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

2 thoughts on “Making Permaculture Pay”

  1. I am only a recent viewer & participant to blogging & have been trying my hand, shovel, pick, chainsaw & whatever handy tool I can aquire to make my permaculture journey for the last 10 years endearing & enduring. We are getting there, it realistically does quaint itself with I feel, “the champagne lifestyle on a beer budget”. It has taken 10 yrs of mulching to finally have reasonably decent soil to use & am only just getting the vegie garden established. We have a number of fruit trees & adding edible natives.I am so looking forward to the day where we can pass excess produce on to friends & family. I think making a small profit from all your hard work is part of the reward, just as much as the giving is. I cant wait to meet up with an exchange group like minded people. I look forward to continuing to read your blog thanks for sharing the journey.

  2. I completely agree with the cost avoidance principle! The main reason my family moved out to the land where we raise veggies, pigs, chickens and a cow or two is that we couldn’t afford to feed ourselves on grass fed beef, free range organic eggs, and raw milk unless we produced all these things ourselves. Yes to multiple streams of income and “free” food and shelter!

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