Financial ManagementVillage Development

Permaculture Business Part 1: Tips from the Pros

by Rob Avis

I’ve been running Verge Permaculture for five years now, and before that worked as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. Starting a business was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I didn’t know if Verge was going to work out, if anyone would hire me or take my courses, or if I could really make a difference. Keeping these experiences in mind, I recently reached out to some of the best in the field to get their advice for those just starting out in permaculture, particularly around untapped opportunities and common barriers. We got responses from the following amazing people:

Adam Brock – The GrowHaus

Ben Falk – Whole Systems Design

Ethan Roland – Appleseed Permaculture

Geoff Lawton

Rhamis Kent

Richard Perkins – Ridgedale Permaculture

The Trick of Starting Out

The hardest thing about getting started is getting started. – Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start

It’s easy to become obsessed with the logistics of setting up websites, social media and business plans. But that’s not the real work. All of those activities are important, but we tend to overemphasize them when we are first starting out. Business plans help you choose your strategy, and social media plus websites help you define your niche. But those things only become important when you evolve your business and your opportunities begin to multiply. When you are first starting out, there are three areas you should focus your energy on:

Start small, assess – I started with public speaking and writing blogs. It was cheap, easy to do (once I got over my fear of public speaking) and I was quickly able to get a pulse on whether Calgary was going to be able to support a permaculture designer and educator. There are many easy and tangible ways to get started that don’t cost a lot; they can build a lot of confidence necessary to make the next step into a full-time enterprise.

Ask for advice – Ask the people who are doing the work, even if you have to pay them to talk to you. Their advice is worth tons and it will save you time and money in the long run by helping you avoid big mistakes.

Get the basics – Take a few courses, but don’t get trapped in the course vortex. You can only put so much information to productive use.

When the line between work, learning and satisfaction becomes obscured then something is going well, the potential for growth and development is huge. — Richard Perkins

One of the best ways to find your first niche is to focus on your passion. What you need to assess is: Is there a need in the marketplace for the passion I wish to share with the world? I have seen and encountered a lot of opportunity and barriers over the years, so I would like to share my own thoughts alongside the insight provided from some of the industry’s best.

Continue to: Part 2, On Opportunities


  1. Just a passing comment Rob and Michelle, after i had a look at your garden photos you posted 2 years ago. I admire the work you do and the nest you have created, from what i can see. When it comes to producing food there is so much we can do for ourselves then we need others to exchange, sell, learn. While recycling vegetable seeds and other propagules seeds, and produce locally adapted seeds varieties is a step in the right direction, it is not enough, soon or later we will require other sources of plant materials, from neighbours, family and friends and seed networks, near by or further away. Hence the need to create Local and regional Seed structures is making sense to us. It has driving our lives i would say. All the very best with all you do and look us up when you visit Geoff, Nadia and his family at Zayuna farm. We are in Byron Bay 2km from the PO and would love to meet you and your family. Geoff knows where we are. All the very best!

    1. Thanks Michel and Jude for the Comment. I agree on all of the points. We have been working to build a biological bank in Calgary through the Calgary Permaculture Community group and the Permablitz network. There is a ton of material that is exchanging hands at the grass roots level as we speak. I would love to come and visit, I have heard so many amazing things about your work! All the best, Rob and Michelle.

  2. Getting started teaching PDC’s takes hands on experience and time to be A good PDC teacher as Permaculture draws on hands on practical experience and that’s something that comes with time and commitment. Most of the successful Permaculture teachers have several years experience.

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