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Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:01 am
by novaris
Ian James wrote:How is it going Novaris?

Have you made any plans?

I must apologise for coming across so negatively.
I just want to use some of my bad experiences for some good..... That’s why I refer to them.
No plans yet :) and I do appreciate honest input, no apology needed. Far too often we are exposed to the advice of self interested people and ideas that have not really been tested.

I just read Adrians comments above and I must say I tend to agree with him. However I also hope that Duane and Shirley are right too, if nothing else I am continuing to move to higher self reliance on food supplies.

If things continue to go in the direction they are all future food supplies will be in the hands of massive corporations, and in my opinion large corporations can not be trusted with our welfare.

Cigarette companies defend smoking, medical companies defend harmful drugs, chemical companies defend environmental poisons and agricultural companies will defend harmful, unhealthy foods.

One of the most restricting parts of doing what I want is likely to be labour costs, my wife and I are both natural health practitioners and we would continue to practice hopefully from the property itself. However if we are supposed to be the only source of labour then I have to agree with my father in law - wrong time of life :shock:

Anyway we are still seriously looking at it but from here I really need to go and look at working farms and talk to those that have made them work. To be honest I m not totally sure how I will do that.

Massive pool of untaped labour

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:20 am
by Ian James
Just quick, very short of time.

I believe that there exits in the hearts of millions of city dwellers trapped in their secure mega metropolis the desire to get out and get dirty doing meaningful sweat inducing hands on work stemming from their feelings of hopelessness and frustration at being stuck in these tarmac and concrete warrens and unable to contribute in a tangible manner to the battle on global climate change other than by looking closely at labels in, fun, fun.... NOT.

Every time I have the pleasure of showing my property to any city hemmed people I am amazed at their desire to jump in and help me in any possible way that they can.

It is only ourselves who have to design a program that can function smoothly and promote it to these willing hands and minds to enable the organisation dispersion of their labour to the many, many properties desperately short of this very asset.

What say you we have a shot at it?

Small Farms Profitable - Some thoughts.

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:27 am
by Mike Hart
Novaris posed a very timely question - Can small farms be profitable? One could be tempted to respond - How long is a piece of string? Rather let us look at the proposition from another perspective and hopefully not find a complete answer but a means to answer the question for yourself.

If you are asking can I make a living from agriculture, that is will farming provide an income to live on, then the first question and hence answer is:

How much income do you need to live on! If you look at the base level income requirements of say a suburban retiree couple, with a home and no debts, then the figures vary but lie between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. That income will pay your ongoing costs of rates, health care, transport, clothing, food and give you some entertainment. A lot of people can live on considerably less, it depends on your need to acquire 'stuff' and the cost of having 'stuff'.

The second question you need to answer is - What are the costs of the form of agricultural I wish to engage in? If you look around you will see there are many variations; grazing, mixed livestock, grain crops, vegetable and fruits, poultry and eggs, herbs, nuts, etc. Each activity has certain requirements in terms of the quality of the land you have, soils, water and location and distance to markets where you will sell your products.

The economics of farming are settled in a number of aspects, essentially you are a price taker, that is what you get is what you get and that depends on when you sell it and to whom and where. So how do you overcome that problem to getter a better return? Efficiency of inputs to the amount of outputs, integration or value adding to your product. You will see every form and any form of the above responses in Australian agriculture everywhere. The traditional but let us call it the response of the last one hundred and fifty years here and overseas has been to adopt manufacturing processes and techniques to agricultural production; economies of scale, single lines of product or few products and mechanisation - hey presto agri-businesses, monocultures, use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and a lot of oil (fertilisers, machinery motors, transport, equipment etc.) to make it all work.

As a small producer farmer you will never compete with large scale agri-businesses either in quantity or cost unless and this is the big unless you are smarter and more nimble. This is where NSF comes to the rescue. It rescues you from the tyranny of modern agriculture, land exploitation and degradation and gives you a chance to survive in the face of the ever increasing challenges being presented to us all year by year as the climate changes, bio diversity is reduced and oil which makes the modern system possible diminishes.

Why, NSF is the only sensible method and response to living and working with the land in this country. You use NSF you already have started down the road to ensuring your land remains healthy, adaptable and fertile. You use NSF you also engage your mind in a lateral way and you begin to think creatively with a new sensitivity to the real world we all live in.

