297 – PermaEthos Part 1

In podcast 297, Paul chats with Jack Spirko, from The Survival Podcast, and Josiah Wallingford, from Brink of Freedom, about their new project, PermaEthos. Paul claims they contacted him just to brag about the funding they got, all without kickstarter. However Jack and Jos expressed they were just happy that 8% of their community’s money didn’t have to go to some website.

The guys talk a little bit about how the project was funded and where that money will be going to. A lot of it will be going to a videographer who will make the online PDC Jack and Jos will be giving once things get up and running.

Jack then goes into explaining how the first PermaEthos farm will work. Him and Josiah took on two additional partners, Kevin and Charlie. These guys are their partners because they share certain investments and funds. But in a way they are their first clients as well. Jack and Josiah are taking the farm that Kevin and Charlie already own, Elisha’s Spring, and making it into a complete permaculture design. They will then stamp the title PermaEthos on the farm and the owners can use that to market their products.

So essentially, getting Elisha’s Spring all fixed up and running will provide them with a template to apply to the other farms they get hired to give permaculture makeovers too. For this, they came up with a model where they partner with the land owner and they install a staff made up of a head farm steward, a couple of tenant farmers, and some Wwopfers. They then design, build, develop, and establish that farm.

They discuss how they make decisions about who pays for things based on if they are fully for profit generation or not. They also have a full permaculture design board that has to give the okay for all of the projects. So, they make this a fully functioning farm (they get more into what that entails later) and then move on to the next farm that wants to be permaculture-ified.

Paul takes a quick second to slip in an announcement about an opportunity for English speakers (they will have translators and set up all the transportation) to go to Sepp Holzer’s place in Austria. Zach Weiss is selling tickets and there is a coupon deal through permies! More info about it here.

The guys talk a little bit about what it means to be up fully working and they conclude that it has to do with profit. If it is all functioning, feeding everyone, and making a profit, then it has worked and they can move on to the next farm. Paul mentions that he predicts it will take him about three years to get to that point on his own land. Jos chimes in and says that the goal for the first year is to just get everyone fed.

Next they discuss the buildings that were already on the land when the new owners got it, and what they plan to build in the near future. Josiah has dreams of being a little hobbit in a wofati but is not sure if or when that will happen.

The guys switch gears a little bit and get back into talking about how PermaEthos is the template that basically requires certain things that absolutely have to happen and that Jack and Josiah personally oversee. Although all of the information and plans are open source, not just anyone can call their farm PermaEthos. Anyone can use the techniques they are teaching, but no one can claim to own them or patent them.

Moving right along they discuss the challenges of Elisha’s Spring. Jack and Josiah see this as a good thing though, because they think if they can do things successfully on this land, they can confidently say they can do them on other, better pieces of land.

They talk a little bit more about the terrain of the land and then Jack tells the story of how this particular farm got the name Elisha’s Spring. The original homesteaders had a baby named Elisha that only lived for 8 days and so they named the main spring they drank from after him. The name stuck and the new owners figured it was a good thing to keep the name.

Next, Jack talks more about how they definitely need more help. Specifically, they are looking for one more tenant farmer, some more Wwopfers, and element partners. He describes the position for the tenant farmer a little bit more in detail. This is a paid position and he emphasizes that they want someone who has a strong grasp on permaculture and wants to actually run this farm or a different farm one day.

This leads them into discussing wwopfers, or in Paul’s case, gappers. Because of years of flaky volunteers, Paul makes potential gappers pay him $100 dollars so he knows they are serious about coming and if they flake out, he still gets the money! Josiah says that they haven’t had any problems with volunteers yet but they are always looking for more help.

Relevant Links

Farm Income Business Plan
Jack Spirko Discusses New PDC Requirements
Some of Jack Spirko’s Presentations
Changing Gapper Tactics

Credit: Cassie Langstraat

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