Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dreaming Big

For the last two years I've been planning for the farm and that has helped me really spend quite a bit of time planning, researching and just plain dreaming about what the farm is going to look like. I think it's been good for me to have a long planning period and has helped me find a clearer vision and will hopefully allow me to hit the ground running when we do buy land.

What I'd like to do is throw out some of my "in a perfect world" dream plans even if they never make it to reality on the actual farm. I'm going in order I'd like to get them done.

  • Launch an on-line store for my hand made products.
  • Start a 500 Year Farm podcast.
  • Start a 500 Year Farm Youtube channel.
  • Buy the land.
  • Plop a cheap and quick structure on it, the biggest candidate being a prefab shed. Something I could use as a make shift cabin on weekends while getting things started and store things in when I'm not there.
  • Start building a nursery. It's about the lowest risk business I can have on the farm. It doesn't require a lot of capital or infrastructure. I can work on it just on weekends without having to live on the land first. Even if nothing sells, I can use the unsold stock on the farm. There are opportunities for covering the startup costs of the nursery with propagation workshops if I partner with a qualified instructor.
  • Begin work on the keylines and swales for the property. It's better to get this done before things get too established and in the way. It's also the time when it will cost the least to complete. Again, opportunities to supplement the costs with workshops and partnering with other permaculture programs for this.
  • Work with an existing holistic pasture manager that is looking to lease land to start restoring the land and generating a small amount of income. More workshop opportunities.
  • Find a local naturally managed bee keeper who could place some hives on the farm in exchange for a portion of the honey, pollen, bee's wax and propolis collected. The first opportunities for a value added products from the farm.
  • Start construction of the first permanent building on the property, the family house. It's the largest capital cost. It will take the most time and labor to finish. It doesn't make any money for the farm. However, without it, I'm very limited in the other income generating things I can do. Costs could be brought down again with workshops if the right relationships are developed with qualified natural building instructors. Also, a possibility for a crowd funding campaign.
  •  Start an education program to teach skills I have, bring in reliable income and get people to come to the farm. Again, opportunities to pair with other instructors.
  • Start a fun day on the farm program to bring in income and get people to come to the farm.
  • Start a breeding program for work dogs. This fulfills three niches; I love working with dogs, it generates income, the dogs will work on the farm.
  • Start with small livestock, chickens to begin with, to creating annual and perennial food systems. Workshops abound here.
  • Start selling farm produced products at farmers markets.
  • Shift grazing program to be managed in house with our own livestock.
  • Find a local leather crafter to partner with to create unique leather products from animal hides.
  • Develop a natural fiber program.
  • Bring horses onto the farm. It's my wife and daughters dream to own horses, they can be used as work animals on the farm, they supplement the grazing program, and Colorado has a robust industry of equine activities for leisure that could bring enough income to cover their cost.
  • Find a local farm to table, nose to tail, restaurant to partner with to do on the farm dinning nights.
  • Build a smokehouse.
  • Build a few tiny cabins on the farm for interns and tourism.
  • Start a relaxation and wellness program.
  • Develop a commercial kitchen. Either on site or mobile food truck.
  • Stop going to farmers markets and only sell on farm, on the web.
  • Develop a PDC program.
  • Develop a local delivery program.
  • Develop a forestry product program.
  • Develop a nano bakery.
  • Develop a nano brewery.
  • Develop a nano dairy.
  • Buy more land and expand.
I view my roll in each step as the person who launches each new aspect of the business then it's important to find or develop a manager to take over responsibilities.

I'm sure I forgot some things, I'm sure some things will never happen but there it is. The 10,000 foot view of 500 Year Farm as right now.

I'd love to hear your feedback. Please, post a comment. Don't forget to check out my music either.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Website

I'm trying to be more proactive with my preparations for the farm. Ultimately the farm is a business and like all modern businesses requires an on-line presence. That's what I've been starting to set up with 500yearfarm.com. I've been working on the logo for a while now and I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It's my take on a Celtic tree of life and I think has some deeper meanings in it relating to the vision of the farm that I won't go into right now but suffice to say I do think it reflects on my personality and long term goals.

I guess people who actually know what they are doing would call all this branding, but I like to call it putting a personal touch on my life's dream. I want everything relating to the farm to show my personality as much as I can without clobbering people over the head with it.

