Making Permaculture Pay

Permaculture is often described as a “lifestyle ethic” but not often as a way to make a living. There may be some permaculture designers out there and some permaculture educators, but how many people can earn an income from ‘doing’ permaculture?

Now, of course, this is a loaded question because everyone has their own interpretation of permaculture and who qualifies as a permaculturist. I’ll start by saying that permaculturists are self-identified. In other words, there can be amazing organic farmers or super-duper green builders or spectacular orchardists, but the only persons who can label them as permies is themselves.

Next we have a look at what ‘doing’ permaculture means. At it’s core it requires an ethical approach to food production and to housing; it is holistic; it involves design thinking always; and, it engages humans in more resilient and sustainable thoughts and actions.

From these perspectives, making a living from permaculture might include a diverse income stream involving some or all of the above. As a short case study I’ll list some of the ways we are beginning to earn a permaculture living.

Over the last fortnight we have: sold 7kg of organic garlic to a restaurant; sold seed garlic on TradeMe; sold garlic at the local Farmer’s Market; sold gum branches to a florist; completed a design for a suburban property; advised a hotel on heating and cooling issues; carried out an inspection of a mouldy rental property; taken bookings for upcoming workshops; received payment for our PDC Internship programme (along with teaching our current group of PDC interns); taken bookings for a school holiday Nature Play programme; received pre-orders for 30 muscovy ducks.

Additionally, in the near future we anticipate selling a few hundred tagasaste seedlings, ten kune kune piglets, strawberry plants, grape vines, and chicken tractors.

But making a living at permaculture does not only involve earning money. To a large extent it means what I call “cost avoidance” by growing one’s own food, slashing one’s power bill, finding free or low-cost building materials and compost ingredients. In other words, punching above one’s weight by living large on a small amount of money.

Anyway, that’s what I think. What do you think?

Peace, Estwing