Other posters in this forum have correctly pointed out that the present state of agriculture relies on off farm income, for the small farmer that is you and or your partner go and get a job, you job subsidises the operation, if you are a large scale producer you borrow very large sums of money and the banks subsidise your operation, until you run out of options to finance the operation or you get to big to not be allowed to fail. Here and there are some smart and nimble operators who survive in both arenas. Let me make clear my view, this is going to change, but it will not change quickly, but there is no doubt that in twenty or thirty years time, small communities and farmers who have balanced nature will survive and prosper, relatively. The only way to ensure you protect your land, your lifestyle and your income is to use NSF, it is that simple.

When ever I hear the opponents to NSF speak I am hearing the same vested interests in the status quo calling, the same opponents to renewable energy and pollution reduction whether it is carbon reduction or any other waste reduction. They are saying, no don't do it for less or naturally or at no cost, keep feeding us and our balance sheets, it is as Peter Andrews has described with using artificial fertilisers, you end up with a very bad addiction like a drug addict. it is a siren's song leading us on to the rocks, the evidence is everywhere if you open your eyes, and NSF opens your eyes believe me.

Our experience - we have a miserable postage stamp sized property in a cool temperate area of the New England tablelands of only about 200 acres (100 ha) we are not producing anything at the moment as we are repairing our land using NSF. For nearly three years (thanks to off farm income) we have rested the land, repaired out water way and began restoring hydrological processes to the land scape. The results have been simply remarkable. The creek that runs through our property always runs, the land is moister, the humus content in the soils has built up and the natural wildlife has returned. On the way has been the scepticism of our traditional neighbours, the inevitable fights with our local council weed inspectors and the council and moments of self doubt but we are on the up and it is great. Next year we begin a long awaited project of a true or traditional small farm enterprise, mixed livestock, fruit and vegetables. A lot of hard work awaits us and there will be somethings we try that will not work, but in the process we will not wreck the land will have enormous self satisfaction and we know it is going to work.

Equally we have got off the grid so to speak, so we are energy self sufficient thanks to solar and the odd bit of timber. We have not replaced oil but we figure in years to come a number of olive trees will provide the oil we need for bio-diesel. So it is all about thinking laterally and thinking NSF. You can add in to that any other methods to manage the enterprise, permaculture, holistic farming etc but they are variations on a theme, but the foundation is to do what Peter suggests and look after the land and work with the Australian landscape.

So we know we will feed ourselves, quite luxuriously over the years, we will have a healthy and productive property but we will not make a fortune, but we will pay the bills and make a little on the side to keep doing the good work we have started.

The value of Lifestyle

Posted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:50 pm
by Ian James
In some respects what you are talking about reminds me of the investment markets, often when we think we see opportunity a random surprise bites you in the rear.
What an awesome comparison Novaris.

Risk is risk, no matter how you package it.

Agriculture is an industry, a business, not a lifestyle. Due to the demands of this industry there is no room for inefficiencies and there is no fat.

Inefficiencies are reflected on the bottom line and the bottom line is rock hard.

The reason family run agricultural enterpises are common is because this is an efficient use of family/farm resources.

Living on your property is an efficient use of your resources such as locality and space. It can be seen as a desirable lifestyle by many but in fact it is purely and simply an economic efficiency.

If the lifestyle aspect of living on a farm is the sole or primary reason for being involved in agriculture then I would suggest that the cart may be in front of the horse.

Farming is business, an investment of funds at risk of loss but with the expectation of gain.

Having said that, every farmer will calculate the viability of his enterprise by dividing his annual profit by the time spent managing the business, less what could have been earnt had he simply sold up and invested his money in a well managed fund of similar risk profile to farming and taken paid employment.

It is when contemplating this paradox that one is able to grasp some idea of the value of lifestyle.

Return on investment (I) plus employment (E) / farming profit(P) or loss divided by 100 = the value of lifestyle (L) as a percentage of your business.


(I+E) /P

= % value of your lifestyle

Does that sound right?

Small Farm Economics

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:21 pm
by Mike Hart
Ian James has a very pertinent point, farming is a business only the degree varies. From subsistence farming to massive agribusinesses, the bottom is always rock hard, at the bottom you starve at the top you go broke. Like all businesses you have to weigh up where is my market and who are my competitors. Lifestyle is priceless but leisure is the luxury of the rich. Working you bum off as a farmer is not the lifestyle a lot of people think. It becomes a 24/7 job.