I'm trying to strike a balance with being open and honest about the process so others get a clear idea of what is going on and not overwhelming future clients and customers with too much boring facts and figures. In that effort you will notice on the about page a graphic at the bottom showing the current level of funding for the farm. That should be enough to keep people up to date on where I'm at for funding without constant updates here on the blog. I'll try and think of other creative ways of keeping everyone up to date without throwing out too many facts and figures. Hopefully others can use this info as a path to follow or, perish the thought, avoid.

The rest of the post is really only for the dedicated few or the tragically curious so if that isn't you, feel free to skip the rest but it would be nice to get some feedback on the website. So please, click around and see what you think. Sign up for the mailing list if you are so inclined and if not, I hope eventually I'm able to get something on the page that garners your interest. There is much more planned so check back from time to time and you might be surprised.

<begin nerd talk>
On the technical side, I've decided I want as little to maintain as possible with respect to the website while not giving up any of the functionality I think I will need in the long term. What I've decided to do is keep my work focused on integrating the site with other services that do a better job than I ever could at providing a usable site on the front end or the back end. The web has reached a state where the services available for free that don't require self host are really amazing. So I'd rather leverage their large development teams rather than rely on my constantly dwindling free time. I want the website to be clean, functional and most of all maintainable. I think it's a very permaculture design approach. The services are like very well adapted plants that can do the work so I can find other things to soak up my time and attention.

The services currently on the site are Google's Blogger, obviously for the blog,  and Mail Chimp for the mailing list.

I also have an on-line store at the ready to sell hand carved spoons and anything else I can think of to help fund the farm. I'm just waiting to finish a run of spoons I've been working on. This is using Square, I'm sure you've seen their stuff at farmers markets, and they have some very simple integration that looks nice and makes things very easy for me to manage and people to buy things, on the website itself or in person.

I'm also working on a Google Calendar powered events calendar but I'm not totally happy with the integration and I don't currently have anything to add to it. So, I won't be rushing that out any time soon. I found a javascript API that look hopeful but will require more research before I can say for sure that's the way I'll be going.

Eventually I plan on adding an audio podcast and Youtube video channel.

I also need to set up some social media accounts specific to the farm and get links added to the site.

</end nerd talk>

Friday, February 13, 2015

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 5

Human created climate change is a reality and we are all ready facing the consequences of it. I'm not going to lay down the arguments for it's voracity. I accept this reality even if dear reader doesn't. I feel we have postponed action to reduce carbon emissions in the hopes that some magic technological bullet would be developed to keep us from having to face the reality of using dead dinosaurs to make our modern lives possible.
The modern food systems uses carbon from oil to operate the machines that plow the ground, plant the seeds, harvest, process and ship it to your super market. More carbon is used in the store and by the consumer to purchase and transport it home. Oil derived chemical fertilizers are sprayed on the crops and machinery uses more to spray chemical pesticides and herbicides on the crops. The list seems almost never ending. All to deliver food of dubious quality.
The local food movement is a good start to helping short cut many of the steps involved. By eating local and in-season people are drastically reducing the amount of carbon required to deliver food to their plate. The goal of the 500 Year Farm is to directly market it's food to local consumers and restaurants and to provide nursery stock of locally adapted species of plants and animals to urban homesteaders. This not only reduces carbon usage but insures a more stable and resilient food economy.
Reduction isn't the solution to all the carbon problems, we've gone too far down the road for that. We now need to put carbon back into the ground in order reverse the effects of modern society on the earth. Using the ground breaking work of Alan Savory and his development of holistic pasture management techniques, 500 Year Farm will put more carbon into the ground, doing it's part in preventing and reversing man made desertification, helping restore the lungs of the planet.
Also, taking advantage of technologies that use resources efficiently, like rocket mass heaters, and low carbon building techniques will be employed to ensure the farms long term resiliency.      

