin Star vegetarian restaurant in France that is innovating in that food world. While not imitating but perhaps emulating (big difference), a small operation north of Los Angeles with a 1:1 relationship to a restaraunt in town, marketing to celebs. Like this, but with a “beyond organic” angle:

        “In 2001, Passard completely removed red meat from his menu and turned the focus of his efforts to vegetables, stating “I believe I have come far in the areas of poultry and meat based cuisine. Today I aspire to another exploration based in vegetables. I voluntarily erase, without regret, twelve signature dishes of the house with real reassessment. I sense a fabulous adventure in exploring the depths of my passion.”

        In September 2002, Passard opened his kitchen garden, a 2 hectare parcel of land run by two gardeners approximately 230 kilometers from Paris, on the property of an old Chateau in the French town of Fillé. The vegetables are grown completely organically and even the use of machines is forbidden. The only help the gardeners receive during harvest is the use of a draught horse to help till the soil.”

      • << @Vettezuki ~ I understand that people will invest in anything. FB proved that last week and people are losing their @$$!

        No. The masses are getting punk'd. The big boys who were in on the Pre-IPO walked with mountains of cash. Don't step into that ring if you don't know how that game works. It is in fact, the same principle to a degree.

        << This is something you live and breath, it’s a lifestyle man – not a music lesson. If you are not personally vested in the operation with blood, sweat and tears (literally, all three) you will never be able to handle the ups and downs and huge failures that accompany farming.

        I don't presume to know how difficult it is to do what you do. Please extend the same courtesy to me.

        << Now we could do some limited short term investments, like say you fund the purchase of some cattle and get a percentage of the return less all costs when they are fattened up. That’s not so bad, so long as you realize that you might get back half of what your expected profit is supposed to be, or maybe a couple of cows die or get injured and you loose money.

        That's just standard profit/risk assessment. There's nothing particularly unique about it in principle.

        << But the idea of plopping down $500k and sitting back, watching and waiting for the money to roll in…..I just don’t see it.

        There is no watching and waiting of course, plenty of blood sweat and tears goes into that as well. They just have worked out a system to very small detail. My point is just more broadly that if permaculture remains something only for devoted practitioners who fully embody the entire philosophy and do it for that reason primarily (ABSOLUTELY VALID), then it is probably somewhat limited in how much change it will effect in the economy of food production itself. Which is sort of what I'm rambling on around. Of course, what could happen, and this wouldn't be all that bad either, is that current mega producers will begin to see some of the other longer run benefits, and while not adopting the whole program of thought, might begin at least integrating biodynamics/polyculture and otherwise capitalize on a public that's asking more for things like pastured, grass fed and what not. Maybe guys like you will be on the leading edge, and heavy hitters will come behind and synthesize what they can from it into mass market offerings over time. That wouldn't be terribly surprising or bad to me either.

      • @Vettizuki-

        While I hope mega-corps might change their ways and adopt these methods, they won’t. They are run by bean counters. And bean counters look at the bottom line. But you are right, it wouldn’t be bad. It would be good, on many levels.

        I believe we can feed the world using these methods, but I also believe a portion of that solution must be accomplished thru each human being taking some personal responsibility and raising at last some of their own food. I understand most folks can’t raise their own meat, but they can raise a portion of their veggies, fruits and eggs, or even some small grains if they prefer. It simply boils down to priorities and the will. Where there is a will, there is a way.

        “Don’t step into that ring if you don’t know how that game works.”

        This was a rather brash comment. You assume I don’t know how investing works? And you know this how? Did you review my portfolio recently without my knowing? I understand the pre-IPO guys walked with loads of cash. I stayed away from the IPO because of my research. I may not be the most savvy investor there is, but I do know my way around. Thank you very much.

        Remember this comment?

        “There are investors for ANY level of risk.” “People will invest in ANYTHING if your pitch is right.”

        My point was that the average schmuck who bought in last Friday is getting his freaking knee caps broke. Look at the front page of Drudgereport….investigations are already underway.

