Carbon Farming: Concepts, Tools & Markets

Carbon Farming: Concepts, Tools & Markets

Here we are in winter farming conference season – I presented this talk at the 2010 Northeast Organic Farming Association’s  Winter Conference (Massachusetts), and got some great feedback on the idea of local carbon markets. I’ll be presenting again next weekend (January 23rd) at the NOFA NY conference – you can learn more and register here: Scroll down below the slideshow to download the handouts.

Anyone interested in starting a local carbon market? Let me know in the comments.

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Carbon Farming: Concepts, Tools & Markets Handout

Young Farmers Conference 2009 – Permaculture for Farmers & Ecosystem Investing

Young Farmers Conference 2009:

Permaculture for Farmers & Ecosystem Investing

Below are the slideshows and handouts for the two workshops I presented last week at the Young Farmers Conference, dosage held at the incredible Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Let me know what you think in the comments – and Enjoy!

Permaculture for Farmers

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Download the handout by clicking on the image below.

Permaculture for Farmers Handout


Ecosystem Investing

Download the handout by clicking on the image below.

Ecosystem Investing Handout

The Power of Enterprise Budgets: Permaculture, Holistic Management, and Financial Planning

Permaculture designers: It’s time to get serious about profitability.
Farmers & Greenhorns: You already know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been working on an integrated ecological farm design for the Ashokan Center in the Hudson River Valley bioregion. The design calls for a mega-diversity of organic enterprises: Multi-species rotational grazing, hardy kiwi vineyards, mixed-fruit orchards, agroforestry & silvopasture, no-till & greenhouse vegetables, gourmet & medicinal mushrooms, and more. There are 200+ edible & useful species spread across 13 acres of farm and 200+ acres of forest.

Ashokan Center Farm

But to start an ecological farm (in the USA at this point in time) takes money. In order to justify the up-front capital expense that my clients will have to invest to get this farm going, I need to be able to show them that this mega-diverse permaculture system can be profitable.

How can I do it? How can I predict the potential expenses, and calculate the possible profits? What can I show my clients to convince them that all of these great permaculture ideas make good economic sense?

By using Enterprise Budgets.

Enterprise budgets are summaries of actual data on the costs and yields of growing a particular crop — from asparagus to tilapia to black currants to walnuts to cattle to shitake mushrooms. The basic pattern is as follows:


  • INCOME (aka revenue, receipts, gross revenue, gross income – sometimes shown with a break-even chart)
  • EXPENSES (aka costs – often divided into variable costs & fixed costs)
  • NET INCOME (aka margin, gross margin, annual returns over costs)

Pretty straightforward, right?

For example, download a simple Bell Pepper Enterprise Budget from Penn State here and take a look.

Bell Pepper Production

As you move into perennial crops (like this pear example), the enterprise budgets get a bit more complex. AND, there are currently very few enterprise budgets that focus on small-scale, organic and post-organic permaculture enterprises. So we’ll need to develop based on the small-scale enterprises we initiate — this means learning the basics of good bookkeeping and accounting, and keeping good records on our expenses and yields. Some of the best current documentation on this scale comes from Joe Kovach at Ohio State University – take a look at his work here.


In Kirk Gadzia’s Holistic Management module during the Carbon Farming Course, our financial planning exercise (which you can read about over at the Carbon Farming Course blog here) focused on choosing agricultural enterprises to re-invigorate an ailing farm. To bring the whole-systems thinking of permaculture into play, I needed to propose viable multi-functional alternatives to the simple and unprofitable hay production. Fortunately, I’ve been collecting every single enterprise budget available on the web for the last year — so I had many options, from seaberry & hazelnut orchards to perch & bullhead catfish aquaculture. (The systematic collation and organization of all these budgets creates the backbone of the economic design tool for ecological agriculture enterprises I blogged about here.)

In order to support the ongoing development of ecological agriculture, I’m making available to you all the all the enterprise budgets I have collected in the last 2 years – more than 1090 of them. I ask only that you keep seeking and creating out new budgets to add to the collection – especially ones that use real data from small-scale organic and permaculture operations. Download ’em here – careful, this is a 130mb file.

Any questions?

Permies, are you ready to get realistic about profitability? Let’s get this sort of economic sensibility into our designs.

Farmers & Greenhorns, how can I make this information more available and useful to you?

Rudolf Steiner – The World Economy

A discussion with Seth Jordan from ThinkOutward has alerted me to Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on the ‘World Economy‘. Seth thinks there may be some solid connections between this text and Financial Permaculture — head on over and check it out!

