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Author Topic: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)  (Read 5465 times)

Caesar

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How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« on: June 14, 2017, 09:33:00 PM »
Hello everyone. I'm currently making efforts to acquire land, so I can finally start my farm. The question I'm asking here is, how to go about it? (starting it, not acquiring it). First, some background information:

I've been out of college for under a year now. I've considered other options (and I haven't fully rejected some of them), but other than biology, agriculture is my passion, so this farm is intended to be my main (and likely only) source of income. Therefore, it will be a commercial farm (not a hobby farm), requiring commercial output of product. That said, I don't need huge quantities of output, just enough to gain my livelihood (like a small farm, I guess you could say). As a matter of personal preference, I will not be using industrial techniques, and though I hope to acquire a large plot of land, I intend to operate it on small farm principles (perhaps even as a cooperative, eventually). In fact, I intend to manage it as a permaculture farm (you could say my ulterior motive is for the idea to catch on with other local farmers, proving you can feed the world without industrial techniques; big is not synonymous with industrial).

There's lots of information on permaculture out there, but most of it seems directed at subsistence farmers and homesteaders (both of whom mostly grow it to eat it themselves; I hope to fill most of my diet from my farm, but I also mainly want it as a reasonably strong source of income, by small-farm standards). There's also many permaculture farms that derive most of their income from on-farm teaching (something I don't wanna do; I don't mind teaching, but I wanna be proof-of-concept that the ideas work commercially, by deriving my income from actual product, as most farmers do). How does one commercialize permaculture? And do so in a way that doesn't appear "green" (with hidden eco-unfriendly shortcomings), but actually is "green" (with a neutral-to-positive environmental impact)? There's very little information on commercial applications for permaculture (except for isolated techniques), so I had to piece together the information myself.

Ultimately (Aquaponics & Microponics not withstanding), I found 4 promising candidates for a commercial farm (and one candidate that has left me as confused as ever):
+ Biointensive
+ No Dig
+ SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Technology)
+ Inga Alley Cropping
? ? ? Food Forest

Side-note: My main interest is in tree crops, but I intend to get established with (and continue pursuing) annual crops as well. I also consider valuable the techniques of Companion Planting, Composting and Terra Preta Nova (http://honeybees-by-the-sea.com/terrapreta.htm) (http://honeybees-by-the-sea.com/terrapreta/terrapretanova.pdf).

Biointensive farming consists of double digging the raised annual crop beds and applying compost (and whatever organic fertilizer the local soil requires for its deficiencies). Allegedly, the resulting soil texture allows greater water retention and nutrient uptake by the crops, which can be spaced closer together without competing, covering the soil (retaining further moisture and preventing weed germination). Companion planting is used for best effect, and a minimum bed width of 3 feet (ideally 4 to 5; length is 10 to 20) ensures a better microclimate for the crops. I've seen several sources claim excellent results with this technique (both in yields and in fertilizer & water use reduction). I've also read a few that had terrible results, claiming explosive weed germination, poor water retention and soil texture degradation (crust-like water-impervious top layer, etc.). Makes me wonder if the  bad results come from improper preparation/implementation, inadequate land (perhaps it doesn't work everywhere?), or flaws inherent to the technique itself (but then why do some have great success?). My main concerns are the double digging's disturbance of soil microbiota and properties (it almost sounds like a poor-man's tilling, but deeper), as well as the seeming back-breaking labor it seems to entail (though proponents insist it is easy, with the right technique). Plus, if you're following the system to the letter, the double-digging must be repeated periodically (it's not "one and done", though it's said to get easier in subsequent digs).

Some Biointensive Links:
* http://www.growbiointensive.org/grow_main.html
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeAvYrfKkU (session one) =>  https://www.youtube.com/user/JohnJeavonsGrowBio/videos (the remaining sessions)
* https://www.villagevolunteers.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Biointensive-Farming-Training-Manual.pdf
* http://growbiointensive.org/ (extra resources)

No dig (a variation on no-till?) is where you smother and kill the local weeds and build the soil up from that layer, over time, with generous applications of compost and mulch. I've read of several farms failing with no-till, but all evidence indicates improper management (often commented on in detail by other permaculturists). With proper management, and the right combination of techniques, results tend to be as impressive as those claimed by the Biointensive farmers (in yields and fertilizer & water-use reduction). Unlike conventional biointensive techniques, it is said that the soil structure remains healthy (and improves over time, with worm-based "tilling" and increasing layers of organic matter), and the beneficial soil biota remains intact. This one appeals to me for soil health and minimizing work (at least, digging-based work). I wonder about combining it with Biointensive, but I'm not sure it would work; even if I double-dig only once, it kinda defeats the purpose of no-till. And if I apply biointensive plant spacing to no-till, yields might drop (the close spacing is said to work because of the changes made to the soil).

Some No-dig links:
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HATC3rG6NbQ
* http://www.backyardecosystem.com/organic-gardening/stop-killing-your-soil-debunking-double-digging/
* http://www.rootsimple.com/2011/04/till-vs-no-till/
* https://craftsmanship.net/drought-fighters/

SALT was primarily designed as a solution to slope-farming and soil erosion, but I think it seems useful for flat lands too. It's basically Alley Cropping between leguminous trees. The trees provide (with periodic pruning) organic matter for the alleys, and they help prevent erosion. I particularly like the versatility of the system, as it was designed with annual crops, perennial crops and fruit trees in mind (though there may be size limits), and even has provisions for Fodder Crops (not sure if grazed in-situ, which I would prefer) and Timber as well.

SALT Link:
* https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/echocommunity.site-ym.com/resource/collection/27A14B94-EFE8-4D8A-BB83-36A61F414E3B/TN_72_Sloping_Agricultural_Land_Technology--SALT.pdf

Inga Alley Cropping almost seems like a flat-land version of SALT, and like SALT the results have been overwhelmingly positive. That said, it has it's pros and cons. On the one hand, the developer of this system tested out many leguminous tree species before settling on Inga, considering the others as inferior for the purposes of the system (including some used in SALT, which raises some questions for me as to which is superior). On the other hand, it's not as versatile, being good for growing annuals and some perennials, but not tree crops. Also, shade is a big part of the functionality of this system; after the harvest the canopy is allowed to close again, before chopping it again the following year. This makes me wonder: how long is the growing season? Would I be unable to grow sun-lovers (most crops) after the first harvest? That is the detail that worries me (and is one that is not mentioned for SALT). On the plus side, yields (of corn, at least) were considered far superior with fewer plants than when conventionally-planted.

Links for Inga Alley Cropping:
* http://www.ingafoundation.org/the-inga-tree/
* http://funavid.com/home/what-is-inga-alley-cropping/
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/step-step-guide-inga-alley-cropping
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/advice-for-farmers
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/general-considerations

The final technique (of interest to me as an alternative for the Tree Crops) is the Food Forest. On the one hand, I've found that many of the layered representations of it available on the internet are too good to be true. You can't have a dense planting of trees and an understory of sun-loving crops at the same time. However, modified in more open-woodland style (with an open canopy), a sunny understory is more feasible (I think this technique is done at Las Cañadas). And even if the "understory" is eliminated (save for the shade crops), You might still get a good planting of tree crops. The question is, how is it done? What's the pattern for the trees, and the spacing? How is it different from a mixed orchard planting or the Tree Crop version of SALT? This is one permaculture concept whose techniques seem poorly explored in the online literature. A similar concept (a fodder forest?) is referred to online as Silvopasture, for livestock.