        Furthermore to my FB comment, it was rather valid to make simple point about your “pitch” comment: People will invest in anything, regardless of how well or how poorly they understand it, if they think they can make a quick buck. I see it in farming all the time. You show some investors Sepp’s farm or even Salatin and you could have them lining up. And just like FB, the average guy is going to lose his backside, because those are unique situations with unique individuals. They are at the forefront of a revolution, and are cashing in on it (which is totally fine by me).

        My suggestion to you is read up on Salatin, Allan Savory and Holistic Management, the permaculture guys etc. Then buy some property and either a) manage it or b) hire a farm manager who shares your philosophies to run it for you. I believe that on this scale, after you are personally educated, your idea might work.

        As for your original idea/question we will simply have to agree to disagree. I appreciate your comments and big ideas, but I’m done discussing this. I just don’t think it has merit. Maybe I’m wrong, and you are welcome to believe it has merit. I hope you are right, I do. And maybe in a couple of unique situations it could be, but for a large scale “blueprint” to “pitch” to investors, I think it’s out in left field.

        Good luck.

        • @Darby

          << While I hope mega-corps might change their ways and adopt these methods, they won’t. They are run by bean counters. And bean counters look at the bottom line. But you are right, it wouldn’t be bad. It would be good, on many levels.

          Corps are made of people and people emerge culture. They vary greatly. Some are exactly what you're describing. Some are very different and take what Jack might consider more holistic, combining business, with a human mission (they aren't by definition exclusive). For example there is now a "Green Grocer" chain that appears to be pretty hard core about these issues as far as I can tell. Another example would be WalMart stopping buying milk with rBGH. It's a big deal when a buyer like that cuts off an entire category of product. While it's *just* Certified Organic, I know they have been expanding their offerings. So some of this is actually happening now already. Maybe down the road it'll be AgriTrue. :)

          << “Don’t step into that ring if you don’t know how that game works.” . . . This was a rather brash comment. You assume I don’t know how investing works?

          Absolutely not directed at you personally. A general comment about people diving into things they don't understand and getting hurt, a theme of mine I've been sloppily weaving in and out here. Something I imagine we can agree on. It was a general "you" not "you Darby." I stayed out of FB for the simple reason I couldn't see how it justified its valuation. We did our "due diligence." As for the investigations bit, it's always a bit humorous to me when government creates a problem, in this case broadly the Sarbannes/Oxley made it rather harder for firms to go public, meaning many firms grew larger with private VC before going public and now the state gets their panties in a twist about them cashing out. Oi vey. Anyway, whole other subject.

          << You show some investors Sepp’s farm or even Salatin and you could have them lining up. And just like FB, the average guy is going to lose his backside, because those are unique situations with unique individuals. They are at the forefront of a revolution, and are cashing in on it (which is totally fine by me).

          Mmmm, sounds like you're echoing an argument I made earlier. :) Hell, it sounds like you're way more conservative than I am.

          << My suggestion to you is read up on Salatin, Allan Savory and Holistic Management, the permaculture guys etc. Then buy some property and either a) manage it or b) hire a farm manager who shares your philosophies to run it for you. I believe that on this scale, after you are personally educated, your idea might work.

          Thank you for the concrete advice and b) is something that definitely interests me and is plausible within 5-10 years. (a) is out because of my joy and success in my primary lines of work, I'm lucky in this regard. In any case, I will absolutely buy a small piece for myself (within a year perhaps) and investigate these methods a little more concretely for personal interest; perhaps at least creating a small SoCal desert demonstration site. From what I've been able to glean from Lawton, neither the capital nor time need to be all that high to start these systems and once established the beauty is that they keep themselves going to a large degree. That's a capitalist's wet dream if it proves out!

          << As for your original idea/question we will simply have to agree to disagree.

          No sweat. Peace and good luck and future success to you.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezuki, here is the golden rule you DON’T and I mean based on every comment you made so far have demonstrated you DON’T get.

          NEVER take on an investor if you don’t need their money.!

