Connecting with Our Values: Guest Post from Mike Hoag

Today I’m thrilled to be able to bring you this guest post from Mike Hoag. As always, Mike’s writing mixes creative inspiration and motivational juice with a refreshing dose of common sense. Mike is a permaculture teacher and designer, who has founded a grassroots economic resilience network called Transformative Adventures. Mike’s mission is for us all to support one another in finding ways to earn our livelihood doing things we love while helping the planet. Note, where Mike talks about farming as an example, you can plug in any other occupation you aspire to, be it candlemaking, opening a restaurant, tutoring kids online, making ethical clothing, having a bicycle-based composting service, building websites or doing PR for eco businesses, organizing a neighborhood homeschool/unschool co-op and developing lesson plans for it, pet-sitting, repairing bicycles, operating an errand service, helping people with end-of-life planning, singer-songwriting, painting custom signs, making and selling your art, starting a bioregional publishing company, being a doula, or whatever other beneficial occupation grabs you.

You’ll find links to the Transformative Adventures group, and Mike’s website and Permaculture Design Certificate course and other classes, at the end of this post. And now without further ado … I bring you this wonderful shot in the arm from Mike Hoag! Take it away Mike!

For me, the best Permaculture is about figuring out our own values and goals and then designing to meet them.

It’s not that there’s a right or wrong way to do things. Bill Mollison won’t rise from the grave and send the ghost of soil loss past to rattle chains at you if you row crop your garden.

It’s about our goals and designing to meet them.

This is actually pretty transformative! Most often we never really do that.

So what we have is folks want to escape the rat race. If they thought about it, they’d say their goals were things like:

I want to reconnect with nature, plants and animals.
I want to spend my days in a beautiful natural environment.
I want to have more time for friends, family and community.
I want to eat better, fresher, safer food and have better health.
I want to do something good for the planet, and Industrial Ag is horrible.
I want a simpler life with less stress, conflict, and pressure.
I want to cut free of the corporate system.

So we start learning about farming and take a $1,000 “profitable farming“ course that promises we can “make $1,000,000 on an acre!!!” (Yes, there’s a famous course that promises that in its ads.)

We get a loan to buy our teacher’s brand name rototiller, tear up our acre of lawn, and row crop it. Inevitably, reality sets in:

Instead of connecting with nature, we spend all day at war with nature, killing any plant or animal that happens into the system, spraying poisons on the insects.

Instead of a relaxing natural environment, we are working with noisy, bad smelling machinery.

Instead of safer food, we are using lots of plastics.

Instead of more time, we have less, and the “profitable farming” guru keeps saying we just have to work even more hours to be successful. Like most farmers we are working far longer hours than folks in the corporate rat race.

Like most other market farmers we eat Pizza Hut all growing season, because we are too busy and tired after the long work hours to turn fresh veggies into meals.

Instead of feeling healthier, we feel worn down, like most farmers do, from long hours of repetitive labor in harsh conditions.

So we hire some cheap labor and get Wwoofers to pick up some slack and get back our time. Now we have got conflicts and stress, and have to fire people. It seems people being paid less than minimum wage are unreliable and unhappy.

The million dollars hasn’t appeared. Without rock star status, customers won’t pay the 4 times market prices for our produce, and we don’t have an army of 100 Unpaid interns who want to use our name to sell their own profitable farming e-courses.

And we’re still doing as much sales and paperwork as we did in the corporate world.

Another study comes out showing that because of increased fossil fuel, fertilizer and plastics use, small scale intensive farming has a higher ecological foot print than industrial farming, and we don’t even want to think about that!

This is actually a really common story.

If we had connected with our values to begin with, and done a good design phase, everything might have been different.

We could have started with a design to create a beautiful natural environment with space for flowers and native plants and wildlife all around them.

We could build a small 10,000 foot no till garden and find we have the same overall productivity working a few hours a week with no wwoofers. It isn’t optimized for the market, but the hourly wage for the work is far higher to just harvest for the family and sell the produce to their immediate friends.

With our extra time not spent managing machines and labor, we cook amazing farm fresh meals of exotic ingredients, which first turns into a value added business, and later into a farm dinner and catering business fueled by all the excess produce.

Guests are drawn to come have amazing meals in this beautiful environment, with super fresh ingredients. A neighbor was an ex publisher and another was an artist, and together you write and publish a cook book …

The garden requires no fossil fuel, few plastics, and no exploited labor. This is a landscape designed to meet our real goals …

Further Exploration:

Permaculture Money, Livelihoods and Society via Transformative Adventures (group on Facebook): Come on in, the weather’s fine and the conversation is popping! Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to get Facebook to let me share a link to the group, but just type into the search field and you’ll find us. “Transforming our lives/transforming the world, through connection with nature and community. Focusing on practical ways to transform communities and landscapes that are economically empowering, whether it’s growing gift economies, right livelihoods, vibrant villages, or regenerative enterprises.”

Transformative Adventures website: Go here to check out Mike’s classes, blog posts, stunning photos, and other great stuff! By the way, I am currently taking Mike’s online Permaculture Design Certificate course. It is my fifth(!) PDC and I have been thrilled by the learning and the community.