Food Forest relevant links:
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/fukuokas-food-forest
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/perennial-farming-systems-organic-agriculture-edible-permaculture-eric-toensmeier-large-scale-farmland.html
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/maximizing-omega-level-diversity
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/coppiced-nitrogen-fixing-firewood-species-of-the-world
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/livestock-integration-reducing-labor-and-fossil-fuel-inputs
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/intensive-silvopasture-a-win-win-for-carbon-and-yield
* http://www.bosquedeniebla.com.mx/boscom.htm
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/legume-trees-with-pods-edible-to-livestock
* http://www.bosquedeniebla.com.mx/hacagrfor.htm

And here is my question, the advice I seek: What combination of techniques should I use? Naturally, any technique involving trees is going to take a long time to develop, so while the trees are growing, I'm going to have to grow the annuals and small perennials either Biointensively, or with the No-dig system. Which one do I use? I'm gravitating more to the No-dig, but I'm wondering about incorporating the aforementioned traits of Biointensive into it (one-time double-dig and/or extra-close planting). Or perhaps full Biointensive would be better? Or full No-dig?

And as for the Trees... The Inga system for the annuals, or the SALT system? And the Fruits: SALT, Orchard or Food Forest?

Should I even consider Dairy Goats into my plans? Or perhaps Chickens, or Guineafowl?

I might consider testing all of them, except I still don't know the size or traits of the land I'll acquire (here's hoping for something big). I can afford to experiment with the annuals, but the trees ought to be planned with forethought and a solid, decided plan, set in stone (with the years they require, I can't afford to mess around).

A very serious post for an important time in my life. Shower me with your thoughts, opinions and advice.  ;) ;D 8)
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 03:51:04 PM by Caesar »

Finca La Isla

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2017, 10:24:27 PM »
Your questions are a very interesting topic to me but frankly, you can't expect to get much of this resolved on this forum.  The subject is too complex.  There are 2-3 week permaculture courses that delve into this.  I have given several multi-day workshops on agroforestry.  If you can't come up with the answers you need from your own research then you might start with workshops and permaculture design courses.
My observation,
Peter

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2017, 11:01:00 PM »
Yeah you should do dairy goats,  chickens, and rabbits would also work. However you want to focus on a few things at first and not get in over your head.

Look into biochar, cover crops, mycorrhizae, compost,  and other topics.
Grow mainly fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Tropicdude

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 02:30:08 AM »
It would take pages and pages of dialog to get into every facet.  but some key points and tips.  if you are to work this yourself,  you must keep the size of the project at a manageable size.

The whole idea behind permaculture, is to get maximum results with minimum labor, in the most sustainable manner possible,  working with nature instead of against it.

its best to plan this thinking of loops,   for your cash products.   lets says you want to raise pigs,   what plants do they eat?  for example palm seeds are loved by them in the DR,  what if you used palms that also have seeds that humans can consume maybe peach palm Acai? , or oil can be extracted? what do the palms need?  pig poop can be fed into a bio digester, the methane used to cook with, and the biodigester makes excellent fertilizer.  the idea is to make this "loop" as efficient as possible, with elements that support one another.

As for aguaponics,  I feel this can be energy intensive,  it is not that passive and maintenance free.  let say you have  a large tank, with Tilapia
and you are using this water to cycle back up to water/nourish plants.  you have to get it perfectly balanced, too many plants, and you will not have enough "food" for them from the tank water, fish will still need to be fed, what will this cost, can you grow sufficient plants enough to sustain them?  ammonia, and pH among other things need to be monitored and regulated.  here you will need power to pump water 24/7 and fish for market need a freezer.  unless you can find someone to buy them right out of the tank.

personally I like the food Forrest system, plant many plants together, with many trees that support others, let nature do the rest, main labor input is to get it established, speed up the process by coppicing the "service" trees.  eventually having a "forrest" that will sustain itself, and you just go in and harvest, many fruits, nuts, and even lumber and medicinal plants etc.

Animals are integral to a permaculture system, chickens Ducks etc would be my first choice, which reminds me of something Geoff Lawton said, if you have a problem with snails,  snails are not your problem,  it is not having ducks that is your problem.

A lot of emphasis is put on NFT trees, ( Nitrogen fixers ) but the error is believing that this nitrogen will be available to other plants directly in the ground,  does not work that way,  NFT can grow on their own without most fertilizers, but it is the green manure they produce ( biomass ) that will benefit your other plants.  so do not rule out non NFT trees,  Moringa, Neem, Inga, Tamarind, and so on.  multipurpose trees,
William
" The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.....The second best time, is now ! "

Tropheus76

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 09:04:55 AM »
I am no expert by a long shot and I grow as a hobby not as a source of income but I have read on this subject extensively and know quite a few things I would change on my limited 2 acre property that I would do if I had to start over.  You are in PR correct? You have sizable land available to buy? You can grow almost anything. I don't know how big you are planning. First off, before you worry about methodology, you need to figure out who is your market and what actually sells. Are you selling in a farmers market, are you selling in stores? I have been to PR but I was on a mission so didn't get near as much time to look at markets or trees. The reason this matters is you want to maximize what actually sells vs what you can grow. This then will determine your methodology on how to go about growing. If you know something is kind of rare but when it shows up it is a big seller then maybe devote a decent portion of your land to this. I would make the majority of the property your bread and butter tree(s). There's usually a reason something is rare and you don't want to base your entire crop on it. Therefore having a bread and butter tree will ensure you have a product that will sell and will reliably grow in quantity in your climate. If you have a big enough property, you will have enough space to try multiple different methodologies then based on the trees involved. If you have a shade loving crop tree, then awesome try the SALT method.  Then if you wish to live off the land, have an acre or so for growing ground crops specifically for you, I have heard a garden needs to be a half acre a person so there you go.


Doug

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2017, 10:02:20 AM »
I admire your thinking. I always thought what you're dreaming of doing to be a nice idea but not very practical, back-breaking and not very sustainable. But then I got to know a family of seven (mom, dad, five youngsters) who for a dozen years now have tapped into the growing interest in organic produce and products here. They have a very small farm of just a couple of acres with fruit trees and pasture, and their income is derived totally from a rather small garden of less than a quarter acre where they intensively raise wonderful clean organic veggies, along with a cow for organic milk to make yogurt. (BTW, they just got electricity in the last couple of years, and the still don't have a car.) It's hard work, but they are a beautiful and happy family. I think the key question for you is, how strong is the organic market in your area? If there's a good market, anything's possible. I have been an organic gardener/farmer for 50 years. Organic principles are actually very simple. I think too many people make it too academic and study it to death. LOL. Common sense about how Nature works is the rule! Best wishes to you on your journey.

Droshi

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2017, 01:35:33 PM »
I could highly suggest as some others have mentioned: first research your market, see what is in demand, and try to fill a void or niche.