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 4

Time to address ethics and how they apply to my philosophy of food production.
Ethics can be a strange beast to cover, especially as they apply to food and food production. Some think ethics are subjective, others think they are part of greater belief systems up to and including formalized beliefs in the form of an organized religion. I want, dear reader, to be assured, that my view of food ethics lay much more in scientific understanding than in a higher power. My own personal ethics stem from how I perceive life and the world around me through the lens of scientific reasoning.
The most ethical food systems, at least in my opinion, are the ones that originated out of our evolutionary history. We didn't appear on the earth out of no where. We are not, as some believe, aliens to this world, who's lot is to throw natural systems into chaos and destruction. We evolved as a part of an ecosystem. We, at least at some point in our history, where as important to a natural ecosystems survival as the grasslands and savannas we evolved out of. Where we went astray, as I see it, was when we stopped participating in the ecosystem and started dominating it with technology. Now, I'm certainly not saying that we need to go back to living in small villages in the subtropical regions of the world, far from it in fact What I'm saying is that we can use our scientific understanding of ecology and biology to create constructed ecosystems that feed humans in as close to balance with nature as possible.
So, if we are to start constructing an ecosystem around humans, we first must identify our role in it. Looking at the conclusions drawn by anthropology and paleontology we see that humans have likely been omnivorous for around 3.5 million years. This means that humans have evolved over that time to eat both plants, mostly succulents and fruits, as well as meat. I have heard some argue that humans began eating meat around the same time we discovered how to create and manage fire for cooking the meat. However, there is no current evidence of this speculation. As far a science is concerned, there is nothing to prove we cooked our meat until around 800,000 years ago. Our eating of meat seems rather to coincide with our use of tools, namely flinted stone knives. To me, this makes our role in our ecosystem as an omnivorous alpha predator and that as far as science is concerned it is part of our evolutionary history, and there for ethical, to eat meat. What I would call the line between ethically eating meat and unethically eating meat is by judging if the animals being preyed upon are living a life cycle that is at least as humane as their natural, wild one would be or, more ideally, better.
Now ecosystems rarely have one predator in them, but rather a few that compete for resources and occasionally prey on each other. Where I would put non scientifically based ethics into my constructed ecosystem would be to say that one rule is that, no humans should die or come to harm in any way from it. That is of course unnatural to evolutionary history but one I don't find much objection to from pretty much anyone. One way we can simulate a more balanced ecosystem, however, is by using domesticated predators, the most common of whom we likely convolved in a symbiotic relationship with, e.g. the domesticated dog. I also see a valuable role for the domesticated cat in this ecosystem. The dogs role is to provide protection for this protected ecosystem from outside predator pressure who's role belongs in a totally natural environment and not this constructed one. The cats role is to prey on non-predatory animals who humans would not themselves view as food. Together these predators round out the closest approximations we can make for a full compliment of predatory animals.
If we are to have prey for our predators, or for the sake of lessening confusion, livestock, we need to also provide, through as natural a means as possible, the sources for their diet as well. An ethical ecosystem as I see it can not rely on inputs from outside sources indefinably otherwise we can never achieve a balance that allows the ecosystem to survive during our hypothetical goal of 500 years.
We do have to make some concessions in order to achieve our goal, there are compromises to be made in order to be realistic but the fewer compromises we make the more resilient and less vulnerable this constructed ecosystems is as a whole.
To summarize this writing, ethical food is one that exists in some sort of balance with it's ecosystem and barring catastrophic outside forces will survive indefinitely.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 3

Now it's time to address the second issue I brought up in the first post. A lack of access to healthy foods.
Now I wouldn't say that I live in a food desert, in fact, in many respects I'm quite lucky. We have access to the cheap stuff, the better stuff and the good stuff, also we do have a local farmers market. What I've found so unsatisfying with the food supply is that I don't know how the food is produced. Sure, you can put an "Organic" sticker on something and I at least know something about the food. I still have questions, I still have concerns and while this sticker might be enough for some people, for me it more than falls short. I don't agree that organic is the bar our food should work towards, at best for me it's more of a "better than nothing" proposition. There is a miss-association of the word sustainable and organic. There is nothing about organic food that makes it sustainable in any way. It is better than corporate chemical agriculture, but let's be honest that isn't saying much. Our local farmers market doesn't have anything that bares the "Organic" monicker and when asked they simply say no and aren't real interested in talking about their farming practices.
Our first world society has lost touch with producers of food. There isn't an actual free market in food and that is because we lack choice. The corporate take over of the food supply chain has been so effective and complete that it effectively created a single way of doing things and left consumers with no other options. There isn't pressure with regards to food production to allow consumers to make reasonable decisions on what they eat. I have one non organic farmers market with one producer selling vegetables. My only other options are the same sources that are everywhere. Yes there are a few CSA programs that can deliver near me, but you have to pick up on their schedule, the prices are fixed no matter what is in season, you don't get any choice, they don't provide food year round and are easily 4 times more expensive than even the most expensive organic brands. Even if those where not these issues, a CSA doesn't mean that I can feel any better about how the food was grown because I don't have enough competing choices to pick the one that best align with my values when it comes to food. Not to mention, so far, I'm only talking about vegetables. I think I'll save protein production for the post about ethically produced food.
The only solution to this for me is, instead of complaining about the lack of choice, create it. I'd rather be a producer than a whiner. I'm really trying to live my ethics and be the change I want to see in the world and while I'm not there yet, I'm working every day towards making it a reality.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 2

