Can small acre properties be profitable?

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

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gavinfialkowski
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Location: Quinninup

Postby gavinfialkowski » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:11 pm

If you are in an area where you can grow truffles you should have a look at that, 100-200 acres is plenty. its a gamble that you will only find out if you are a winner or not in 5 years time but if your plantation starts to produce you will be in the $.

Im not in a position to take a gamble like this at the moment, so for the time being we are just going to run some holiday chalets on our 100 acres.

If you can owner build it is well worth looking into because the running costs are low (labour is free if you do the cleaning yourself) and you wont need a massive loan to bay builders to come out to the bush.

we've calculated that four luxury chalets will earn enough income to support two families once they are up and running. We've been very lucky in that we have been able to owner build and one of us is an ex builder.

novaris
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Location: Mooroolbark, Vic, Australia
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Postby novaris » Tue Feb 17, 2009 9:46 am

gavinfialkowski wrote:If you are in an area where you can grow truffles you should have a look at that, 100-200 acres is plenty. its a gamble that you will only find out if you are a winner or not in 5 years time but if your plantation starts to produce you will be in the $.
I am currently experimenting with growing shitaki mushrooms if you could combine them with truffles you could further improve returns from oak trees.

for the time being we are just going to run some holiday chalets on our 100 acres.
Was there any problem with permits in your area? We are also considering a natural health service on property, but we have not yet started to check the effects of zoning and council regulations.

If you can owner build it is well worth looking into because the running costs are low (labour is free if you do the cleaning yourself) and you wont need a massive loan to bay builders to come out to the bush.
Is there any downside regarding resale in the future?
Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Pragmatist

Postby Ian James » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:46 am

Hi Novaris,
I am farmer, it's all I do.
Making a livelihood from farming alone is a hell of a job and why anyone would want to be a farmer for the "lifestyle" is something I will never understand.

We have a standard joke about farming out this way; it goes something like this...

"If I won the lottery I think I'd just keep farming untill it was all gone".

Like any small business, it's hard, hard work, long, long hours, not much reward and a huge risk of failure.

I do respect your desire for a challenge and your wish to care for your block and to use your unique talents and will to restore your block to health and make it viable.

I have always found that the smaller the scale of a farm the more intensive its enterprises need to be to remain economically viable.

By intensive please read labour intensive. Not exactly a retirement option.

I would caution against over grazing or over clearing, be careful, your desire for viability will force your hand, the seasons will teach you without pity and your land will suffer degradation.

Your land is delicate and fragile and you will need to treat her like a soft skinned virgin lest deep scars be laid.

Every year is different and the lessons of the last will not be relevant in the new.

I understand that you are not alone in your desire to try your hand at making a life on a block you believe you can handle. I wish you every success, but I have seen the damage done to this country by those before you who also saw what you see and who tried to make the land their provider.

Look closely at their mistakes, so many mistakes and so much degradation.

See what it was that led them to become ripe during the good lush early years for the devastation and degradation of the later poorer years when they watched in dismay as the land they loved blew thousands of feet into the air or was washed away in flood.

If you see this, then their losses will not have been in vane.

You will make every mistake in the book against your very best intention.

This is the way we have learnt the lessons of the land, from our very mistakes and those of our forefathers and this is the way we are destined to teach those that follow us.

In our dreams it is from our successes but in reality it will be from our mistakes.

Good luck and good fortune, tread softly.

novaris
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Location: Mooroolbark, Vic, Australia
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Postby novaris » Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:26 am

Hi Ian, thanks for your input :)

I have followed the info here on your farm, it was an inspiration to me. I hope you will be able to post some updates and new photos of your place at the moment.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I am not sure I will be able to do what I would like, I intend to spend the next 18mths working that out.
Before I buy any land I want to learn and see as much as I can about the current experiences and try to meet and develop the contacts I need to get advice that can really help.

I suspect that success will depend on resources other than just what the farm can grow. Part of the plan will probably need to include on site non farm based cash flow or suitable paid employment nearby. However if successful I would hope it could sustain someone from the land itself.

Ian have you had any experience with the work of Allan Savory? If so I would love to hear about it.

