Permaculture is a process that requires significant investment in terms of money and time. Starting a permaculture farm requires ownership of land, availability of labor, and finances to support yourself before it is fully established. It is difficult to set up a permaculture garden without a lot of money, but it is possible. Here are some things you can do to get your farm going with little money:
Acquire cheap or free land
Look out for land that’s cheap to buy or lease like land owned by a community organization, or land that is being offered for a low price due to a lack of interest from other buyers. Once you have secured the finances, rent or lease land instead of purchasing outright.
Leasing can allow you to acquire bigger land compared to purchasing from the start. You have to ensure that the land is the right quality for what you want to achieve. The land should give you the flexibility to innovate and apply different permaculture designs. 5 acres is a good size to lease.
On the other hand, you can purchase the land and start a small permaculture venture. Depending on whether you want to farm for food or to make money, ownership of land is essential. Owning land gives you the freedom to plant whatever you like, however you like.
Leasing land can be detrimental to permaculture as you might have to compromise to accommodate the needs of the owner. Purchase land to ensure that however long your permaculture venture takes to establish, you will not have to worry about compromising on space or quality.
Work for another farmer
Volunteer to help on a farm to gain the necessary experience in plant and livestock management. Choose a farm where you get reasonable wages, just enough to live by. The lessons you will learn during this time will be vital when starting your own farm.
Farmers often need each other in trading resources, share information, or assist each other in their daily operations. Further, establishing yourself as part of a community can help you acquire essential resources needed to branch out on your own.
As you are helping out on the farm, learn how to acquire cheap equipment and stock up on supplies for the future. The time you spend working for another farmer will allow you to research available plots of land. The savings made during this period can be the initial investment in purchasing or leasing land when you want to start a permaculture farm.
Seek out grants and loans
If you have no money, you can take out a loan to help you lease or acquire land. With a good credit rating, you can get a sizeable loan from banks and other financial institutions.
However, you have to develop a solid business plan and permaculture design that will help you recoup the investment in the long run. Check out banks that offer loans at good interest rates and are flexible with payment plans.
When you are borrowing money, you should be aware that permaculture may take up to five or ten years before you begin seeing any results. Therefore, take time to understand your environment, permaculture principles, your plan for the farm, and the timelines targeted for the first harvest. Taking a loan is a risky approach that requires you to plan every single step of the process.
You can borrow money from a friend or from the community to help you establish the land. Essentially, your permaculture design will determine how much money you will need initially, the available financial avenues to you, and the time taken to begin reaping products.
Alternatively, you can seek out grants available at the state or local level. The USDA National Institute and Agriculture has a list of grants to which you can apply. Several requirements will assess your eligibility for the grants. Outline your application carefully and comprehensively address how you will begin your farming process and how the finances will be spent.
There are many organizations and government programs that offer financial support to farmers, especially those who are starting out or working in sustainable agriculture.
Network and outreach
Build relationships with local businesses and organizations that may be willing to donate supplies or services in exchange for fresh produce or other goods. This can help you get the resources you need to get started without spending money upfront.
Start small and cut costs
Consider starting small and gradually expanding as you build your financial resources. You may be able to start by growing a few crops or raising a small number of animals, and then gradually add more as you are able to afford it.
Be creative and resourceful in finding ways to save money and make the most of your resources. For example, you might start by growing crops that are easy to grow and have a high return on investment, such as vegetables or herbs, or by raising animals that are low maintenance and provide a good source of income, such as chickens or bees.
Spend as little as possible when acquiring tools, establishing housing, and on utilities. Permaculture is labor intensive, meaning you will need help in planting and preparing the land.
Instead of hiring laborers who will require monthly or weekly wages, do most of the work yourself. You can also seek interns or volunteers to help you with the work. Mobilize your family to assist in the land and cut labor costs significantly.
Further, look for the best deals on the market for cheap equipment, especially buying used. Make good purchases of farming tools that will perform their functions effectively. Reduce your spending significantly to save as much as possible for the farm.
You can recycle and reuse water, eat fewer meals in a day, and cut back on electricity use and other unnecessary expenses at home. Cheap housing is also another way to save money. Plant trees on your farm that will provide the timber to build a better house in the future.
Essentially, you have to spend as little as possible on yourself, leaving the majority of the expenses for your farm. Do not waste your finances on tractors, electronics, and other unnecessary utilities for your home.
It is important to understand that permaculture is a long-term enterprise and therefore you have to be patient for your profits. If you are dedicated to the process, the sacrifices you make when starting out will be worth it in the long run. Your passion for farming is the main determinant of whether your permaculture design will be successful.
Make your own compost.
Keeping animals will allow you to make your own compost pile. A self-sufficient farm should have minimal waste. Use everything in your farm as a resource to make compost.
Animal waste, food waste, and organic matter from plants should be enough to create a rich compost pile. A compost heap should ideally be placed in a well shaded corner of the garden. It should be easily accessible, but far enough from the living quarters to avoid smells.
Place it on a level, well-drained ground that receives some sunlight especially in the cooler months. Position your compost heap near your vegetable garden, away from large trees.
Start earning as fast as possible
Plant fast-yielding crops that will help you recover your spent finances in a short time. Mix annual and perennial food crops for the best value. The goal is to make sure that by the second year of your permaculture garden, you begin harvesting some of the crops and by the third year, you will be profitable.
Purchase young livestock that will give you adequate products within two years. These initial yields will help reduce the financial burden as you wait for the fruit trees and other plants to fully establish and show their value.
Start taking your product to the local market as soon as possible and begin earning an income. If you took out a loan, this approach is best to begin repayment and avoid any trouble with the banks or lending institutions.
Rent out your farm to educators and farming enthusiasts to begin earning money. You can rent the farm for retreats and small gatherings. This is an efficient way to earn from permaculture without having to fully depend on your plant yields.
Permaculture is a costly venture. You can begin a successful permaculture farm with little or no money but you have to be patient. Seek out loans or work under another farmer to earn money. Once you have accumulated enough initial investment, have a solid plan and you will achieve a lot. Permaculture may be expensive at first, but if you have passion and commitment, you will enjoy sustainable food production and profitability.