In this post I intend to cover the selfish reasons for wanting a farm.
The first and foremost, I want to do something where I can be in complete control of what is going on. I loved that about gardening as a child. I used to take care of most of my parents large suburban yard that included many fruit trees as well as rose gardens and a small vegetable garden. I also did some work with a friend of the family that had goats. I loved the sense of accomplishment and rewarded for hard work.
When I started as a pipefitter I loved he feeling of reward I got from accomplishing something with my two hands and hard work. As my career has progressed I got farther away from that and the sense of accomplishment. As I've grown older I've wanted to do something more for myself, a "be my own boss" sort of thing. I've always though at some point I'd become an entrepreneur and I've looked int o many paths for this. I've always come back to wanting to do the more basic things I love. I love working hard and the feeling of accomplishment just about as much as I like the reward of growing and raising my own food. So, I do view the farm as a selfish act. If we are to dream, why shouldn't we be selfish? After all, happiness is a choice and we can choose to do the things that make us happy.
I wouldn't change anything related to my life up to now, it has giving me loads of useful skill I wouldn't have gotten otherwise and it fed my family. I'm always pushing to learn how to do more and to challenge and refine my world view. I appreciate the people I've met, worked with and learned from very much. I don't think 18 year old me, given all the necessary resources, could have handled all the things required to make a farm successful. I needed to be pushed to learn the things I did in the way I did. What I hope more than anything is that use what I've learned to achieve my ultimate dreams. Namely building 500 Year Farm.

500 Year Farm Manifesto Part 1

I think when I say to most people that I want to have a farm, their eyes glaze and they think of corn farmers and assume I'm simply out of my mind. If I explain something about holistic pasture management, they assume I really meant I was going to be a cattle rancher, or a pig farmer, or a sheep herder or what ever animal I've used to illustrate a point. If I happen to talk about food forestry, they assume I'm going to run an orchard. The issue is that I've never given a complete vision of what it means to me to have a farm.
I hope to complete a series of blog posts that address this issue for those that are interested, and I will call this 'The 500 Year Farm Manifesto'.
This, the first post in the series, will be about the problems that I see and wish to solve with my farm.
The first problem I have is that, while I do enjoy my career in the piping industry, I don't see it as ultimately fulfilling. I've always dreamed of self sufficiency; I've always loved nature and I've always had a very close relationship with animals. All things that are not completely fulfilled in my current life. I listened to a podcast recently where they introduced me to a person that asked people at the end of their life what their biggest regret was and the top two where 'living the life others wanted me to lead instead of the life I wanted.' and 'realizing that happiness is a choice.'
These have stuck with me and have been a sentiment driving my thoughts as of late. Therefore, I'll call problem #1 'not living my life as I've always wanted to'.
The second problem as I see it is a lack of access to a healthy diet, in my area and generally all over the world. When I originally started trying to eat healthy, I did a ton of research on what eating healthy means. This is a very hard topic to cover and I'm not sure anyone really agrees on it at all. I won't dive into how I came to these conclusions but I will give my conclusion, it is almost impossible to get the level of quality food I would like to eat in the quantity that I can feed my family for a price that I can afford without producing the food myself. Therefore, I'll call problem #2 'lack of access to healthy food.'
The third problem, in my opinion, is how ethically produced our available food has been. This of course is probably the most subjective of all the issues I'm listing but I can't discount the emotions that drive this for me. We have gotten so far away from natural ecosystems that modern agriculture and meat production could now only be describes as abusive. Abusive to the planet, abusive to the species we use, abusive to our bodies and abusive to our economy. I will likely expand on this at some point but lets call this one 'lack of ethical food.'
To continue, the fourth problem, in my opinion, is the overuse of dead dinosaurs. That is specifically oil and oil based products. From the chemical fertilizer that is spread on the fields, to the fuel burned to ship and truck our food from all over the world, plus that to get the food, and cook the food, the amount of carbon involved in the modern food system is staggering. We are putting more carbon in the air than we are in our soil and bodies. This is one of the most destructive problems I see. Thus it is 'too much carbon being used.'
In the following posts I will be expanding on these concepts.

Where do we stand.

I hate it when I hear of an interesting project and then never get any updates. It makes it feel like the project has, like they often do, died with not even a whimper left behind. But fear not my faithful reader, the dream is alive and well.