If for example there's no or little local market for durian, and you find out exporting to be impractical....don't plant an extensive durian farm and hope demand will pickup later. Leave this type of thing until you have already had success with something else.

The exact specifics (the growing techniques you are interested in and asking about) I would say you should start small if you can and expand with what you learn. Plenty of ideas work for many people, but they can also fail for others for a variety of reasons.

My ideas are to look at what the health community and chefs are demanding. Specialty fruit varieties, micro-greens, etc are all possibilities, but you have to see what is wanted first.

Not to say others here will lead you astray, but keep in mind that hobby forums like this are focused on growing what we as individuals like, no matter what the market demands. We can also relatively pick the fruit and stuff it in our face, so marketability of a product isn't as important.

Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2017, 03:49:32 PM »
Your questions are a very interesting topic to me but frankly, you can't expect to get much of this resolved on this forum.  The subject is too complex.  There are 2-3 week permaculture courses that delve into this.  I have given several multi-day workshops on agroforestry.  If you can't come up with the answers you need from your own research then you might start with workshops and permaculture design courses.
My observation,
Peter

I suspected as much, but I figured it was worth a shot. Most everyone here has more direct hands-on experience, so it can't hurt to get some advice. I'd love to go to a workshop myself, but I'm not sure there are any near me, let alone one that specifically answers the Double Dig vs No Dig and SALT vs Inga debates. That said, I'll now keep my eyes out. Perhaps I'll find a local workshop on Permaculture. At the very least, I hope to resolve my doubts regarding Food Forest organization.


Yeah you should do dairy goats,  chickens, and rabbits would also work. However you want to focus on a few things at first and not get in over your head.

Look into biochar, cover crops, mycorrhizae, compost,  and other topics.

Definitely. I had actually worried once or twice about being overwhelmed, but I have been very organized in tackling this project, like dealing with a very important homework project, only better ('cause I dig the subject matter, if you'll pardon the pun). I've stored away information on the aforementioned topics (and many more) for over 5 years; I'm just now fully connecting the dots, now that the reality of owning a farm is almost at hand (like a deadline, it's given me a big boost in organizing myself, planning for success). The cover crops are actually something I haven't fully figured out, but I'm looking into it.

I intend to start with annual crops. While I have that going, I will figure out the different tree systems, and start implementing them, continuing to establish myself on the annual crops as the trees grow. A few years down the road, after the annual and perennial systems are in place, I'll figure out how to add in the animals, or perhaps build up a system around them if there's space remaining. I'm pacing myself, dividing everything into steps and taking each step on it's own, one at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.


It would take pages and pages of dialog to get into every facet.  but some key points and tips.  if you are to work this yourself,  you must keep the size of the project at a manageable size.

The whole idea behind permaculture, is to get maximum results with minimum labor, in the most sustainable manner possible,  working with nature instead of against it.

its best to plan this thinking of loops,   for your cash products.   lets says you want to raise pigs,   what plants do they eat?  for example palm seeds are loved by them in the DR,  what if you used palms that also have seeds that humans can consume maybe peach palm Acai? , or oil can be extracted? what do the palms need?  pig poop can be fed into a bio digester, the methane used to cook with, and the biodigester makes excellent fertilizer.  the idea is to make this "loop" as efficient as possible, with elements that support one another.

As for aguaponics,  I feel this can be energy intensive,  it is not that passive and maintenance free.  let say you have  a large tank, with Tilapia
and you are using this water to cycle back up to water/nourish plants.  you have to get it perfectly balanced, too many plants, and you will not have enough "food" for them from the tank water, fish will still need to be fed, what will this cost, can you grow sufficient plants enough to sustain them?  ammonia, and pH among other things need to be monitored and regulated.  here you will need power to pump water 24/7 and fish for market need a freezer.  unless you can find someone to buy them right out of the tank.

personally I like the food Forrest system, plant many plants together, with many trees that support others, let nature do the rest, main labor input is to get it established, speed up the process by coppicing the "service" trees.  eventually having a "forrest" that will sustain itself, and you just go in and harvest, many fruits, nuts, and even lumber and medicinal plants etc.

Animals are integral to a permaculture system, chickens Ducks etc would be my first choice, which reminds me of something Geoff Lawton said, if you have a problem with snails,  snails are not your problem,  it is not having ducks that is your problem.

A lot of emphasis is put on NFT trees, ( Nitrogen fixers ) but the error is believing that this nitrogen will be available to other plants directly in the ground,  does not work that way,  NFT can grow on their own without most fertilizers, but it is the green manure they produce ( biomass ) that will benefit your other plants.  so do not rule out non NFT trees,  Moringa, Neem, Inga, Tamarind, and so on.  multipurpose trees,

Loops, each system feeding the other... This is exactly the kind of thing I hope to accomplish.

Aquaponics seems a little too intensive for me, honestly. The idea is appealing, but factoring in the inputs (plus my desire for a degree of self sufficiency), and regulating the nutrients, it all gives me a bit of a headache. If I were tackling only that, then sure, but since I'm also handling in-ground systems, I'm not sure I'm going into extensive aquaponics any time soon. Perhaps later, but if so, I have a preference for Crayfish over Tilapia (I guess I'd market the crops and eat the crayfish myself).

The Food Forest sounds like an excellent idea, and it's my strongest candidate for the tree crops thus far, but I'm still not sure how to tackle formatting it. The spacing, the pattern of trees, the placing of the service trees, all of that is info that's not so easy to come by (and that's without counting the nuances of species selection, which will definitely impact the other factors).

Snails are, in fact, a problem in my garden at the moment. I'll probably add in some ducks and/or geese soon after starting, but I wonder about vegetable compatibility. I've read they're not as destructive as chickens in that regard, but I wonder if tender greens would be safe from them.

The NFT's are key in this, that's why I considered SALT and Inga Alley Cropping (IAC), but the question of which method to go still remains. Is SALT superior, or is IAC? Fruit Trees can be grown in SALT, but does a Fruit SALT system compare favorably to a Food Forest? And how would the NFT's be spaced in a Food Forest compared to SALT? Would I get a more stable and productive system for annual crops with SALT or with IAC? Figuring out the best system for integrating the NFT's is one of my bigger and more pressing doubts at the moment. I feel like Silvopasture might be easier to figure out, but that won't factor in until further down the road, and I still need to figure out which NFT system to use with the other crops.