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 8:16 am
by Stringybark
Mike and Ian are on the target regarding the harsh economic realities of agriculture. If I wasn't convinced that NSF would be a financially viable addition to my management practices, I would be less inclined to undertake it.
As for the economic viability of small properties. There are a large array of intensive small area enterprises. Rabbits, Poultry, Vegetables and herb production to name a few. If you combine a couple of these, you might be able to have the economy of scale to not seek/resort to off farm income.
At the end of the day, a part time off farm job might keep the bread on the table combined with an intensive enterprise that produces some form of fertility for you to apply to your land. You can work just as hard on 20 acres as on 2000 acres and bring in the same income if you do your research.
Do what makes you the most satisfied and content .

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 1:33 pm
by duane

I am about declare you a noxious weed and have you put on the WONS list.

Maybe you should seek a name change....

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 2:01 pm
by Stringybark
G'day Duane,

My namesake is purely a source of income for me. Feel free to list it.
What are your thoughts on selective felling of Stringybark trees(legalities aside) in thick private forest and replacing them with other non eucalypt species that would improve soil fertility and provide grazing oportunities. The felled timber would be processed for firewood.
I am interested in peoples thoughts as to whether this plant swapping would would be a too slow process in maintaining the original CO2 intake by the forest.
Don't panic. I'm not chopping down trees. Just looking at an area that is not very productive financially. Though there is plenty of downed dry timber.

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:11 pm
by jenni
hey stringybark where are you situated? We are 60km south of wagga near cookadinia

What price sustainability?

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:09 am
by Ian James
The question "Can I afford to change my farming methods to incorporate NSF principals?" is one I hear often, it bounces around in my head like a persistent echo depending on which NSF project I am currently evaluating and I hear it often when I speak to farmers about methods they can consider employing on their farms.
Rather, we should be asking ourselves “Can I afford to continue farming utilising a non-sustainable farming system?”
The answer is clearly no.

Stringybark writes
If I wasn't convinced that NSF would be a financially viable addition to my management practices, I would be less inclined to undertake it.
The farmer should ask himself “How much capital can I invest in NSF this season?”
Once a figure is settled upon the next step is to design a plan in which the greatest possible advancement towards sustainable NSF on the property is achieved with the available capital.
Little steps.
If NSF is not affordable for the farmer it will not occur on his property. The trick is to make NSF fit the budget, not to make the budget fit NSF.
Much can be achieved without significant expenditure. For instance, identifying the contours of a property and realigning the cultivation to follow the contour can be done for very little capital outlay.
At a later date, a low cost embankment can be formed along the contour using a number of common farm implements.
If stock need to be excluded from a paddock so that seedlings can establish then some forward planning on crop rotations can allow for areas to be used profitably growing crops which take advantage of the absence of stock for a period.

The fact is that a NSF project need only be affordable at the time it is undertaken. The future benefits will gradually accumulate and the drain of unsustainability will be slowed.

Posted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 11:05 am
by ColinJEly
Well one thing, it looks like it is not viable to farm 'carbon'. see the post about the price of carbon on the open market.

small farm incomes

Posted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:28 pm
by CJW
Greetings David,
My last solo part time small farming venture was on less the 2 ha in the Tweed Valley. My gross turnover from this averaged $15,000 per year. The statistical average is, I believe around $5,000 per year per ha.
Without the burden of keeping animals, I was away from the property for around 4 months per year with no problems at all. My choice of crops were flowers and foliage for Tweed and Gold coast florists who I supplied directly. This was also suplimented by growing fruit and nut crops that were sold in the local markets as well as having a seed and seedling business focused around coffee arabica. This "Permaculture" style jungle grows ever more fertile and productive and my ex partner now manages this property in a similar manner and is away from the farm for long periods frequently without any major difficulties. Think diverse and dynamic and you will succeed.

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:23 am
by duane

The permaculture model would seem ideal in your Vietnamese project??

Permaculture/ NSF fusion

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:08 am
by CJW
Yes Duane,
this appears to be the most workable strategy, both here in Viet Nam and anywhere else for that matter. Hoping to include an element of Environmental tourism into the project too. This will I hope, serve to create a short term cash flow and serve the dual purpose of educating both the locals and overseas visitors.
Will also be seeking volunteer workers to assist with building, and organic farming teaching skills to become involved in the project.
When we are ready to proceed I will post details to this web site.

Posted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:14 am
by duane

Do check out the TOM Willy Schmidt Willy Schmidt.....