Every year is different and the lessons of the last will not be relevant in the new.
This is interesting could you give some examples of how this has effected you? I have tended to think that most years fall into a moderate range of similarity with the odd few that can be amazingly difficult. An example for us is this year, with so little rain and the devastating fires, we had 47.5c in the shade here on the Saturday that started all the fires, our average here for February is 28c.
Also when we were on the dairy farm irrigation probably meant we were not really fully conscious of the effects of dry years but I can remember the odd one that stood out.
As an example in 30 years I have never forgotten the year that rained so much we ended up having to rescue cattle from bogs to the waist that they could not get out of. In our area this was unheard of and I have never seen it again. It is what is referred to a black swan, a random very improbable event that is devastating when it happens. The term was coined by Nassim Nicolas Taleb in his book The Black Swan - The impact of the Highly Improbable. I highly recommend it as a worthwhile read.

This is the way we have learnt the lessons of the land, from our very mistakes and those of our forefathers and this is the way we are destined to teach those that follow us.
My fear is that this is not in fact what happens, as I see it most people continue to repeat the same processes over and over hopping for a different result. If this were not the case Peters knowledge and efforts would not be in such dire need. p.s. Ian I don't think you are most people :)
Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Postby Ian James » Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:36 am

Hi Novaris, it's really good that you are doing all the research you can before diving into the deep end.

The variability of the years is very broad; my previous post was similarly board.

Of course from my postilion, I could not offer meaningful advice on profitability of a small acreage property.

That is entirely up to you.

An example of being caught with your pants down by expecting the lessons learnt last year being relevant this year..... Phew, so many flood my mind.... how do I choose which to describe?

I would say this, at the beginning of your new career a lesson learnt will have a far greater influence on your perspective of the situation than it would say if you had already experienced 10 or 15 seasons as a farmer prior.

As such aim for the middle of the target, you will rarely hit it but at least you will not miss by too far. The trick is to see the middle, and that is where the local’s knowledge will be most valuable. They will know and you must discuss the seasons with them at depth.

As for my experience, in the 07 year, we had a thumper. High yielding and also high quality. We had a nice early break to the season and I sowed my crops optimistically, the season had some dry spells but finished well to give me my best result ever.

Last year, "08" I correctly assessed that the main reason for the success was the early start. To my delight the break of the winter season was even earlier.

With prices at historic highs I planted every acre I possibly could. It was a gamble. As far as I could see though the die were loaded in my favour. I took a punt.

Turns out that 08 was the year of the killer frost.

I had my worst ever result in terms of yield and of quality.

For me it was the year I should have kept my money in the bank.

What do you know?

duane
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Postby duane » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:46 am

Novaris

I have put a post elsewhere here in this forum but if you google (W)holistic Management you can subscribe to their magazine online for 12 months for nothing!

It is well worth a visit.

novaris
Posts: 61
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Location: Mooroolbark, Vic, Australia
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Postby novaris » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:52 am

Thanks for the advice Ian, as I mentioned I was raised on a dairy farm but of course my understanding was that of a young lad :?

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. I hope 08's bite was not too disabling for you. And yes I guess your property would not fit my idea of a small farm :)
Everything in moderation, including moderation.

jenni
Posts: 71
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:38 pm
Location: holbrooknsw

Postby jenni » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:29 am

oh dear we don't seem to be overly positive about the profitability of small farming or farming in general do we?the lifestyle it seems has it's failings too.i don't have the wealth of experience that some of the others on the forum do but for what its worth in my first year my brother and i, with funds from our jobs as rouseabout and pizza delivery boy managed to scrape up enough to put in 50 acres of grazing barley for a seed contract. I was 24 he was 19. It did really well and we had 20 grand in the bank after harvest. We were feeling very pleased with ourselves.So we planted 100 acres and bought a few hundred sheep.that was 2006 which in our area was an absolute disaster.we ended up cutting 14 t of silage stripped 5 t of grain and spent the next summer feeding it out to our sheep!we lost all our money and i'm still clawing our way back. that said i love our land so much i think about what i could do with the money i've poured in to it and i realise i am where i want to be and as someone who enjoys a challenge i am happy in the knowledge i will never be short of one ha ha. I found a glycine growing under a box tree the other day which is bit rare for our area and that makes me very happy.i think you've gotta love it and be able to cop your mistakes and unkind seasons on the chin as well as lowering your risks.