I am no expert by a long shot and I grow as a hobby not as a source of income but I have read on this subject extensively and know quite a few things I would change on my limited 2 acre property that I would do if I had to start over.  You are in PR correct? You have sizable land available to buy? You can grow almost anything. I don't know how big you are planning. First off, before you worry about methodology, you need to figure out who is your market and what actually sells. Are you selling in a farmers market, are you selling in stores? I have been to PR but I was on a mission so didn't get near as much time to look at markets or trees. The reason this matters is you want to maximize what actually sells vs what you can grow. This then will determine your methodology on how to go about growing. If you know something is kind of rare but when it shows up it is a big seller then maybe devote a decent portion of your land to this. I would make the majority of the property your bread and butter tree(s). There's usually a reason something is rare and you don't want to base your entire crop on it. Therefore having a bread and butter tree will ensure you have a product that will sell and will reliably grow in quantity in your climate. If you have a big enough property, you will have enough space to try multiple different methodologies then based on the trees involved. If you have a shade loving crop tree, then awesome try the SALT method.  Then if you wish to live off the land, have an acre or so for growing ground crops specifically for you, I have heard a garden needs to be a half acre a person so there you go.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm gonna get. I'm currently applying for a family farm program, and I'm hoping they'll have a sizable plot available. If not, I'll have to take what I can get and move later on (or apply for a different program, if I'm able). Ultimately, I'd like to have many acres, to allow for a diversity of product (a small-to-moderate amount of space for fresh vegetables, and a large amount for tree crops). I hope to sell both at stores, and at farmer's markets; I'd eventually like to do minor exportation, and definitely some on-farm processed products, but we'll see how it goes. I've already determined everything I'm going to grow and sell, down to the letter. I had a very expansive list as a starting point, and eventually whittled down the candidates to four tiers (each, on two separate lists: small & annuals, and trees): Tier 1 has the bread and butter, that I know will sell well because they have a strong market here and are always in demand. Tier 2 has crops with a strong enough local market, but not as strong as tier 1, so I'll be planting less of them. Tier 3 has crops with a weak local market: strong enough to confidently grow them in the knowledge they will be bought, but not so in demand to warrant anything over a small planting. Tier 3 with the trees means most exotics: trees that I'll grow singly (or in very small groups) for my own personal consumption, and to test the waters in the local market (there are exotic trees in the upper tiers, but they're mainly well-known species that I'm reasonably confident will sell well, from what I've seen). Tier 4 with the trees are extra species and poorly-known exotics, that will only get a spot in my land if I can afford to give them space (they're all optional). Tier 4 with the small crops are also exotic and poorly-known crops, that I'll be growing in small quantities for myself (and to test the waters at market) in my own personal plot.

SALT provides shade? I was under the impression that it (the annual crop version) was a sunnier system (at full tree growth) than IAC.

I do wish to live off the land, and have also taken the time to look into important staple crops to take care of the big 3: starch, fat and protein. The micronutrients go with the rest of the veggies & fruit.


I admire your thinking. I always thought what you're dreaming of doing to be a nice idea but not very practical, back-breaking and not very sustainable. But then I got to know a family of seven (mom, dad, five youngsters) who for a dozen years now have tapped into the growing interest in organic produce and products here. They have a very small farm of just a couple of acres with fruit trees and pasture, and their income is derived totally from a rather small garden of less than a quarter acre where they intensively raise wonderful clean organic veggies, along with a cow for organic milk to make yogurt. (BTW, they just got electricity in the last couple of years, and the still don't have a car.) It's hard work, but they are a beautiful and happy family. I think the key question for you is, how strong is the organic market in your area? If there's a good market, anything's possible. I have been an organic gardener/farmer for 50 years. Organic principles are actually very simple. I think too many people make it too academic and study it to death. LOL. Common sense about how Nature works is the rule! Best wishes to you on your journey.

Thank you. And that anecdote fills me with hope. I like it when families are able to take care of themselves with nothing but responsible agriculture and land stewardship. As for the local organic market, I think it's reasonably strong but I don't intend to market organically. I'm just gonna sell them like normal crops. That's another thing I'd like to achieve: industrial ag is seen by many as normal and organic as "special". Many don't care to spend extra money or effort in acquiring organic crops, they just go for the simpler conventional ones. So I'll just market my product normally, because (in my opinion, at least) organic should be normal, not special. It should be the baseline standard agricultural practice used worldwide, not some special thing that makes elite products for elite consumers. The best way to get people to see that is to start by example, which is a strong part of why I'm doing all of this. If I can have economic success (which is to say, a normal working life) doing all of these things, then I'll be one of the proof-of-concept farmers, proving that it can all work, and providing incentive for others to do the same.


I could highly suggest as some others have mentioned: first research your market, see what is in demand, and try to fill a void or niche.

If for example there's no or little local market for durian, and you find out exporting to be impractical....don't plant an extensive durian farm and hope demand will pickup later. Leave this type of thing until you have already had success with something else.

The exact specifics (the growing techniques you are interested in and asking about) I would say you should start small if you can and expand with what you learn. Plenty of ideas work for many people, but they can also fail for others for a variety of reasons.

My ideas are to look at what the health community and chefs are demanding. Specialty fruit varieties, micro-greens, etc are all possibilities, but you have to see what is wanted first.

Not to say others here will lead you astray, but keep in mind that hobby forums like this are focused on growing what we as individuals like, no matter what the market demands. We can also relatively pick the fruit and stuff it in our face, so marketability of a product isn't as important.

Indeed. I made it a point to avoid confusing what I like with what the people like when compiling my list. I sought advice, checked out local markets, and now I'm reasonably confident that I have a strong choice of crops for starting my farm. Here's hoping it all works out.


I still have to figure out the Food Forest system and compare it with fruit-SALT, as well as decide between annual-SALT and IAC. But at the least, I think I've made my choice between Biointensive and No-dig. I have decided to try them both: ¿Por qué no los dos?  :D

I'll test them both out (though I think No-dig has my favor at the moment), and whichever gives me the most satisfying results (yields proportionate to labor) will be the one I continue. At least until I get my NFT system in place. While I'm at it, I might test hybrid systems as well. Since vegetables are divided into plots (and are short-lived annuals), I can afford to test out different methods while I get the final systems in order. With the other systems that involve trees, I'd like to figure out their pros and cons (relative to my intentions) before getting started, as they will be more permanent: everything must be in order before I start implementing them.

FrankDrebinOfFruits

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2017, 05:54:39 PM »
Start with a lot of money.... machines are expensive to purchase and upkeep. Farming without machines is back breaking work. Everything is expensive, especially when bought in bulk.

I met a lot of local hippy type people that will give advice, some even have a garden 5'x10'. Most hardly work....but they can give plenty of advise.  Its completely different when you are growing vegetables on 1/4, 1/2, or 1 acre.

Vegetables are the only way to turn a profit in a short period of time (< 5 years). I consider animals tricky, and takes a learning experience, start with 1 or 2, see how it goes.  Do not start with say 100 goats, or 10 cows.

If you like farming, do it as a hobby, not a way to survive. When its easy, or you really enjoy it, then quit a nice paying day job to take the hobby full time.

pineislander

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2017, 08:31:16 PM »
Caesar, 30 years or so ago I was in your position. I was a 20-something year old engineer who loved to grow things, and had a small farm on St. Croix. Family life eventually took priority, and I didn't have access to cheap land or fresh water, and moved on. I'm in Florida now for retirement and finally living that dream again.
You are lucky to access to the information and resources nowdays, and its good to see you use them. All of the techniques you mention have their place and are worthwhile for you to try. Anyone who tries to be a 'purist' and not experiment with new ideas is practicing a religion.
Some brief advice:
-sounds like you are probably young. When that girl comes along make sure she is willing to live the Jibaro life and has a real Borinquen spirit. Being young you have plenty of time to make mistakes and have fun doing it. Go for your dreams, in midlife its hard to do that.
- Look for reasonably fertile land with a great water source, best would be gravity fed.
- Location needs to be no more than 1 hour from markets, time and gas is expensive.
- Buy the best and most versatile equipment you can afford, poorly built tools that don't hold up cost more & will stall progress.
- Find resources others overlook or consider waste and tap into them.
- Get a teaching job for now. Farming doesn't have 'benefits' including retirement and teachers get lots of time off, know everybody and are respected. You will need some income to support yourself in hard times.
Send me a PM, I have some other ideas you might be able to use. 

Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2017, 02:35:04 PM »
Start with a lot of money.... machines are expensive to purchase and upkeep. Farming without machines is back breaking work. Everything is expensive, especially when bought in bulk.

I met a lot of local hippy type people that will give advice, some even have a garden 5'x10'. Most hardly work....but they can give plenty of advise.  Its completely different when you are growing vegetables on 1/4, 1/2, or 1 acre.

Vegetables are the only way to turn a profit in a short period of time (< 5 years). I consider animals tricky, and takes a learning experience, start with 1 or 2, see how it goes.  Do not start with say 100 goats, or 10 cows.

If you like farming, do it as a hobby, not a way to survive. When its easy, or you really enjoy it, then quit a nice paying day job to take the hobby full time.

Duly noted. My municipality actually has some machines in storage that they lend to farmers (for a fee, perhaps?), so I think I'm covered there. Regarding machines, I intend to shy away from the larger, vehicular types after the initial establishment period. I wish to avoid soil compaction. That said, I am looking into smaller, lighter human-or-gas-powered machines for upkeep. They'll likely be tougher to use than vehicles, but easier on the back than simple hand tools like shovels and forks (which will still have their place, as they do on all farms).

Vegetables are my starting point, and I'll definitely be taking it slow with the animals.


Caesar, 30 years or so ago I was in your position. I was a 20-something year old engineer who loved to grow things, and had a small farm on St. Croix. Family life eventually took priority, and I didn't have access to cheap land or fresh water, and moved on. I'm in Florida now for retirement and finally living that dream again.
You are lucky to access to the information and resources nowdays, and its good to see you use them. All of the techniques you mention have their place and are worthwhile for you to try. Anyone who tries to be a 'purist' and not experiment with new ideas is practicing a religion.
Some brief advice:
-sounds like you are probably young. When that girl comes along make sure she is willing to live the Jibaro life and has a real Borinquen spirit. Being young you have plenty of time to make mistakes and have fun doing it. Go for your dreams, in midlife its hard to do that.
- Look for reasonably fertile land with a great water source, best would be gravity fed.
- Location needs to be no more than 1 hour from markets, time and gas is expensive.
- Buy the best and most versatile equipment you can afford, poorly built tools that don't hold up cost more & will stall progress.
- Find resources others overlook or consider waste and tap into them.
- Get a teaching job for now. Farming doesn't have 'benefits' including retirement and teachers get lots of time off, know everybody and are respected. You will need some income to support yourself in hard times.
Send me a PM, I have some other ideas you might be able to use.

It does sound like a dream. I'm glad you're able to enjoy it in retirement, I myself wonder how far this will take me. I hope to be able to work on this for as long as I'm alive.

I feel lucky. I just started reading up on agriculture one day in my teens for a thought experiment. I never imagined I'd find so much excellent information, nor that I'd be so drawn in by the topic. And experimentation is what I wanna do, innovation. Mixing and matching techniques seems like a natural next step.

I'm 27. It took me 7 years for my Bio bachelor's (I had a tough time with MATH, CHEM and PHYS). After that, a year taking miscellaneous Ag courses in Utuado, and a year off while I got myself together. I'm ready to work, and I wanna work hard.

What would a gravity-fed source of water look like? A stream? I've seen some land with streams out there, and I'd consider myself incredibly lucky if I acquired such a plot. There's local markets here in town, and I aim to stick around, give a boost to the local economy.

I wouldn't mind teaching part-time, but I think I need more direct experience under my belt before I start teaching Ag. And if it's a more conventional teaching job at a school, I think I'd have to be certified for that. Plus, the local Economic-Political environment isn't very stable right now with government jobs.  :-\  Nevertheless, I'll definitely look into a part-time job, in case I need the boost (and I probably will).

PM sent.  :)

Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2017, 06:31:53 PM »
After some extra digging online, I've found some Food Forest (and other Agroforestry systems) resources that seem to handle the practical aspects fairly well. There's a lot of information in them that helps visualize the structure and formatting well enough, though I think I need to stew on them for a while, to get the clearest mental picture. Here's the links:

* http://www.backyardabundance.org/Portals/0/p/EdibleAgroforestryTemplates.pdf

* https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-6-trees/food-forests-or-forest-gardens/

* https://permacultureapprentice.com/creating-a-food-forest-step-by-step-guide/

The first one also touched on a point that I hadn't given much thought to (perhaps because it's too obvious?), that these different techniques (Food Forests and Alley Cropping - and also Silvopasture) are all just variations of one concept: Agroforestry. Other than spacing and grid patterns, I'm not sure they're all that different from one another. Alleys seem like the better choice for slopes, but either one could work fine on flat lands.

So what does this mean for the fruits and other tree crops in my own project? If I acquire sloping land, I'll go for the Alley Cropping SALT method, if at least because it was designed for exactly that context. If it's flat land, I'll give it more thought. Food Forests were actually one of the main concepts that inspired this whole project in the first place, so I will take a while longer to study them and try to come up with a useful outline.

If organized for a commercial context, I'd expect a food forest to look not-unlike an orchard, only offset instead of a square grid, with a greater diversity of fully intercropped trees, and an understory (absent for most orchards). Shade lovers under trees, and sun lovers in the sunny spots between trees. Since I intend to cultivate most of my annual crops in NFT alleys, perhaps I'll leave the Food Forest understory for the perennials.

I could also try to find a midway point between the Alley and Forest methods. Rather than narrow alleys or a broad grid-marked forest, I could do very broad alleys consisting of somewhat narrow grids of tree crops (still much broader than a typical single-file alley) separated with Shelterbelts of NFT's (akin to the tree lines separating typical alleys). I still got some time to figure this out, so any further advice on this topic is appreciated.

Tropicdude

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2017, 10:45:41 PM »
Regarding heavy machinery,  these are often used at the start of the project to make contours, swales, ponds etc.   a well laid out plan, is a must, to save labor down the line,  as FrankDrebinoffruits said,  the fruit trees will take years to get established so,  quick money crops like veggies, herbs, etc is a must,  personally I like Papaya, as a mid term crop, usually start harvesting in about 18 months from seed. 

yes you might need machinery to get things in order at the start, but the whole idea in permaculture design is to minimize the labor input in the long term. once established,  fertilization should be chop and drop.  but even if all you do is harvest,  it can be a lot of work,  unlike commercial farms, with only one or two crops that are harvested all at once. in a system like the one you are planning, you will be harvesting something all year, so all i can say, if this will be worked by you solo, keep the size manageable.
William
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Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2017, 05:09:33 PM »
Regarding heavy machinery,  these are often used at the start of the project to make contours, swales, ponds etc.   a well laid out plan, is a must, to save labor down the line,  as FrankDrebinoffruits said,  the fruit trees will take years to get established so,  quick money crops like veggies, herbs, etc is a must,  personally I like Papaya, as a mid term crop, usually start harvesting in about 18 months from seed. 

yes you might need machinery to get things in order at the start, but the whole idea in permaculture design is to minimize the labor input in the long term. once established,  fertilization should be chop and drop.  but even if all you do is harvest,  it can be a lot of work,  unlike commercial farms, with only one or two crops that are harvested all at once. in a system like the one you are planning, you will be harvesting something all year, so all i can say, if this will be worked by you solo, keep the size manageable.