As stated in my previous post we are in the saving phase of the plan. The goal of $100,000 is a bit  daunting I must admit, and if not for my mindless optimism it would feel almost impossible to achieve. This may still hold true. So far I have socked away a little over $4,000 which means I'm behind target for my savings goals so far. I had hopped to be closer to $10,000 at this point but I also knew that at this point it was pretty unrealistic. I have however made some reasonably prudent investments and earned myself a nice return on this money, currently hovering somewhere between $300-$400 or 8%-10%. While this doesn't mean I'm ready to dole out the cash for a large tract of land at the moment, it does mean that I'm firmly in the habit of stashing money away where and when I can.

I do have a few ideas on how to earn a little more extra side cash and more will be revealed when they are ready as most of it amounts to just throwing out ideas rather than cold calculated strategy.

I am making an effort to be fairly transparent about money for the project to encourage others, and hopefully not discourage, with real world numbers rather than after the fact estimations.

(Posted originally on 6/1/2013)

500 Year Farm

In my post about my 500 year plan I talked a little at how I arrived at my dream but I didn't really spell out what that plan is. This post is to clarify what I want to do.

Step 1: Buy land in Colorado.

The ideal would be 80 acres but anything over 20 acres would fit my plan just not on the scale I was hoping for. I would prefer to have some water rights that would allow me to build ponds but that can be difficult in Colorado, though not impossible. I don't really care if the land has existing infrastructure other than it needs to have relatively close electrical hook up and be within a 30-45 minute drive of the Denver Metro area as that's a large part of my business plan. Something with some texture to the land would be best, e.g.:A bit of rock, a bit of hill, some valley, some elevation. Some existing forest or woodlot would be awesome. The most important part would be the ability to pay cash for the land so the cheaper the better $50,000 - $70,000 would be ideal and $100,000 as the top of my budget.

Step 2: Housing

Establish low cost short term housing on the land. The most likely candidate right now would be a single wide trailer. The important parts being enough room for the family to live for 2-5 years comfortably,  low cost, and as little set up labor as possible. Again this housing would need to be paid for in cash. If I don't get banks involved, it takes the pressure off being profitable in the first year. I just need to break even and provide food for the family as I build up things on the farm to provide the stable income. This is important in eliminating the monthly rent we are currently paying to free that up to pay for farming projects as soon as possible.

Step 3: Complete earthworks

A large part of what I want to achieve will require shaping the land to maximize it's water usage and topsoil creation. Terracing, Hugelkulture, ponds and swales, as well as key-line plowing will turn the land into a carbon capturing, soil building machine that will outlast many generations. This is something that only has to be done once.

Step 4: Short term food production

Using the Hugelkulture beds and possibly a small greenhouse to begin growing enough annual and perennial food grown in poly-culture as possible for immediate use by my family with a hope of enough surplus to sell and begin building a client base.

Step 5: Begin Building a Food Forrest

This will happen alongside step 4. Using small herds and flocks of chickens, goats, and pigs to start building the land. Chicken are my tillers, pigs my plows and goats my brush hogs. I will be  following their work with cover cropping and then planting what will become the over story of a food forest.

Step 6: Food Truck

This is where I plan on providing the majority of income for the farm and why I want to be close to Denver Metro. I want to change the world by knocking down the barrier between people and their food. I believe availability of local in season food isn't the only thing standing in the way of the "Eat Local" food movement. People go to a farmers market, buy a bunch of veggies, get them home, don't know how to prepare them and they rot in the fridge while they eat fast food. I think people are so separated from their food now that unless it's on their plate it doesn't matter how good it is for the planet or their health, or how tasty it is. People have forgotten how to eat anything other than boneless skinless chicken breast in a prepackaged and pre-seasoned microwave pouches with a side of macaroni and cheese. I want to not only produce amazing food, but I want to deliver food experiences for people that changes the way they look at their food. I don't want to mimic what a grocery store has and try to compete just on quality. I want people to get back to eating whats growing right now, right here and wasting as little of an animal as possible. I want to use the food truck to provide lunches, produce, and meat to places around Denver. Meals that show how to eat seasonal, from a local farm that produces food that benefits the earth, the farmer, and the consumer. Guilt free food that tastes amazing. The food truck gives me a certified commercial kitchen letting me turn everything the farm produces into a salable product that blows away anything else you can get. With modern technology I can reach out to customers using Facebook and Twitter, process credit/debit cards on site, update people on what's ready that day and get it to them in the most convenient way possible.