          Seriously what would Salatin or Holzer or Lawton or anyone who really gets it want an investor for? To do what? Provide seeds, wait we do that ourselves. Provide equipment, wait that is cheap to hire. Buy land? Wait if they buy it we don’t own it.

          See this is the thing if you REALLY understand permaculture you don’t need investors and if you don’t need them you don’t take them.

          Plenty of people have offered to invest in my businesses over the years, not once was the offer in my true best interest. Investors are only out for themselves, they don’t give a flying fuck about he soul of a business. They don’t call the show “Good Guys that Help for a Reasonable Return” they call it Shark Tank and there is a reason.

          Investors are for people that can’t make it on their own.

      • I said essentially two things:

        1- If one wishes to get an investor or banker they will need a business plan with defensible projected revenues. I made this statement as a general point.

        2- I suggested the possibility, among other things, of somewhat more packaged systems/frameworks that investors, people like who know buy and operate franchises, *might* be interested in.

        Neither is saying anyone SHOUD or NEEDS to go get OPM.

        << Investors are for people that can’t make it on their own.

        You mean like how Steve Jobs didn't make it on is own?

        Your statement is true in a tautological sense . . .

        Investors provide capital leverage and civilization wouldn't be anywhere near where it is without them providing the function of risk capital. Again, I admit I may be applying principles that are life and death in multi-hundred million dollar manufacturing that are just irrelevant to small homespun ag, but your statement is stupefyingly sweeping if you mean it across the board. I can only assume you mean it more narrowly in this domain.

        I also mentioned bank loans in the same category of requiring, for example, a business plan with defensible revenues. A loan is another way to get more capital to work with than you have. Are those for people who can't make it on their own either?

        I don't know, but out of curiosity, in 1962 when twenty year old Sepp took over his father's dilapidated farm in what was to become Der Krameterhof he said he spent more in the first couple years than his parents had spent in a lifetime on the property. Presumably this was before it was yielding positive cash flow as it was being established. This period of his life would be a curious investigation.

        << here is the golden rule you DON’T and I mean based on every comment you made so far have demonstrated you DON’T get.

        Then you haven't read every comment I made. I said very clearly, if:
        - you're small enough or otherwise in a position to bootstrap fund yourself, growing incrementally from a self-funding level. (This appears to be your permaculture based recommendation. Fine.)
        OR EVEN
        - get a personal loan from family who are just supportive
        - get an angel investor who is different than a typical investor (because of their personal interest in the project)

        A good deal of what I'm hammering on is not so important.

        << Seriously what would Salatin or Holzer or Lawton or anyone who really gets it want an investor for? To do what? Provide seeds, wait we do that ourselves. Provide equipment, wait that is cheap to hire. Buy land? Wait if they buy it we don’t own it.

        The bank owns your land until it's paid off. Buy all your land cash? How about you Darby, free and clear from day one?

        While I don't know for sure, I gave one example where Sepp himself may have needed by your terminology, intelligently utilized by my mine, quite a bit of scratch to get started.

        Sure you start with a little seed and develop your own, or maybe you want 1,500 kilos of just potato seeds to make a nice leap. . .

        << See this is the thing if you REALLY understand permaculture you don’t need investors and if you don’t need them you don’t take them.

        Again, I am not in any way opposing the possibility or even the desirability of bootstrapping, which is about the only thing you're actually saying as far as I can tell; that it is neither necessary or desirable to work with anyone else's money. Ok. So don't. I certainly agree with the broad principle of be careful who you get in bed with, but I wouldn't for a second take this to the limited thinking of don't do it under any circumstance.

        << Plenty of people have offered to invest in my businesses over the years, not once was the offer in my true best interest. Investors are only out for themselves, they don’t give a flying fuck about he soul of a business. They don’t call the show “Good Guys that Help for a Reasonable Return” they call it Shark Tank and there is a reason.

        People who are "only in it for themselves" don't worry me all that much. . . because when what's in it for them is my own success and I bothered to pay attention to contractual terms, well, the system is so wonderful it allows people who otherwise can't stand each other to work together productively. Part of the inherent beauty of capitalism. No, it ain't all peaches and sunshine, but extraordinarily powerful. And let's dispose of this myth that investors are just sharks, they get eaten up all the time. It's just another form of human cooperation.