Do swales only apply to slopes, or to flat lands as well? And do ponds serve any particular practical applications?

The plan is not quite complete, but it's coming along beautifully! Veggies, herbs, trees, annuals, perennials... I'm reading up on companion planting now for the best guild combinations of my chosen crops. And chop n' drop was what I was hoping for in my system (at least in the long term). I'm not entirely sure I'll be working it completely solo (especially if I'm aiming for a bigger size), but it'd be nice to be able to manage it myself without outside help and without working myself to death.



As for the methods in my OP, I've kept reading and have made my "final" decision. No matter what I get, I will be starting out with No-till veggies (and a Biointensive bed or two, for comparison), before transitioning the veggies to the IAC system (Inga Alley Cropping). As for the Tree Crops, it depends. If my land is small, I'll have to forget about 'em until I move somewhere bigger. If/when I get big enough acreage: If sloped, I'll use SALT4 (the tree crop version); if flat, I probably won't follow SALT to the letter, but instead I'll implement a Food Forest heavily influenced by SALT. For the animals: I'll get a couple of African Geese once the IAC is up and running. On bigger land, a few years after the Tree Crops are up and running, if I find myself up to the task and not overwhelmed, I'll set up a Silvopasture section and get a small herd of Dairy Goats (ideally Nigerian Dwarfs) for personal consumption and artisanal cheese making. If ticks and other bugs become an issue, I'll get some Guineafowl. And I'll likely have a small flock of egg-laying Chickens for personal consumption.

That's as far as my plans go. Hopefully, the system will turn out to be a productive and genuinely eco-friendly example of commercial permaculture. At the very least, I hope to keep myself and my loved ones fed.

Tropicdude

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2017, 01:05:30 AM »
Ponds are usually at the bottom of slopped land , act as a water catchment. and are part of most systems, many plants grow along ponds, plus we must remember the ducks :) down here is where your water loving plants herbs etc, will grow, for example Lotus ,  both seeds and roots are used.  and leaves and flowers are also used in teas,   Blue lotus has some "medicinal" uses smoked.   plus frogs love the pads.  its just one of many water loving plants.

Swales are used to prevent erosion, capture water, this flows underground to feed the pond,  trees as wind brakes, which could be NFT trees also things like vetiver grass etc to keep swales intact are used.  Comfrey is also used,  just make sure to get none spreading types of these.   Vetiver and Comfrey have very deep roots, and once established you will have them forever,  they bring up minerals and nutrients from deep in the soil,  Comfrey is very medicinal as well

Comfrey
https://www.greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Information/Comfrey.html

Vetiver
http://greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Information/Vetiver.html

these are the none seeding types you would want.

Swales and contours, is probably one of the most important things one can do to prepare uneven land. its all about the water.
http://green-change.com/2011/09/05/swales-for-water-harvesting/


William
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Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2017, 11:47:27 PM »
Ponds are usually at the bottom of slopped land , act as a water catchment. and are part of most systems, many plants grow along ponds, plus we must remember the ducks :) down here is where your water loving plants herbs etc, will grow, for example Lotus ,  both seeds and roots are used.  and leaves and flowers are also used in teas,   Blue lotus has some "medicinal" uses smoked.   plus frogs love the pads.  its just one of many water loving plants.

Swales are used to prevent erosion, capture water, this flows underground to feed the pond,  trees as wind brakes, which could be NFT trees also things like vetiver grass etc to keep swales intact are used.  Comfrey is also used,  just make sure to get none spreading types of these.   Vetiver and Comfrey have very deep roots, and once established you will have them forever,  they bring up minerals and nutrients from deep in the soil,  Comfrey is very medicinal as well

Comfrey
https://www.greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Information/Comfrey.html

Vetiver
http://greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Information/Vetiver.html

these are the none seeding types you would want.

Swales and contours, is probably one of the most important things one can do to prepare uneven land. its all about the water.
http://green-change.com/2011/09/05/swales-for-water-harvesting/


That's some good info, especially the page on swales. I'm not sure where to get the sterile comfrey, but I have a local source for sterile vetiver at the University at Utuado. I remember they were working on loads of projects with it there. Didn't realize its importance until I was already out (I could've had a plant to propagate by now.  :-[ ).

ben mango

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2017, 01:46:33 PM »
animals, especially goats require a lot of attention. personally, i would focus more on growing. one thing that comes before starting a farm obviously is starting a nursery, unless you will be direct sowing vegetable seeds in your beds. eventually you could have some nursery sales alongside your sales from vegetables. if you want to farm more than say an acre you'll need a tractor. plant sun hemp or something then till into the soil and apply fertilizer/compost to insure you are starting with good soil. its not going to be easy or profitable at first but if you are determined enough you can make it work. try growing something that there will be demand for in the markets. celery is good one for here in hawaii since most people don't bother growing it, it requires a lot of water and attention but the demand for it is there. btw, the whole idea of permaculture to me isn't about having a profitable business so much but its more about homesteading. you'll need to decide for yourself are you doing this from a business perspective or because you want to live more sustainably? if the business side is what drives you then you may have a successful /profitable farm. if the sustainability aspect is what drives you the most about it you may find yourself just scraping by but always having the pleasures of being on your farm. a permaculture farm can be profitable for sure but it will take 10-15 years to establish a good one
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 01:48:37 PM by ben mango »

Tang Tonic

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2017, 04:17:26 PM »
This is a very interesting discussion.  I live next door on the island of St. Croix.  I am reading this thread and taking notes.  I have one acre for now, looking to acquire another acre next to my existing property.  The area I am located is such that there is additional land beyond the two acres that I could utilize and no one would know the difference.

The big issue for me as pineislandgrower alluded to is lack of freshwater.  This is not really a problem on Puerto Rico.  However, I just built a 35,000 gallon cistern and have a very prolific well right next to he cistern.  The cistern is divided into two compartments.  One will be strictly rain fed from the house I am currently building.  The other will be rain fed and then mixed with the well water which is about 2000 PPM tds.  My employment for the past 10 years or so has been in the reverse osmosis field so I would maybe one day add a small RO unit to remove the TDS from the well water before going to storage in the cistern.  I would like to use the brine for growing spirulina and see that as a huge potential industry here.  The Rastas and health community love their spirulina and there are no local sources for this.

I think the big thing that Caesar and I and any other aspiring farmers on isolated islands need to consider is what can we grow that is not currently being offered to the market.  This has already been stated earlier in this thread but I believe is the most significant consideration.  The climate, rainfall, and soil conditions will impact what one can potentially grow.

