When I first decided to make permaculture my full-time job, I spent a lot of time looking around for opportunities to make a living using permaculture design. With so people out there laid off from work, I decided to publish a list of what I’ve found to be a good idea. Here are 9 opportunities to make money with a permaculture business, and one bonus idea which could be huge in the near future.
Most people that I talk to about permaculture immediately imagine they can make money growing food for sale at local farmer’s markets, or even setting up their own CSA.
CSA — consumer supported agriculture, where customers pay in advance for a produce “subscription” which is delivered or they pick up 1–4 times a month
In my opinion, it is easy to get this form of business wrong. Produce, even organic produce, is a commodity which makes it susceptible to price undercutting. It is important, in a business like this, that you learn the right skills and techniques to set yourself apart in the market.
- Grow high value crops, not available through other providers
- Make contacts in restaurants with chefs that buy in bulk and will pay for high quality product
- Learn to time planting and schedule harvests for profitability
In my research, the best information available — from a person actually making a living growing food – is from Curtis Stone. He has a YouTube channel, as well as a book which is linked below.
The Urban Farmer: Growing Food For Profit
By far, this is the most business like and practical book I’ve ever seen on the subject. Curtis includes invaluable discussions about how to choose the most profitable produce to grow in your area. How to work a farm profitably with minimal tooling. As well as how to market your product and build relationships with key buyers that unlock the potential to make real income.
If you are at all thinking about growing food to sell, get this book!
Sell Permaculture Products
This idea is worth extra attention. As more and more people are getting in to permaculture, they are looking to buy products to help them along the way. Beginners welcome recommendations and good advice from experienced practitioners, or even people just one step ahead of where they are.
While permaculturists tend to gravitate to a less consumption oriented mindset, which makes it hard to think about opening up a store, the fact is people need the right tools and materials to build up permaculture spaces. So, instead of leaving newbies to just by the cheapest thing on Amazon, or whatever they have at the nearest box store, permaculturists should offer advice on what is worth the money, and what isn’t.
By becoming experts in a permaculture products, we can save the world from an avalanche of Chinese junk and disposable trash.
Ideas for permaculture store fronts —
- Food storage equipment — canning equipment, dehydrators, juicers, etc
- Gardening tools and misc equipment
- Animal supplies
- Earth friendly clothing
- Hats, gloves, and other work safety products
The list of possibilities is almost endless.
And, to be clear, I’m not necessarily talking about opening up a store front. With brick and mortar businesses in decline, the best place to start a permaculture business is online.
For more information on starting an online business, read my related article, which gives you specific recommendations to get started making money online:
Another interesting way to make money with permaculture is by creating a local compost business.
Local home owners and businesses are increasingly looking for sources of high quality, organic fertilizers for their yards, gardens, and landscaping. Since shipping costs are so high, locally produced compost can be a very competitive option, even compared to large corporations.
One example of this being done is (Eco Yards)[https://www.eco-yards.com] although I have seen many small operations in different parts of the country.
This type of business operates in three phases —
- Find cheap or free sources of yard waste, kitchen scraps, brush, etc
- Build bulk compost bins or tanks for large scale batch production
- Deliver finished compost or compost tea to professional / business customers and allow pickup by retail clients
Of all the options here, this is by far the most industrial, in that you will need to be working with large quantities of product to make a living. Likewise, you will probably need a dedicated space near a city to make this happen. But, this service is widely needed, and is a great choice for individuals with the right temperament.
Online Educational Resources
With traditional media and education systems beginning to falter, the world of internet based education resources is only growing. And, I know first hand that there are still countless ways that permaculture enthusiasts make money while getting the word out online about nature focused design practices.
You do not have to just sell a course.
By providing people with free and highly valuable information through written articles, videos, podcasts, PDFs, images, and more (which every you like and are good at) you open yourself up to a huge number of income opportunities.
This can be through relatively passive means, such as ads, affiliate links, and YouTube income, all the way through directs sales of books, courses, and direct coaching.
Even better, online businesses allow you to work from anywhere. This allows for a commute-free country lifestyle, digital nomads, van life, or just working in your pajamas — if you’re in to that.
I’ve already written a complete article with resources to help you get started making money online, so go check that out:
Mushroom Growing & Niche Products
One really interesting way to make money with permaculture is to grow unique products that are difficult to grow in bulk.
I’ve seen many, many examples of individuals and small families making a comfortable income growing mushrooms. And, there are lots of other opportunities out there. Here are some ideas:
- Exotic mushrooms
- Wasabi Horseradish
- Luxury Fibers (alpaca, cashmere, mohair, angora rabbit, etc)
- Specialty honeys (ei mesquite honey for mead production)
However, the next big idea is probably some cool or new foreign delicacy that you just can’t get locally. It’s up to you to discover!