Rudolf Steiner was an incredible visionary — the founder of Anthroposophy, Biodynamic Agriculture, Waldorf education, and more.

Here are the Steiner Archives:
The home of the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association:
Wikipedia on Anthroposophy:


Seriously. This is one of the most awesome presentations I’ve seen yet at the Financial Permaculture Course.

In a Nutshell: Eric Waldrop of has solved the major challenges of Traditional Farmer’s Market’s, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), & Buying Clubs with an easy-to-use piece of internet software. (No nerds required! – Did I saw “wow?”)

The virtual farmer’s market he runs in Athens, Georgia has 60 growers, 1500 customers, and does over $10,000 of sales every week. By Eric’s reckoning, that makes it the largest Farmer’s Market in Georgia and the One of the largest in the Southeast USA. (Did I say “wow?”)

I almost can’t believe the ease and grace with which Eric has used the permaculture principle “the problem is the solution” to transform the challenges of small-scale ecological farming into stunningly simple solutions.

The Food & Agriculture business design group is in complete awe. I’m not even sure if we need investment capital to get this business started! Eric has made this so easy that half the participants (myself included!) are running home to start up their own local virtual farmers markets.

Watch a video explaining Click Here

One word descriptions of Eric’s presentation by Financial Permaculture Course participants:
Awesome, fantastic, connective, wow, congratulations, nouveau, hopeful, excited, hunky dory, impatient to do, inspired, valuable, do it, possibilities, resourceful, cool, great, brilliant, cutting edge!!!


Chaordic Permaculture Institute picks up Financial Permaculture discussion

The Financial Permaculture Course is stirring up some discussion in the international permaculture community!

Stella of the Chaordic Permaculture Institute writes on the international permaculture list: (edited for relevance)

It’s great that the term [Financial Permaculture] seems to have gotten all sexy, perhaps also thanks to this initiative, (crashed servers with the traffic etc.)…

I’ve attempted to get my head round all the links (is anyone else confused?) and tried to ‘map’ some sort of wider scenario this might fit into … and need help! please let me know how you would edit this brief panorama here:

which you can edit yourself (as any of the rest of the site). just ask
me or any of the design team for the password. …


“God’s Got to Be Proud of Y’all”

“God’s got to be proud of y’all working to save the planet,”

Says Hohenwald City Mayor Don Jones to the gathered group of citizens and green business designers as the Financial Permaculture Course gets underway at the Blondy Church of God.

With 34 States represented, the next 5 days are bound to be full of creative collaborative design for local economic resilience. Stay tuned!

Financial Permaculture Wireless IS UP

Howdy All –

We’re on site at the Blondy Church of God in Hohenwald, TN, meeting with Catherine Austin Fitts, Jennifer English, and the other core design members of the Financial Permaculture Course.

Our expert Gaia U ace IT team has been working with Pastor Marcus Webb and the rest of the generous folks at Blondy Church, and our wireless is up and running — The network is “Financial Permaculture”, no password required.


Blogging Directives for Regenerative Learning Events

Patrick, Greg, and I sat down earlier this week to talk about how we
could best make information-rich blogs that are accessible to a wide
range of people. This meeting comes on the cusp of the financial
permaculture course
, which we will be real-time blogging in order to
tell the story of a small-town gathering to explore solutions for a
resilient local economy.

Our Gaia University blogging team will use the following guidelines (as a
mindmap and a list) for creating quality real-time blog the
Financial Permaculture Course in Hohenwald, TN.

Blogging Directives

TELL participants’ stories — use their words and perceptions.
HARVEST useful information and resources (ideas, people, theories, businesses, organizations, websites) for later distillation.

BLOG in the first person. Personalize the story you tell.
ENLIVEN your posts — use anecdotes, humor, and metaphor.
WRITE clearly and accessibly — short sentences
LINK the crap out of your blog posts.
Aim for at least 3 links per post. At a minimum, link to

Other bloggers:

CONNECT your posts to big IESD ideas: Permaculture, Peak Oil, Patrix-Busting, Slow Food, Spiral Dynamics, Integral Theory, Art of Mentoring, Collaboration
DEMONSTRATE your content with images, live photos, and graphics.

– So, whenever any participant…

– …echoes or resonates with the FPC meta-story,
– …tells a personal story that moves you,
– …shares a piece of juicy information that’s new to you,

Digiphon: This post was written with OmniOutliner Pro on a MacBook Pro running OSX 10.5 (Leopard). The mindmap was made with VUE, an excellent, cross-platform, free concept-mapping and ontology software program.