ColinJEly
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Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:50 am
Location: melbourne

Postby ColinJEly » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:48 am

Just a thought, are you in the right area to grow Crocus? They tell me Saffron is worth more than gold?

Cheers

Col.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Postby Ian James » Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:50 pm

Saffron,... worth more than gold pound for pound.

There would be good reason for that... such as, it's nearly impossile to grow............ I'm guessing.

But I did once look into Vanilla beans which at over $1000 a pod seemed like a sure bet. A friend of mine gave me this information and once asked me why I wasn't growing it.

A little research later I learnt that vanilla grows in only a few places in the world of which Madagascar is one.

It has no roots but lives of the humidity of the air.

Need I say more....

novaris
Posts: 61
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Location: Mooroolbark, Vic, Australia
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Postby novaris » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:50 am

Saffron is hardy plant that grows well in Tasmania apparently it likes cold damp winters and dry warm summers, it should also grow well in Victoria, we are currently growing some small lots to learn more about it.

The reason it is so expensive is it only produces 3 stamen per plant once per year, it takes about 200,000 plants to produce a kilo of saffron. The plant flowers for just 35 days in autumn and picking stripping, weighing and packing the filaments has to be done gently by hand.
Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Postby Ian James » Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:07 pm

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.

I am sure you will have a lot of pleasure and success and that your land will benefit from your care.

Cheers

Adrian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:40 pm
Location: Northern Victoria Shepparton Area

Postby Adrian » Tue Mar 24, 2009 4:17 pm

Something that i have talked to my Dad about was how do farmers make a profit, using a 20 year time frame in our area we look at all the different aspects over the years. Just in my time i have seen the worst drought on record, the worst flood on record, two of the four worst finance crashes on record. This works out to be about 8 good years out of 20, how in the world anyone would want to gamble on only being a farmer for like 5 years or so has got me.
It's in your blood if you want to be a farmer or not, the ones that are mainly wouldn't change it for anything else. The challege of each year is different from the last, no matter how you look at it. Id say you can make a profit from a small farm but it all depends on the years you start and years you finish, the land will make a profit but as the years go on that profit will look smaller as the years go on with inflation of money. We only have to look at the price of cattle over the last 20 years and see that the price does go up but also down. But in around about way the price has stayed the same over the last 20 years or even more. Something that has always gone up thou is labour to help run the farm and the costs of the way we have farmed the land. In one of Peters books he has writen that farming used to only be simple with $1 being put into the farm with $10 coming from it, now its something along the lines of 6-9 dollars put in to still only recive $10 back. and it is only going to get worse if we keep going the way we are in this country let alone the rest of the world
Always keep an open mind

duane
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Postby duane » Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:23 pm

Out of every catastrophe comes a fresh new start.

For years now farmers have been getting the rough end of the pineapple.

They have had the guts ripped out of their lives. Their costs have escalated and their returns diminished.

Most if not all of the farmers I have come across in recent years have either off farm work or their partners work off farm. I have meet very few farmers who actually live off the farm.....and not the bank.

Here is the phoenix that can arise from the ashes.

The world financial market has collapsed...it may NEVER recover.

The new gold standard is going to be goods and commodities....produced by farmers and mining.

To lead the world as sustainable farmers using natural farming methods and healthy soils sequesting Carbon. I believe that our aussie farmers could lead a world recovery with a blueprint for the world community at large.

If we play our cards correctly, I see our farmers getting the reward.s they so richly deserve.

I would like all of our farmers to unite behind this paradigm shift to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Shirley Henderson
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Joined: Sun May 06, 2007 4:03 pm
Location: Thirlmere

Postby Shirley Henderson » Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:24 am

say NO, I will not buy fertiliser, I will CREATE fertiliser
say NO, I will not buy water, I will keep the water that falls on my land,
Say NO I will not spray poison on my land I WILL find another way
say NO, I will not destroy the very thing that sustains life.
I am just a gardener but will be a bigger land owner one day as that is my goal. My home garden is a garden of life and I know many others who have gardens of death.
Farmers and other land holders for what ever reason have that choice too!


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