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Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:04 pm
by Riggerjack
Also at farm_or:

You are a farmer/rancher in Oregon. You must see as many executive salesman/organic heritage chicken farmers as I do. What's your take on them as businesses?

I have no problems with people acting on their beliefs, and or creating businesses for same. My issue is how much of what is repeatedly stated as clear fact, turns out to be of little use as a fertilizer, and no use economically. And good, well meaning people wander into this trap.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:51 am
by Farm_or
I started farming with about 200k investment. I payed all debt, including the mortgage by continuing to work in town while leasing the farm initially. The long commutes and hustle was very taxing. I worked twelve plus hours shifts and had about three hours of commute.

I leased to an organic farmer for six years. It took two years to get the place certified organic. During that time, I tried peddling vegetables and fruits, eggs, meat at local farmers markets. The futility of that hit me the day I came home with $2.67 after taking two huge boxes of prime produce and spending the better part of a day sitting behind a table.

I also learned a lot about the whole organic farming practices. My first year of taking on the farm, I sold organic hay. I contemplated continuing organic since I was well aware of the process and investment to get certified. But I ultimately decided it didn't fit me or here or now. Almost every local organic dairy, whom were the dominant organic product clientele, went bust.

That first year of farming while working full + time was extremely taxing. I suffered a lot of losses on the farm because I couldn't be available to manage it. That was very frustrating because I had high standards that were not being met. It is possible to multitask when you can let go of high quality expectations in EVERYTHING you do.

We had neighbors that had high initial ideas for organic vegetables and farmers markets. I told them of my experience years prior, but they were undaunted and full of enthusiasm. And admittedly, they were much better gardeners than I could ever hope to be. In fact, they were/are the best I have ever seen, so I can understand their confidence.

Nevertheless, they were broken. The straw that broke the camel's back was last spring. They had just finished construction of a huge green house and stretched the thick clear plastic over the massive hoop structure and here comes our regular March wind gusting. Their green house was obliterated and their place went on the market. New neighbors moved in a few weeks ago...

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:35 am
by Riggerjack
And that's the story I hear, over and over. Both the high end grocery buyer, complaining about how hard it is to get good, fresh, organic veggies, and the enthusiastic, newly righteous farmers, eager to get their heritage chickens to lay eggs for delivery to market at $8/dz.

And, one would think that if industrial farming, and distribution, and retailing, with all associated profit margins and costs, can bring us $1/dz eggs, cutting out the middle man, an organic farmer could make it work. But that seems rare. And every day there's another blog about "my new heirloom, hand polished tomato business".

It's like watching a video of a bad intersection, the wrecks happen everyday. This is probably what got Jacob so skittish about withdrawal rates. Watching Early Retiree Bloggers going in with enthusiasm and no clues must be just as nerve wracking.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:35 am
by fiby41

BBC One - Country file episode dated 18 May 2008

Id get bored if I did farming all by myself. It would be more bearable if I was part of a commune or village. But you don't become part of such by buying a vacation home and visiting on the weekends. These relationships must take years to build. Maybe that's why rural people usually don't and if they do, find it difficult to adapt to an urban setting where everybody minds their own business.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2018 8:11 am
by Farm_or
The one man show is sometimes difficult. And dangerous. I have a buddy, like me that does it alone. He recently lost his dad and it is impacting him now how much his dad pitching in a little here and there really added up.

Sometimes I see the comraderie that the migrant workers have working in the fields together and I have a little envy. Sharing toil and time can develop strong meaningful relationships.

For me and my buddy, it's a lot of our own fault. We both have high standards and high energy, we have a lot to do and set at it. It would be and often is beneficial to involve others - especially your kids. We have a tendency to spoil them: let them sleep in and barely meet and fail very low expectations. We just get lazy being busy.

Recently, my daughter got her driver's permit. She has shown some enthusiasm to learning to operate a vehicle. I put her to work for three four hour days driving the pickup with the flatbed trailer to get bales off the field. We had some hiccups, but overall was a positive experience for both of us. I need to make more effort to be less lazy due to my busy bodiness and involve my girls a lot more...

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:25 am
by 7Wannabe5
I think part of the problem might be that Organic, like Grade A, only serves to categorize a commodity, rather than designate as unique brand. My garden-partner made some kind of a deal to sell fresh produce to a local hipster eatery, but I think he is being overly ambitious. My plan was to have cash crop be something that was either inherently not very perishable, or rendered imperishable through some value-added process, and then marketed to some extreme niche.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:13 am
by Farm_or
There's a fine line between niche and fad. But traditional business motto is to stay out of the center. I like the space in the middle of those targets.

If you make exactly what everyone makes, then you have maximum competition. If you make a radical unique product, then you are prone to fad drop out. For my success, the key has been producing products that have a lot of buyers, but not an abundance of supply.

