Green Business Ideas: Permaculture and Urban Farming

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Green business opportunities abound in permaculture design, urban farming, and local food production, whether it’s producing veggies and fruit in your backyard (or leasing the yards of others) or turning local produce into value-added products or helping others convert their yards into food forests.

If you’ve got a green thumb, love working outdoors, want to turn others on to permaculture design and principles, and enjoy turning an empty lot into a fruitful urban farm, then this green business idea might be for you.

1. What is an urban farming and permaculture business?

There are several kinds of small businesses that can arise from urban farming and permaculture design. Permaculture is understood as modeling food production after systems found in a natural environment. This is an alternative to traditional landscape and row cropping approaches which are labor and resource intensive. In contrast, Permaculture works with nature, and creates a perennial food bearing systems, which require little maintenance and soil disruption once developed. Permaculture can be practiced in a wide range of geographies and climates, from inner-city New York, to arid India with its scarce water resources. In addition to running a permaculture-based urban farm, there is ample opportunity in helping others get started at their home or business, through providing permaculture design services.

With a certification in Permaculture design, one can offer sustainable and edible landscaping services, training, and even grow food for resale.  Courses in permaculture are offered all over the country.   See the permaculture institute for more information on available workshops.

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?

While there is no ‘formal’ requirement for this job, an education through the permaculture institute (above) will lend credibility to your business and provide you the tools and resources needed to get the job done.  The study of permaculture requires some training and natural aptitude in the way of observing and understanding natural systems such as weather patterns, water flow, plant relationships and climate.   This work can be physically demanding.

For those looking for a permaculture design certificate course, the Regenerative Leadership Institute is offering a completely free online course with Larry Korn, who is said to be America’s leading permaculture authority.

3. How much money is required to start?

$-$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) Investing in a permaculture design course can pay for itself in an urban farming and permaculture business, because while self-guided learning can be effective, getting hands-on experience and learning from expert permaculture teachers who have been working in the field for a long time can help you avoid beginner’s mistakes. Starting an urban farm can also require capital to pay for leased land, to cover the water bill, to build a greenhouse or other season-extending structures (hoop houses, row covers, etc.), as well as buying basic farming tools.

4. What is the income potential?

$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) The income potential for an urban farming or permaculture design business can vary wildly, depending on a variety of factors, including things out of your control, such as weather. For those with strong people and sales skills, if your crops are thriving and you can cultivate relationships with local restaurants and at the farmers market, you may still not even be able to keep up with the demand for local produce.

5. What is the best location for an urban farming and permaculture business?

Urban (best), semi-urban (very good), suburbs (very good), rural (fair/poor).

6.  Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):

  • Do you love spending time in the outdoors and observing nature?
  • Can you work with clients, ensuring their satisfaction?
  • Do you enjoy physical work and transforming outdoor spaces through your labor?

[Image: MMW Horticulture Group]


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