At the last agriculture fair we had here, which is an awesome event and well attended by other Caribbean farmers, there was a stand with black sapote.  They had other things on offer but looked like they were really focusing on the chocolate pudding fruit.  There was a lot of interest at their stand and they seemed to be doing well. 

Another consideration for small farmers is value added crops.  For example, right now our island is awash in mangoes.  Everyone and their brother has a mango tree with excellent fruit.  I would put St. Croix at the top for mango production in the Caribbean, its insane how many we have sitting on the ground going to waste right now.  The same is true during Avocado season.  Taking this abundance and producing something to sell at market that costs more than the fruit itself and keeps for longer would be a great way to utilize the excess. 

Some friends of mine recently started a small CSA.  There are others here, but where they are setting themselves apart is with social media.  Posting pictures of their offerings with awesome backdrops and captions.  Very well done and professional looking.  They combine this with offering a menu of different things that can be prepared with whatever they are offering that week.  Then throughout the week they will prepare the items off this menu and post pictures.  Pretty cool idea and seems to be working well for them.

The social media aspect is one that should not be discounted.  Social media is not going anywhere and not only is it free advertising, but it gives farmers a way to showcase their crops, their farms, and what makes their efforts unique.  I have been practicing this on a small scale with just my friends on Instagram but I have noticed when I post pictures of fresh pineapples I have grown, or the latest cassava harvest we had, the response is very positive and people I don't even know start commenting and following my feed.

Not sure what I have said here helps at all, I am a rookie when it comes to all of this but I love growing things and if that passion is there, why not try to make a few bucks with it.  After making a few bucks and improving techniques, perhaps it can support me and my family full time.

Caesar, check out organicfarm.net


Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2017, 12:41:39 AM »
animals, especially goats require a lot of attention. personally, i would focus more on growing. one thing that comes before starting a farm obviously is starting a nursery, unless you will be direct sowing vegetable seeds in your beds. eventually you could have some nursery sales alongside your sales from vegetables. if you want to farm more than say an acre you'll need a tractor. plant sun hemp or something then till into the soil and apply fertilizer/compost to insure you are starting with good soil. its not going to be easy or profitable at first but if you are determined enough you can make it work. try growing something that there will be demand for in the markets. celery is good one for here in hawaii since most people don't bother growing it, it requires a lot of water and attention but the demand for it is there. btw, the whole idea of permaculture to me isn't about having a profitable business so much but its more about homesteading. you'll need to decide for yourself are you doing this from a business perspective or because you want to live more sustainably? if the business side is what drives you then you may have a successful /profitable farm. if the sustainability aspect is what drives you the most about it you may find yourself just scraping by but always having the pleasures of being on your farm. a permaculture farm can be profitable for sure but it will take 10-15 years to establish a good one


I figured as much, that's why I planned to include them later (if I did at all), if/when I'm ready for them. I like animals a lot, and want them on my land; if a production situation were too much for me to handle, then I'd have just a couple of individuals (like working pets, in a way). We'll see.

Good catch on the nursery. I had completely forgotten to plan for that but it makes sense, especially in a no-till situation where there'd be no fluffed up soil for the seed to sprout in. As for the tractor, I'd use it for startup: a few initial tilling sessions to prepare the soil for the upcoming crops. After that, I'd keep going with no till, especially once the IAC system kicks in. I want to avoid soil compaction and hardpan in the long run, which is why I'm keeping the tilling and the vehicle activity to the starting phase (if I do them).

My list of crops is based on two things: the need for income (my dominant crops have all been chosen for local marketability, as well as being all round good crops), and the desire to expand the local palates with less well-known species (most of which are at the lower and experimental levels, to ease them into the market - I don't wanna make a huge planting only to find that the people won't buy it, and they're very picky around here).

And that is exactly the point... I don't think the two concepts are inherently mutually exclusive, and I'm looking to explore different methods in the hopes of finding a system that will succeed in doing both without sacrificing either ideal for the other: sustainability and profitability in one system. I use the word profitability loosely here; as I mentioned in the OP, it's more about having a normal, working livelihood with a normal income, not making huge amounts of money. Any extra is appreciated, but as long as my bills are paid and I keep my loved ones fed and clothed, it doesn't matter if my profits aren't huge. The goal for me (other than starting to work, I'm sure old enough) is not just to live sustainably, but to change business practices for the better by bringing sustainability to them. In so doing, I hope to catch the attention of other farmers using less sustainable practices, and convince them to go sustainable as well.


This is a very interesting discussion.  I live next door on the island of St. Croix.  I am reading this thread and taking notes.  I have one acre for now, looking to acquire another acre next to my existing property.  The area I am located is such that there is additional land beyond the two acres that I could utilize and no one would know the difference.

The big issue for me as pineislandgrower alluded to is lack of freshwater.  This is not really a problem on Puerto Rico.  However, I just built a 35,000 gallon cistern and have a very prolific well right next to he cistern.  The cistern is divided into two compartments.  One will be strictly rain fed from the house I am currently building.  The other will be rain fed and then mixed with the well water which is about 2000 PPM tds.  My employment for the past 10 years or so has been in the reverse osmosis field so I would maybe one day add a small RO unit to remove the TDS from the well water before going to storage in the cistern.  I would like to use the brine for growing spirulina and see that as a huge potential industry here.  The Rastas and health community love their spirulina and there are no local sources for this.

I think the big thing that Caesar and I and any other aspiring farmers on isolated islands need to consider is what can we grow that is not currently being offered to the market.  This has already been stated earlier in this thread but I believe is the most significant consideration.  The climate, rainfall, and soil conditions will impact what one can potentially grow.

At the last agriculture fair we had here, which is an awesome event and well attended by other Caribbean farmers, there was a stand with black sapote.  They had other things on offer but looked like they were really focusing on the chocolate pudding fruit.  There was a lot of interest at their stand and they seemed to be doing well. 

Another consideration for small farmers is value added crops.  For example, right now our island is awash in mangoes.  Everyone and their brother has a mango tree with excellent fruit.  I would put St. Croix at the top for mango production in the Caribbean, its insane how many we have sitting on the ground going to waste right now.  The same is true during Avocado season.  Taking this abundance and producing something to sell at market that costs more than the fruit itself and keeps for longer would be a great way to utilize the excess. 

Some friends of mine recently started a small CSA.  There are others here, but where they are setting themselves apart is with social media.  Posting pictures of their offerings with awesome backdrops and captions.  Very well done and professional looking.  They combine this with offering a menu of different things that can be prepared with whatever they are offering that week.  Then throughout the week they will prepare the items off this menu and post pictures.  Pretty cool idea and seems to be working well for them.

The social media aspect is one that should not be discounted.  Social media is not going anywhere and not only is it free advertising, but it gives farmers a way to showcase their crops, their farms, and what makes their efforts unique.  I have been practicing this on a small scale with just my friends on Instagram but I have noticed when I post pictures of fresh pineapples I have grown, or the latest cassava harvest we had, the response is very positive and people I don't even know start commenting and following my feed.

Not sure what I have said here helps at all, I am a rookie when it comes to all of this but I love growing things and if that passion is there, why not try to make a few bucks with it.  After making a few bucks and improving techniques, perhaps it can support me and my family full time.