Most of the time, I have a low cost pricing advantage (thanks to ere principles). But occasionally somebody beats me on price. If that happens, it is short lived and temporary. I simply wait it out and my patrons have always returned. That's probably your concern about perishable goods? Waiting too long is a concern of mine too. My pricing structure so far has dealt with that problem and like clockwork, I have sold out before lack of longer term storage can be a factor.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:49 am
by 7Wannabe5
Correct me if I am wrong, but I would think with a crop like hay, you would have an intrinsic niche with local buyers, because cost of transportation would quickly become prohibitive?

Since my previous business model was rare books on world market, my perspective would be almost exactly the opposite. My experience was that almost anything, no matter how arcane, will eventually sell, and the smaller the niche, the greater the mark-up. Very different than attempting to sell out your supply of fresh Goth Salad Mix Box(maybe midnight pansies, black currants, and blood beets) at the weekly farmer's market.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:05 pm
by George the original one
Curtis Stone on aligning permaculture with farming (e.g. they're not the same thing for obvious reasons)

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:04 am
by 7Wannabe5

Great video. I could go on and on with my response to it :lol:

However, my nutshell summary would be :

(1) It is absolutely true that permaculture is context dependent, and doing the wash/rinse/repeat of the permaculture principles as you learn more about the context in which you are attempting permaculture is critical. IOW, permaculture requires the ongoing development and application of human intelligence as part of the system. Set and forget is NOT a permaculture principle.

That said, big nod to Stone's observations on common errors, such as always using mulch or always making swales. But, this is just a learning phase (copy-> discard) most anybody who is not a natural genius would have to go through. No different than the painful experience, forever documented in photos of you at age 13, of learning that you do not look good with your hair styled in the manner of your favorite celebrity. Yes, I too, wasted some time attempting to construct swales in a realm much like Quebec, but the fail of that exercise served the purpose of constructing some new deep grooves in my brain.

(2)Absolutely true that farming and permaculture are not the same thing. It kind of cracked me up how he kept saying "Not efficient" in the video. Also, absolutely true that one person doing permaculture will not be able to feed 100 people growing or gathering nothing but 3 houseplants in an urban apartment and a meal box from Amazon off the porch, or protect the local ecosystem from 100 people doing chemical-intensive suburban lawn management. You have to, at the very least, have the 3 metrics of "efficiency", "sustainability", and "intelligence" which you are dialing up and down within your systems design, and depending on how you adjust the levels, your "yield" will vary, in both form and measure. For instance, if I wanted the "yield" of my system to consist in part of "cash" by this time next year, I would significantly dial up "efficiency", and both my urban and woodlands sites would start to look and function more like what would generally be referred to as a "market garden", which is also not the same thing as a farm, a homestead, a potager, a ranch etc.

(3) Systems theory applies to all systems. So, the observations Curtis Stone is making concerning farming vs. permaculture are essentially no different than the many, many arguments made in favor of efficiency over sustainability, or robustness over resilience, that are frequently brought up on this site. For instance, it would be much more "efficient" to simply work 80 hrs/week at a specialist job that pays $60/hr and pay somebody else to cook your lentil soup and manage your investments, but this comes at the expense of dialing down the "sustainability", the "intelligence", and the "resilience" of the system.

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:41 am
by pammys
Farm_or wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:52 am
I started out half idealistic and half realistic. (Semi) retiring to farm was a lot of new for me, despite having grown up on a ranch.

My default plan was mostly sticking to what I knew would work. My first major project was building corrales, barn, sweeper gate and squeeze chute. And everything was overbuilt for the intent of working cattle. But I wanted to be more diverse than that.

I got a small band of sheeps, some chickens, cleaned up and saw to the orchard and started a vegetables garden. Then I started growing my own hay, grew too much so I sold some of it. I grew wheat also just to try something different and my very first crop was blessed with beginner's luck.

As time went on, I began to realize more of what I was naturally good at and hence, coincidentally tended to find more enjoyable. I liked and did better with sheeps than cattle. Same for hay over wheat. I am more farmer and less rancher.

I've evolved far different from where I started. I've learned what was fantasy and what was realistic. What surprised me the most was the relative ease of it all. My years of fantasizing and preparation expected every facet to be more difficult and sacrificing.
This is what we are aiming to do, as well. See what does and does not work on the land we are moving to in a few months. Learning as I go because I have no experience. Try out some veg's, see what does good and what doesn't. Same with fruit trees, animals, or potential crops. On a small scale, as we only have less than 6 acres. Our intent is to eventually be able to provide enough food to live on, and extra things the land can provide in way of crop or animals as extra income to supplement. Will still be tied to outside jobs for income for a while, since we'll be implementing this plus saving up for semi-ER. Our extremeness will come from getting our expenses so low our needed investments can be easier achieved (plus, not needing as much).

Re: Subsistence farming & Extremely simple way of life

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:54 pm
by Hobbes
This too is my goal; except that I want to retire to bare land, and then develop it into a working permaculture farm.
If you comfortable stating it Farm_or, how much do you spend per year? In my head I've been planning for ~10,000/yr total expenses, mainly because it's difficult for me imagine what a realistic spending level would look like while maintaining your own farm.