Step 7: Building Long Term Housing

Once the farm is profitable, I want to build an earth friendly, high efficiency house that can be handed down for generations without draining the planet of endless resources. Other structures should be constructed too. I'd love to have small cottages on the farm for people to stay in as well as some meeting areas for various events.

Step 8: Refine and Enjoy

Once the major projects are finished the rest is making year after year improvements to get more diversity and better output. The great thing about permaculture is that it strives to let nature do as much of the work as possible and overtime just enjoying the farms outputs. It's never going to be easy, but it shouldn't be slave labor either.

So, is this exactly what's going to happen, probably not. I've left out all the hard work, money, and time that will be required as well as the luck aspect. The thing about planning is being flexible, like a reed in the wind, bending but not breaking. This is how I see things now, it could change tomorrow, in a week, a month, a year, 20 years, or 500 years. But I have a plan and I'm laser focused on it now.

My 500 Year Plan

Life is funny. There is almost no way to know what you will want out it when you start down the path of life, sometimes you get most of the way down a path just to find a fork that takes you in a totally new direction. Even if you know the fork is ahead there is almost no way to know what it is you choose until you are looking down both paths. OK, enough soliloquy.

It's been more than two years now that I've been interested in something called Permaculture. When I fist heard about it I knew I felt right away like I had found a missing piece of my life.

Since I was little I have dreamed of self sufficiency. I have always been interested in doing things myself, how things work and how to make things better. I've been obsessed with researching "perfect solutions" and making things from "scratch" most of my life. If I had to pinpoint the first thing that awakened this for me it would be when I read The Cay at around age 9 or 10. It's a book about survival where a privileged young white kid and a black man survive a ship wreck and the kid overcomes his prejudice. Next was the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen where a boy survives on his own after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the wilderness.After these was a book my brother turned me on to called  My Side of the Mountain where a boy runs away from his life to survive in the woods on his own. Added to this list has to be a book my mother got me that I was obsessed with called Diary of an Early American Boy that highlighted the many skills required to survive in America's earliest days. My Mother was involved heavily in the "Wheat Ridge Historical Society" and I fell in love with traditional life skills. On television I loved watching the PBS show "The Woodwright's Shop" that detailed traditional woodworking skills; my favorite episode being where he builds his own log cabin from scratch. PBS sparked another love for me of BBC comedies, one of my favorites being a show called "Good Neighbors" where a suburban English couple drop out of corporate life to turn their suburban home into a self sufficient homestead.  As I got older more and more things added to this obsession such as the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" a true story of a man who builds his own log cabin in the backwoods of Alaska and lives in it with a minimum of resources. When survival programming went mainstream I idolized "Survivorman" Les Stroud and to a much less extent Bear Grylls and his show "Man vs. Wild".

Another thing that caught my imagination as a child was gardening, my dad built me a small garden plot next to my mom's rock garden in our back yard when I was about 7 or 8. My mom contributed to my project by buying me Kids Gardening: A Kid's Guide to Messing Around with Dirt, a book that came with seeds and a plastic trowel. I followed the directions and grew a very small crop of vegetables. When I was about 12 I started taking care of the lawn and gardens around the house. I went to the garden center every year and helped my mom pick out plants for the various gardens. I turned over the soil and planted annuals and tended perennials. I came home every day from school and hand watered the various plants around the house till the yard took on an amazonian quality.

So, when I came upon Permaculture and the community around it felt like I had found the culmination of many life long passions. Permaculture, for the uninitiated, is a design philosophy, that is applied to designing ecological systems. Breaking down the jargon, it's a way to plan out a garden, farm, ranch or anything that provides output for human use in a way that mimics natural ecosystems and creates something that, more than sustainable, is restorative to the environment.

This brings me to my 500 year plan. I've talked with my wife many times in our 15+ year relationship about legacy, that I've always wanted to build something for my family that lives on generation after generation. Until I found Permaculture I didn't know what that something was. Now I know what I want. My wife is finishing college, so right now it's all planning. After she finishes school we move into the saving phase, then onto the action phase. I want to create a farm that provides as diverse an output as possible with as much biodiversity as possible. I don't want rows of crops, I want to create a managed land that will output food and income for the next 500 years. Something that the word "Sustainable" doesn't ever get used to describe. I want something that every year makes the land better than the year before.

So, if anyone asks me how my plan is going, I'll simply reply, "ask me in 500 years!"