Caesar, check out organicfarm.net


Excellent post, with great perspective. I'm glad to see there's already interest from others in undertaking things like this; I hope you succeed with your projects.

You actually touched upon one of my weaknesses: I still need to figure out how to market and sell product (even if my choices are already "marketable", so to speak). As for value-added processing, I've heard some good stuff about local farmers making things like sofrito, pesto and other such stuff. I'll need to add in a processing section to the infrastructure.

Checking it out, thank you.  :)

Tropicdude

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2017, 01:23:45 AM »
Regarding goats,  they are a pain in the arse,  they love to eat small trees, you can introduce them once your garden of Eden is established.

Regarding limited water,  permaculture is excellent for this, there are a few videos on youtube, where you can see projects done in even arid desert locations.  also the variety of trees you use can have an impact,  for example, the Canary Pine, can be used to collect dew water right from the air.  dew collects on its long needles, and drips down.   the swales and catchments help retain any little rain and slow it down ( run off ) so it is absorbed into your land.  strategically positioning of trees, to shade more delicate plants during the mid-day or afternoon sun.     find out what plants are adapted naturally to your micro climate, observe to see if other plants grow abundantly near that plant,  if so, it is most likely a good candidate as a support species.  if you can find specimens  that also have other uses,  for example medicinal, or NFT, green manure, natural insecticide etc.  then those are even better.    each location is unique.
William
" The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.....The second best time, is now ! "

Tropheus76

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2017, 08:38:07 AM »
If I were doing what you are doing Guineafowl would be an early purchase. They produce eggs which are supposedly good eating(I don't eat eggs but my neighbor loves GF eggs), pretty good meat, will keep your farm clear of pests from the get go and act as an alarm system. The from the get go part is important since you don't want to wait to have a problem then order the fowl and wait for 6-8 weeks for them to be old enough to wander around meanwhile your trees are getting devastated by weevils and other pests. That damnable grey with orange striped weevil can strip a four foot mango tree in a matter of days if you aren't paying attention.

You are going to want a light tractor after the initial scaping is done. There is a lot to be said for being able to carry large amounts of dirt, fertilizer, limbs, etc that doing it by hand will get old and back breaking very fast. I think you overestimate the amount of compaction that will occur. Its not like everyone will be driving back and forth in your tree alleys in heavy trucks. At a minimum you will want one of those 4 wheel drive off road golf cart/Gators and a decent trailer for it. All of my neighbors have 2-10 acres and have smaller john deere tractors for everything from putting holes in the ground for trees to bush hogging and grass cutting.

Doug

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2017, 01:06:21 PM »
If I were doing what you are doing Guineafowl would be an early purchase.

How do you buy GFs....chicks or adults? Do they actually stay around the farm? Do they require a coop like chickens or do they live in a wild state? I've heard that GFs live in trees at night so you don't have to be concerned as much about predators like with chickens. I'd really like to buy some...neat birds for an organic garden or farm.

Tropheus76

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2017, 01:36:44 PM »
Not an expert by any means but I will tell you what I know. Buy them as eggs or one or two day old chicks and keep them dry as getting them wet can kill them apparently although obviously they need water to drink. bring them to their home as soon as you/they can as they will bond to the area. The trick I heard is after the chick stage keep them in a coop for a few weeks to get used to the area and let them out a little each day. They will range about a quarter mile from their coop. You can keep them in a coop at night or not. Obviously if you have predators in the area you will have casualties but GF are quite a bit tougher than chickens when it comes to predators. My neighbor keeps his free at night every now and then until my other neighbor complained they were following his around and walking on their mustang. We have bobcats, raccoons and possums and he didn't have issues but has had regular chickens killed off when accidently left out. They are quite loud and are clearly audible from my garage 250 yards away.

Caesar

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #23 on: June 26, 2017, 11:25:14 AM »
I've seen some light tractors available in local stores. I'll check 'em out. If they lack the shortcomings of the bigger vehicles, then they'll be a useful addition to the farm.

Guineafowl are an easy purchase here, quite common enough. I've heard some contradicting info, regarding their supposed lack of taste for vegetables. I'll be adding them early to the tree-planting phase, but not to the annual crop area, just in case.

I've a particular fondness for quail. They're nice little birds, the eggs are excellent despite the small size, and I think the meat sells well enough. This is one of those animals that you can't really free-range, but I'm not too fond of confinement for animals, especially the really tiny cages they're usually raised in. Hoping for a free-range method might be asking too much, but is there a way to raise them with more leg & wing room? The local Ag. Department was getting good results trialing big growing cages on whole plots of vegetables like peppers (it keeps the pests out, and leads to a much bigger harvest). Could quail be integrated to such a system, or would they eat the crops? Whatever pest-eating advantage they could have seems lost if no pests can get in anyway. Perhaps (in a fully established tree system) I could cage up the NTF alleys with panels of caging material between the trees, and run them loose there? I'm just spitballing for the moment, most of these don't seem too practical to me.

And speaking of NTFs, I've had a couple of recommendations for Leucaena here. I've given it some though and even considered retrieving seeds from the local scrubland, but this tree is insanely weedy and hard to eradicate. I haven't rejected it yet (it actually seems very useful), but are there other alternatives that provide a comparable amount of biomass without being so weedy? I actually like a bit of weediness in my plants, it makes them tough survivors, but there is such a thing as overkill. Some types of Alder have consistently been rated as some of the best N-fixers, but I don't know how well the handle chop & drop. At Las Cañadas, they use Alnus acuminata; they also use Flemingia, Calliandra, Tephrosia vogelii, Acacia angustissima, and (admittedly) Leucaena. The SALT method recommends Flemingia macrophylla, Gliricidia sepium, Indigofera anil, Calliandra, and... Leucaena. Can anyone provide a strong argument against the Leucaena? 'Cause I'm finding less and less against it. Or perhaps a strong argument in its favor to help me decide?

In the Fukuoka Food Forest, they use Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) and Alder. For the N-fixing cover crops, they use White Clover, Burr Clover, Alfalfa and Lupines. At the University in Utuado, the use Perennial/Forage Peanut. What other good N-fixing cover crops are there? Particularly for the tropics.

Ulfr

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Re: How to start a farm? (Commercializing Permaculture... ?)
« Reply #24 on: June 26, 2017, 05:05:47 PM »
I have been reading here for a long time and was happy to just read but I can share regarding your question on quail :)

I've a particular fondness for quail. They're nice little birds, the eggs are excellent despite the small size, and I think the meat sells well enough. This is one of those animals that you can't really free-range, but I'm not too fond of confinement for animals, especially the really tiny cages they're usually raised in. Hoping for a free-range method might be asking too much, but is there a way to raise them with more leg & wing room? The local Ag. Department was getting good results trialing big growing cages on whole plots of vegetables like peppers (it keeps the pests out, and leads to a much bigger harvest). Could quail be integrated to such a system, or would they eat the crops?


I have a mini permaculture style farm where we just grow food for us and a few friends. It's not serious, just for fun. I run a few of these tractors for quail. Currently working on mk11 versions though to fix some issues with these. The birds do great in tractors on a small scale, this doesn't necessarily translate to the scale you would need for profit though.





If you want details - http://boobookfarm.com/quail-tractor-build/

 

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