Right Livelihood with Permaculture or Regenerative Enterprise:

Mike’s Honest Super-Controversial TOP TEN RULES for making it Really Work

Yes, we all need encouragement, but in my opinion a lot of advice out there might prioritize encouragement over realness. I’ve been observing folks doing this for more than 2 decades. Yes, it is 100% possible!

But when you find it, it probably won’t look like what most internet marketing said it would.

10. It probably won’t be “farming,” even of the “regenerative” kind. The economics and realities just don’t work out for most people without special circumstances, like free land with grade A soil, a wealthy market, loads of start-up money, and fame to drive volunteer labor and high prices. At least it probably won’t be animal, vegetable, or commodity farming. I grow and sell produce and food plants as a part of my income, but it’s never been something I would rely entirely on, and neither do any of the famous “farmers.”

9. It probably won’t be “landscaping,” even Permaculture landscaping. The whole industry is about replacing home-owner labor with plastic, concrete, fossil fuels, and underpaid labor. It’s really hard to make that system both regenerative and profitable. Besides, the two busiest times of year for landscaping are Spring and Fall, the two busiest times in the home garden, which can provide you with more value than cash from a landscaping business. So, I tend to take about 3 landscaping clients a year, and they’re people who already have a relationship with their land and know how to take care of it. 

8. It probably won’t be a Permaculture teaching business. These days there are just too many online options driving down prices. And the PDC was never intended to be a career income! It was intended to be a local community organizing tool and to raise money for local regenerative investments. It’s great for that. For most people, it won’t lead to a great teaching business.

7. It probably won’t be teaching online classes or workshops. There was probably a golden age where the first few to bring Permaculture to online classrooms had a wide open market, and they literally made millions. The first rule of farming is when people are rushing into a market, it’s done, get out. I do some online content, but it is ultimately to support local-scale organizing and business.

Most of the people selling workshops on farming careers don’t make their living farming. They make it selling workshops. meanwhile there are viable realistic permaculture careers. Like ”plant lych,” making a long-term investment in resurrecting lost plant genetics and heirlooms. Of course, any good plant lych will need other streams to cashflow while their investments develop.

6. It probably won’t be as a celebrity. All of the above options work really great if you are a celebrity. In fact, they work great if you’re a celebrity, even if you don’t have good content to teach! But there are a whole lot of us who want to work transforming our communities, and we can’t all be famous. Trying to become the next celebrity guru is a distraction from the things that will really make your livelihood and transform communities. Do the google to find out what youtube celebrities, for example, really make. Usually, it’s not a living wage.

5. It probably WILL involve “stacking income streams.” So you might be doing some combination of the above with other value-added streams on top. One of my mentors taught me that in any “privileged field,” you have to be willing to do a variety of things and specialize in some to make a good living. In most modern markets, there are a LOT of people who want to live off the land, and so wages will be low. But you also don’t want to spread your time between very different streams like computer programmer/farmer/dancer. It takes too much effort to maintain those skills. So a “stack” means they are complementary and get extra income out of the same work: farmer/plantswoman/herbalist is a better stack.

4. It will probably involve holistic whole-life design. It means looking deeply at your goals and how you want to live and finding ways to be “FREE” Financially Resilient and Economically/Ethically Empowered.

3. It will probably mean having one foot in the old fossil fueled economy, and one foot in the new sun-powered economy–at least for a while. If you’re focused only one one, you’re on a fault line.

2. It will almost certainly involve being a local community organizer. Pretty much everyone who’s successful at this is one, even if they don’t know it. Which is great, because that is where the real transformation needs to happen, not–as much as I love you fam–on the internet. Which means classic community organizing skills and tools work better than modern conventional marketing geared towards corporate centralized products. That kind of marketing is the straight path to failure. Community organizing is how to fix it.

1. It will definitely mean you have to stop thinking about it as a job, or even a career, and start thinking in terms of long-term regenerative investments. For the whole history of farming, good farming has always been about making investments. If you’re not thinking about it that way, you’re not even farming yet. You’re probably the customer. Somebody else is probably farming you. “The poor have jobs, the middle class develop careers, the wealthy seek investments.” That’s how we have to think, only we want to do it without exploitation or destruction.

By the way, this is the approach we teach in our Transformative adventures PDC with a heavy dose of community organizing tools, step-by-step tutorials on how to do it, proven viable regenerative business models, and actual busuness plans, and a set of materials to do the work, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.If you feel like these tools would help you achieve the success you want in the new year, I hope you’ll be involved.


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