What makes this type of specially business attractive is that they tend to be harder to get in to, not profitable at huge scale, and usually they can be shipped. Choosing a product you love, which can be sold regionally or nationally, can net you a life changing, once in a lifetime business opportunity.
For the craftsmen among us, yurts are an interesting Earth friendly temporary structure which is growing in popularity as a tiny home — for back to the land couples like Fouche Family Offgrid — or even as a luxury camping aka “glamping” tent.
I have built my own yurt, and I can tell you that it isn’t too hard. Although you would need to invest in some commercial grade equipment such as an industrial sewing machine and a good quality table saw.
With space in a garage or a large shed, you could get started making yurts for only a few thousand in investment. And, you can sell yurts online through listing such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. Or, even better develop and market your own online store.
For more information on yurts and yurt living, check out my other posts:
Holding Classes and Weekend Workshops
If you live near a populated center, or a willing to travel, then hosting in person classes and education opportunities is a pretty easy way to make a bit of cash.
While I know of a few people who do this as their main profession, more often I find permaculturists teaching live classes as a supplement to other forms of income.
Ideas for courses include the following. But, be sure to develop your own approach to these subjects which makes the topic fun and interesting.
- Cob workshop
- How to cook from the garden
- Basics of Permaculture design
- How to develop energy independence
- How to grow … Intensive
To hold permaculture education events, you don’t need to have your own school, or bring people to your home. Many areas have established natural skills or alternative education spaces you could work out of. Also, just renting a classroom for an afternoon works great for many types of events. Or, even better, put your name out there, and get invited to events put on by other people.
Income from such events can come from ticket sales, but it doesn’t have to. Often, the best way to make teaching your profession is to have something to sell to the audience after the event — a book, course, membership site, related product / tool. Most speakers know that back of the room sales are typically what makes the most money at events.
While many people are interested in permaculture design, and may event want to convert their grass in to a permaculture food forest, a lot of people lack the time or energy to make it happen.
If you love being out doors, and don’t mind a little hard work, then setting yourself up as a “permaculture landscaper” would be a perfect fit.
Growing up, working in a small business and watching my father run it, I have to recommend that if you don’t have any experience with landscaping, as a profession, then take a job with an existing, successful landscape. While you may not agree with their plant choices, learning about the “money side” of the business is invaluable and absolutely essential if you want to make a living doing this work.
Luckily, when you are ready to go out on your own, there is still a huge advantage available for newcomers in local business. Even though most people research local business online when looking to buy, most local businesses do a horrible job of developing their online presence. A sign and business card isn’t enough.
By building a minimal and SEO targeted website for your business, you can very likely be at the top of local listings in no time at all.
Become A Permaculture Designer
Lastly, there is the obvious idea of becoming a Permaculture Designer. Somewhat like an Earth architect, permaculture designers are experts which develop permaculture systems for their clients.
However, going this path you are more likely to be a sales person for yourself.
Since there isn’t a regulating body for permaculture design, clients are free to choose who they wish, based on their assessment of your skill.
Right now, the best way to attract clients as a permaculture designer is to establish yourself as an expert through one of the other business models presented above. As your name grows, then you can transition more to the design model, and justifiably accept payment for your services due to your skill and experience.
Ready to start building your name as a permaculture designer? Check out my more in depth guide on building a niche website or YouTube channel that will get your name in front of thousands of people a day:
BONUS: Become a Natural Building Contractor
With housing prices continually on the rise in comparison to take home pay, the majority of the millennial and younger generations are projected to never have the opportunity to own a home.
Young people are looking for lower cost alternatives — and finding freedom from mortgages at the same time — in tiny, mobile, and natural building.
Traditional contractors are have not yet caught on to these new techniques like cob, straw bale, hempcrete, rammed earth which are likely to be the basis of the solution to the housing problem.
Developing skills for low cost and Earth friendly building are likely to become extremely valuable overtime.
More information on natural building here:
How do I start a permaculture business?
First identify a permaculture business model that fits your skills and is needed in your area. Take time to develop key business and marketing skills, which are often lacking in permaculture based businesses, leading to failure. Model as much as you can from a successful business, work hard, and constantly adapt.
How much do permaculture designers make?
Skilled permaculture designers charge $100 or more per hour, earning $350 to several $10,000 per project depending on scope. Permaculture designs work on a contract or project basis, meaning their total income depends on their ability to find new clients while keeping the overhead and costs low.