      • Jack, let me ask a precise question to see if I understand something I feel you’re implying.

        T/F:
        A fully immersed permaculturist ought NOT take OPM to develop their business, but instead rely exclusively on their own money generating capacity to grow.

        If true, is this derived from any of the principles or ethics of permaculture itself? (I can’t even get a clear presentation of the third ethic.) Or are you just making this as a general kind of pro-liberty assertion applied to the context of permaculture?

  11. It would be nice to know what kinda money you could expect say if there was no publicity/marketing included in the amount you could make. Just how much money purely from your crops/livestock would he expect to make.

  12. Loved the show. Curious to hear more about the “lake” and if it works. Here in Maine the ice is thick enough some people drive their pickups out on it on much bigger lakes that are pretty deep. What about this design is different? Would love to have an open pond with relatively warm water in it in the winter but I suspect that even if I keep the water moving it would be closure to 33 degrees than 54. I’m in zone 4. Thanks for taking the time to share some of your fun with us!

  13. Of course, Paul’s health is of paramount importance! I’m watching it closely (and praying for it – to the sun and nature) because I’m eagerly awaiting the time he get his land and implements the “wofati policy” (i.e., you build one – you can stay there for a year rent-free ;).

  14. Modern Survival

    @Vettezuki

    Starting a new thread as the old one has a tree no longer manageable. You asked,

    “Jack, let me ask a precise question to see if I understand something I feel you’re implying.

    T/F:
    A fully immersed permaculturist ought NOT take OPM to develop their business, but instead rely exclusively on their own money generating capacity to grow”

    Well yes and no, like most things in permaculture the answer is it depends. On the surface it is exactly that, screw “investors” in the permaculture field because they will ruin the whole damn thing, period the end.

    Then there is the other side, inside permaculture itself there is an entire economy, banking system, etc. being developed. Put it to you this way, permaculture is evolved thinking, current society exists as repressed thinking, so I would not let a repressed thinker and his money with in 10 miles of my evolved thinking system.

    To use OPM in permaculture would actually be on the gray side of an ethics violation. The investor would have to meet certain criteria to make it work, they would have to…

    1. Completely believe in the prime directive, to the exclusion or extreme delay of profit if necessary.

    2. They would have to practice and believe in the three ethics, care of earth, care of people, return of surplus. Profit would have to come fifth behind the ethics and the directive. You may say that shows permaculute’s lack of ability to profit, it doesn’t it shows the lack of the limited thinking system to allow for permaculture to produce profit in nature’s timeline.

    Now if you found me investors that fit that role, I would be okay with them being used to fund projects. Funding permaculture though for now is best done by simply donating to those doing the work. People go into poverty stricken nations with a few grand in funding, barely enough to get them there and back and stop disease, provide good water and feed a village. The systems are put in place in months and last as long as people continue to maintain them.

    The facts are in this nation and in every developed one (and you KNOW this if you are as informed as you claim, noting I have NO REASON to doubt you are) once I take a true investor by LAW my primary duty becomes a “fiduciary responsibility to my share holders”. Again this is LAW and this law pertains equally to both public and private investments.

    Answering the question in court as to “why didn’t you make a profit for your shareholders via ________” with, “because doing so would have failed to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children” sadly wouldn’t work.

    So you tell me how would anyone be able to really practice permaculture as an enlightened form of thinking while remaining legal in a repressed thinking system? How do I follow the 12 principals, the prime directive, the three ethics and do so in a way that puts my fiduciary responsibility to the investor first?

    The answer is it can’t be done the two worlds are in complete conflict. So the only way I would allow investor money into a permaculture system would be for it itself come come from permaculture source, governed first by care of earth, care of people, return of surplus and multi generational thinking.

    There are no such conventional investors!

  15. From my POV a portion of Permaculture’s “evolved” thinking is not at all new, but yet just another manifestation of an anti-capitalist mentality. I mean this here as a value free observation. But I have been unclear to the extent this is the case. Seems more extensive, or even endemic than I previously suspected. I know some of the newer just random practitioners I’ve read or watched videos on sound just like neo-Marxists, but I never quite got that feeling from Mollison. And of course Fukoka (one of Mollison’s prime inspirations AIR) never called himself a permaculturist TMK, and Holzer, who was definitely concerned with making money in the present from the beginning, who was just told he could use the word (never heard of it for the first decades of his operation) doesn’t seem to spend much if any time at all expounding on the directive and ethics.

    As for not letting in people who think differently because they may be disruptive, that’s fine, it’s not completely uncommon for otherwise conventional businesses to reject conventional investors because there is no alignment on “mission.” I myself have not pursued investors for exactly this reason, just borrowed money from family with commercial interest but flexible payback period, but otherwise have avoided bringing any extra people in. So I certainly understand that you believe you have an enlightened position and you don’t want “outsiders” messing it up, preferring instead a kind of mutual aid arrangement, rather than profit seeking investors. While putting a limit on potential growth, it’s probably best for maintaining the purity of the normitive aspects of permaculture. Therefore, I have no objection on your analysis of a potential conflict on that philosophical level.

    Re: Fiduciary Responsibilities
    These laws are intended to protect investors from scheisters and fraudsters, not guarantee their returns. There is absolutely no such thing as a standing in law entitling anyone to forcing a company into profitable operations. It’s an impossibly vague, unenforceable non-starter. Off the top of my head I’ve never even heard of an investor attempting this, let alone succeeding, whatever that would mean, in court. Of course investors sue on grounds of material breach of contract, but even that in reality can be a real tough hall for an investor unless the terms of the K are not inescapably explicit. About the only thing a firm or person would have to show the judge is that they’re making a good faith effort in their judgement to run the company effectively, or develop product/service X. There’s no law against being merely incompetent/ineffective or requiring profit. I distinctly remember listening to one call in show for legal advice where a guy was complaining about an investment he made into a software start up and they weren’t bringing their software to market. He asked the attorney if he could take them to court. The attorney said you can and you’ll lose because all they’ll have to show is that they’re making an effort to develop the software. As a shareholder you can’t sue a company because they merely run a loss, have a decline in stock price, stop paying dividends or whatever. This objection falls flat in practice.

    In short I understand your concern regarding the influence of conventional/private investors, but think your concern about any legal liability is unfounded in practice.

    Re: Multi Generational Thinking and Long Term Investment
    Well, a corporation is actually by definition a mutli-generational entity. My firm has been around for over a century and we’ve been investing into China for a couple decades now for development of factories and work forces. This was looking ahead deep into the 21st century, long after I’ll be gone from the firm, long after everyone involved in the project(s) will be gone. It’s also in full alignment with part of the firm’s mission to create products that make people’s lives richer, good jobs for its employees, and return for its shareholders. These are not mutually exclusive.

    I’m grateful for this opportunity to learn more about Permaculture. But perhaps in total Permaculture is not quite right for me. Maybe there’s room for a more conventional “beyond organic” biodynamics regime that adopts the positive system design elements, technical methods, and hard science from permaculture practice as objective means to objective ends, but leaves the normitive social theorizing an entirely separate and personal matter.

    • Modern Survival

      Comparing permaculture to socialism/marxism is complete short sighted and demonstrates your total ignorance of permaculture as a system and a complete lack of knowledge about the view point of its founders. I am now 100% bored with this crap dude, believe what you want. Believe that you can’t put people and ecology first in a capitalist system is you want to.

      Seriously I am done, you can post another book if you want to. I have explained it as best I can for you. What you do now is up to you but your assertion that permaculture is socialism is again, total ignorance fully demonstrated.

      Are there socialists that practice permaculture, absolutely, there are also socialists that practice Southern Baptist theology, there are socialists that drive Fords, etc.

      Again believe what you want but I am done with this discussion.